Books For a Political Season: Duane W.H. Arnold
Books For a Political Season
Over the coming few weeks as we approach the midterm elections, I’m going to suggest a few books which might be relevant. Each of the books which I will recommend acknowledge political realities, but they approach those realities from the aspect of faith. Additionally, the authors of the books that I will suggest gave their lives in the process. With all of the froth and disinformation surrounding the political process in both the United States and Europe, I share these recommendations as a way to disengage from the loudest voices and, instead, to reflect on the deeper truths which are rooted in our commitment to Christ. For each book, I will provide a very short profile of the author and will then provide some quotes extracted from the work under discussion. It is my hope that in our engagement with each other we can aspire to greater understanding and genuine Christian dialogue one with another.
The Violence of Love
by Oscar A. Romero
In the 1970s and ‘80s, El Salvador was under the heel of a brutal military dictatorship, and, as is common in such cases, the country’s poor suffered most. Fortunately, they had a champion in Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador. He worked to defend the rights of the poor, oppose the government’s unjust policies, and encourage the church to extend its work of mercy into every area of society.
On March 20, 1980, an abandoned attaché case was found near the altar of Romero’s church. It contained a bomb that failed to detonate. After that, he insisted on traveling and working alone so as not to expose others to danger. While the archbishop was celebrating the Eucharist in a hospital chapel two weeks later, on March 24, 1980, a red four-door Volkswagen drove past the front doors of the church. A professional assassin from a right wing military death squad was in the passenger seat. The single bullet fired from the car found its target and killed Oscar Romero.
‘The Violence of Love’ is a collection of his writings and selections from his sermons. As Henri Nouwen says in the Forward of the book, “Romero does not speak from a distance. He does not hide his fears, his brokenness, his hesitations. It is as if he puts his arm around my shoulder and slowly walks with me. He shares my struggles. There is a warmth in his words that opens my heart to listen.”
Selections from ‘The Violence of Love’:
“We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood,the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.”
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.”
“For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images. There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.”
“Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.”
“Let us be today’s Christians. Let us not take fright at the boldness of today’s church. With Christ’s light let us illuminate even the most hideous caverns of the human person: torture, jail, plunder, want, chronic illness. The oppressed must be saved, not with a revolutionary salvation, in mere human fashion, but with the holy revolution of the Son of Man, who dies on the cross to cleanse God’s image, which is soiled in today’s humanity, a humanity so enslaved, so selfish, so sinful.”
“Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.”
In 2015, Romero was declared by the Vatican to be a martyr, one who died for the faith. On October 14, 2018, the Roman Catholic Church promulgated his canonization.