Dear Editor: Christ was a radical, who railed against the political, social and religious institutions of His day, because they promoted privilege, injustice and oppression. He publicly denounced leaders, who enjoyed their elevated status, by sowing social divisiveness and instilling fear among the people.
According to Jesus, such leaders and institutions rejected the God of justice and righteousness, as He called for a unified and inclusive society based on love. Although viewed as dangerous, He continued to speak truth to power at His own peril. Following Christ’s message closely many of His disciples, who were eventually called Christians, also faced torture and death in the first 300 years after His death.
However, by the fourth century Christianity became like the very institutions that Christ so severely criticized and His message got convoluted to advance and maintain the power, wealth and privilege of the clergy and their supporters. Throughout the ages, reformers and missionaries harkened back to Christ’s parables and sermons by focusing on peace, love and justice, but the institutional interpretation prevailed.
Christian leaders should not only distribute sacraments, give blessings and deliver sermons, they are obligated to proclaim the gospel and to subvert injustice. Today, many white Evangelical Protestants, along with some Catholics have co-opted Christ’s gospel, by selectively choosing Biblical passages, out of context, to preach their own gospel of prosperity, privilege, exclusion and nationalism. Meanwhile, too many of our Catholic leaders stand by the sidelines and say little. Instead of advancing the message of Christ’s righteousness and justice, they stay in the safe zone and are reluctant to confront our Nation’s ailments. This is your moment. Stand up for Catholic values! “Do not fear, only believe.” (Mark 5:36)