Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the July 1, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
Those who take time to study our American culture readily observe a tendency we’ve had of late to knock one another around – usually verbally, but on occasion, physically as well. More than ever before, we seem to exercise our “constitutional” freedom to attack and bash one another with abandon.
Each of us likely has at the ready a list of candidates, if not victims. Think, for instance, of those individuals or groups of people whom we would like to eliminate from the face of the earth – or at least to put in their proper place. These are people who, as a friend of mine angrily protests, “breathe our air.” Who is on your list? On mine? (We’re probably deceiving ourselves if we think we don’t have one.)
Nowadays it is culturally acceptable to bash the immigrant. We triumph in the way we have bashed the Iraqis or the Taliban – and are ready to do it again and again, if need be. Blondes are bashed with cheap jokes by professional and amateur comedians. At work we bash the boss and/or fellow employees. Even in the Church we do our share of bashing: popes, bishops, nuns, priests, deacons, laity. The targets only vary in relation to who dislikes whom, or who has offended whom.
Bashing is an ugly phenomenon. In substance, it is a type of angry self-righteousness. A victim is identified and made the object of a no-holds-barred barrage of accusation, slander, calumny or other form of character assassination. Unsatisfied with even a single volley, the basher lets loose with the whole arsenal. The issue in question, or the cause of the anger, takes “moral” (?) priority over human respect, rights to personal integrity and, in some cases, even over human existence itself.
And the Internet has made it easier to bash people around than any other means of communication. Squirreled away in the hidden niche of self, all we have to do is throw out those words and pictures with a flurry of key strokes, click on “Send” and the victory is ours. Kawham!
If challenged (as it should be), bashing is always justified by self-serving argumentation. Childish pleas of “they deserve it,” or “they hit me first” justify an escalation in a cycle of violence which from beginning to end is dehumanizing. Whether it be the child who seeks rationalization for bashing a brother who has snatched his teddy bear, or the nation which seeks to preserve its style of living, the basher is always the first to cry “foul!”
Bashing in itself is bad enough – for anyone. It is even more reprehensible in the Christian community where, because of lack of conversion to the way of Jesus, we often tend to cleverly set conditions under which we can justify our bashing. Whenever there is offense – small or great – there is opportunity to find sufficient “reason” for getting even or setting things right with the offender. It makes for a sobering confrontation to place our personal bashing list before the light of the Gospel, especially in light of those portions of the Sermon on the Mount which we have been hearing at daily Mass since the Easter season. The cadence is catching: Jesus says, “You have heard it said … but I say to you…..” No hiding behind cultural excuses here!
Looking Jesus in the eye, let us then spew forth our excuses to inflict verbal and physical violence on anyone who has crossed our path, said the wrong thing, drives in our space, looks different from us, or has the wrong color of hair. Because Jesus longs for our salvation – our personal wholeness – he reminds us to “love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you. When someone slaps you on one cheek, turn and give him/her the other....”
Before such counsel, where is the Christian line of reasoning or justification for any form of bashing? No divine threat comes with this hard command of Jesus. His purpose is clear and his word is hard to follow. It is beneath our dignity as sons and daughters of God to behave in bashing fashion. Not only are we damaging a brother or sister; we are also corrupting ourselves and offending our very own dignity. Jesus does not say “bash, lest you be bashed” (by God). He says “bash not,” because in either short or long term, bashing is devoid of God’s glory. Moreover, the basher suffers far more moral and personal harm than the object of self-righteous anger or frustration.
Jesus’ command to “love one another” is no small challenge. It cuts to the heart of the matter.
(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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