“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have been reading a book lately entitled, No Salvation Outside the Poor, by John Sobrino, SJ. It is a compilation of writings and articles based on the words of Ignacio Ellacuria, one of the Jesuits murdered in El Salvador twenty-five years ago. He speaks in the first chapter of “the crucified people”. He goes onto write, “Thus the language of “people” and “peoples” is laced with death, not natural but historical death, which takes the form of crucifixion, assassination, the active historical deprivation of life, whether slowly or quickly. That death, caused by injustice, is accompanied by cruelty, contempt, and also concealment. I usually add that the crucified people are also denied a chance to speak and even to be called by name, which means they are denied their own existence. The crucified people “are not,” and the affluent world prohibits or inhibits them from “becoming.” The affluent world can thus ignore what happens to them, without any pangs of conscience.”
As I was reading that statement, I began to think of all the events that have unfolded in the United States the past several months, but also in light of my trip to the Holy Land back in October, remembering the great deal of inequality and inferiority that exists in our world, whether we want to admit it or not. He makes the point that often times we do not; undoubtably would push us to change ourselves rather than others. Of course, if you don’t feel discriminated towards or feel inferior, it’s sometimes hard to put ourselves in someone else’s situation in life. Yet, from the beginning of time we, the people, have carried the burden of our own frailty and mortality, as a “crucified people”. We are laced with that “historical death” that Ellacuria writes about, merely by the fact that we are born and have been brought into a broken world.
I’ve struggled with all of these stories and experiences the past months because pain can and is always so deeply rooted in the human person and the human experience. There’s no quick-fix, no remedy that cures all that ails, and no easy answer as to how to seek healing and reconciliation. I do believe that is part of the problem, because the “system” that we are all a part of doesn’t necessarily want healing and reconciliation because it thrives and feeds off of divisiveness and splitting people into their political, and all too often, religious camps. That’s the bottom line, politics cannot bring about the healing it may speak of or desire; that is only possible through a belief in the true God, a crucified and resurrected one at that and that is much bigger than us and holds all the “crucified people” in the Beloved arms. My deeper struggle is this, and I don’t think it’s easy to admit, but if others would admit it, it’s half the battle fought. I had years of my life believing racist thoughts and thoughts of inferiority towards others for a variety of reasons, none less than the color of one’s skin. My family was in tact; that made it easy to think less of and pity those who did not, or at the least, not worry about them even if I had felt uncomfortable in their presence. I had money; it made it easy to pity and think less of those who did not, and blame them for their own problems. Surely I had nothing to do with it; it was not my experience or on my conscience, so why should I care.
But there were thoughts, as a white man and a man in general. I thought that people of color simply desired to be white so they could have the same privileges as myself and other white people. I thought people of color envied the rest of us, because somehow life is easier for me. I thought that if people of color could just get over things and be given the rights they desired, then everything would be ok. I didn’t understand the other as “the crucified people”, or myself for that matter, who have lived with a history of being seen as inferior, despite it often being the burden of the man to recognize his own projection of his own inferiority and deeply, insecure fears onto the other, none of which is true reality to begin with. It’s no different than the heterosexual who thinks someone who is attracted to the same gender simply desires to be straight and yet fears their attraction to him or her at the same time. It happens with the one who has had an absent father and we wonder why they rebel against any person in authority and so much mistrust for persons who hold that power. Or how about a woman who craves the power of the man, wanting to be like the other.
Why so much unhappiness with being who I am? Why so much insistence on others being who I want them to be or me trying to be who they want me to be, rather than accepting them where they are at and who they are, despite color, gender, sexuality; there’s something much deeper that needs healing in our world and the systems that have been plagued with ignoring their own projections, often onto people who already carry the burden of being the “crucified people” who seek redemption and freedom more than anything, a need for the healing of soul. In reality, regardless of our place in this world, we are all the “crucified people”. There’s no them and somehow the rest of us have it all right and have it all together. The system can’t and won’t and never will provide that healing. Only God can, who stands with the “crucified people,” who stands with all.
Jesus speaks of forgiveness and reconciliation more than anything, even to the point of loving one’s enemies. Yet, in growing up, the enemy is always somewhere and someone else. The enemy is the person different than myself. The enemy is in Iraq or Iran. The enemy is in Palestine or Israel or Syria. The enemy is the one taking the other’s job away from them. The enemy is the neighbor who doesn’t let kids be kids. It’s always somewhere and someone else, and we live that way and grow up that way, at least until one is awakened. Before you know it, you begin to realize that I am all people, including all looked down upon, all who I thought were inferior, all who looked different and lived differently, and not all by choice, but because of life’s circumstances all too often, or the historical burden of their “crucified people” that continues to be carried, as well as the prejudices, stereotypes, biases, judgments, projections, and fears, for the “crucified people” are not just the other, but they are me and you as well. There is no us or them, there’s simply we, us, one human family. Yet, as long as we choose to carry that burden ourselves and not daily surrender it, our lens on life continues to be viewed simply through the cross rather than the entirety of the paschal mystery.
So why don’t we bring ourselves to loving enemies? Quite honestly, because it’s too hard. Loving enemies or anyone that is different for that matter, is more about us than it is about the one we’ve deemed enemy or hated. We like being in that place of superiority because we never have to look at the other half of ourselves. It takes a breakdown in barriers that seemed to have been with us our entire lives. It takes a great deal of humility and trust to begin to recognize myself in the other, and yet, in the end, it’s not only us that become free from our own judgments and sin, but the other as well. That’s the irony and paradox in it all, that, when I become free the other too has his or her chains freed and relationship begins to follow. I begin to see and accept the other in myself and slowly become whole. The burden of the “crucified people” is the burden of humanity, but doesn’t need to be the burden that it becomes and that we make it to be. When we seek forgiveness, the burden is lifted. When we seek reconciliation, the burden is lifted. When we begin the inward journey and the healing of the soul, a journey to one with ourselves, with God, and with the other, the burden is lifted and the crucified people become who they have been created to be, the redeemed people, one and whole, loved in all entirety.