Monthly Archives: November 2014

We Don’t Even Respect Our Own Lives

I haven’t been blogging in the last few weeks. Mostly because I’ve been stewing over a realization I made. It was one of those things where you think, “gee, I don’t remember things being like this before.” And then you realize, if your really honest, there’s truly not anything new under the sun. And it makes you cry.
I was reading something about the upcoming, now delivered, decision from the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown case. Specifically, I was thinking about the path society had taken to get to this place, and the role our lack of respect for human life played in that journey.
I’m not talking so much about the big “life” issues like abortion, human trafficking, and the death penalty, although those things certainly desensitize us to the miracle of human life. I’m not even talking about the so called “justice” for Mike Brown movement. And I’ll even be upfront and say while I sympathize with any parent’s loss of a child, I feel Mike was complicit in his own death.
What has truly amazed me is how within the tragedy that has befallen the two men at the center of his story, society somehow seems to think devaluing other lives will deliver justice. These actions truly illustrate how all sides of the argument are guilty of disrespecting life.
I heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson make a comment the other day when asked why destroying a community was just. He said Blacks were in pain from decades/centuries of discrimination, and that pain of such kind makes people do illogical things. I might be able to consider that, if the actions of protestors had not destroyed other people’s livelihoods, taken their life savings, put their lives in danger, and left them wondering how they had anything to do with Mike Brown’s fate. Now were terrifying Christmas shoppers and frightening children at Christmas tree lightings.
But it doesn’t stop with the antics of protestors. Those fed up with the state of the urban neighborhood, which has directly led to the impasse we now face, have not exactly been kind. It’s one thing to respectfully disagree with another’s opinion, but to pepper on-line comments with continual insults and slights during the debate debases the person on the other end. So you think their point of view is absurd. Maybe it is. But name calling and reverse race-baiting isn’t going to fix anything either. It just makes the other side less human to you. And you more racist to them.
Black lives are indeed valuable. But so are white, Asian, old, young, rich, poor, educated, simple, male, female, and all others. Not just in the physical state. There is value in all human emotion, dreams, achievements, failures, cultures and so on.
What really seems to be the issue, the one that made my cry, is that we are so desensitized that we don’t even value our OWN lives. Burning down your own community hurts YOU. Hurting other people destroys YOUR credibility or threatens YOUR freedom. And if your God-fearing like me, YOUR treatment of others requires a lot of explaining to the Creator.
But even more, we have spent the last few weeks showing our children that people of other races and cultures are the enemy. And that doesn’t bode well for anyone. We need to find ways to mend fences and fix trust issues. But that won’t happen until both sides own up to their shortcomings. And respect EVERY human life.

Are There Outcasts in Your Parish Family?

Last week during one of his many appearances, Pope Francis confirmed something I have been thinking for some time now.
It’s not God or “the rules” that drive people away from the Catholic Church, or any other Church for that matter. It’s other people.
I believe the catch phrase that made it to the press was something like …If that’s being a Christian, I think I’ll be an Atheist.” But what he was really saying was people leave the Church, withhold their time and money, and don’t engage because many Churches are not exactly “welcoming.”
Church communities have a way of brining together many different types of people – no doubt part of God’s plan to build friendship and peace between those who love Him. But anyone who has ever belonged to a Catholic parish knows there is a hierarchy of sorts that develops. And it influences everything – and I mean everything – that happens therein.
In some cases, the hierarchy is developed based on who has personal wealth, or perhaps who gives the largest donations. In some, it’s about the Church or school staff, or what families have been parishioners the longest, or who knows the most dirt on the rest of the flock.
Whatever it may be, it slowly creates fissures in the rock foundation, like water that freezes on a highway in the winter. It’s these perceived hierarchies – and the behavior of those who occupy them – that stop people from volunteering, cause people to move their children to public school, stop them from attending Mass, and eventually may chase them from the Church all together.
Those who would be guilty may not realize what they do. They’re just doing things like they’ve always done them. Others most certainly do know that they divide. Those are the ones who like to “discuss” the lives of the people who attend their church.
Either way, the stories are similar. Those who want to volunteer often hear “Thanks so much, but Mary Sue has always done that for us…..” Or “well there’s a meeting you can come to next week, but we already have a committee for that…” Or a host of other “unwelcoming” answers that ring “thanks but no thanks.” Those who voice concern about an issue or challenge a long-term way of doing something, reinforce that institutional belief of how “outsiders just don’t understand our parish.”
That “welcome” that our LGBT friends think exists for the rest of us in Catholic parishes really almost never exists for anyone. There are overtures, sure. Nice dinners for new families each year, welcome notices in the bulletin. But as the days wear on, it becomes clear. Your children may have events happening in the school that you have volunteered to help with, but you never receive a call because the committee chair “doesn’t know you” or “lost your e-mail.” Others offer assistance, are never called upon, and then are frustrated to hear “No one ever volunteers. It’s always the same group of us.” People may do a job and do it well, but are pushed aside because someone else wants to shovel business to a friend. Or “we already have too many lectors, or Eucharistic ministers, or cantors, or ushers, or fill in the blank…”
In the scheme of things, this is all common pushing and shoving that happens in any organization. But in a parish, the little things really do count. They go a long way in making people feel either disenfranchised or welcome in God’s family. Think about your own family. It’s the small insults, the every-day bickering and disagreements that really wear us all down.
Parishes are families. It’s our ability to welcome and work even with the people we’d rather not that truly serves God. And just like some of our holiday family gatherings, accepting everyone can be really hard. Stop and reflect. How do you see and treat the people in your parish family? In not paying more mind to the way we respond to one another in our parishes, we tell people we are less of Christians than we think we are. In that vein, perhaps as Pope Francis says, we are no better than those who do not accept the Lord at all.