The face of God is not just white ... or American
By Mary Morrell | Correspondent
Recent comments attributed to the U.S. President have drawn a strong outcry from many, but have also unleashed a torrent of support from people who have used this as an excuse to go to extreme racist and nationalist lengths. Sadly, they often punctuate their roaring with words that best serve as the beginning of a prayer … “God Bless.”
Too often “God Bless America,” which should be a prayer offered in gratitude and humility, has become a nationalist cry which touts some perceived U.S. superiority, as a country and a people, over other countries and peoples.
In truth, a sense of superiority is what breeds white nationalism, an anathema to faith in God, whose face is not just white, and whose loves extends to all of his children of every race.
Yes, we are fortunate to have a decent standard of living in the U.S. Most of us have homes with utilities, food and water, access to health care, safe places to live and work, but, perhaps surprisingly to some, not all of us. Some people in America have no food, no water, no electricity, no shoes, no home. Poverty exists in America, as it does in some form in every country in the world, and it looks just as ugly here as it does in the countries some are so quick to disparage.
Poverty should never be the measuring stick of human dignity. The fact that so many people in other countries are deprived of the basic necessities should not be a cause for our flag waving but our compassion, and our acknowledgement that in our basic humanity we are no different and no better than anyone else.
Some people have linked all of society’s ills, as well as changes they do not like, to the policies that have taken prayer and references to God out of our public schools. I submit, however, that it is far more worrisome when God appears to be missing in the hearts and minds of those who seem to have forgotten that we can love our country without promoting racism, bigotry and an excessive nationalism which breeds hatred and intolerance.
For those Christians, specifically Catholics, who insist on supporting this kind of rhetoric, the words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium remind us of the teachings of Jesus who came for the poor and disadvantaged in body and spirit, not the arrogant or self-promoting, and certainly not for the good of any particular nation or any particular race:
“God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself ‘became poor’ (2 Cor 8:9). The entire history of our redemption is marked by the presence of the poor. Salvation came to us from the ‘yes’ uttered by a lowly maiden from a small town on the fringes of a great empire. The Saviour was born in a manger, in the midst of animals, like children of poor families; he was presented at the Temple along with two turtledoves, the offering made by those who could not afford a lamb (cf. Lk 2:24; Lev 5:7); he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked with his own hands to earn his bread.
“When he began to preach the Kingdom, crowds of the dispossessed followed him, illustrating his words: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor’ (Lk 4:18). He assured those burdened by sorrow and crushed by poverty that God has a special place for them in his heart: ‘Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God’ (Lk 6:20).”
Highlighting the Church’s preferential option for the poor, and our responsibility as Catholics, Pope Francis calls us “to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”
Pope Francis also calls us to “accompany the poor on their path of liberation,” and reiterates an important question posed first by St. John Paul II: “Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the kingdom? (Novo Millennio Inuente, 2001)”
Most importantly, as the country seems to be growing more divisive and blatant in its expression of racism and bigotry, we would do well to heed the teaching of both Pope Francis and St. John Paul II, who remind us: “In the diversity of peoples who experience the gift of God, each in accordance with its own culture, the Church expresses her genuine catholicity and shows forth the ‘beauty of her varied face’ (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 2001).”
Mary Morrell is an award-winning writer, editor and educator working at Wellspring Communications. She can be reached at [email protected], and read at her blog,’ God Talk and Tea.’