Oscar Rodriguez: Romero and Pope Francis

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[Romero’s] prophetic message was that our duty as Christians is to bring the values of the Gospel to life. We have to put our principles into practice, he said. After 30 years from his death and after his recent beatification, Romero’s life and murder is a challenge to us, a challenge to all believers. And I would ask whether we are prepared to actually put that power, the one that comes from following the Lord’s way of life, at the service of others? And to fight for justice for the world’s poor and marginalised, whatever the cost is for our Church? In this particular time that we live in, it is so important to understand and follow what he once said.

Romero on 27th November 1977 said: ‘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 turn weapons into sickles for work.’ A couple of months before, on September 25th 1977, he said ‘Let us not tire of preaching love. It is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love, though we see waves of violence at sea drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out, it is the only thing that can.’

… Archbishop Romero and Pope Francis seem to follow parallel spiritual and pastoral tracks. Both men share an understanding of the practical implications of seeking God in all things. A sense of openness to
the presence of God in history and the world, including in struggle and discourse. For many of his biographers, Romero’s favourite subject coming from the Gospel was the incarnation of Our Lord. Christ is the Word that became flesh in history and continues doing that. And since that real faith leads to engagement, then some want to keep the gospel so disembodied that it doesn’t get involved at all in the world, it is safe. Christ is now in history, Christ is in the womb of the people, Christ is now bringing about the new heaven and the new earth, Romero wrote.

And if we believe truly in the incarnation of the Word of God, we have to make ours the real and true option for the poor.– Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga,SDB, of Honduras at the 2015 Oscar Romero lecture.

Read From Romero to Francis: The Joy & the Tensions of Becoming a Poor Church with the Poor by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (October 2015)

Read more about the 2015 Annual Archbishop Romero Lecture organised by the Archbishop Romero Trust.

Video: Breaking the Habits of Machismo with Michelle Gonzalez and Jim Wallis

Prof. Michelle Gonzalez wrote an awesome article for the January 2014 issue of Sojourners (“if you don’t get it, you don’t get it”).

January.2014.cover_The title is Breaking the Habits of Machismo. When Pope Francis said we need a new theology of women, I asked Michelle to write an article in response.

We followed up yesterday with Sojourners’ first 50-minute Google Hangout. I moderated and Jim Wallis and Michelle Gonzalez led the discussion. We had about 70 people join us for the live portion and lots more are watching the video. Check it out.

PS. If you are looking for adult Sunday school material, then show this video and lead a discussion about it.

Richard Rohr: ‘The world, the flesh, and the devil’

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“With the spiritual “gift of discernment” (1 Corinthians 12:10) you can understand on a whole new level what we mean when we say “God saves you,” because now you see with wisdom and truth. It is the birth of subtlety, discrimination, and compassionate seeing. You move beyond any notion that this or that correct action will get you to heaven. It means that when “your eye is single [or ‘sound’], your whole body will be filled with light” (Luke 11:34). When you see things non-dually, in their wholeness, and do not split between the false “totally good” and “totally bad,” you will grow up spiritually and begin to live honestly and wisely in this world.

Recognizing “the world, the flesh, and the devil” as the classic three sources of evil (and also the source of the “spiral of violence”)—(1) the world’s agreed-upon systems of self-congratulation and self-protection; (2) our individual sin, which is then inevitable; (3) the demonic legitimization of oppressive and destructive power by governments and institutions—can be a primary tool to help you discern what is truly good and what is often evil. Without discernment, many of us end up calling good evil and evil good, just as Isaiah predicted (5:20) and the murder of Jesus revealed. The proper sequencing is very important: if you nip the disguise of evil in the first stage of socially agreed-upon evil, the next two largely lose most of their power to fool you. The “flesh” and the “devil” are exposed for what they are.”–Richard Rohr, OFM

Adapted from Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. Support the Center for Action and Contemplation.

Video: Lana Finikin and Women Doing Serious Theater


Lana Finikin, 59, from Jamaica is an activist using theater to address violence against women. “The saying is, when women and girls are safe, then everybody else will be safe,” she says. Watch her 3-minute video above.

In 1977, Finikin co-founded the Sistren Theatre Collective, which uses performances to explore problems concerning poor women in rural and urban communities in Jamaica – issues include violence, HIV/Aids, domestic work, housing, land tenure, environment and unemployment.

