One day this week I was reading a speech given by Congressman Joe Kennedy at “The Summit,” the annual gathering called by Sojourners magazine of faith and justice leaders in our country. It was a magnificent speech reminding the faith community that it is our lifes’ vocations to pursue justice for all, especially the marginalized and forgotten, the poor and hungry, the persecuted and lost. In the midst of this, he offered a quote from Augustine of Hippo, the great 4th Century theologian who contributes greatly to the identity of Western Christianity, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” These words ring true, but for the life of me I could not find validation that they are actually words of Augustine (I chase more rabbits trying to find primary sources of important quotes). In my searching, I came across another quote attributed to Augustine but equally untraceable, “Hope has two beautiful daughters and their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” I very much appreciate both of these quotes and will continue to seek their origins. Still, I will attribute them to Augustine, with qualification, as many have, and will use them to challenge us to the baptismal living to which we are called and the life vocations Congressman Kennedy suggests.
I also remembered this week we are remembering the 100th anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Europe to aid the allies in the Great War. I am reminded of the reality of this war (WW1) every time I walk through the blue hall at St. Paul’s and see the memorial plaque on the wall with the names of 99 parishioners who served, including four who died and six women, in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. The inscription on the plaque reads, “For His name’s sake they went forward that peace and happiness, truth and justice might be established among all nations.” The peculiarities of wars’ causes, the casus belli, perplex me. And, though the aforementioned Augustine provided a solution to a war approved by Christianity–that is “just war” ( jus bellum justum ), I remained unconvinced as a person of faith and moral agency that I will ever understand war as other than tragic and reflective of our unwillingness to seek fully God’s vision of the Kingdom. Consequently, for me, war is forever a sign of our obdurate hearts and implacable moral blindness. However, I do not imagine the soldier bears the burden of these stains on human history. Rather, in almost every instance, it is that small cabal of powerful and privileged, considering only minimally the human consequences of war, who bear the responsibility, instead seeking more privilege and power to feed their insatiable appetites for both. Thus, I lament the human pains and sorrows inflicted by war as well as its insult to the human spirit. It is here I embrace Hope’s two daughters and pledge to never disavow my obligation to stand for the common person, the common soldier, our common humanity, and resist war in every instance.
I was disheartened this week by an advertisement published by the NRA. There is no explanation for their intent or purpose in this ad other than to incite violence and hate toward Americans who dare to disagree with them. The venom with which this ad creates a ubiquitous “enemy” to those who are the NRA is frightening and contrary to everything America represents since Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, an American patriot, suggested e pluribus unum ( out of many, one) be the motto on the seal for the Colonial Congress in 1776. The advertisement ends with an ominous warning, “The only way we stop this (referring to fake news, protest, and civil disobedience), the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.” The ad is being denounced by progressives and conservatives alike as a thinly veiled call to arms and violence. I was once an active member of the NRA. I valued its lessons on gun safety, hunting, and wildlife conservation. No longer. It is now a vicious and destructive organization that serves no socially redeeming purpose in modern civilization. While we, the faithful, are called to seek justice, mercy, redemption, reconciliation, and peace, this group is calling its members to prepare for violence and war.
Finally, last night I attended a rally for the fight for a living wage in Kansas City. Many parts of the rally were moving, but the highlight was a song sung by a small group of singers. The song, “Freedom,
” (click to music) was so filled with hopefulness and joy! My video can only convey a small part of how beautiful this moment was for me. August 8, you will have your chance to express your opinion about a living wage in Kansas City. I hope you consider your vote prayerfully.
So, the journey of the week was a roller-coaster, filled with joys and sorrows. Still, God was with me all along the way; for that, I am always thankful.