Henri Nouwen: Peace and Forgiveness

“Resistance is an essential element of peacemaking, and the no of the resisters must go all the way to the inner reaches of their own hearts to confront the deadly powers of self hate. I often think that I am such a hesitant peacemaker because I still have not accepted myself as a forgiven person, a person who has nothing to fear and is truly free to speak the truth and proclaim the kingdom of peace.” —Henri J. M. Nouwen

James Alison: On Clericalism

“Clericalism” is not a “thing” that can be undone with a single silver bullet. It is a combination over time of a number of different things which have together metastasized into what now seems like an excrescence on the face of Christianity. The metastasis, for which “clericalism” is as convenient a name as any, maintains itself as something sacred. That is to say, it has become an apparently necessary form of the group’s fake self-transcendence, a form of idolatry. Like all forms of idolatry, it damages not only social relationships between people, but also their capacity to imagine. Since it is not a simple incubus, capable of being removed by exorcism, I propose looking at each one of a number of the strands of the metastasis so that we can welcome in something new rather than simply extirpating the old and leaving space for seven worse demons to arrive. For the purposes of this conference, I’m attempting what in a business group would be called “blue-sky thinking”. Here I am calling it “Open heaven thinking” (following St Stephen and St John) aiming at a bestirring of the imagination in an attempt to work through, and beyond, our idolatry in this sphere. Nothing I say here has the pretension of being other than material to promote discussion, and I am probably wrong in a whole series of things that I say. I merely hope that the wrongness be of the sort that encourages mutual build-up rather than mutual down-tearing.–James Alison

Read James Alison’s full presentation “Clericalism and the Violent Sacred: Dipping a Girardian Toe in Troubled Waters” given at the Von Hügel Institute, Cambridge University, 18 September 2019.

Fr. Bryan Massingale: ‘I come to this conversation as a Black, gay priest and theologian.’

Bryan N. Massingale is a Catholic priest who holds the Professor
James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham University.

Tom Roberts has written an excellent opinion piece in National Catholic Reporter titled It’s not about ethics, it’s about how we imagine God, on preeminent theologian Bryan Massingale’s July address in which he shifts the conversation on LGBTQ Catholics.

“I come to this conversation as a Black, gay priest and theologian,” said Massingale at a July 4 talk titled “The Challenge of Idolatry for LGBTQI Ministry,” at the 50th anniversary conference of DignityUSA, a group that self describes as “Celebrating the wholeness and holiness of LGBTQI Catholics.” DignityUSA also hosted a four-day gathering of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics prior to the conference.

Here is an excerpt from Massingale’s email and phone conversation with Tom Roberts:

The major challenge we face as sexually minoritized persons is not a problem of sexual ethics. We tend to think, and we are told, that our problems in church and society stem from our nonconformity with the church’s moral code. 

But the church has a solution for that issue. If you sin, you can go to confession. You receive forgiveness and absolution. … Our deepest problem — the one that causes us the most pain, alienation, and self-estrangement — is that we’ve been told a false story about God and have been given false images of God. That’s our problem. 

Underlying all of the struggles we endure around the world and the stories that we’ve heard throughout this assembly — stories of being kicked out of parishes, ostracized from our families, and in general being not welcome — underlying all of these experiences is a story that Catholicism tells about itself.

At the heart of this story is that to be Catholic is to be straight. “Catholic” = “straight.” Official Catholicism tells a story where only heterosexual persons, heterosexual love, heterosexual intimacy, heterosexual families — only these can unambiguously mirror the Divine. Only these are truly sacred. Genuinely holy. Only these are worthy of unreserved acceptance and respect. All other persons and expressions of love, family life, intimacy, and sexual identity are sacred (if at all) only by toleration or exception.

In effect, we are told that we are “afterthoughts” in the story of creation, not part of the original plan. In other words, we are “children of a lesser god.” … Yes, we certainly need to rethink our church’s official sexual ethics. But even more, we have to rethink God.Bryan Massingale


‘You Didn’t Answer My Question, Mr. President’

On Monday, President Trump held a post-G7 press conference with French President Macron. In the last few minutes Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey asked Trump about climate change (see transcript below).

Trump missed or skipped the G7 discussion on climate, oceans, and biodiversity led by French president Macron. France is leading the Carbon Neutrality Coalition of countries that have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, in part to make up for the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Accords.

Greta Thunberg, the youth climate leader who sailed into New York harbor on Tuesday to attend UN climate meetings, was asked if she had a message for President Trump, who has expressed skepticism about the science behind climate change, Thunberg said, “If no one has been able to convince him about the climate crisis — the urgency — then why should I be able to do that?”

TRANSCRIPT FROM POST-G7 PRESS CONFERENCE

Josh Dawsey: Mr. President, there was a significant talk at the summit about climate change.  I know in the past you’ve harbored some skepticism of the science in climate change.  What do you think the world should be doing about climate change?  And do you still harbor that skepticism?

Trump:   I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth.  The wealth is under its feet.  I’ve made that wealth come alive.  We will soon be one of the — we will soon be exporting.  In fact, we’re actually doing it now — exporting.

But we are now the number one energy producer in the world.  And soon, it will be by far, with a couple of pipelines that have not been able to get approved for many, many years.  It’ll have a huge impact.

I was able to get ANWR in Alaska.  It could be the largest site in the world for oil and gas.  I was able to get ANWR approved.  Ronald Reagan wasn’t able to do it.  Nobody was able to do it.  They’ve been trying to do it since before Ronald Reagan.  I got it approved.

We’re the number one energy producer in the world.  Soon it will be, by far, the number one.  It’s tremendous wealth.  And LNG is being sought after all over Europe and all over the world, and we have more of it than anybody else.  And I’m not going to lose that wealth.  I’m not going lose it on dreams, on windmills — which, frankly, aren’t working too well.  I’m not going to lose it.

