In the Face of Racist Leaders …

What truth can wrap around the events of these last few days, straining to bend them toward justice? What events?

  • Thursday, January 11th in a meeting with lawmakers on DACA and immigration protections for people from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration agreement, President Trump reportedly wanted to know why we should have “all these people from s***hole countries come here” rather than people from Europe.
  • Friday, January 12th, was the 8th anniversary of devastating earthquake that struck the most populated region of Haiti, killing more than 300,000 people, injuring more than 300,000 more, and leaving 1.5 million people homeless. They are here because they have suffered so terribly and lost so much.
  • Global condemnation of the blatant racism as “abhorrent” was rapid and intense: the UN Human Rights Council, African Union, Haiti, Latin American and European nations…. Members of the president’s political party largely remained silent or tried to defend him.
  • That same Friday morning, the White House issued a statement saying the president would hold a public signing ceremony late that morning making Monday, January 15th, the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday. [Note: it has been a federal holiday for 35 years since Ronald Reagan signed legislation establishing it in 1983.] The president claimed to celebrate Dr. King for standing up for “ the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear: No matter the color of our skin, or the place of our birth, we are ALL created equal by God.” His statement pledged “to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice and peace.” Read the president’s remarks here and try to feel some of the pain that ceremony caused people who fought for civil rights, freedom, justice and dignity with Dr. King. It must have felt like a public, hypocritical desecration of the man who has become a sacred icon of their struggle.
  • Saturday, January 13th, a false alarm of an incoming ballistic missile sent to residents across Hawaii brought us to the edge of the kind of devastating miscalculation that even a stable political leader not prejudiced against people of color could make in the heat of uncertainty.

How can we absorb these events contemplatively and have a worthy Word to speak for the growth of God’s justice? The liturgical readings for this Sunday, January 14th, the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, carry two clear messages for our situation, probably the best available to us.

In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that our bodies [whatever their color!] are members of Christ. “Do you not know,” he writes, “that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…?” This is the undeniable foundation of Christian belief in the sacred dignity of every human being of whatever race, nation or way of life.

The other two readings, 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19 and John 1:35-42, describe the call to discipleship and service, a call given to the young and to ordinary people.   That call is our call, coming from the Holy Spirit who lives within each of us and within all our brothers and sisters so demeaned by the scenario that played out these few days. The call is to us to stand up and speak the truth that demands true justice.

As we walk out of Sunday services and into the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, how will we celebrate it? How will we live the truth of who we are as the body of Christ to bring justice to our nation?

 

James E. Hug, S.J.