Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz relates an incident when he was nearly arrested. He told the police officer on the scene that he’d punched a Latino man in the face after the stranger jabbed him in the chest. Seitz admits he escalated the situation. The officer asked him if he wanted to press charges for assault.
I’ve spoken with parents of young black or brown men who feared for their sons’ lives: they were afraid, that is, of law enforcement and the justice system. I’ve never had that conversation with parents of white kids. I’m oblivious to the privilege and safety I enjoy as a white, middle-class, American male because I’ve never known anything else.
In the wake of terrorist atrocities around the world, and the shooting of Jamar Clark in our own neighborhood, we’re presented with a timely Gospel reading. If Jesus and his followers belonged to this world, they would use the tool this world regularly employs for establishing a kingdom and exercising power: violence and force. But Jesus isn’t limited by the ways of this world. Jesus will not defend himself with violence or force. Jesus will not establish God’s kingdom by violence or force. Jesus will not win followers for himself by violence or force.
Foregoing violence and force is a breathtaking decision.
The power of the Christian witness depends on whether we imitate the brand of authority that Jesus bore—not a mere intellectual or theoretical exercise, but a way of living and being in the world, a way of suffering and hope, so radical and raw and risky, that we can hardly touch it.
Last November, I heard a National Public Radio interview with Pastor Willis Johnson, of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri. It was the week a grand jury decided that it would not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Johnson said, “This community, its people, and even this pastor are tired. It is a challenge to be hopeful.” But when asked what his sermon was going to be about that weekend, he spoke hopefully: “We’ve got to figure out,” he said, “how we love the hell, literally, out of people and systems and circumstances. We’ve got to love this thing forward.”
People may recognize our authority when we, like Jesus, are willing to sweat blood rather than get bitter or violent or walk away from critical conversations.
We have to talk about family breakdown, racism and racial profiling, quality education, gainful employment, gun control, and mistrust of authority; we have to talk about our fear of one another. We must live in a way that demonstrates that goodness is stronger than evil, that love is stronger than hate, that life is stronger than death.
We’ve got to love this thing forward.
Dale Korogi was born and raised in North Minneapolis. He grew up in St. Philip’s parish, where he attended grade school. He graduated from Minneapolis Central High School and the University of Saint Thomas, in St. Paul Minnesota. where he earned a BA in Theology. His seminary studies took him to Rome. There he received an STB (Baccalaureate in Theology) from the Gregorian University and an STL (Licentiate in Sacramental Theology) from the Athenaeum of Saint Anselm.
Since 1983, he has been a priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. His work there has included posts as Vocation Director, Rector of Saint John Vianney Seminary, Parochial Vicar of the Basilica of Saint Mary, and Chaplain at North Memorial Medical Center. He served as Pastor of the Church of Christ the King in Southwest Minneapolis for 12 years, and became Pastor of the Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis in 2015.
Love this Thing Forward:
Foregoing Violence and Force
Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King
Church of the Ascension, Minneapolis
November 22, 2015
“It doesn’t matter if he meant to touch you, he hit you first,” he said. He was talking to me warmly and patiently, as you might explain things to a child. Wisdom was being imparted. “You were in fear of your life,” he added.
And then it dawned on me, Mr. Slow-on-the-Uptake, what was really happening: this officer was helping me Get My Story Straight.
I don’t think he actually meant to touch me, though,” I said, while a voice deep inside me said, 'Stupid white boy, he’s making it plain and you’re not getting it.'"