Finikin uses drama as a tool to share experiences and to empower communities on a grassroots level so they can resolve their own problems. Sistren develops the stories for its plays out of people’s experiences and narrations. At a recent UN conference in New York on the status of women, Finikin showed her approach in a two-hour-long condensed workshop.

According to the UN, globally 7 out 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated in their lifetimes with most of the violence is taking place in intimate relationships.

‘We Are All Oak Creek:’ Last Night’s Prayer Vigil at White House

Photo by RMB

Four hundred people gathered across from the White House last night with a single message: “We are all Oak Creek.”

Responding to the murder of six Sikh worshippers, the wounding of four others, including police officer Lt. Brian Murphy, and the suicide of perpetrator Wade M. Page, hundreds gathered to stand with the Sikh community as they invited prayers for the victims, the murderer, and his family. “Tonight, we are not Jain, Muslim, Hindu,” announced one speaker, “we are all Sikh tonight. We are all Oak Creek. We will not allow fear to overcome us.” (See more photos.)

In a response reminiscent of the Amish during the Nickel Mines, Pa., massacre in 2006, the Sikh community, the fifth largest religion in the world, is not used to the national spotlight in the U.S. But neither do they shy away from an opportunity to introduce their faith to a wider audience and to practice what they preach.

“We are a people of peace. We dedicate our whole lives to this,” said another vigil leader. “When you see this turban, you know that this is our uniform that declares us as one who defends peace, honesty, generosity, humility, devotion, and compassion.”

A 12-year-old Sikh girl spoke to the vigilers to remind them that Wade Page was not their enemy and neither was his family.

“He had a sickness, a disease. One caused by hate,” she said. “I don’t think of the seven who died on Sunday as victims. They are martyrs who will teach us to live as one human family.” Remarkably, she included Page among the victims of hate.

On Sunday, Sikh communities around the country will be gathering again for prayer vigils. They invite all people to pray together, share a meal (a central component to Sikh belief), and discuss what it means to be part of the moral fabric of America.–Rose Marie Berger

In Colorado, A Cry From The Heart

Aurora, CO: Prayer vigil for victims of shooting (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Continuing to reflect on the evil in Aurora, Colorado… How it gripped a young man, James Holmes … How it relishes and feeds off of the rippled effects of violence in victims and families and ultimately anyone who hears the story … How it must be confronted with the lamentations of Jeremiah and the righteous accountability of Job. Job …who gets to ask God face-to-face why evil happens and gets no satisfactory reply.

Below is an excerpt from a lovely letter written by a Lutheran pastor in Fort Collins. It helped me keep my reflections grounded in the unknowable heart of God.

… In the coming days and weeks, you will probably encounter well-meaning people who will say to you, it is all part of God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it now. Everything happens for a reason. If these words are helpful for you to hear, I’m glad. But if these words tear at already-raw places in you and fill you with anger or despair, please know this: not all people of faith believe these things. I do not believe them.

The God I know in Jesus Christ does not use natural disasters or human-caused massacres to reward some and punish others. I believe God is able to reach into sin and death and pull out healing and life; this is a different thing from engineering tragedy for a so-called greater purpose. The God I serve and proclaim to others does not cause or desire human suffering.

I also suspect many of you, like us, may be asking why. Why did this happen? The media and the justice system will do their best to answer this question in the literal sense, trying to determine why James Holmes apparently entered a movie theater and began shooting at random. In a sense, however, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, because even if we get a “why”–an explanation from the shooter, or a more comprehensive understanding of the circumstances that comes with time–these answers will still not be enough.

In its deepest sense, the question “why?” is not a request for a logical explanation; no logical explanation will justify or make sense of what is indefensible and senseless. It is a cry of the heart, an expression of grief. It is a cry as ancient as it was new again this morning. In the Bible, it is “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15). …–Meghan Johnston Aelabouni, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, CO

Read the whole letter.

