in 2001 i attended some claretian meetings in rome representing our western usa province. our worldwide claretians had just put out a document regarding equal treatment of people in the underclasses– especially the indigenous. claretians were then gathered to unpack the wisdom from our charism.
during one of the coffee breaks, i was chatting with two claretians from india. i had asked them how they might implement this ideal in their country. the document had specifically mentioned the dalits— commonly known in the past as the “untouchables.” they were the lowest in the caste system in india. i do not remember the exact words of one of them but after he laughed mockingly, this was his bottom line: “we will never accept those people.” his condescension and arrogance were palatable. i was quite shocked at his words and crassness. i remember thinking afterwards, “does he not know how counter to the gospel this is?”
good people can be wittingly or unwittingly obtuse also.
recently, i happened upon a netflix documentary called “daughters of destiny.” the show followed the stories of four girls from the dalits who had a chance to attend a special school called shanti bhavan. i cannot remember ever openly crying during a documentary as much as during this series. it was absolutely heartbreaking how the dalits— especially the women– were treated. the scenes at the rock quarry were nothing less than modern day slavery. shanti bhavan tried to remedy the effects of poverty and powerlessness for the whole dalit community through education. ultimately, the girls showed an admirable resiliency in navigating life in india within their harsh reality. but with new crosses to bear.
this discrimination/bigotry/classism is deeply embedded in their culture and goes unseen, unchallenged by the majority of people who spend their lives just trying to make ends meet. of course, these systems of sin exist all around the world and are played out differently.
in part in u.s. culture, we see this drama in the various reactions to the black lives matter movement. perhaps more can be understood from those who use fallacious arguments/comments– especially through the ad hominem and straw man and red herring fallacies. equally troubling is the seeming lack of care of others that is easily seen. certainly my question continues, “do they not know how counter the gospel this is?” the short answer is– no. there are many ways that our own culture is blind to the sinfulness of bigotry/discrimination that seeks to disguise itself in other ways– even as light and goodness.
good people too can be wittingly or unwittingly obtuse and bigoted.
especially as a pastor, i was frustrated when these good but blinded people were part of the faith community. there were a huge disconnects with what peole saw as political issues as opposed to a religious issues. there was a type of compartmentalization of morality and ethics: this is me in church using religious vocabulary; this is me outside of my catholic faith using the ways of the world. there was an inability or unwillingness to see the ultimate and intimate connectedness of life as a whole.
there can more faith in political leaders than in faith leaders. when i lived in arizona, i put it quite bluntly: “more people believe in the gospel of rush limbaugh than the gospel of jesus.” here in seattle, i can say: more people bow down to the temple of liberalism than to our Lord Jesus Christ.”
we are all blinded in some way. some arenas where it is (un)seen are race, war, abortion, immigration, poverty, work, politics, nationalism, the economy, education, covid, etc, etc, etc.
it can be quite confusing indeed
so, first principles help keep me grounded as a attempt to work through my personal blind spots. so my related questions are: “how is the Spirit leading and guiding me to gospel-love (in this situation/circumstance)? the communal perspective is: “how is the Spirit leading and guiding us to gospel-love (in this situation/circumstance)? who is included in the “us”?
jesus was right: the love commandment is the key. its meaning needs to be unpacked in many ways at different levels. and do we have the will and courage to respond/repent/act? and what leaders do we trust to guide us? what spirits are at play in these arenas?
let us pray:
God of beauty, love and goodness, may the Holy Spirit lead us to the fulfillment of the hopes
of peace, salvation and justice which the world today urgently needs.
Grant that violence be overcome by the power of love,
that opposition give way to reconciliation
and that the desire to oppress be transformed
into the desire for forgiveness, justice and peace…
May peace be in our hearts
so that they are open to the action of Your grace…
May all members of the family community,
especially children, the elderly, the weakest,
feel the warmth of your love and may we be your instruments of healing and grace.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
( adapted from https://www.usccb.org/prayers/prayer-justice )
Just wondering if you watched that on Netflix .
We don’t use regular (if there is such a thing) tv anymore.
It just is so full of awful programs and I certainly don’t want watch all the political mid slinging about to come . Just money we will save is crazy.
Anyway I told Steve about your musings this am and he wants to watch it with me.
That must have been shocking coming from a fellow claretian.
Have a beautiful day and hugs to your sweet mama!
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good morning becca. thanks for your reply. yes the series was on netflix and is called daughters of destiny. let me know how you like it
thanks too for always remembering my mother and me. i pray for joy and blessing on you steve and the family
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