One-Liner Wednesday: the system

“Nothing is going to change until we stop accepting this dirty, rotten system!”
~ ~ ~ Dorothy Day (1897–1980)
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays and Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/23/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-23rd-and-one-liner-wednesday/
More information on JusJoJan and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

 

 

 

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Francis at Congress

This morning, I listened to Pope Francis’s address to the joint meeting of Congress with a group of other Catholics.

It was a bit strange to see the formality of the proceedings which looked very much like the annual State of the Union speech given by the President. Besides the Representatives and Senators, there were most of the Cabinet Secretaries and only four members of the Supreme Court, which was disappointing, given that three of the six Catholic justices chose not to attend.

A few things that stood out for me from Francis’s address:

  • He very carefully made the speech as relatable to people in the United States as he could. 
    Even though it was a long speech, he spoke in English, a language which he knows but in which he is not fluent. It was obvious that he understood well US history, values, and sensibilities, and the speech was organized around the ideals and example of four Americans, President Abraham Lincoln, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. While the first two would be familiar to everyone, the later two may not be, each being a 20th century convert to Catholicism. Day is known for her work among the marginalized and for her dedication to social justice and human dignity. Merton is known for his capacity to enter into dialogue and integrate seemingly contradictory viewpoints.
  • Francis very strongly advocated for ending the death penalty worldwide. The United States is one of the few countries left in the world that exacts killing of those convicted of crimes.  While there are many people who oppose it in the United States, executions are still taking place. Some states have abolished it, but others have not. Pope Francis described it as an affront to the dignity of the person and said that the goal of prison was to foster hope and rehabilitation. The US bishops are currently renewing their efforts toward abolition of the death penalty across the country. As an opponent of the death penalty since childhood, I was grateful to hear such a strong message against it.
  • Francis was especially bold in addressing the issue of arms sales.  When Francis was speaking about Thomas Merton, he spoke about bridging divides and how good political leaders seize opportunities for dialogue and peace with openness and optimism. He called for an end to armed conflict and then went on to say that profit gained from selling weapons to those who will use them against people is “blood money.” Given how many of the arms in the world originate in the United States, this was a challenging thing to say. I do agree with Francis on this, but the Congress was pretty quiet in reaction.
  • Francis most frequently mentioned the common good as a value that is both spiritual/religious and civic.  Francis touched on many themes, including immigrants, the treatment of the First Nations, freedom of thought and expression, combatting fundamentalism and polarization of all kinds, human dignity and justice, the Golden Rule, care of creation, family life, and giving hope to the younger generations. He mentioned over and over how government, businesspeople, and the society as a whole must co-operate to bring about justice and promote the common good.

I say, “Amen!”

Father John Dear: “The Nonviolent Life”

Earlier this week, I was privileged to hear Father John Dear speak at a local church. He is on a national book tour, speaking about the concepts in his most recent book, “The Nonviolent Life.” Although it was wonderful to hear him speak about his travels, including his recent trip to South Africa to visit important social justice sites there and to meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it was most moving to hear him speak about the nonviolence of Jesus, as we began Holy Week, and how we can live that nonviolence in our own lives.

He emphasized that nonviolence has three components that we need to carry out simultaneously. The first is nonviolence toward oneself. It seems that that would be easy, but so many of us struggle to love and accept ourselves, judging our own worth in harsh ways that we would not inflict on another person. This being the first principle in the nonviolent life was a powerful reminder that peace within ourselves – and peace in our spiritual practice and relationship with God, if that is our tradition – is essential to bringing that peace to others.

The second component is to be nonviolent to all people and to all of creation. For those of us who are Christian, we are taught these Bible quotes from childhood. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is much more difficult to live them, though, especially when our world is embroiled in multiple armed conflicts and many are intent on retribution against an enemy. It takes a lot of strength to respond nonviolently to violence, but we have the example of Jesus to follow, as well as more modern examples, such as Ghandi, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day.

The third component is to be part of the global grassroots nonviolence movement for the rest of one’s life. That does sound daunting, except that it doesn’t mean that one has to travel to other countries or take on every justice and peace issue. It can mean supporting local efforts to combat hunger or advocating for legislation to stop capital punishment or war or joining the fight for fair wages or equal access to education. Personally, I view my work fighting against unconventional fossil fuels and global warming as social justice work, which, in John Dear’s language, is also the work of non-violence. Likewise, this would encompass the advocacy work for or against legislation on the national level that I participate in as a member of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby.

It can be discouraging when one is working on such a big issue as ending violence. It was hopeful to hear Father Dear speak, because there are so many instances that he spoke about where nonviolent methods lead to important change. If it happened in those times and places, it can happen again here and now, especially with so many of us joining together at the grassroots level to work toward nonviolence, justice, and peace.