George Kodhr: When ‘God’ Becomes a Word for Will to Power

Remembering the victims of violence, as well as the souls of the perpetrators …

“When the soul is invaded by the thirst for blood, faith gives way to ideology. The religious vocabulary is maintained but the words change their content. The hieratic society that empties the name of God of all content practices a horrible paganism. “God” becomes just a word used to express the will to power and the religious symbol becomes a sign of terror. In this way God can ultimately be transformed first into a concept, and then into an idol. Our faith in God at that point is based on this idolatrous foundation. It is now God who scatters death among our enemies, not us. Holiness gives way to heroism: the warrior is holy, salvation through combat on behalf of God. …

We do not sufficiently realize that murder springs from the heart, that no evil is external, and that violence is simply the forthright expression of the vanity of tribes who cannot recognize God’s face in the other. A Christian people, whose heart has been converted to the Holy Face and which lives the kenosis of the face of God, may in fidelity to the absolute never produce anything spectacular in this world, but simply transmit the words that have been said to it. Carrying the cross of Jesus in obedience to the commandment of love, it will bear witness, in the darkness of history, to the truth of Jesus, the eternal Passover.”–Metropolitan Archbishop George Khodr

Excerpted from Violence and the Gospel by Metropolitan Archbishop George (Khodr), Orthodox Archdiocese of  Byblos and Botris, Church of Antioch. This article was first given at a conference in Lyon of the Association of Christians Against Torture, and appeared in Supplément de la vie Spirituelle, Sept. 1987.

Brittany Cooper: ‘If We Refuse to Believe Black Girls, We Call into Question Our Own Witness’

Dr. Cooper
Dr. Brittney Cooper, assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama, has written an excellent column in response to prosperity gospel preacher Creflo Dollar’s recent arrest for assaulting his 15-year-old daughter.

Dr. Cooper is co-founder, along with Dr. Susana Morris, of the Crunk Feminist Collective, a feminists of color scholar-activist group that runs a highly successful blog. Professor Cooper blogs for the CFC as “Crunktastic.”

Here’s an excerpt from When the Church Fails Its Women: 7 Truths We Need to Tell About Creflo Dollar, Black Daughters and Violence:

For the record, we never know the whole story about anything, if it didn’t happen to us. That doesn’t prevent us from making reasonable judgments based on the evidence. Christians use the same type of reason to profess our faith in a God-man, who was born from a virgin, crucified on a cross and Resurrected on the 3rd day. And we believe in his Resurrection, primarily on the basis of the initial testimony of some women who Jesus’ male followers weren’t trying to hear (Mark 16: 1-11). So in my view, if we refuse to believe Black girls when they testify about their experiences, we call the basis of our own witness and our own faith into question. Jesus prioritized listening to women, even when his disciples said they were being a nuisance.

Why I wonder are Black women so willing, so ready to co-sign theologies that literally support us getting our asses kicked in our own homes?

Why have we bought into the primary premise of white supremacy, that the most effective way to establish authority is through violence? Surely, this situation teaches us that the only thing that kind of parenting does is breed the kind of resentment and contempt that will have your children calling the cops on you at 1 in the morning.

Why is it so hard for us to take a stand against Black men and tell them that there is never a reason to put their hands on us in a violent fashion? Not when homicide is the top killer (after accidental death) of Black women and girls ages 15-24.

Frankly, we need to “radically rethink” our understandings of authority, love, violence, and respect in the Black Church. …

The Crunk Feminist Collective writes about race, feminism, and popular culture from a Hip Hop Generation perspective. The blog, which aims to make feminist scholarship accessible to a wide range of publics, has been acknowledged by writers at the L.A. Times, TheRoot.Com, Clutch Magazine, and New York Magazine, and it is routinely cross-posted on sites like Feministing.com and TheRoot.com. The Collective also does speaking tours, conducts workshops, and engages in a range of activist causes related to women’s issues.

Benedict XVI: ‘Truth Cannot Be Defended With Violence’

“Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. … Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God”.– Pope Benedict XVI (24 February 2012)

George Herbert: ‘Love bade me welcome’

In the middle of the night, I was reading the notes in Adrienne Rich’s new poetry collection Tonight No Poetry Will Serve. Rich quotes from Simone Weil’s The Iliad or The Poems of Force. The reference pushed me off to look up collections of Weil’s writings. While reading an article on Weil’s experience reciting the “Pater Noster” in Greek, I came across a reference to her favorite poem: “Love” by George Herbert (1593-1632). I leave it here for you, as an offering of gratitude.

Love
by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here.’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkinde, ungrateful? Ah, my deare,
I cannot look on thee.’

Love took my hand and smiling did reply:
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love; ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My deare, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.