The Catholic way to resist Trump-inspired hate and ignorance

The Catholic way to resist Trump-inspired hate and ignorance

The Catholic way to resist Trump-inspired hate and ignorance

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, faced off with protesters after a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago in March. (Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP.)

In a time of hot-tempered political polarization, it is all too easy to fuel the divides. But doing nothing faced with the tide of racism and xenophobia unleashed by the Trump election feels wrong too. Father Michael Rogers suggests a third way, inspired by the Catholic Worker movement.

Commentary

Want to resist Trump? Want to at least resist the hate and ignorance that have risen up in his name, rightly or wrongly? There is a Catholic way to do that.

It is certainly not by rioting or becoming violent. It’s not by putting yourselves out on the street corners that we resist him. It is not in shouting up into the void above Fifth Avenue in New York that we express true discontent at his election despite having lost the popular vote.

No, we resist by doing the one thing that a celebrity can stand least. We resist by ignoring him and all of the people who may, rightly or wrongly, use his name to support racism, xenophobia, and sexism.

The Catholic way of ignoring Trump, however, is not simply a refusal to acknowledge his power — that would be merely an exercise of callous privilege for those of us in the majority. Nor do we act in the public sphere like petulant children refusing to accept reality.

No, the Catholic way of ignoring Trump, rather than turning our attention to him, is to acknowledge the sin that rests within ourselves and our systems.

We must acknowledge the original sin of our country in slavery for which we still pay the wages of death born in our incipient racism. We must acknowledge that we have all too often bowed our heads in adoration of the false gods of money and power, to which we so desperately bind ourselves that we would choose any option which seems to project our allegiance to them, and the allegiance of those false gods to us.

We must acknowledge the sins of indifference in deference to our comfort when the mangled and malformed bodies of the poor and starving rest before us.

The sin rests in each of us who bear the privileges afforded to us by this — to borrow an oft-misquoted line from the Servant of God Dorothy Day — “rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering.”

If we want to resist Trump, we must first turn our attention away from him, an act which would bother any reality star, and turn it first to our own sinfulness and our own conversion.

If we want to resist Trump we must ignore him and, having looked to our own sinfulness which creates the conditions for him, or for any leader on either side of the aisle who continues to perpetuate the myths and idols which underpin our current system, we must turn to build something new in the shell of the old.

If our system has failed the dignity of the human being such that we could abort so many innocents, or ignore them once they are born, we have work to do.

If our current system creates vast income inequality or puts profits before people, who are after all the image and likeness of God, we have work to do.

If our current system sees people as merely the sum of their worst moment, while condemning them to death; or our heroes as those who shout most loudly into the void while displaying the ostentation of celebrity, we have work to do.

Yes, we Catholics have work to do. As Peter Maurin — one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement along with Dorothy Day  — once noted in one of his Easy Essays: “because the poor are no longer fed, clothed, and sheltered at a personal sacrifice but at the expense of taxpayers, pagans say about Christians: ‘See how they pass the buck.”

In other words, we can no longer wait for someone to do it for us, we have to be who we say we are; we have to fix it; we have work to do.

We have work to do, and so much of it that we have no time to pay much attention to the current political reality, regardless of who was elected last month.

Want to resist the current political order? There is a way to do that for Catholics.

The Year of Mercy may be over, but the ultimate resistance to the current political order is the inculcation of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy not merely as nice abstractions, but as values and imperatives for Christians such that they overcome our gods and idols, our power and money, and our demagogues of any political stripe.

To feed the hungry. To give drink to the thirsty. To clothe the naked. To welcome the stranger, and not ask for their documentation.  To visit the sick. To visit the imprisoned, especially those seen as the worst. To bury the dead, especially those who have no one else to bury them.

To instruct the ignorant. To counsel the doubtful. To admonish sinners. To bear patiently those who wrong us. To forgive offenses. To console the afflicted. To pray for the living and the dead.

To resist.

We have work to do, on ourselves and the world. Resist by ignoring not just the president-elect, but the system in which we live, which we are ALL discontent with.

Do you want to resist? There is a Catholic way to do that, founded in the fathers of the Church and the best of our tradition. So get to work.

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