"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Repent From Silence
I'm staggered by the idea of psychologists planning and directing the torture of their fellow human beings. So how should Christians consider their Iraqi brothers? "'And what does the Lord require of you,' asks Micah of Israel,' but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.' That is the eternal golden braid what binds all the stories of the Hebrew scriptures, and all the gospels and letters and visions of the New Testament, together. It is not about truth, it is about justice; it is not about power, it is about mercy; it is not about holiness, it is about humility. Have people abused that, refused that, misused that? Certainly. It is the way people are. But the basiliea tou theou is not about entrance requirements or admissions exams or even proper I.D. The kingdom of heaven is that place where no one is excluded, where no one is kept out, except that they keep themselves out. It is the place without any need for a refugee camp, because while we make widows and orphans and determine a person's value, God makes people, and accepts everyone of them." - Adventus
Christ teaches us that compassion is the greatest of the virtues. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, "In itself compassion takes precedence over the other virtues, for it belongs to compassion to be bountiful to others, and, what is more, to succor others in their wants, which pertains chiefly to one who is superior. Hence compassion is accounted as being proper to God; and therein God's omnipotence is declared to be chiefly manifest." - S.T. II-II, q. 30, a. 4.
Hosea describe compassion in these words, "My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and strong." When we feel the pain of our brothers and sisters, especially those whose misery we are directly responsible for, as in the case of Iraq, then we are most like the God of Jesus Christ. When we go beyond this feeling, and act practically to carry out the clear directives of this passion, then God's power is in our acts. Revolution, carried out not according to the dictates of an economic theory, but from passion for our brother's needs, brings to blossom the divine promise.
The heartless "gospel of prosperity" as currently practiced in America is actually an anti-scriptural sanctified Darwinism. True Christianity speaks with a far different voice: "The temporal goods that God grants are ours as to the ownership, but as to use of them, they belong not to us alone but also to those we are able to succor out of what we have over and above our needs." S.T. II-II, q.32, a. 5.
But this calls us to more than charity. Our obligation is not simply to give material goods to help those in need, but first to understand why they are in need. Then we begin to understand the structure of oppression and the truth that lays in the heart of real compassion, real identification with our brothers and sisters in their suffering: that their deepest need is for dignity, the ability to walk on their own. Charity in the modern sense robs them of this dignity and contributes directly to the spiritual justification of systemic injustice.
Charity in this sense is included in a much larger array of strategies for paralyzing social and political activism. The purpose of these strategies is to create an all-pervading sense of powerlessness, which is necessary to instill the proper sense of subordination to authority. We find ourselves somehow installed with the sense that we need aspire to no more than being spectators of the media's endless stream of low-grade entertainment. That all of us are called to be actors on the stage of history, that we cannot achieve our life's purpose without becoming committed to such action, is the demon the media was invented to exorcise.
When the oppressed become conscious of their responsibility to end their own oppression, humanity is deepened in a fundamental way. Pursuing this deepening is duty of the true Christian, not the current cartoonish religious escapism, no matter how wealthy the churches who bask in this illusion. When we throw off the consumerist zombyism induced by the media, only then can we stand as human beings, and therefore Christians.