Religion Photo-Ops

Religion Photo-Ops

Whenever I travel on a business trip or attend a conference, I like to go running. It gets me outside to actually experience the place I’m visiting. I’m used to getting up super early, so I run in the pre-dawn hours. City streets, parks, cemeteries, neighborhoods — my only real concern for safety being avoiding cars. As a 6 foot 3 inch white male, I just never considered myself a target. 

A few years ago, I was in Houston. There seemed to be no zoning laws for the streets near the hotel. Sidewalks adjacent to busy roads (and roads are always busy in Houston, even at 6:00AM) were three feet wide and often had telephone poles in the middle. So I made my way to a tony neighborhood and ran there. A law enforcement vehicle shadowed me from the moment I entered to the moment I left. I should have been unnerved by this, right? Nah. I came back the next two days (and wearing the same bandana and a hoodie). Shadowed again, but never engaged.

I am embarrassed to tell you just how recently I have realized what a privileged mindset this is. I mean, I was aware that most women would not feel comfortable running alone in a strange city in the dark, but for any person of color it would be nothing but red flags, fear, and stress. How could I not know this? How could I be so oblivious?

I write this to note that I have been pausing to consider what else I don’t know. And as a result, I haven’t felt qualified to comment much on our nation’s current convulsions.  

But this week, after the staged photo-ops by the President at St.John’s Church and St. John Paul II National Shrine, I finally felt I did have some qualification. It’s indirect to this fight for racial justice, but as a Catholic it is something I have thought a great deal about. I have long understood the President to the be the embodiment of the seven deadly sins (or, for old school Catholics, cardinal sins). But it was using these holy places as a backdrop that brought it into such stark relief.

Pride is generally considered the worst of the seven. What brought the President to stage these photo-ops? Pride. What renders him incapable of seeking reconciliation? Pride. What causes him to never admit an error and instead double-down, triple-down, whatever it takes to never appear to be wrong? Pride. The complete absence of humility. This is not how a servant of the people serves the people.

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