Monday, March 22, 2010

San Romero

I've been quite dispirited lately with the level of discourse that's been pulsing through the country, and encouraged and fomented by Republican leaders. The health care debates have bordered on and actually crossed over into the dangerous, culminating with demonstrations on the House lawn involving racial epithets and anti-gay slurs. Follow that up with some Twitterings suggesting that our President be killed, and I just about want to build myself a bunker.

Thrown into the mix is the idea that social and economic justice are actually code words for Nazism. This, of course, from distinguished speaker and friend of Jesus, Glenn Beck. I'm not one to pretend that I'm certain Christ is on my side, nor do I profess to know everything there is to know about Jesus. I am, though, still pretty sure that Jesus not only cared greatly for the poor, but cared about WHY they were poor. And yes, this is radical, though not even close to the type of radical Beck insinuates.

I suppose it's apt that today marks the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was shot to death while finishing a homily during mass. Archbishop Romero cared deeply for the poor, and cared also about why they were poor. He cared about their ability to affect social change. He cared about social justice.

I read about Oscar Romero some time ago, when I finished a book on the School of the Americas by a priest named Fr. Roy Bourgeois. I read about the bloody conflicts that left thousands upon thousands dead, many killed by death squads roaming village to village killing everyone in a brutal attempt to wipe out uprising by the poor. Anyone who opposed El Salvador's government, including priests and nuns who helped serve and protect the poor, were targets for murder, kidnapping and torture. Some of the people in charge of these death squads were trained on American soil.

While some religious maintained silence under fear of death, Romero refused. He visited the poor, listened to their horror stories of rape and murder, and advocated for their safety. He tried, unsuccessfully, to get the killers to understand they were killing their own countrymen and women. Shot while saying Mass, he became a martyr.

He is still beloved by Salvadoreans, and others, all these decades later, and serves as an integral reminder of the call to help those who cannot help themselves. Though he hasn't been made a saint as of yet, he is still, to some, San Romero.