Having grown up at the height of the Civil Rights era, I look around today and am horrified with what I see. It seems our society is regressing from Dr. King’s vision of a society where the standard of judgment is the content of one’s character to one that sees only the color of one’s skin or gender or lack thereof gender. When identity politics is pushed hard enough, the logical outcome is more identity politics. When a person or group is ascribed political power, economic empowerment, legal protection solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity or gender/transgender, then sooner or later the individuals or groups that feel disempowered or unnoticed will start to assert themselves. This leads to “us-them” mentality where one group is pitted against the other until finally, they reach extremes; the result is the putrid excrement that descended on Charlottesville, Virginia.
The State of the Union today is divisive, crisp, and hardened in its divisions. So we hear things such as: if you don't support the Affordable Care Act, then you want people to die. If you voted for Trump, you are a racist. If you hold to the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, you are homophobic. If you think Islam has something to do with terrorism, you are an Islamophobe. If you support a rational, humane immigration system, you are xenophobic. And on it goes. What is common to this bifurcated way of seeing things is that it is only “either/or,” and there is no room for “both/and” ways of thinking or talking. The end result is a stalemate, and only the will to power will prevail. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offered was a vision of a just society based on the Judeo-Christian ethic of the sanctity of all human life. He understood and articulated better than most anyone the dangers of the “either/or” ways of seeing the world. Rather than pointing blame on individuals or even groups, Dr. King sought to change human hearts and to use the principles of non-violence to reveal the moral bankruptcy of a system where identity politics cause oppression, division, and injustice. Dr. King didn't run around labeling everyone as one kind of “phobe” or the other; rather he appealed to our consciences and revealed the ugliness of the sin of racism.
In 1979, the U.S. Bishops wrote in their pastoral letter “Brothers and Sisters to Us”: “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of races. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the words of Jesus: " Treat others the way you would have them treat you." (4) Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation. In order to find the strength to overcome the evil of racism, we must look to Christ. In Christ Jesus "there does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freedom, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus." (5) As Pope John Paul II has said so clearly, "Our spirit is set in one direction, the only direction for our intellect, will and heart is -- toward Christ our Redeemer, toward Christ the Redeemer of [humanity.]" (6) It is in Christ, then, that the Church finds the central cause for its commitment to justice, and to the struggle for the human rights and dignity of all persons.”
So what we need today, to use a concept from the early 20th Century, is “moral re-armament.” We, as Christians, need to once again be the leaven in the dough, the salt of the earth, to help heal a culture that is quickly being scarred by hatred, fear, and misunderstanding. We need to re-arm ourselves and our society with the Judeo-Christian ethic that was once the foundation of our society.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or sisters or perish together as fools.” Dr. King.
Love, Fr. John B.
PS. Just in time, as usual, our Lady of Fatima calls us to step up our prayer. Join us in the 54 Day Rosary Novena beginning, Monday, August 21.BACK TO LIST