"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, October 03, 2009
Building the Kingdom of God in Honduras
"Because a people disorganized becomes a mass that can be toyed with, but a people that organizes itself and fights for its values and for justice is a people that demands respect." - Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, murdered by U.S. trained paramilitary fighters during Mass in 1980
Only when our Christian resistance becomes serious enough to be reckoned with the transgressors, as Jesus did on the cross, will it be taken seriously by the oppressed. The Honduran people, led spiritually by Fr. Andres Tamayo, a Catholic priest who has assumed a prominent role in the resistance, have begun a qualitative shift in resistance strategy. Before Gandhi began the Salt March in 1930, he entered a state of contemplation in which he achieved unity with the people. In the words of James Douglass, "Gandhi dropped into a silent void, 'reduced himself to zero' in the Buddhist formula which he often repeated as a keynote for the man of non-violence, and found on the far side of nothingness the people, in whom God lived patiently, awaiting the full release of his unifying, liberating power. Gandhi dropped into the well of existence, where he could 'not see any light coming out of the surrounding darkness,' and there in deep solitude was given in a flash the symbol united darkness and light. Gandhi lost himself and found his life in the suffering of the people of God - all the people, Indian, British, all those whose inner life he felt and touched in darkness and in light, all of suffering mankind brought together for a moment in a handful of salt." - James Douglass, Resistance and Contemplation, p. 89.
In the same way, we Christians in resistance must now see the face of Jesus in the suffering Honduran people. This is an act of true solidarity in which we no longer see ourselves as separate from them, as "Americans" whose concern with their struggle is merely political. Instead, we are one with them as Gandhi was one with the Indians and British locked in the same terrible embrace as the U.S.-backed coup leaders and the ever-growing resistance. In this way, we discover in ourselves a fountain welling up to eternal life, the fountain of satyagraha that pours out freshness when "the depths within ourselves pass over into the needs of a suffering people." - James Douglass, ibid.
The Honduran people have come alive to the kingdom, with so many now becoming conscious that he or she is responsible in his or her own soul for the freedom of their country. Those of us who cannot physically support their struggle must unite with them in the silence of our hearts. The most revolutionary act is for an individual to realize that within him or herself lies the capacity for liberation. Liberation does not come from waiting for someone in the upper reaches of the power structure to do something honest and humane. That may or may not happen. In this case, it appears exceedingly unlikely that the Obama administration will act concretely for justice. Within ourselves is the revolutionary well-spring which we must awaken.
As a first step, we renounce the social sin of individualism, caring only for our own and refusing to participate in public life. This is a sin against truth because it denies our relationship to the whole of which we are a part, a whole without which we could not live for an instant. Our spirituality cannot breath independently of the world that surrounds us, but constantly receives and returns the air which nourishes the whole world. Falsely isolated within our commodified pleasures, our minds literally dis-integrate, they lose their integration with the world that we form a part of. We renounce the sin of not caring about struggles for justice in other parts of the world and neglecting those in our own. We renounce the lie of merely personal salvation and acknowledge that all true salvation is both individual and communal.
We also renounce looking above for communal salvation. The illusion that Presidents and legislatures will bring social justice by themselves is a cruel lie, though one that is constantly reinforced by the corporate media. Just as the Indians could not depend on the British to bring them independence, we cannot depend on the Obama or any other administration to bring us social justice. Once we rule ourselves, both personally and communally, the powers above become less relevant. The power they represent is death and we must never cease to wrestle with death, as Gandhi taught.
Indeed, this renunciation is part of a greater inner purification which we must undergo. We renounce the fixation on results with which our culture imbues us. The kingdom will come when it comes, but we should not consume ourselves with looking for it "here and there", as it says in the Gospels. We must not become absorbed in brooding over its signs, "which will only result in frustration and violence or a loss of faith and nerve." - James Douglass. We must become absorbed into the means of liberation embodied fearlessly in our own life and action.
Read the story of the new mass resistance strategy in Honduras: A qualitative step forward for the organized struggle in Honduras
and consider in prayer what support to give. Learn about the work of Fr. Andres Tamayo here: On the Road to Tegucigalpa with Father Andrés Tamayo.