Monday, May 21 , 2018, 7:38 pm | Fair 64º

 
 
 

Letter to the Editor: Christians and Activism

It’s easy to misunderstand Catholic activism. Catholic means inclusive, and Catholic activism spans the range of philosophy to living on the world’s largest garbage pile.

Some “Christians” only concern themselves with the salvation of the soul and ignore the suffering of the body. Others are only concerned with the second coming and the lifting to rapture. As my friend Angelo “Charlie” Liteky, former Catholic priest, U.S. Army chaplain and medal of honor recipient, and rejector, commented, “They can’t leave too soon for me!”

What I see here at the Catholic Trade Center, a hub for the Society of the Divine Word, is social activists working in the shelter of Christian teachings. There is nothing false or tenuous about their interpretation of the gospel. Theirs seems the most literal interpretation. They labor in love of the poorest of the poor but strive to listen, recognize and reflect back the unrealized potential of the poor, their gifts, talents and power in community.

Catholicism has a mixed legacy as you would expect from a church that hopes to be all inclusive. The religion allows for the inclusion of indigenous traditions in a unique way. The Philippines had largely matriarchal societies and beliefs, and Mary appears as central as Jesus in many churches. In the church of Santa Cruz in Carriedo, a fawn or deer is behind the altar — a pre-Christian symbol, I think. Father Ben and his order attempt to include indigenous respect for Mother Earth.

After the Philippine government relocated the scavengers of Smokey Mountain to an unprepared rural location, the scavengers returned and the Fathers assisted them in organizing cooperative efforts for a better life at Smokey Mountain. The alliance is called the Sambayang Kristiyano Alyanza, and it is run by the scavengers for the scavengers with only support from the Fathers. The cooperative teaches at all levels for employment and parenting, and places scavengers into jobs that they want in repairing, reusing and recycling things — as well as other trades that allow them to live in the city.

This shows how the Fathers listen and learn from the experience of the poor. They witness the spirit in every individual and bring it out and then facilitate a natural alliance of spirit and solidarity between scavengers. The abstract “Christ” of the philosophers remains abstract, but the “Christ” within the poor is very real to this work of love.

“When we are dreaming alone, it’s only a dream. When we are dreaming with others, it’s the beginning of a reality.” — Dom Helder Camara

The Fathers also engage the wealthier members of the Philippine society. Through the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, many Smokey Mountain children are sponsored to education and advancement. The cooperatives of Smokey Mountain lobbied Presidents Cory Aguino and Ramos, and in 1992 got the Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project.

This is all I know to this point, but I am trying to learn. My information is dated, and this came from the 1994 book Smokey Mountain: Ravaged Earth and Wasted Lives available online. I recommend it!

Lastly, and to my more radical friends, I do understand that allowing the church to empower the poor in this way may be considered “counter revolutionary” as the Fathers do not seek political power, but I am OK with that. I am tired of idealism and perfectionism that lead only to endless dialog and am glad to see real progress.

Lane Anderson
Santa Barbara

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >