The Gospel of Mark 7:21-23 tell us, "Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart . . . and render a man impure."
The tragic death of Heather Heyer during violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 has shown the depths to which human nature can sink when left unchecked.
Many people are blaming President Trump for not condemning more forthrightly and more specifically racist hate groups such as the Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and the KKK.
True, he should condemn, as should anyone, all forms of racial violence and prejudice wherever it comes from. But, is that the whole truth? Are words what it takes to eradicate hatred from the hearts of humans?
Those who feel that white, hate groups are totally to blame for the violence and bigotry in Charlottesville are missing the point, and are overlooking an important truth. President Trump can condemn as much as he wants but he has no power to change the human heart. I know Donald Trump, and I believe he knows this too. The power to change the human heart belongs to another source; namely God, who can see into the heart of man, and raise him up to be more than he is.
Intolerance is not just a sin of the alt-right; it is also a sin of the alt-left. Just recently, the governor of Oregon passed a law offering free abortions to everyone, including illegal immigrants. How tolerant do you think is that to those who want to protect the dignity of human life for everyone, born and unborn?
The Gospel clearly places the blame for bigotry and racial superiority on the evil that lurks within the human heart. Christ took on the hate groups of his day by standing up, non-violently, against those who oppressed or enslaved their fellow man. He paid the price for his selfless love with his very life. Those who later accepted his saving message began by changing themselves first, as he had taught them, and then moved on to change the pagan society around them. They succeeded, against all odds, in bringing slavery to an end in Imperial Rome that depended on it for its conquest and prosperity.
There has always been racial prejudice and persecution in our country. This is a country of contradictions going back for more than three centuries. Think about the oppression of native American Indians and the forceful occupation of their lands by the new white immigrants to this country? And, what do you make of the slavery of African Americans by would-be Christians? The harsh internment of Japanese Americans during World War II? The unjust expulsion of Mexican American citizens, born here, to Mexico in the early part of the 20th century?
The list goes on and on. What are we to do about it? Is there any point harping back to the evil doings of the past. I don’t think so. Assuredly, we must learn from the sins of the past so as not to repeat them. That is the benefit of history. But, the past is past, and we must move on to improve the present by supporting just laws that protect the rights of everyone, and by opening up equal opportunities for all citizens, regardless of race, color, or creed.
There is enough blame to go around, on many sides, for the spread of intolerance, ignorance, and bigotry among us. The critical issue is what are we going to do about it?
Do we stand idly by and simply condemn the hatred, or do we take responsibility for our own actions and behavior by rooting out the causes of hatred itself. This problem is not just a moral problem, it's a spiritual one. If we look inside ourselves, and take time to reflect and reform what’s wrong with our attitudes, that will go a long way towards restoring our relationships with one another.
A good society is made up of good individuals. The Gospel begins with the individual for the individual holds the key to personal and social renewal. Christ asks of us to seek first the spiritual kingdom within us, that kingdom of the heart which finds lasting meaning in faith, hope, and love. Those who focus on these higher values, and put them into practice, will have no time for the dysfunctional behavior of racial superiority or bigotry.
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, "What is This Thing Called Faith?" is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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