Pope Francis sent these words to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops today. He speaks powerfully to our present crisis. See what you think.
For some time, the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few. “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.” As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is “a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.” These are signs of the times that we need to recognize in order to act. We have lost valuable time: time when we did not pay enough attention to these processes, time when we did not resolve these destructive realities. Thus the processes of dehumanization accelerate. The direction taken beyond this historic turning-point—the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved—will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements. We should be neither paralyzed by fear nor shackled within the conflict. We have to acknowledge the danger but also the opportunity that every crisis brings in order to advance to a successful synthesis. In the Chinese language, which expresses the ancestral wisdom of that great people, the word “crisis” is comprised of two ideograms: Wēi, which represents “danger”, and Jī, which represents “opportunity”. The grave danger is to disown our neighbors. When we do so, we deny their humanity and our own humanity without realizing it; we deny ourselves, and we deny the most important Commandments of Jesus. Herein lies the danger, the dehumanization. But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness like a lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence. The question that the lawyer asked Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) echoes in our ears today: “Who is my neighbor?” Who is that other whom we are to love as we love ourselves? Maybe the questioner expects a comfortable response in order to carry on with his life: “My relatives? My compatriots? My co-religionists? ...” Maybe he wants Jesus to excuse us from the obligation of loving pagans or foreigners who at that time were considered unclean. This man wants a clear rule that allows him to classify others as “neighbor” and “non-neighbor”, as those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors. Jesus responds with a parable which features two figures belonging to the elite of the day and a third figure, considered a foreigner, a pagan and unclean: the Samaritan. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the priest and the Levite come upon a dying man, whom robbers have attacked, stripped and abandoned. In such situations the Law of the Lord imposes the duty to offer assistance, but both pass by without stopping. They were in a hurry. However, unlike these elite figures, the Samaritan stopped. Why him? As a Samaritan he was looked down upon, no one would have counted on him, and in any case he would have had his own commitments and things to do—yet when he saw the injured man, he did not pass by like the other two who were linked to the Temple, but “he saw him and had compassion on him” (v. 33). The Samaritan acts with true mercy: he binds up the man's wounds, transports him to an inn, personally takes care of him, and provides for his upkeep. All this teaches us that compassion, love, is not a vague sentiment, but rather means taking care of the other to the point of personally paying for him. It means committing oneself to take all the necessary steps so as to “draw near to” the other to the point of identifying with him: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the Lord’s Commandment. The economic system that has the god of money at its center, and that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries that to a criminal degree have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way with the pretense of innocence. Under the guise of what is politically correct or ideologically fashionable, one looks at those who suffer without touching them. But they are televised live; they are talked about in euphemisms and with apparent tolerance, but nothing is done systematically to heal the social wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside. This hypocritical attitude, so different from that of the Samaritan, manifests an absence of true commitment to humanity. Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates. The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a “non-neighbor”. I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity. Jesus teaches us a different path. Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart. That is to say, if you have that capacity to suffer with someone else. You must become a Samaritan. And then also become like the innkeeper at the end of the parable to whom the Samaritan entrusts the person who is suffering. Who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community, people of compassion and solidarity, social organizations. It is us, it is you, to whom the Lord Jesus daily entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we can continue pouring out all of his immeasurable mercy and salvation upon them. Here are the roots of the authentic humanity that resists the dehumanization that wears the livery of indifference, hypocrisy, or intolerance. I know that you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice and share two reflections in this regard. First, the ecological crisis is real. “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.” Science is not the only form of knowledge, it is true. It is also true that science is not necessarily “neutral”—many times it conceals ideological views or economic interests. However, we also know what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature. I make my own everything that concerns us as Catholics. Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation. The other is a reflection that I shared at our most recent World Meeting of Popular Movements, and I feel is important to say it again: no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist. Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist. No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.” There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace. I ask you for meekness and resolve to defend these principles. I ask you not to barter them lightly or apply them superficially. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, let us give everything of ourselves: where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, let us sow pardon; where there is discord, let us sow unity; where there is error, let us sow truth. Please know that I pray for you, that I pray with you, and I ask God our Father to accompany and bless you. May He shower you with his love and protect you. I ask you to please pray for me too, and to carry on.
What is America? From its beginning it has always been a painful paradox, a country founded on violent dehumanization but proclaiming the highest ideals of human kinship. As generations have before us, today millions join together to make it what it must become.
We seek a revolution of values and a radical restructuring of our society. We seek nothing less than the American Revolution’s ideal of We the People—created equal, imbued with dignity, governing ourselves for all of us, sharing a broad prosperity.
This hope and fight is now. Trumpism betrays America, provoking everyday folks to fear demonized versions of their fellows while the real threat comes from billionaires and corporations pursuing profits heedless of hurt to people and the planet.
We know that building a true democracy will not be easy. Corporate greed, empire building, bigotry of all kinds, lies and propaganda, selfishness and materialism, all contribute to a toxic political environment ruled by anger and ignorance.
But a beautiful, revolutionary spirit spreads across America again. This spirit fired up the generations before us as they built heroic movements that achieved the impossible and helped the world reimagine and redefine what an inclusive, egalitarian democracy can and should be.
Our time is now. We are greater than their fear. We honor the dignity and equality of people of all faiths, races, ethnicities, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations. We protect each other, embrace non-violence, joyfully engage our differences, build shared prosperity, and care for the earth.
Emphatically rejecting the centrism that says “wait” while it soothes the rich and comforts the powerful, the fierce urgency of our ideals call us to immediate action in many ways. We become a movement of movements, building on the revolutionary spirit found among people of all sorts to raise up freedom, equality, and justice in the lives of each and every one of us.
Our democracy does not belong to the corporations or the wealthy few. It does not belong to any branch of government, any political party, or any president. It belongs to us, We the People. We seek nothing less than America. What is America to you and how will you give it birth?
I drafted this statement in conversation with others thinking about our country's future. I've posted it on the ACLU of Northern California website. Please share this widely, and let me know your thoughts. ... See MoreSee Less
What is America? From its beginning it has always been a painful paradox, a country founded on violent dehumanization but proclaiming the highest ideals of human kinship. As generations have before us...
In the history of humanity, the most transgressive message has always been that we all belong, that the just society cares for everyone. Shepard Fairy expresses this ideal in his new art opposing Trump and proclaiming our shared values. And it's free to download and circulate! ... See MoreSee Less
"We thought it was the right time to make a campaign that’s about diversity and inclusion, about people seeing the common bonds we have, and our connections as human beings," says the graphic artist...
It was only a matter of time until some Democratic pundit revived the adage "it's the economy, stupid" -- and Stanley Greenberg's polling outfit just went there, claiming the 2016 election was all about economics without bothering to mention racism or sexism.
As progressives, we have to fight "voting while white," the tendency of some to support politicians who describe the world in terms of white grievances, fears, and resentments.
But we must also fight "resisting while white"--the tendency among some liberals to normalize white identity, treating it as a non-issue or a background fact, utterly ignoring--indeed actively denying--how race works among whites.
For an example of how to do both, here's a wonderful essay from Rev. William Barber, one of the emerging leaders of the new social movement that links pocket book issues to identity and morality.
"Too many people are too easily blaming the rise of Trump on Democrats forgetting the “white working class.” Yes, Trump appealed to real economic fears among working people. But he lost every income bracket below $48,000 and won every group above it, blowing the dog whistles of race to divide poor and working people. Any resistance to Trump that doesn’t address his divide-and-conquer tactics from Wisconsin to Ohio to North Carolina and Alabama cannot offer a real political alternative." ... See MoreSee Less