Christ Crucified and Racial Solidarity

I’d like to share the video of the master’s thesis presentation of a friend of mine, Nic Don Stanton-Roark at Anderson University School of Theology. He addresses “Politics and Eucharist,” explaining why the Church’s celebration of the eucharist is a political act beyond secular understandings of politics as statecraft. It establishes a distinct community with different organizing principles than the state.

Further, following Nic’s work has contributed more than anything else toward shifting my understanding of race relations in America. That and reading Ruby K. Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Gradually, I came to see how deeply entrenched racial tension is as it is lived out over the generations. It’s not that all white people consciously hate all black people. It is true, however, that being white meant our parents and grandparents benefited in certain ways whereas being black meant that that person’s parents and grandparents were harmed in certain ways. Our status and means are handed down to us from our parents. My grandparents who went to college on the GI Bill and received a home loan handed more to my own parents than the black family could who was quietly denied home loans because of their race during the Jim Crow period.  These are hard things to realize, but they are true and there is a reason the ghettos formed in inner cities.

Racism is not at all inconsequential or a relic of history, and it’s something that Christians ought to care about because we believe that all human beings are made in the Image of God and be treated as beloved children of God.

Nic’s thesis discusses the political implications of the crucifixion of Jesus as both a state execution and a mob lynching. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to say the least, and I think it’s one of the best reasons I’ve heard articulated for why Christians ought to be inherently suspicious of the state, and also why racial solidarity is a key issue for Christians. (Not to say that the state never does anything good; we are rightly grateful for roads, basic civil order, enforceable contracts, etc. We must admit though that governments can and do abuse their power and do so quite frequently.)

Watch. Consider. Thoughts?

Nic is on Twitter https://twitter.com/ExilePolitics

All four videos  are at this link and also below. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrgMXcHLEgpgO2yRp3ddX0Q/videos

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Belief in the Face of Historical Injustices of the Church

Original article on the Truth and Charity Forum

Many people wonder how we Catholics can still believe given some of the more infamous events in Church History; the classic duo of the Crusades and the Inquisition spring to mind. First, yes, the human members of the Church have made mistakes and lots of them. (See last article on hypocrites in the Church). One only needs to think of the Renaissance Popes who, despite all their misdeeds, never attempted to change Catholic teaching to justify it. Regardless, the Church’s members, today and yesterday, have hurt and turned away many well-meaning people, and that is tragic. The Church is meant to be a haven for all humankind, the mustard seed that grows into a tree large enough for all the birds of the air to nest in.

crusadesWhen approaching historical matters in the Church, particularly controversial ones, two extremes must be avoided: the first is a Catholic triumphalism that seeks to gloss over any real error a member of the Church may have made. We have no reason to do this because we understand that Church members can and do sin while on the path to eternal glory. Second, we have to avoid the opposite extreme of demonizing everything the Church has ever done and leaping on the bandwagon of criticism before giving an honest investigation. For most of these events, hundreds of years have passed, and the history that we learned from a few paragraphs of a high school textbook is woefully over-simplified (not without a few decent reasons) and can tend to distort our view of what actually happened.

To understand history honestly is to try to see through the eyes of the people who experienced it back before it was called “history”, when it was simply their day-to-day lives. The Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc wrote “the most difficult thing in the world in connection with history, and the rarest of achievements, is the seeing of events as contemporaries saw them, instead of seeing them through the distorted medium of our later knowing.”

I’ll start with the Crusades, perhaps the biggest bogeyman in the anti-Catholic rhetorical camp. The commonly received narrative of the Crusades is that they were despicable unprovoked wars of religious aggression, publicly endorsed for the sake of “converting” the Muslims, but actually meant to seize all their territory through colonization.

It is not the place of this essay to take on all of these one by one and separate fact from fiction, but I will throw out a few relevant points:

“The crusaders did not insist on converting those living under their control; rather they fought to defend the Christians already living in the Holy Land and those making pilgrimages there. And as for the colonization or imperialism myth, it is debunked by the reality that the crusaders held only a few cities at any one time and left hardly enough troops to maintain the garrisons let alone expand an empire. The vast majority of the survivors returned home, battered and poorer for their efforts.” (More on the Crusades here)

Full article here: http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/historical-injustices-of-the-church-objection-series-7/

So how do we approach the Church or any other group while aware of historical difficulties or mistakes?

