Our Broken Family

10-29-2023Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In Oregon, the state Board of Education recently suspended the requirement for proficiency in reading and math for high school graduation. The stated reason was that such requirements were “a harmful hurdle for historically marginalized students”. Wow, talk about the bigotry of low expectations. This sort of reasoning stems from identity politics. Each individual is judged and valued based on their identity, not on the content of their character or their virtuousness or even their abilities. And the identity that most matters and defines everything is the oppressor/oppressed category.

There are only these two identities, and everything must be measured against them. Hence, minority students are the oppressed, and the oppressor is the graduation requirements of the educational system. And since some minority students don’t meet the proficiency standard, and rather than lift up the students who struggle the standard itself must be abolished. In this zero-sum game, only the oppressed can win and be on top. It is why we are seeing worldwide, pro-Hamas demonstrations, with shouts of “gas the Jews”. Palestinians are the oppressed and Jews are the oppressor in this worldview.

Now, it might seem strange to see among the demonstrators, “LGBT+ stand with Gaza”. Afterall, the alphabet people would have no chance of living their lifestyle in Hamas controlled Gaza. But there is this category in identity politics called ‘intersectionality’. That means that oppressed groups can be allies no matter how disparate the groups are. So, in this case the oppressed LGBT’s and the oppressed Palestinians can partner against the oppressor Jews. But what happens when the oppressor is vanquished? Who becomes the new oppressor? Will it be Hamas oppressing the LGBT or vice-versa. With this ideology there is never harmony among groups only tentative alliances between favored and more favored identities groups.

This ideology has infected the West. Police in Berlin, GERMANY are now protecting the Holocaust Memorial after threats of vandalism. Those threats are not from skinheads or NeoNazis. Likewise in Poland, demonstrations are happening. Poland of all places, where 3.5 million Jews were killed in the Camps. Huge demonstrations are happening in Western cities throughout most of Europe and Australia. Have we lost our memory of the past? Are we forgetting that whenever the Jews are scapegoated, terrible things happen? Holocaust, Pogroms, Inquisition, Masada? While it is fine to support the Palestinian people, these protests are not that. They are glossing over the atrocities committed by Hamas and the brutal executions of women and children in Israel. The thinking behind that is that anything is justified to thwart an oppressor. The ends justify the means in this new ethic.

Many of the talking heads in the media are telling us we must have a calm conversation and not jump to conclusions about what happened. Or calls for Israel to exercise “restraint”. Did Eisenhower tell the troops as they were about to liberate the Concentration Camps, to exercise restraint? How do you exercise restraint against terrorists who savagely murdered, mutilated and in some cases tortured innocents? Israel has a long track record of not targeting civilians and doing its best to limit any collateral damage. But that is not true for terrorist groups like Hamas, who often place military instillations near civilian housing and work areas. Then when a military instillation is bombed and the school next to it is collateral damage, Hamas can claim that Israel is targeting schools. It’s a propaganda game and as in the case of the hospital, our media accept the propaganda uncritically. (And the hospital that was almost “hit” was a Baptist Hospital. Christians, including Catholic Relief Services have been in Gaza for a long time trying to provide the Palestinians with assistance.)

The Palestinians have legitimate grievances. When the state of Israel was formed, they were often forcibly removed from the land and promised a new homeland. That has never happened. We could debate endlessly why that never happened but until it does the Middle East will have turmoil. But I am hoping that if Hamas is wiped out, then the Palestinians can move forward peacefully without the calls to destroy all Jews.

The world is not in a good place. Our human family is very broken. Identity politics can only divide us further. These demonstrations and very public outbreaks of antisemitism are revealing how deep this ideology has taken root. And it will not end well. When one side can justify the slaughter of innocents in the name of defeating an oppressor or to right the wrongs of long past colonialism, then the options to defend against that are rather bleak.

That is not an upbeat assessment of our historical moment. But we know that God so often uses suffering to bring us to a better place. Therefore, we must hold on to Jesus’ admonition: Blessed are the Peacemakers. May Christians find ways to break down the hostilities among and between peoples and help lead the world in a new direction towards peace.

Love, Fr. John B.