It has been a long time since I’ve written a blog post here. Close to seven months. I have heard from many people over many months words of encouragement to return to this medium. And I am grateful that there are those who still desire my thoughts and reflections, as well as the sharing of ideas and interesting news items in this space.
The simple truth is that I’ve been busy, more busy than usual. While I could have prioritized writing here, the demands of deadlines for columns, articles, books and, most importantly, my PhD dissertation have understandably occupied my time this past year. On top of that, a full speaking schedule and the start of a new job teaching at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago has only made the limited amount of time available feel all the more limited.
But things have changed.
This week has been unprecedented in the history of the nation I call home. A country that, like a family member or friend, I love but love with the desire for its improvement and to be its “best self.” I do not feel like the US has always lived up to its “best self,” and the election of a candidate who has spoken so openly in disparaging ways about women, immigrants, people of color, disabled persons, Muslims, and so many others is a prime example of that failure to be what we are truly capable of being.
Regardless of what political party with which you are affiliated, the election cycle has been extraordinarily divisive and not accidentally so. The president-elect stirred the pot of discontent, hatred, and violence at nearly every turn. He preyed on the fears of the financially and socially insecure, he tapped into the vein of white supremacist rhetoric. And this is absolutely not acceptable.
The calls for reconciliation and unity are, perhaps generally, an understandable move in the right direction. However, as Blessed Pope Paul VI famously said, “If you want peace, work for Justice.” And justice requires a coming to terms with the condition of the possibility for such division. The hateful campaigning, fear mongering, and discriminatory rhetoric, all of which has frighteningly given the disenfranchised a sense of empowerment to verbally, psychologically, and even physically harm women, men, and children has been the wedge that further fractured an already divided nation.
I am interested in dialogue and reconciliation and unity. But I don’t believe that such things are possible apart from honest accounting for conditions that have led to this divide.
Fear is the enemy of Christian discipleship and we must not be afraid. We must not be afraid to stand with one another against injustice, to speak up when witnessing harassment or violence, to risk the vulnerability that agape love demands of Christians.
Those who may look like me, who identify as white—especially white, male, clerics— we must use our unearned social privilege to empower those whose voices and lives are being silenced and oppressed. It is especially necessary that we do not remain silent ourselves, or retreat into what a Franciscan Sister recently described to me at my lecture this week as “the ghettos of silence,” or become what Thomas Merton famously described as “guilty bystanders.”
This empowerment, the deployment of power that comes with white (or male or clerical) privilege begins with listening, truly listening to our sisters and brothers and not rushing to impose our own agendas and solutions. For those who are educators like me, we can begin by creating safe spaces in our classrooms and in our offices for that listening. For preachers and ministers like me, we can begin by preaching the Gospel that indeed proclaims a Word that “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”
There is so much more to say and I hope to be better about sharing such thoughts and resources here once again.