I watched Romero today.
It got me thinking, again, on how Romero responded and how we might respond to our circumstances. I imagine something that I call liberative action-speak rooted in the subversive communal-existence of the church.
In today’s crises, the combination of war by the state and economic oppression by Wall Street, we need an Oscar Romero. We need someone who would not stop proclaiming the Christ who saves – the Christ, who incarnated in the Church, stands against the violence of the state and the coercion of the market in a stand-fast love (hesed).
We need another Martin Luther King Jr. who, as an ordained minister, died for both civil rights (or theologically, human dignity) and condemned the war in Vietnam before it was fashionable to do so. In fact, it is easily argued that it wasn’t civil rights that ultimately led to his death, but the standing against evils that America perpetrated; once the “north” saw MLK Jr. as a threat to the powerful in America (not that visible racism isn’t a real, violent power), he was a marked man.
We need a loud prophetic voice and the church to surround such a man or woman. We need an ecclesial movement that moves into the margins. I see the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and a number of other movements started by Christians, but these seem to lack a specific force behind them.
It is quite plain to me that the state forces the stripping of the prophetic tradition in black theology, merely on the basis of electability; the economic forces attempt to absorb the criticizers; and the media, with their own poor understanding and latent racism (not to discount the racist tendencies of the state and market), will call those speaking truth in the church as the church, racist.
The freedom of God is never at the expense of someone else, while American freedom says that others must die. The freedom of God is the rejection of throwing people down. God’s freedom recognizes that the American wealth accumulated is by and large blood money – stolen at the cost of others’ lives and continues to mine people as if they were ore deposits.
This new Romero must stand up in today’s world – in America – and speak for both hurting Americans and those outside of America. While there are numerous domestic issues that desperately need to be addressed, there are equally a multitude of foreign issues as well. What is the common denominator? Xenophobia. The fear of strangers, and more specifically, that these strangers are a threat to future prosperity. Never mind that these economic “gifts” we have “received” are at the cost of other people.
Therefore the new Romero is an international person, with international concerns. No one is a stranger for the new Romero. While there might be people outside of one’s community, an “other” if you will, they are no stranger, nor treated as a stranger. The new Romero is hospitable in a “radical” way, a subversive way that says creation matters first and foremost – the guiding hermeneutic for living in the world is how we treat other humans. This new Romero captures the attention of many people, while he or she regularly condemns the crises at hand. However, this new Romero, as part of the church, follows in the footsteps of Christ that lead to ruin. The church may find itself in “ruin.” It will find itself in death. It will find itself in death.
Yet this folly or foolishness is the cross, with the trust that the body of Christ will never really die forever. Our political act is to walk forward and to not expect safety, for no disciple is greater than the master. Our freedom in God is to die and know that God will redeem despite of the evil done.
We need a new Romero. Perhaps Christians in America – maybe even the church as a whole – will collectively be this Romero and answer its call. I pray it does. For what other hope do victims have?