My essay, 2 places: The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood

This essay was first published on my usual home, The Truth and Charity Forum of HLI. Then the editors at Ethika Politika liked it and requested a few revisions and to republish. Here are links to both.

The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood on the Truth and Charity Forum:

“When St. Anthony of the Desert went out to the Egyptian wilderness to be alone with God, he probably didn’t think that he was setting an example for mothers. But I believe that he did. St. Anthony gave up the comforts of society in order to face himself and let God purify him. Perhaps this is not so different from the path of mothers and families and, by extension, all people striving to live in accord with truth and God.”

The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood on Ethika Politika

“And for what good? To be at the service of life, the greatest earthly good, and also at the service of the Lord, who created life. To bind oneself to a family, to a spouse and to children is really like a religious vow: It gives up a great many goods in order to grow in the good of commitment and formation. To do it well, it will take everything we have, and then some. It will lead us into the desert of our souls and present the furnace of solitude. It is here that we will stare darkness in the face and fall back onto Christ.”

-Finding our true vocation is a lifelong process I think. What has your journey been like?

My DC Pilgrimage for Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy

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The National Basilica in Washington DC

In September 2015, Pope Francis announced that 2016 would be a Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is a special year because the next scheduled Jubilee Year is 2025 so it is very early. This is essentially the Pope’s theme for a year and wherein he also offers a jubilee indulgence. I am excited because there is an opportunity for pilgrimage, details at the end of this post.

Pope Francis said:

“I entrust the organization of this Jubilee to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, in order that it may come to life as a new step on the Church’s journey in her mission to bring the Gospel of mercy to each person.
I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God.” (Announcement by Pope Francis, Vigil of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 14 March, 2015)

I am excited about this because I have recently come to see some things about myself in a new, most honest light. The timing of this Year of Mercy couldn’t be better.

I think it’s very easy for the Church to seem scary, like a house full of rules, judging eyes and hypocrisy. But that’s not the point at all! If it is, we are no better than the pharisees whom Jesus criticized in his own time.

Pope Francis said the Church is a field-hospital for sinners; Jesus said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).” And truly, if our vision is clear, we are all sinners.

The rules of the Church are meant to guide us in a healthy, happy life. They are not meant to condemn us for imperfection. Thisdifference is the entire message of Jesus in the Gospels.

Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy is helping to make that clear, in case it had perhaps become shadowed. He is making opportunities for we the faithful and also, for non-Catholics, so that hopefully the Church will be revealed as less intimidating and as more profoundly merciful and loving, and therefore more approachable. We believe that the Gospel is for everyone, that it is good news for all people. Let us show that it is truly good news by showing what He has done for us!

Here are some ways to celebrate!

  1. Go to Confession; receive God’s forgiveness.
  2. Check out the Year of Mercy events in your local parish or diocese.
  3. Perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
    1. Corporal Works: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, comfort the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead.
    2. Spiritual works: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, pray for the living and the dead
  4. Make a pilgrimage to a Door of Mercy!
    1. This is a unique and cool opportunity; there are Doors of Mercy this year at most cathedrals and major churches. All you have to do is visit a Door of Mercy and pass through it. (Confession and Mass recommended beforehand).
    2.  Pope Francis said, “The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. “
    3. The image of pilgrimage is especially meaningful to me because of how inspiring I found the stories of Christian pilgrims through out the years and because of my own efforts at making a modern pilgrimage and experiences thereon. Nothing quite captures my view of the faith and my love of the Middle Ages in one neat swoop.

So I’ll be making a pilgrimage to the National Basilica in Washington DC when the weather warms up. Date to be decided, but all friends are invited.

 

 

 

Local Book Shop Showcase #1: Potter’s House in Adam’s Morgan, DC

In the spirit of getting out more, and in keeping with the Catholic and booky themes of this blog, I present a small series on neat, local bookstores, which for me is Northern Virginia and Washington DC.

