This is Father Don Farnan. I have transferred from Saint Charles Parish in the Kansas City northland to Rockhurst University and serving several parish in the vicinity. I will continue the blog (formerly known as “Charged With Saint Charles”) under the temporary title of “Upon This Rock.” If you do not want to continue receiving these blog posts, please hit the unsubscribe button below. Once settled at Rockhurst, the blog with take a new format and be linked with a future campus podcast.
In the years ahead, Rockhurst University will advance its mission and ministry toward faith and justice. Though the Alvin Brooks Center for Faith-Justice, on the 5400 block of Troost will not be a up and running for another year or so, that flagship is already steering us in a direction of great hope along an avenue of truth.
Faith is related to God, religion, theology, spirituality, ecclesiology, morality, anthropology, and numerous other corresponding domains that touch us in daily living. Though difficult to define, it is part of our human condition and existential being. Justice is a little tougher for many of us to embrace because we often think it has political undertones. It is important to note that when religious groups or institutions refer to justice it is in a manner different from the way our twenty-first century judicial or legal systems capture it. For religious people, it is not about getting even. Rather, we understand it in the biblical sense of getting right. Justice is about getting right with God, with ourselves, and with one another.
Some who view themselves as victims of societal operations, social mores, targeted policing, or judicial injustice will sarcastically twist the word into the term “just us” to indicate that justice favors those with power, privilege, or a preferred profile. Part of the challenge for our faith-justice mission is language. I doubt it’s possible to shift our thinking from getting even to getting right when we speak of justice in our city, but I hope that more and more of us speak and act toward that thought and sentiment.
I can reflect upon my own personal position as a priest, as a white male, or as a Christian in America. Though priests are held as suspect by many, due to the sexual escapades of some, cover-ups by others, and clericalism by still more, I know that many people generally hold priests in high esteem. I, therefore, benefit from the privilege of priesthood. I may also, on occasion, benefit from being male or white or Christian within our society. Though I might get stared down when wearing my Roman collar/clerical uniform in a public place, it is nothing compared to the looks of judgement that a Muslim wearing a hijab or burqa sometimes receives. Having lived and served in black communities, I have, on rare occasions, been held suspect for being white; but it doesn’t compare to the incredible stories I’ve heard from black friends about their experiences from racial profiling within white settings, nor do the rare insults I have received for being a male official in a church that historically treats women as second-class citizens begin to compare with some of the experiences that women have suffered within our ecclesial system.
Justice is really not about the sins of our forebears or prior societies that valued the lives of some people over others. Justice is about us, but not “just us.” It’s about now and the future, about how we live together as equals in the sight of God, society, and each other’s vision. It’s not about getting even but getting right. It is about our relationships with one another that can only be strengthened when we are right with God and ourselves. I hope that in the years ahead of me at Rockhurst, I can help to advance this understanding.