Looking back on growing up in the 1950s in a Father Knows Best, Mickey Mouse Club and I Love Lucy TV world, it might appear that life then was very predictable and static. However, it clearly wasn’t.
Social contradictions implicit in forces like racism, government-backed corporate capitalism and colonialism seethed just barely below the surface.
Events in Little Rock, Guatemala City and Dien Bien Phu in 1954 demonstrated that clearly. This all happened against the backdrop of the United States and the USSR busily undergirding their positions as the hegemonic world rulers.
Dramatic forces emerging in the aftermath of the Second World War would come to shape the world we now live in. Still, despite the amazing social, economic and political changes of the last 60 years, ideologically-bent forces today, fearful of the challenges to their control unleashed by human rights, liberationist, environmental and other movements, have tried to invent the myth of an idyllic past. Revisionist histories seek to create an untruthful portrait of halcyon days of traditional families thriving in a free-market, small-government world as part of the effort to preserve their power.
Widespread acceptance of these commentaries, together with our short-term thinking and selective attention, have helped allow political and corporate elites to paralyze critically needed policy reform efforts in all areas from economic to environmental. Still, no matter how hard, King Canute-like, the powers try to order the sea changes to stop, it comes.
Occasionally new leadership can spark needed change even in a millennia-old institution like the Roman Catholic Church, which took nearly 400 years to apologize for its condemnation of Galileo. As James Martin, a Jesuit priest, noted on Pope Francis’ papal visit to Brazil in a July 29 CNN Belief Blog posting, it may just mean getting back to the basics. There the Pope called out “to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!” Father Martin wrote that this was “a ringing declaration of the church’s absolute commitment to the poor.”
Fr. Martin continued, “All of us need shaking up. Jesus understood this. Much of his ministry was about shaking things up – comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” A real shaking occurred when, in an airborne papal press conference, Pope Francis responded to a question on the presence of gay priests in the church by saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? They shouldn’t be marginalized. …They’re our brothers.”
As a Toronto Star editorial on Wednesday offered: “In big ways and small, Pope Francis is reminding the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics that the faith they profess calls them to love God and serve each other, before judging others.” This is consistent with Pope Francis’ own words from his first papal encyclical issued on June 29th, Lumen Fidei, Light of Faith. “In union with faith and charity, hope propels us towards a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives.”
Can we really hope to break the global gridlock holding back desperately needed changes? Will corporate, political, social and religious leaders emerge that truly have the welfare of humanity and the environment at heart? Here faith, hope and charity obviously are needed. They may not be readily apparent, but as Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote: “So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events, and in today already walks tomorrow.”
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.
Friday, August 9 – The atomic bomb was dropped on the primarily civilian target of Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.
Friday, August 9 – International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 2013 theme is “Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.”
Sunday, August 11 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Luke 12: 32-48.
Thursday, August 15 – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Roman Catholic observance of the belief that the mother of Jesus was assumed body and soul into heaven on her death. For Orthodox Christians it is the Dormition (falling asleep) of the Theotokos commemorating of the death and burial of the Virgin Mary.