John Paul II took up the office of Pope during the waning years of the Cold War. As the Christian Right sought to expand its political and cultural influence they found common cause with the Polish Pope who seemed to stand for conservative cultural values and was an ally in the war against the Soviets and Communism.
In other words, John Paul II was a bridge between the Evangelical and Roman Catholic worlds.
And indeed by the 1990s, while the 'Christian' West was taking victory laps, a new form of ecumenicism led by figures like Charles Colson was on the rise. The definitions and focus of Evangelical Christianity was rapidly shifting away from doctrine to hone in on the culture. In terms of cultural categories, Roman Catholicism was not only an ally but a Christian one. This shift in thinking continues to reverberate through American Evangelicalism.
The myths of the Cold War, already advanced in the 1990s wove a narrative of Western victory based on the efforts, designs and leadership of Margaret Thatcher but primarily Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. Oversimplified and misleading the myth-narrative continues to gain traction especially as the years place a greater distance between our own day and the actual events.
The deep corruption, the sheltering of paedophiles (known to many even then) and the ongoing scandals regarding the Vatican Bank and its host of sordid criminal conspiracies... these things were swept under the rug and obfuscated. These crimes became trivial details in light of the supposedly great victory and moral leadership of the Papacy.
I recall clearly during the 1990s that many Evangelicals, even several Reformed pastors I knew argued that John Paul II was very likely a Christian. I was appalled.
What I remember is what this Roman Catholic author wishes to recall... and in his case celebrate. I remember a Mariolater, a corrupt prelate and a lot of mythology.
An interesting man to be sure but Biblically speaking there's no reason to assume he's in heaven. If one wishes to revisit John Paul II at this point it's probably more profitable to turn to Roman Catholic authors and essayists than the numerous Evangelical hagiographers who praise him as a fellow believer who battled the Communists even while ignoring what his supposed Christianity was really all about. I don't expect much from Roman Catholic authors but I am both frustrated and a bit angered by the various Evangelical paeans to his memory.
He denied the authority of Scripture and the basics of the Gospel. His system is based on centuries of man-made tradition and rests on a narrative of lies.
And this is just for starters. Apparently we are to ignore the fact that he was a blaspheming antichrist who dared proclaim himself God's regent, the very voice of God on Earth.
During the Reformation, things adiaphora were the things 'indifferent' the points of doctrine and worship that the Scripture did not formally command but did not necessarily forbid. It became a subject of debate. Take vestments for example. Lutherans and Anglicans insisted these were adiaphora. The Reformed rejected classifying vestments as adiaphora and instead classified them as forbidden innovations without New Testament warrant.
Appealing to the Old Testament in order to vindicate their use was Judaizing. Absent a Levitical priesthood the Roman, Anglican or Lutheran variety of vestments were man-made contrivances, not made by following Scriptural commands but were (and are) innovations that while perhaps 'inspired' by Old Testament vestments cannot claim to be established by any kind of Divine decree.
The Reformed (who today have largely abandoned this teaching) had a much more narrow view of what was adiaphora. Largely it was limited to questions such as the time of meeting, the arrangement of the meeting room, the actual order of worship etc...
This issue is worth revisiting. Modern Evangelicals are so confused when it comes to doctrine and worship that they are quickly embracing a host of Roman Catholic practices, viewing them as adiaphora even though you'll rarely hear the term. Gone is any notion of Scriptural sufficiency and authority when it comes to delineating Christian doctrine and practice. Saint worship, rosaries and the Mass are quickly becoming things indifferent. You say po-tay-toe and I say po-tah-toe.
If John Paul II was a Christian then indeed Mary/Lady of Fatima worship, even under the Catholic deception of hyper-dulia (their manufactured and fraudulent concept to escape charges of Mariolatry) has become adiaphora, something indifferent that doesn't affect the gospel. As Evangelicals quickly embrace every Roman Catholic fad transformed into consumerist guise, how long before they start lighting candles to saints?
John Paul II is a man of history. He played a part. He was certainly an interesting and complicated person... but a Christian hero to be celebrated? I think not.