The Sayings of Abu Francis
I say, there are two types of people in the world: those who think there are two types of people in the world and those who don’t.
Am I right or wrong? Am I black or white? Red or blue? Am I Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female? Of course I’m right! But on the very slim off-chance that I am wrong, does that make you right? Maybe we’re all wrong.
I am a Catholic Farmer, but some of my friends seem offended by the word “Catholic.” They think if I’m Catholic, then I’m not Protestant. I’m not Buddhist, they reason. Not Scientific. There are two types of people in the world, they say: those who agree with me and those who don’t.
Am I right or wrong? Am I going to heaven or hell? Which tribe are you in?
Back in the Second Century, around 110 A.D., the bishop of the Christian community in Antioch wrote a letter to the Christian community in nearby Smyrna. This fellow we call St. Ignatius of Antioch coined the term “catholic,” derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos) - meaning “universal.”
St. Ignatius was thrown to the lions by Romans who didn’t think he was right.
The word picked up traction in the early church and by the year 381, had been added to the Nicene Creed: “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." For millennia, some version of this creed has been recited every Sunday by Christians of the Big 3 tribes – Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.
But “Catholic” is not a tribal designation; it’s the exact opposite – “universal.” It means we’re all in this together. It means there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28, by the way).
It means when we say “give us this day our daily bread,” the “us” is everyone. I imagine a family gathered around the table for a meal – no one is sitting in a corner on a chair, facing away from the rest (except sometimes me). Everyone expects everyone to eat. It’s a family – it’s Us.
So, I say, from a Catholic (tribal) point of view, there are two kinds of people on the world: Them and Us. From a catholic (universal) point of view, there is only one kind of person: Us.
I think it’s ironic – even tragic – that Christians (and other humans) spend a whole lot of time judging people when Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). He continued (verses 2-3): “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
This human tendency to judge everyone in sight wreaks havoc on building community. In the current context, I see endless bickering, partisan wrangling and increasing tribal hostility. How can the human family sit at the table when people would rather build walls, wage wars and then argue about the relative merits of wall-building and war-waging?
In 1988, a little group of strangers did a workshop with noted psychologist Scott Peck, about a year after he published The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. He was moving beyond writing books about spiritual transformation to actually trying to make it happen through the Foundation for Community Encouragement.
M. Scott Peck wrote the amazing The Road Less Traveled and The Different Drum.
“In and through community lies the salvation of the world,” Peck told our fledgling chapter of the FCE. “For the human race today stands at the brink of self-annihilation.”
Building real community – an unconditional acceptance of people’s differences rather than an echo-chamber of “pseudo-community” – is really hard, but Peck was hoping groups like ours could pioneer some techniques to make the process quicker.
We failed. Like everyone else, we stopped sitting around the table and drifted off our separate ways. Thirty-five years later, we’re as close to self-annihilation as ever. The whole world has failed – a failure of catholic proportions.
I’ve never stopped hoping I would find a life-giving community. After all, there are two types of people in the world: those who jump off a bridge and those who don’t.
Having not jumped (so far), I am busying myself with the building of greenhouses, planting of food, gathering of water, nurturing of soil. I am ready to embrace you, whichever type of person in the world you happen to be.
Maybe we can video-chat this Sunday. Am I right or wrong?
What say you?
Nice! I'd thought of that this year as "we," a group of pagans, started a Catholic Worker Village here in so-called Mena, Arkansas on unceded Caddo native land. We considered that "catholic" means universal and that "pagan" means people of the earth. They both imply everyone (even the rock people and animal people and plant people). So we proudly consider ourselves Catholic Workers. I also considered a spin on words poetically: Chthonic Working Class. To understand ourselves as a class of people who aren't bosses nor landlords and to proudly remain in this cooperative people. And then to hold true to the ancestors and deities who dwell below in the underworldly depths of emotion and soul. We call forward a pluralist age in the CW movement and honor all solidarity-centered paths. This is a oneness too, we feel. https://www.ic.org/directory/snake-village/
Beautiful - sharing! #FratelliTutti - All of us brothers and sisters.