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No Justice, No Faith (part 1)

July 12, 2007

This blog will be a chronicle of my struggle for faith.

I was born and raised in a suburban Catholic church, but like so many I’ve known I was profoundly alienated from the Church from the time I could think for myself. The problem was that the suburban church simply did not speak to the troubled world I could plainly see around me. Indeed, the suburban church, like most of the social institutions in suburbia, aimed to keep that world as far away as possible.

My return to the Church as an adult was in large part through a profound experience of God’s love through the great faith, hope and love of an inner city Catholic community centered on the biblical call to justice. As I got to know the leaders of this church community, what struck me most was that they were very human, even very weak people doing the great things to which our faith calls us. The only explanation was that this was God at work. What I saw there shook me to the bones, and I knew then and know still that I can never be the same.

But I also know that I’m weak. Work and family have taken us several moves away from that beloved inner city church community, and since we left it was driven out of communion with the larger Catholic Church. Alas, most Catholic church communities, most Christian church communities, are decidedly not centered around justice – which would require a profound dissent from many of our society’s most precious values and institutions – but uncritically support the structures that create injustice. Without the constant support and renewal of a justice-oriented church community, I feel myself begin to drift away from God.

It’s not a matter of losing my “belief;” that’s a rather poor and unimportant thing after all. At the end the long day, I don’t think God is going to ask us what we believe, or quiz us on doctrine. God will simply want to know where we stood, whom we comforted. Jesus made this quite clear after all in Mathew 25: 31-46.

When I’m open to the challenge of justice, I’m open to God. I can sense the purpose and beauty in the struggle that is faith. But when justice is no longer the focus, when I forget the poor and powerless, faith begins to wither. The poor may always be with us, but Jesus commanded us to never forget them. Our society is built around forgetting. And too often our church is complicit or silent. I need something to help me remember.

Hence this blog: a place to focus for a few moments on things that are truly important, to work out my commitments and say them out loud and hopefully to somehow find the courage to get up and continue the walk of faith, the walk of justice.

Because for me it’s simple: no justice, no faith.

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