So, Josh, in a nutshell, I want the cleanest water on Earth.  I want the cleanest air on Earth.  And that’s what we’re doing.

And I’m an environmentalist.  A lot of people don’t understand that.  I have done more environmental impact statements, probably, than anybody that’s — I guess I can say definitely, because I have done many, many, many of them.  More than anybody that’s ever been President or Vice President or anything even close to President.  And I think I know more about the environment than most people.

I want clean air.  I want clean water.  I want a wealthy country.  I want a spectacular country with jobs, with pensions, with so many things.  And that’s what we’re getting.  So I want to be very careful.  At the same time —

Josh Dawsey:    But, Mr. President, do you believe in climate change?  Do you believe in climate change?

Trump:   At the same time — at the same time — you weren’t called.

At the same time, it’s very important to me — very important to me — we have to maintain this incredible — this incredible place that we’ve all built.  We’ve become a much richer country.  And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing — because that great wealth allows us to take care of people.  We can take care of people that we couldn’t have taken care of in the past because of the great wealth.  We can’t let that wealth be taken away.  Clean air, clean water. Thank you very much everybody.  I appreciate it.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Josh Dawsey: You didn’t answer my question Mr. President as to whether you believe that climate change is happening.

From August 26, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D8aTigGClw [Minutes: 1:08:12 – 1:11:09]

400 Years: Slaves in Our Family

A cleansing ceremony at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Va., on Aug. 24 during a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Virginia.
EVELYN HOCKSTEIN FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Today at 3:00 p.m, bells across America will toll for 4 minutes to remember the 400 years since the first Angolans were captured in 1619 by British slave traders and brought to English-speaking colonies on the ship White Lion. They landed at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

In 2012, I wrote an essay for Sojourners magazine about my own family owning enslaved people. I reprint it here today.–Rose Marie Berger

[From Sojourners, February 2012]

My family held slaves.

Among my maternal grandmother’s papers there is a 1820s deed of sale. In the list of farm equipment and livestock are the names of two “negroes.” The right-hand ledger column lists their dollar value.

That branch of my family is from Louisiana. In that same region, there were several slave uprisings, including the Pointe Coupee conspiracy in 1795 and the Cane River rebellion in 1804.

In 1793, Father Jean Delvaux, a priest who served the Catholic parish in Campti, Louisiana (where more than 100 years later my grandmother would be baptized), was deported to Cuba by his bishop for leading “seditious movements” proclaiming the abolition of slavery and “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” the motto of the French Revolution.

On my family’s deed, the price for two human beings—chattel slaves—was about $1,000.

“THE AVERAGE PRICE of a human being today,” says researcher Kevin Bales, “is about $90.” That’s the price averaged across the global market. In North America, slaves go for between $3,000 to $8,000. In India or Nepal, you can buy a human being for $5 to $10.

But didn’t slavery disappear after abolition? Isn’t that what the Civil War was all about?

Bales, author of Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, has a succinct response: “Thinking slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation is like thinking adultery stopped with the Ten Commandments.”

However, Bales also wants to make clear that the 27 million people enslaved today represent the smallest percentage of the global population ever to be in slavery. And the $40 billion generated by slavery into the global economy each year is the smallest proportion of the global economy ever represented by slave labor.

Slavery is now illegal in every country in the world; it’s shifted from being universally accepted to universally condemned. But, as abolitionist Wendell Phillips preached nearly 160 years ago, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

ONE SLAVE ANYWHERE is an affront to human dignity, a moral outrage. But slavery, in its most pernicious forms, has always been about profit.

When, as is true today, the richest 10 percent own 85 percent of the world’s wealth and the poorest 50 percent live off the crumbs of 1 percent of the total global wealth, you’ve created a market where slavery will thrive.

Wherever he goes around the world, says Bales, the story is the same. Someone came to the village. They stood on the back of a truck shouting, “I’ve got jobs! Who needs a job?” The person was “suspicious,” but her kids were hungry. She tells Bales, “I had to do anything I could to earn some money.” So she climbed in the back of the truck. “They take [the dangerous working conditions] for a little while,” says Bales, “but when they try to leave—bang!—the hammer comes down. They discover they are enslaved.”

Economist Elizabeth Wheaton writes that within the next 10 years human trafficking is expected to surpass drug and arms trafficking. “As people become vulnerable to exploitation and businesses continually seek the lowest-cost labor sources,” Wheaton explains, “trafficking human beings generates profit and a market for human trafficking is created.”

During the Pointe Coupee conspiracy in 1795, a French school teacher and abolitionist named Joseph Bouyavel was accused of reading to slaves from The Declaration of the Rights of Man. “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights,” he told them. “These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.”

What liberating word do we bring to slaves today? If our Christian good news doesn’t free the captive, then it’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ. French poet Placide Cappeau put it this way, “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression shall cease.”

Rose Marie Berger, a Catholic peace activist and poet, is a Sojourners associate editor.

Evil Leader or Crazed Elephant?

Shakyamuni Buddha

“Truth is a rare commodity. We need to make sure that our sources have the conscience to do good. Nichiren Shonin was very aware of this as well. He said in his Kyoki Jikoku Sho that the Buddha once warned, “it is more harmful to meet a bad leader than it is to meet a bad elephant.”

One may end up being killed upon meeting a crazed elephant. But, it is still better than meeting an evil leader who will corrupt and defile one’s mind to the effect that its contamination will eventually destroy one’s mind and body with lingering repercussions, culminating into one’s fall into the depths of hell. That is, it is better to die with virtuous thoughts than to be polluted by misinformation and bad direction.”—Eisei Ikenaga, minister at Nichiren Buddhist Temple, Portland, Oregon (sermon 2019)