Msgr. Ronald P. Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, recently offered these remarks at “A Prayer for Pittsburgh: A Prayer for Peace,” an interfaith gathering at the City-County Building. He spoke on behalf of Bishop David A. Zubik, who was unable to attend. The full statement reads:
Every human being has God-given dignity and is worthy of respect, but not every cause is worthy of respect.
White supremacy, for example, is such a cause because it exists to deprive others of the dignity and respect that are theirs as children of God. It’s fundamentally evil, as are the beliefs it has fostered, including slavery, Jim Crow laws; and Nazism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia in all their forms. Such causes are incompatible with Christianity and with the mission and message of Jesus.
His parable of the Good Samaritan tells of a man from a culture and religion that Jesus’ listeners had been taught to despise. Yet, Jesus said, this man came to the rescue of one of them, a stranger whose own people had left him to die at the hands of robbers. The Good Samaritan is a lesson about ethnic, religious and cultural reconciliation, showing we can care for each other even when we don’t agree with each other. It’s about what it means to be neighbors.
We in the city of Fred Rogers know about neighbors. We know neighbors should celebrate their traditions, and do so in ways that make everyone from every neighborhood feel welcome.
For instance, some of us – even though our ancestors weren’t German – might enjoy participating in Oktoberfest, when German culture is celebrated with brass bands, beer and apple strudel. The fact that many Americans feel the same way after two wars with Germany is a sign of healing. This kind of reconciliation shows America at her best. However, if someone proposed celebrating German heritage with Nazi flags and a re-enactment of the Nuremberg rallies, virtually everyone would be horrified.
Nazism is an evil ideology that declares some people are unworthy of life, and is directly responsible for the deaths of millions of people in concentration camps, on battlefields and in the rubble of war. There is a world of difference between celebrating a cultural heritage and promoting an evil cause that once festered in that culture. Our nation is still struggling to emerge from the criminal inequality born in slavery, raised in segregation and that still taints our best vision of America.
But, no matter what anyone says or does to deny it, in God’s eyes we are all equal. Speaking to the deepest divisions of the society in which he labored to spread Christianity, the Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Pope Francis said in 2013, “The problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered and each one of us must feel affected.” Racism wounds all of us. Let’s come together as neighbors.
Let’s counter hatred with love. Let’s show how much good we can do when we are united in our response to evil.