The continued use of the language of reconciliation around this news obfuscates the need for real, full-fledged atonement.
At a moment like this, while the nation watches Georgetown takes this opportunity to correct the sins of its past, white Americans must not demand reconciliation. We must take the work of atonement upon our own shoulders. To do otherwise is to live as if Jesus’ life were not a gift, but something God owed to us from the beginning.
Eric Holder, former attorney general under President Obama, waded into the debate over reparations for slavery at Georgetown University, reports America magazine.
While the call for reparations is an old one, the conversation really entered mainstream circles with Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2014 essay on the subject in The Atlantic. Holder’s comments on April 29 continue that conversation.
The debate that began when students learned that Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards would speak at the nation’s oldest Catholic university continued when she received a standing ovation at Georgetown’s Lohrfink Auditorium. The media was not permitted inside, but students who heard her said she defended her organization’s stances and urged abortion opponents to respect those who think women should have choice in their reproductive decisions.
As word of the planned event circulated on social media it was even criticized by South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, who tweeted that it reflects “the disjuncture” between the call to teach the gospel and the “obsession” to be fair about moral issues. “Georgetown’s hosting Cecile Richards is an obvious case!” he said.
The Lecture Fund noted on its website that the event will be for members of the university community. “The event is not open to the public and only those with a Georgetown University ID will be allowed to attend,” it said.
Vice President Joe Biden stood with clerics from different religions at Georgetown University on Dec. 16 and condemned the anti-Muslim rhetoric that has followed the recent shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
“Look around. This is America,” Biden said, as he spoke on a stage with clergy wearing garb that varied from a priestly collar to a turban, and acknowledged the discomfort felt by many.
The vice president referred to the civil war in Syria and the millions of struggling refugees that some have said should be turned away.
AN IRAQ WAR VETERAN passes the offering plate after listening to a sermon on Christian persecution in the early church—tales of torture and execution. A 19-year-old student—home for the summer from college, where her first experience at a fraternity party turned violent—listens to her childhood pastor recite the story of David and Bathsheba and David’s subsequent path to redemption. A mother placates her two children with Cheerios and raisins as she struggles through the exhortations to spousal submission, hiding bruised arms under long sleeves in the middle of July.
The Christian story is littered with trauma—from slavery (the Israelites in Egypt) to sexual assault and abuse (Dinah, Tamar, Bathsheba) to the trauma of war (see: much of the Old Testament) to, of course, the crucifixion of Jesus and martyrdom of his disciples.
There is possibly no better resource for understanding the implications of and need for healing from trauma than faith communities pointing to the cross and Jesus’ answer to violence. Both the need and the opportunity are great. But perhaps too often Christians proclaim the message of Easter—victory and restoration—while skipping past the violence and trauma of Good Friday. Some theologies explain away that violence as a necessary component of ultimate salvation—but let’s get to the salvation part, okay?—leaving survivors of trauma who fill our Sunday pews without a touchstone for healing within the very communities that purport to be safe spaces.
Robert Putnam, who spoke this Monday at Georgetown for the Catholic-Evangelical Summit on Overcoming Poverty, gives a great stump speech for poor kids who are falling through the cracks in our society. So much so that moderator John Carr described Putnam as an Old Testament prophet with charts — Isaiah, with a good grasp of Powerpoint.
Our culture has been terrible at providing opportunities to poor children. Putnam’s data finds that poor children have fewer chances to do well in school and less parental involvement, and are generally isolated from society and even from church. With this background, we shouldn’t be surprised that children who are born into poverty have trouble finishing college and building a stable, prosperous life.
Putnam calls this the "chief moral crisis of our time."
"Do you think he'll sing?" the girl in the row behind me wondered aloud.
"I hope so," the young fellow beside her said before continuing, "My dad would freak. He was a big fan of U2 when I was growing up. He used to play this one album, The Joshua Tree, over and over again."
His father was a fan.
I am a thousand years old, I thought to myself, as more Georgetown students filled the seats around me at the university's 111-year-old Gaston Hall, the main lecture hall on campus named after Georgetown's first student, William Gaston, who later served as a member of the U.S. Congress.
The hall, decorated with stunning art-deco-era frescos and the crest of every Jesuit institute of higher learning, has hosted many dignitaries over the years, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to name but a few.
"So if he's not going to sing, is he just going to talk," another student asked, with a distinct whiff of disappointment in his voice.
"I hear he's an awesome speaker, though," still another student said.
The students who packed the auditorium, many of them from Georgetown's Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business and more than a few donning black t-shirts with the insignia of the ONE Campaign (of which Bono is a co-founder), weren't sure what to expect from the famous Irish rock star and humanitarian.
A concert? A lecture? Another boring speech?
I'm fairly certain none of the students present for Monday night's event, sponsored by the Bank of America and The Atlantic magazine, anticipated hearing Bono, the 52-year-old lead singer of U2, preach.
But preach he did.