Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A university run by infants of faith 

An interim assistant vice president for faculty relations here sent out an email last night to the campus discussion list, in which he defends the CARE initiative that was discussed by Dick Andzenge's column last week.

We would like the university to embrace our perspectives, and invite everyone to consider what we have learned together and what we are finding out. However, it is clear that the basic idea of institutional racism is not understood by everyone and, indeed, not embraced. ...

As I understand it, imperfectly, the idea that racism is institutional shifts the perspective of racism from individuals to the systems that inform and motivate individuals. We are not just shaped by nebulous motives and unforeseen forces but persuaded to be who we are by the machinery that reproduces our society. This shifts my thinking away from the idea that I am personally evil for being a racist, although I am responsible for changing racist acts and attitudes, the structures and systems that grind people up as those systems reproduce themselves.

Racism exists. It is not simply a subjective thing. It is embedded in the institutions that reproduce themselves to serve the ideas and beliefs of the people who created them, and as exploring history shows us the people who created them did not take into account the humanity and needs of people of color who were either brought to our country to serve others or who where were indigenous and lost to superior force of arms and economics. ...

Seeing racism from an institutional perspective sees it not as a personal or subjective problem but as something deeply embedded in our lives and, therefore, in our institutions. Seeing racism in this way shifts our emphasis from blaming individuals and attacking our friends and colleagues to focusing on the strategies that we can all share to transform a system that denies everyone their humanity.

Someone made the point to me in a private email that about 50 people on this campus have a vested interest in "fighting racism", and that an inability to find concrete examples of it threatens their jobs. They therefore rely on the canard of "institutional racism" without any offer of proof so that their paychecks continue to roll in. Scholar Dave pointed out in an email to the author that if you can't measure your success, if you can't determine when you've reached your goal of eliminating racism, you raise these suspicions.

But the language of the essay -- of which I've clipped probably a third -- indicates a worldview far different from my own. "The machinery that reproduces our society" chews up "people of color" or those "who were indigenous and lost to superior force of arms and economics..." which leads his anti-racist self to a desire to focus "on the strategies that we can all share to transform a system that denies everyone their humanity." That it is depersonalized absolves him of the burden of proof but leaves him the right to compel others to his vision of transformation. It transforms the world as something outside himself, yet still permits him to power to control it. What faith does such a person hold in his own powers!

How fitting then that this person sends this within the same day that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, issued a homily to the assmebled College of Cardinals, as noted by Hugh Hewitt yesterday.
More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the "measure of the fullness of Christ," to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith. We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means "tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery" (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words - in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor 13,1).

We seek at a university to search for truth, in small boats powered by faith and reason. Our university is run by people who are indeed "tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery." And the greatest trick is to hide their trickery behind the banner of anti-racism.