AGAINST BIGOTRYHome > Various Subjects > AGAINST BIGOTRY
Word Magazine September 1990 Page 22
By The Very Rev. Father James C. Meena
“It is you, Oh Lord, who laid earth’s foundations in the beginning. The heavens are the work of your hands; all will vanish though you remain, all wear out like a garment; you will roll them up like a cloak, and like a garment they will be changed. But you yourself, you never change and your years are unending. God never said to any angel: Sit at my right hand and I will make your enemies a footstool for you. The truth is they are also spirits whose work is service, sent to help those who will be the heirs of salvation.” These opening words from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, (1:10-14) are in stark contrast to the many statements and reports that we read in our newspapers during these current times. If we really believe, as St. Paul states here, and as is stated in the book of Job as well, that the Lord laid the foundations of the earth, that the Lord is changeless and endless and timeless and yet He will change all things, then our faith in Him should prevent us from ever making rash judgments about people individually and collectively.
I am speaking of the resurrection of that terrible ogre of anti-Semitism that seems to be prevailing throughout certain areas of the world. I speak to you as a Christian priest of Arab background and I warn you that for any person to harbor such feelings, such a generalization of judgment and bigotry, is for that person to lose his soul.
God never gave it to us to judge any person and certainly he never gave it to us to judge any race of people. We are not even supposed to judge ourselves. Rather we are to strive to live in accordance with this faith that says that the Lord is eternal, that He laid the foundations of the earth, that somehow or other He will take care of things. I think what I am saying to you is probably best stated in a book by Father Theodore Styleanopolis in which he capsulizes the whole thing by saying, “let God be God.”
Judgment is in the province of God. It is not in our province, and while we have the right to use our discretion to choose between right and wrong, and while we certainly must abhor the acts of those who practice evil, nonetheless we have no right to judge a group of people, any group of people by the actions of a few. Being against a political ideology is a lot different than being a bigot. A person can be a democrat which makes him an anti-republican, he can be a republican which makes him an anti-socialist, he can be a conservatist which makes him anti-liberal, he can be anti-Zionist which should not make him anti-Jewish. We are all entitled to our political opinions and we are entitled to cling to them and work for them, but we have no right to judge people on the basis of their politics or on the basis of the political activities of a few people who happen to be members of that ethnic group.
The rise of anti-Semitism is really anti-Jewishness, (let’s not play word games because we all know we are Semitic). When we use the term anti-Semitic we are saying anti-Jewish and the rise of anti-Jewish feelings as demonstrated in Poland in the strikes recently and as demonstrated in our own country by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party should warn us, who are of a decent and Godly bent, that what happened in Nazi Germany fifty years ago can happen here, unless we are alerted by our conscience and our conscientiousness to see to it that it does not happen here. I realize that many of you believe with your whole heart that we could never have a Hitler in the United States but we could have worse than a Hitler. We can have not only an anti-Semitic pogrom in this country which would be leveled against one race of people but a series of pogroms that would be leveled against one group after another which did not conform to the particular thinking of those who are in power.
Beloved, I think it significant that these actions do not take place with the consent of the majority. The majority of people do not agree with the bigoted attitudes of members of the KKK, the American Nazi party or any anti-Semitic or anti-ethnic group. The majority of people tragically just sit back and let these things happen. Now this is what happened in Fascist Italy, this is what happened in Nazi Germany, this is what happened in Japan. They allowed a small group of active and well organized people to take over the Government and to manage the thinking of the masses and the masses sat by passively and did nothing and said nothing. This is what happened in those three nations, this is what happened in Lebanon, this is what is happening throughout the Middle East. People sit by passively and they wait for their leaders to act and unfortunately the leaders are seldom motivated by godly intentions.
We here in the United States believe that we live in the finest country in the world. If for no other reason than that we can worship God freely in the church of our choice and express ourselves within the confines of the first amendment of the constitution, that we are guaranteed the right of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. If for no other reason than these we believe that this is the finest of all countries, but let us not make the same mistakes that bigotry forced upon our American ancestors when they judged the Indian Nations as a single people being possessed by evil, let us not repeat the same bigoted mistakes of our American forefathers who judged the blacks to be subhuman, thereby justifying their continuation of the practice of slavery, and let us not repeat the ethnic prejudices of our recent past of which you and I and our fathers fell victim, at least in part, if not in whole.
Racial and ethnic slurs have no place in our language. They have even a lesser place in our thinking. If you are one of those who sits by passively as you see these things happening and don’t even utter up a prayer to God who laid the earth’s foundation in the beginning, do not register your protest or your objection to these things, if you sit by in simple passive disdain, then you are as guilty as those who perpetrate the violence. A wise man once said, “my enemies are not those who work against me but those who sit by silently and let my enemies work.” Millions of people lost their lives in the Holocaust of Europe. Jews and Gentiles, Christians of all denominations died in the gas chambers and the crematoriums of the concentration camps. Millions more, not of the power brokers, not of those in high places, but millions more, men and women like you and me gave their lives in order to free those who remained after the Holocaust and to liberate the nations of Europe which had been enslaved by Nazism and Fascism. Some of our own sons and brothers were among those who died. Believe in the cause for which they fought. Can we? Dare we to allow those things which they fought to defeat, to rise again in our society? I say we cannot. Not if we believe in God. Not if we consider ourselves to be a Godly people, otherwise they would have died in vain and other generations of young men and women will join them in the same vanity.