When I was growing up in D.C. in the 1980s, many of my neighbors were Salvadorans who had fled the violence of civil war. My parents and many of their colleagues were active in opposing U.S.-funded suppression of leftists in that war and others in Central America. All of them held up Archbishop Oscar Romero as an example of highest virtue (never mind the Vatican delaying his cause for sainthood until recently). And since the March 24 anniversary of Romero's assassination usually falls during Lent—next Tuesday will be 35 years—the church in which I was raised remembered his martyrdom as we pondered the sacrifices that come with discipleship.
America’s conversation about race has, like all of our public conversations, come to consist largely of a running commentary on viral spectacles. Recent weeks have been rife with them—the Oklahoma University SAE video chant and the dreadful scene of the double shooting of police in Ferguson; the awesome images of a sitting and a former president crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, heading a massive multiracial and multigenerational crowd; the face of University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, bloodied by Alcohol Board of Control officers.
You don’t normally see the names Pope Francis and Robin Williams in the same sentence, but here goes.
Early in his career, the brilliant comedian and actor Robin Williams scored big with a performance called Reality—What a Concept. This wonderful play on words came to mind when I heard a few lines from one of Pope Francis’ talks during his visit to the Philippines earlier this year. They gained little attention, but are critical to understanding how he wants to enliven the church and the world. “Reality,” he told a large group of young people, “is superior to ideas.”
Recently three fraternities have been either closed or suspended by their national organization. Caitlin Flanagan made a yearlong study of the Greek fraternity system and concluded that alcohol is the root of fraternity problems. When Phi Delta Theta decided 12 years ago to make its houses alcohol free, people predicted its demise. “It’s more popular than ever, and its amount of sexual assault, hazing, assault and battery . . . have [sic] dropped by 85 percent,” Flanagan says. “If you get alcohol out, you’ll reform the system” (NPR, March 21).