Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Violence of Love


I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.

I'm deeply impressed by that moment when Christ stands alone before the world figured in Pilate. The truth is left alone, his own followers have been afraid. Truth is fearfully daring, and only heroes can follow the truth. So much so that Peter, who has said he will die if need be, flees like a coward and Christ stands alone.

Let's not be afraid to be left alone if it's for the sake of the truth. Let's be afraid to be demagogs, coveting the people's sham flattery. If we don't tell them the truth, we commit the worst sin: betraying the truth and betraying the people. Christ would rather be left alone, but able to say before the world figured in Pilate: Everyone who hears my voice belongs to the truth.

Would that the many bloodstained hands in our land were lifted up to the Lord with horror of their stain to pray that he might cleanse them. But let those who, thanks to God, have clean hands -- the children, the sick, the suffering -- lift up their innocent and suffering hands to the Lord like the people of Israel in Egypt. The Lord will have pity and will say, as he did to Moses in Egypt, "I have heard my people's cry of wailing. It is the prayer that God cannot fail to hear.
The church is calling to sanity, to understanding, to love. It does not believe in violent solutions. The church believes in only one violence, that of Christ, who was nailed to the cross. That is how today's gospel reading shows him, taking upon himself all the violence of hatred and misunderstanding, so that we humans might forgive one another, love one another, feel ourselves brothers and sisters.

We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves, to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.

Who knows if the one whose hands are bloodied with Father Grande's murder, or the one who shot Father Navarro, if those who have killed, who have tortured, who have done so much evil, are listening to me? Listen, there in your criminal hideout, perhaps already repentant, you too are called to forgiveness.

A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good so that they become entrenched in their sinful state, betrays the gospel's call. A preaching that does not discomfit sinners but lulls them in their sin leaves Zebulun and Naphtali in the shadow of death.

A preaching that awakens, a preaching that enlightens -- as when a light turned on awakens and of course annoys a sleeper -- that is the preaching of Christ, calling, "wake up! Be converted!" this is the church's authentic preaching. Naturally, such preaching must meet conflict, must spoil what is miscalled prestige, must disturb, must be persecuted. It cannot get along with the powers of darkness and sin."

- Archbishop Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador.

4 comments:

Susan said...

Because Archbishop Romero wasn't listened to, more than 60,000 Salvadoran people were killed in that nation. Romero's words were prophetic then and they are prophetic now.

Margaret said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marie Tremblay said...

Margaret, I'm sure you wrote your comment in good faith but it was Tom Matson and not Pete Majoy who wrote that comment at the Keene Sentinel Blog about theocracy. Although in all fairness, Mr. Majoy has promoted Talk to Action, a group which promotes abortion and same-sex "marriage." It seems that these two - and others associated with the Cohen Center, are very selective about their approach to hospitality.

Read Paul's post about the mythical "separation of Church and State."

Sunday, June 17, 2007
Separation of church and state: Nothing but dust...

David Carlin is a lifelong Democrat. From 1981 to 1992, he served as a Rhode Island state senator, serving as senate majority leader in 1989 and 1990. In 1992 he was his district's Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. For more than twenty years, Mr. Carlin has been a professor of philosophy and sociology at the Community College of Rhode Island.

In his book entitled "Can a Catholic Be a Democrat: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion," he writes:

"..an excuse that appeals to the 'separation of church and state' seems to be among the silliest rationales for a Catholic's support of the secularized Democratic Party. This separation, so we're told, is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, and it prohibits the intrusion of religion into the affairs of government. Yet the First Amendment says nothing about keeping religion out of government; it's concerned instead with keeping government out of religion. Its two religion 'clauses' say (1) that there will be no 'establishment of religion' and (2) that there will be no interference with the 'free exercise' of religion. That's it: government must keep its hands off religion; nothing about religion keeping its hands off government.

However, it should be considered that in writing the religion section of the First Amendment, the framers were no doubt remembering the history of England and how the government of that nation, from the time of Henry VIII until what was then the present day (the 1780's), established a national religion and interfered with the free exercise of dissenting religions. This was a case of government controlling religion, but at the same time it was a case of religion controlling government. That is to say, government persecuted, or at least discriminated against, all religions other than the Church of England, but one of the main reasons it did so was because the Church of England, both through its bishops and its lay members, had tremendous influence over government (only members of the Church of England could serve in Parliament or government). In other words, in its competition with other churches, not to mention its competition with outright infidelity, the Church of England used government to put down the church's rivals.

This is the kind of thing people, many of them Catholics, have in mind when they say that advocating laws against abortion or same-sex marriage violates the principle of separation of church and state. They fear that an alliance of conservative churches might someday gain enough governmental power to impose religious values on everybody else, non-believers included. This is what they mean when they speak, as they often do, of the looming danger of 'theocracy.' Behind the moral-conservative political activism of Christian churches they see would-be theocrats, or 'dominionists,' who want to take over America, stamp out abortion, subjugate women, drive homosexuals back into the closet, and enact other items allagedly on the agenda of the Religious Right. Yet this would be clearly un-American, violating the philosophical, religious, and moral pluralism that has long been, and should be, characteristic of the United States.

One obvious and oft-given answer is this: few liberals have made similar objections to the modern civil-rights movement, which was in large measure inspired by religion and based on churches. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Protestant minister - even, it might be said, a Christian martyr. Are the objectors ready to say that the great legislative fruits of this religio-political movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, are illegitimate, that they're instances of the imposition of theocratic values? Will they say that the spirit of American 'pluralism' demanded that the pro-segregation values of the KKK and other racists should have been respected? Of course not. And so it appears that what's at stake for these people isn't a matter of principle (separation of church and state) but a matter of policy. Some policies they like )e.g., civil rights legislation), and some they dislike (e.g., laws restricting abortion). A religion-driven politics is okay when it produces laws they like, but it's very naughty when it produces laws they don't like. And so we may conclude (may we not?) that all this talk about the separation of church and state is nothing but dust they throw in people's eyes." (Can a Catholic Be a Democrat: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion, pp. 129-131, Sophia Institute Press, 2006).

Next we will examine the idea of separation of church and state from the standpoint of Vatican II.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Susan, Margaret and Roger, thanks for your comments. Margaret, please understand that I found it necessary to remove your comment because you attributed the comment regarding theocracy at the Keene Sentinel Blog to Mr. Pete Majoy. Marie is correct about this. Having said that, fears about "theocracy" play a significant role at the Talk to Action website and Mr. Majoy has referenced this organization as part of a comment which was critical of the Catholic League.

Thanks for understanding.

Paul.

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