True Christianity

True Christianity

As people argue about Christianity and politics, the question is who is the real Christian, the real follower of Christ.

Albert Camus, French/Algerian author and philosopher, active in the French Resistance during World War II, died in a car crash, on January 4, 1960. In 1948, he was asked by the Dominicans of the monastery of Latour-Arbourg, France, to speak on “The Unbeliever and the Christian.” One paragraph of his speech has stayed with me since I first read it in the nineteen-sixties:

“What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest [person]. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the bloodstained face history has taken on today.”

Some Christians have spoken without sugarcoating the reality. One I was privileged to hear once in the early 1980s in New York City was Bishop Antulio Parrilla-Bonilla, S.J., a Puerto Rican bishop. The auxiliary bishop of Caguas, Puerto Rico, he was a promoter of cooperatives and a fierce proponent of Puerto Rican independence. He was speaking to a small crowd in a church hall in Spanish Harlem of his opposition to the Viet Nam war and to the draft. I don’t remember exactly what he said but I feel privileged to have met this bishop who, for his forthrightness, did not advance up the episcopal ladder, but continued to advocate for the poor. Here was a man “sin pelos en la lengua” – with no hairs on his tongue – as we say here in Latin America.

At a Mass for the Young Lords who were occupying the First Spanish Methodist Church, he noted:

“There’s oppression in the whole world: two-thirds of humanity is oppressed by the white axis of nations. The poor, nonwhite population is being oppressed, I would say, by maybe 15 or 20 percent of the people of the whole world. And anybody who will just cross his arms before a situation like that should not call himself a true Christian.

“It’s about time that we realized what true religion is – seeing that when Christ was trying to explain who was going to be rewarded and who was not, he didn’t refer to a catechism, he didn’t refer to daily communion, he didn’t refer to externals – he referred to good deeds and good works. And it’s not good works to one person individually, it’s good works to change structures now, this moment in the history of humanity.”

He died on January 3, 1994.

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