There are several reflections rumbling around in my brain right now—about Scripture and women, about abortion.
But I promised I’d try to get more specific about the thing I only addressed vaguely last week—about getting down in the weeds and wrestling with how to apply the faith to the current context of the world.
So I think the best thing I could share this week is a reflection by Christopher Dodson, of the diocese of Fargo, North Dakota. I found it because one of my email subscriptions last week referred to “systemic sin.”
My faith journey in the past few years has really convicted me on the topic of systemic racism. There is so much pushback against the idea. The hullabaloo about critical race theory makes me absolutely CRAZY. The idea that we shouldn’t talk about the deep sins committed by U.S. institutions against Black and indigenous people, because it might make white people feel bad, must make God weep. One of the fundamentals of the Catholic faith, after all, is acknowledging our failures and confessing them.
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months trying to figure out how I would ask fellow whites who resist racial reckoning to think about this. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Things like redlining, lending discrimination, and the GI bill only applying to whites—to say nothing of the lack of reparations made to Blacks after abolition—have had long, long ripple effects. We, the whites, got the good side of this equation. Blacks got the bad side. The problems faced by Black communities now are direct, generational ripple effects of injustices perpetrated by systemic racism that endured for hundreds of years.
Now, none of that is my fault, or your fault, and it might not be your parents’ fault, or even your grandparents’ fault. It’s not our FAULT.
Whose fault it is is not the issue. The point is, the consequences are here, and we, as Christians, have to deal with them.
This is not about trying to make whites feel bad. It’s just a clear-eyed, Jesus-centered, Gospel-driven, “love your neighbor as yourself” acknowledgment that I have benefited generationally from something that harmed another group of people generationally. And that still has impacts today.
And because of that, I have a responsibility to work toward fixing it.
That’s all. The hysteria surrounding critical race theory steals all the attention that needs to be on solutions, and directs it toward division and protectionism of SYSTEMS that have aided whites at the expense of Blacks. And it’s got to stop.
When I hear the words “systemic sin,” this is what I think about.
But when that term popped up in my email last week, and I knee-jerk reacted as above, I thought I’d better walk the walk and go look up the term to make sure I wasn’t imposing my own world view upon it. I wanted to see what people with more expertise had to say about it.
That’s how I found this article. Christopher Dodson is the executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, and in other articles, he addresses abortion and other subjects of importance to Catholics. He’s no radical.
This piece takes a hard look at the topic of systemic sin, specifically referencing the Catechism and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
And now I will shut up and let Dodson speak.
Many Christians, including Catholics, have difficulty understanding that “structures of sin” may exist separately from our own individual sins. I suspect that certain religious and political strains of thought in the United States that emphasize the individual as paramount contribute to this problem. The false idea that we are autonomous individuals acting in isolation prevents us from accepting and addressing the social consequences of our sins and the sins of others. (continue reading)Christopher Dodson
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