First stop: Potter’s House in Adam’s Morgan of Washington DC, a book shop/ coffee house that focuses on Christian spirituality and social justice. Anyone can get a cup of coffee and a soup for whatever he or she can pay, even if that is nothing. I will say that several of theology offerings are a bit suspect, but the shop never claims to be orthodox Catholic. So I don’t endorse every book in there. But that being said, they really did have a wealth of titles, especially of thinkers and ideas I may not have run into otherwise. Browsing there was a joy. Here are few highlights.   There is a lot to learn from that place.

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Thanks to my good friend Kate for discovering it and inviting me out.

I’d also like to point out that cool cookbook and there is a book there on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh, who teaches at UVA, my alma mater.

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

18131What a book! This was my second time reading it; I read it once in 6th grade and I enjoyed it far more this time. What struck me the most is how many incredibly complex thoughts and ideas flow so naturally in what appears to be an adventure story for children. And I love that it is an adventure that involves an entire family.

Meg, her little brother Charles, and her new friend Calvin, journey with three intriguing, teleporting ladies across space and time in an effort to save Meg’s & Charles’s father, who disappeared during research on the fifth dimension.

In the beginning, we see the beauty of the sweet relationships between Meg, Charles, their two other brothers and their Mother. The mother is an active scientist who has a lab in an outer room of the house. I simply loved the mother’s role in this story as wise, guiding, loving and very active on her own.

“Over a Bunsen burner bubbled a big earthenware dish of stew. ‘Don’t tell Sandy and Dennys I’m cooking out here,’ she said. ‘They’re always suspicious that a few chemicals may get in with the meat, but I had an experiment I wanted to stay with” (39).

In this alone, we see both a strong commitment to her family and also to her craft. It’s nothing short of inspiring.

Then there is the number of philosophical and emotional concepts packed into the story. Here’s one regarding the structure of our lives and the responsibility that we must take:

“You have a form of poetry called the sonnet….It is a very strict form of poetry….There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter….But within this strict freedom, the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants”

“You mean you are comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form but freedom within it?” (198-199)

This is meant to describe how life works. There are boundaries, but within those, there is total freedom to do well or badly, and how very insightful this is! Boundaries I can think of include our physical capacity, the existence of others, the commitments we make in life and even moral laws. But in the example of the sonnet, L’Engle shows how beautiful the the boundaries can be. Freedom flourishes within bonds of love instead of turning into overweening destruction of neighbor.

And also, even though boundaries do exist, the measure of our freedom and responsibility is still enormous. We have a sonnet to write. Or a symphony perhaps, within a certain key. No one will write it but us.

2016: Welcome Waterways and other Themes

In 2015, I picked a theme for the year instead of resolutions. For us, it was Farm Year: we planted a vegetable garden, learned about tractors, plows and combines, visited farms, learned about farm animals, sang Old MacDonald had a farm, read books about farms and animals, talked about where our food came from.

Farm year wasn’t remotely stressful; it just provided inspiration for activities. Since it was such a success, I’ve decided on a new theme for 2016.

Waterways.

We will learn about and visit streams, lakes, rivers, ponds and the ocean. We will learn about the animals that live in them and the vessels that travel atop or within them. Connecting it to farm year, we will talk about irrigation and the importance of water for food production and human life.

I don’t expect my one year old and three year old to fully absorb all this, as I am still absorbing it myself, but it is part of their foundation.

I like the themes concept. It has proven more transformative and less stressful than “resolutions,” which just seem like one more thing on the to-do list.

What else for me in 2016?

  1. Keep writing; keep the articles coming, and post at least one blog post per week.
  2. Finish first draft of a longer project
  3. At least 5 minutes of Scripture or spiritual reading per day
  4. Participate in Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy by making a pilgrimage (albeit a small one) to the National Basilica in Washington DC (more info on this to come)
  5. Focus on kindness and generosity especially with my husband and children and in general
  6. Run my home more like a monastery or try to. Read The Rule of St. Benedict

Whelp, there are more detailed things that I have in mind, but those are the basics.

What are you thinking for this year? Did you make any themes or resolutions?