Changing Sides

Bias from the Bottom: Week 2

Changing Sides
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. —1 Corinthians 1:27, NLT

In all honesty, once it was on top and fully part of the establishment, the Church was a bit embarrassed by the powerless one, Jesus. We had to make his obvious defeat into a glorious victory that had nothing to do with defeat—his or ours. Let’s face it, we feel more comfortable with power than with powerlessness. Who wants to be like Jesus on the cross, the very icon of powerlessness? It just doesn’t look like a way of influence, a way of access, a way that’s going to make any difference in the world.

We Christians are such a strange religion! We worship this naked, bleeding loser, crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, but we always want to be winners, powerful, and on top ourselves . . . at least until we learn to love the little things and the so-called little people, and then we often see they are not little at all, but better images of the soul.

Yes, those with mental and physical disabilities, minority groups, LGBTQ folks, refugees, prisoners, those with addictions—anyone who’s “failed” in our nicely constructed social or economic success system—can be our best teachers in the ways of the Gospel. They represent what we are most afraid of and what we most deny within ourselves. That’s why we must learn to love what first seems like our “enemy”; we absolutely must or we will never know how to love our own soul, or the soul of anything. Please think about that until it makes sense to you. It eventually will, by the grace of God.

One of the most transformative experiences is entering into some form of lifestyle solidarity with the powerless, by moving outside of your own success system, whatever it is. Move around in the world of others who are not enamored with your world. This is a good way to feel powerless. We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. Lifestyle choices and changes finally convert people. I am not aware that merely believing a doctrine or dogma has ever converted anybody. That should be obvious by now.

Someone once pointed out to me that most of the great founders of religious communities, people like St. Benedict, Francis of Assisi, Mother Katherine Drexel, Vincent de Paul, Elizabeth of Hungary, Ignatius Loyola, John Baptist de la Salle, and Mother Seton, all started out as what we would now call middle class or even upper class. They first had enough comfort, security, and leisure to move beyond their need for more of it; they saw it did not satisfy. Each in their own way willingly changed sides and worked in solidarity with those who did not have their advantages.

Gateway to Silence:
Open my eyes.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Gospel Call for Compassionate Action (Bias from the Bottom) in CAC Foundation Set (CAC: 2007), CD, MP3 download.

Image Credit: Homes on the former Juarez dump, Juarez, Mexico 2006. CAC archives.
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