FAST FOOD: Thirty-Fifth Helping
“The power of perception of people, who live in a system of deception, is darkened… In Psalm 19:12-13, we find the ever worth pondering passage: ‘But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from my unknown faults.’”
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
FAST FOOD readers may have forgotten by now that this sequence of reflections began with two quotations on memory in FAST FOOD: Helping Twenty-Four, one from Dan Berrigan, the other from Milan Kundera: “The motto of the great ones might well be ‘Winner Take All—Even the Memories.’ The winner owns history and bends it to his will,” and “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetfulness.” The misuse, abuse and/or non-use of memory is all it takes to generate that “initial deviation from the truth that is multiplied later a thousand-fold.” of which Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas speak.
As noted earlier, in most Christian Churches, the mere words “suffered and died,” for the anamnesis, the remembrance of the torture and murder of Jesus in their Eucharistic Prayers, has become an agency for amnesia regarding momentous truths intrinsic to Jesus’ crucifixion; truths that if consistently brought to consciousness at the sacred time of the community’s Eucharist would stand in judgement on a multitude of community activities, past and present. Truths, the absent of which, sow the seeds of deception that guarantee that the “initial deviation from the truth that is multiplied later a thousand-fold” will take place.
Let me present, from another area, how this initial deviation from truth is orchestrated by manipulating the memory of the community. For this purpose I will use an illustration from the writings of the historian Howard Zinn:
Total control leads to total cruelty. Bartolome de las Casas, a priest, tells how the Spaniards “grew more conceited everyday, toward the Arawak of Hispaniola, (the island which today consist of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). After a while they refused to walk any distance and rode the backs of the Indians or were carried in hammocks by Indians.” Las Casas tells how two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys. The Indians, Las Casas reports “suffered in died in the Spanish goldmines and other labours in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help.”
When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, “there were 60,000 people living on this island including the Indians, so that from 1494 to 1508 over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generation will believe this? I myself writing as a knowledgeable eye witness can hardly believe it.” When we read the history books given to children in the United States about Columbus, it all starts with heroic adventure—there is no bloodshed—and Columbus Day is a celebration.
Samuel Elliot Morrison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguishes writer on Columbus, the author of a multi-volume biography. In his book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, he writes, “The cruel policies initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in completer genocide.” This is on one page buried half way into the telling of a grand romance. In the book’s last paragraph Morrison sums up his view of Columbus: “He had his faults and defects but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great—his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas.”
One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts, which might lead to a different conclusion. Morrison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder, indeed, he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.
But he does something else—he mentions the truth quickly and goes onto other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery, which when made might turn the reader against the writer. But, to state the fact, however, and then bury it in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm, “Yes, mass murder took place, but its not that important. It should weigh very little in our final judgement; it should affect very little of what we do in the world.” To de-emphasize the genocide of the Arawak is not a technical necessity, but an ideological choice that serves some interest.
(A People’s History of the United States).
It does not take much reflection to perceive what interests the non-necessary, ideological choice of detail-devoid Eucharistic Prayers—that do not mention Jesus’ new commandment given at the Last Supper, that do not mention His rejection of violence, that do not mention His love of even lethal enemies, that do not mention His prayer for persecutors, and His struggle to overcome evil with good—serve. They serve the function of amalgamating Christianity into the local, national or ethnic violence-ennobling myths, as well as, into the good graces of wealth and political power. Intentional forgetfulness, structured inattentiveness, and a cavalier downplaying and clever disparaging of the Saviour’s teachings of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies have always been part of this process of sowing the seeds for that initial deviation from the truth that is multiplied later a thousand-fold. Without this cultivated liturgical and catechetical blind spot, Jesus could not be drafted as a Divine support person for the home team’s homicide and enmity.
One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts, which might lead to a different conclusion. The Constantinian Churches do neither. They refuse to lie about Jesus. They do not omit remembering the historical event of His passion and death in their Eucharistic Prayers. But they do something else, they mention it quickly, “suffered and died,” and then go onto other things that they consider more important than presenting the historical and Gospel fact of the Spirit of Nonviolent Love of friends and lethal enemies in which Jesus suffered and died. Whatever else this does, this public paucity of memory about that Spirit keeps it from being generally understood as a crucial dynamic in God’s Plan of Redemption in Jesus Christ. The lack of attention to the Spirit in which Jesus suffered and died makes it appear that God’s Plan of Redemption could have been equally carried out if Jesus from the cross was cursing and hating those doing violence to Him. Therein lay the seeds, not only in the anamnesis of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Churches but also in the ordinary catechises of the Churches for the initial deviation from the truth of Jesus and is Way that is multiplied later a thousand-fold. No, not a thousand-fold, but a hundred million-fold—and counting.
It has been said, and with overwhelming historical evidence to support it, that it is primarily the Christian Churches and their leaders, not the secular culture, who keep Christians from responding to violence and enmity as Jesus responded to violence and enmity, and as He commanded His disciple to so do. That is, that it is the Churches—mainline, televangelists, Evangelical— that are the single greatest impediment to the two billion Christians obeying and following Jesus in relation to the diabolical phenomena of violence and enmity.