Listening to Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle on American Public Media’s “Word for Word.” His organisation, Homeboy Industries, is a voluntary rehab center that gives jobs and hope (and tattoo-removal services) to former gang members who have served time and who want their lives to be different. Everything Boyle says reminds me of the James Alison sermon I posted yesterday, except he uses different vocabulary: kinship, recognising each other as ‘the shape of God’s heart,” “no ‘us and them’ — just us,” “you can’t demonize people you know” and “there are no demons anywhere” and “we stand with the demonized because we want the demonizing to stop,” “we stand for remembering that we belong to each other,” “we imagine a circle of compassion and we imagine no one standing outside that circle.”
And: “An idea has taken root in the world, it’s at the root of all that’s wrong with it, and here it is: It’s that there are lives out there that matter less than other lives.”
I admire Boyle’s work with the most demonized in society, and at the same time, I can apply this quote to myself, too, in the context of friendship, as we were discussing earlier. Friendship leads me to feel that a particular life, the life of my friend, matters more than another life. I would feel worse if my friend died or were hurt than if someone in my ‘blind spot’ — someone I don’t care about particularly — died or were hurt. Yes, I very much feel that way, and yes, I can see where that feeling, that you matter more than you, is the root of the trouble in the world. It seems almost impossible to share or imitate the God-like view of each being as one who particularly matters. Who has that kind of energy, much less desire, besides God? It’s one thing to believe that each life matters the same; it’s another thing entirely to act like this is true, all the time. My only hope for now is that perhaps my focusing on the few people who do matter most in my life gives me a little taste for the way God feels about each of us.