Friday, May 04, 2007

The Root of Social Sin

A recent post by Bob on Labor Day and his comments set me musing about social injustice and what we, Christians are doing about it.

Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador said in his sermon,

How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutional violence, social sin. And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt and everyone is responsible.

Because of this, salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin. Individually there are among us here no two sinners alike. Each one has committed his or her own shameful deeds, and yet we want to cast our guilt on the other and hide our own sin. I must take off my mask: I, too am one of them, and I need to beg God's pardon because I have offended God and society. This is the call of Christ.

How beautiful the expression of that woman upon finding herself pardoned and understood. "No one, Sir. No one has condemned me." Then neither do I, I who could give that truly convincing word, neither do I condemn; but be careful, brothers and sisters, since God has forgiven us so many times, let us take advantage of that friendship with the Lord which we have recovered and let us live it with gratitude.

Oscar Romero was assassinated, shot in the heart, while saying Mass on 24 March 2000.

Days before his murder Archbishop Romero told a reporter, "You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish."

Oscar Romero was not a hero type. He was described as ordinary. Romero was not interested in disturbing the status quo and was a reluctant convert to social activism when a close friend of his was murdered.

Then, on March 12, 1977, a radical Jesuit priest, Rutilio Grande, was murdered along with a 72-year-old layman and a young boy. Romero had known Grande. He questioned why there was no official inquiry into the deaths. From that point forward Romero continued to ask questions which revealed that power in El Salvador lay in the hands of the wealthy—many of whom had supported him for archbishop—and that these same people tacitly sanctioned the violence that maintained their positions.

The Reluctant Conversion of Oscar Romero, Sojourners magazine (March-April 2000)

I wonder what will motivate the local Christians to serious social action. I am not talking about our community service projects. There are many Christian organisations who are doing a great job; seriously getting involved with and engaging social problems like drug addiction, wife abuse, orphans, old folks, the mentally and physically handicapped.

However, many of our churches' social projects are 'small fry' projects; such as making a trip to visit a poor family, handing out a hamper of food, then going home to our million dollars bungalows. Others involving throwing (giving) money to certain 'charity' or 'disaster' relief. Giving money is easy, one does not get their hands dirty.

We are called as as a missional people to reach and engage with a world that needs our help; the poor, the oppressed, and the defenceless. To do that we must leave our safe haven of our Christian community of faith.


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Blogger Bob K said...

Bishop Romero's book "The Violence of Love" was a powerful reminder of why he did what he did.

A PDF version is available for free and legal download from Plough Publications.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the link to the pdf version of the book.

I came to know about Oscar Romero by a movie about him.

1:07 PM  

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