35 Years Without Óscar Romero

Oscar RomeroAs I’ve expanded exactly what a birthday post is, it was inevitable that I would finally get to deaths. But today we have a special death. On this day 35 years ago, Archbishop Óscar Romero was assassinated. I can’t think about him without thinking of Glenn Beck’s rant about how people should leave their churches if they hear any talk of “social justice.” It isn’t like it shocked me. I am well aware that a whole lot of American Christians think that religion has nothing to do with politics, except in the sense that Jesus was a big believer in capitalism. But clearly, Christianity was, from its earliest days, a political movement.

I don’t think that Romero saw what he was doing as being anything outside what the best priests had always done. Back in January, I wrote, Religion Is Politics. It was about how the Catholic Church, after 20 years of dithering, decided to say that Romero was a martyr to the faith. For all this time, there have been conservatives in the Vatican who wanted to deny him because they don’t believe in his politics. They are the Glenn Becks of the Catholic Church. As I wrote:

But mostly what churches do is political. And they are right in the thick of it. “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:5) is a political statement. “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) is a political statement. And the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is a political statement. Yes, those are all from the Sermon on the Mount. It is the best thing in the Bible and it is entirely political.

This gets to the heart of what religion is all about. Generally speaking, when religions start, they are revolutionary. But they are quickly tamed and used for the purposes of those in power. A small but important minority never lose sight of the reasons that people came to the faith to begin with. And they push back against power. The question we should ask is why there are not more religious leaders like Óscar Romero. The Catholic Church has produced more pedophiles in the priesthood than it has men who truly care about Jesus’ mission. And that makes Romero all that much more special.

I can’t exactly celebrate this anniversary. The world became much worse when Romero was assassinated. But I mark the date and honor the man.

4 thoughts on “35 Years Without Óscar Romero

  1. I agree with your statement about the Sermon on the Mount. It is the best part of the Bible. In debating my Republican friends and family members I often quote it. I always get blank stares which tell me they don’t know much about it. Republicans who always fall back on their Christianity really don’t know and do not want to know what Jesus said or did.

    • Most Christianity is reverse engineered. People start with what they want to believe and go looking for parts of the Bible to justify it. And that’s pretty easy to do. There is a lot of stuff in the Bible and a lot of it is really vile. I find it hard not to see a revolutionary movement in the Gospels. So it seems strange that Christianity has been used to justify slavery and aristocracy for so long. But I’ve found it interesting that Christians don’t tend to quote the Gospels all that much. In fact, most of them seem more hung up on the Old Testament.

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