Against the Best of Our Traditions

Jack Elder was director of Casa Romero, a halfway house for Salvadoran refugees in San Benito, Texas, when this article appeared.—The Editors

Sojourners: Could you tell us about your faith journey?

Jack Elder: My own faith as a Catholic was challenged during Vietnam. I questioned what the Catholic church was doing blessing the military in a war that had the consequences it did. I became disillusioned with the established church.

But through that period I was inspired by the suffering of the church and the voices of the prophets in Central America. In solidarity with them I began helping refugees and getting involved in the underground railroad.

What has been the reaction to your witness?

We feel supported by the progressive community in the Rio Grande Valley, and the bishop of Brownsville has always been behind us. But the newspaper in San Benito had a story in the editorial section that said, "No nation can long survive when morality and virtue take priority over national security." That is not untypical.

What do you think are the most concrete steps U.S. Christians can take in response to the Central American crisis?

It is necessary to see how our own lives perpetuate the injustice in the world. We are going to have to look into how we earn our money and how we spend our money. It is better for people first of all to understand that what is happening in El Salvador is against the very best of our traditions as American citizens. Eventually we will be judged by the world community and by God for the sins we are now perpetrating.

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