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Christian Identity in a Time of Racial and Social Conflict
Feb 10, 2021

On Feb. 1, the offices of the President and the Provost co-sponsored a special event featuring UD Trustee Louis Brown on “Christian Identity & Witness in Time of Racial and Social Conflict.” 

In attendance were members of the newly approved group Student Leaders for Racial Solidarity led by Joshua Nunn, Natalie Villafranca and Prince Obegolua, along with a limited number of faculty and staff.

Brown's speech is posted below. Watch the event here.

Introduction

My friends, my name is Louis Brown, and it is a blessing to speak with you today. 

I will begin with a prayer: Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

I am a Catholic man and lawyer, who leads the Christ Medicus Foundation, a Catholic health care nonprofit dedicated to sharing the love of God through defending medical conscience and religious freedom and providing pro-life health care options in the marketplace.

It is a blessing to be associated with the University of Dallas. Thank you to President Hibbs, Provost Sanford, Board Chairman Husseini, Trustees Bridget Wagner and Mary Capizzi and the other trustees in their support of me joining the Board of Trustees. 

I am thankful to President Hibbs, Provost Sanford, General Counsel Lachenauer, Ms. Dodson and the UD team for providing such a great experience today. 

I also want to thank three great UD students, Joshua Nunn, Natalie Villafranca and Prince Obegolu, and their wonderful faculty adviser, Professor Matthew Spring, who are working to help advance the UD community in addressing matters of race. 

I am beginning to get to know these students. I believe they are doing great work to bring about even greater solidarity on the issue of race for the UD community. Their work will help UD even more fully embrace its Catholic identity.  

I believe it is a blessing if anyone in their right mind wants to know what I think. 

I came to address one of the most urgent matters of the day: 

Christian Identity in Times of Racial and Social Conflict.

This talk builds on and extends on a talk I recently did on Christian identity for another important Catholic institution dedicated, in part, to forming young minds in the truth. 

The ability of Christians to advance in a Christian Identity – centered in Jesus Christ – during this time of racial, social and political upheaval – will determine the future of the Church, America and much of world history this century. 

All around us, so much of what we assumed was secure is collapsing. 

We see grave challenges within our Catholic Church.

We see grave needs within our country, 

  • from the public health crisis,

  • to the need for racial healing and criminal justice reform, 

  • from the need for civility in today’s political division, 

  • to solving the ongoing economic hardship, 

  • from the urgent need to see Christ to protect the dignity of immigrants, 

  • to the need to defend civil rights and the rule of law.

We see grave challenges to fundamental moral obligations and to civil rights: the defense of the unborn and human dignity, the right of religious freedom and the natural law foundation of all human and civil rights, and a true understanding of the human person. 

As St. Therese of Lisieux said and a friend recently reminded me, everything is passing. We see this more clearly now. 

Yet in all the chaos the incredible news of our faith tells us that – one thing remains – the love of Jesus Christ for all of humanity through the Holy Catholic Church.

In all the chaos around us, we have one priority:

  • to remember who we are,

  • to remember who made us,

  • to remember that we are made for eternity with God. 

As baptized Christians, we are sons and daughters of God, made in God’s image and likeness. 

We are made for eternity with God, if we persevere in choosing Him.

We are heirs to an eternal kingdom of love that is not of this world. 

God made us to know him, to love him, to love our fellow man and to return to God’s love forever in the next life. 

Before we are Republicans or Democrats, Conservatives or Progressives.

Before our racial or ethnic identity. 

Before we are doctors, homemakers, executives, teachers, construction workers, waiters, tradesmen or persons looking for work …

Even before we are proud Americans … 

We are children of God, friends of the Lord Jesus Christ, and warriors for the most powerful force in history: the love of God.

We are Catholics on mission to be heralds of God’s love for every person on earth. 

In this time, in America, as Catholics, members of the universal Church, founded by Jesus Christ, we must remember who we are.

The Attack on Identity

In all that we do, as Christians, we must live out our identity as children of God made to love God and to love all our neighbors, no matter what may come. 

This is not an option, it is an obligation.

The demand to love every single person we encounter is extraordinary. It seems impossible.

But with God’s grace, all things are possible. 

God calls us to a true lasting love for every person – a love which is sacrificial, a love which is both tender and fierce, a love based on objective truth and a love that extends even to one’s enemies.

Just as Christ did on the cross, God calls us to a love where we give up our very lives even for those who may hate us. 

God calls us to a love that is painful at first but that is ultimately joyful and absolutely liberating. 

He calls us to a love that brings to the heart of who we are.

To paraphrase John Paul II, the more we discover the love of God, the more we find ourselves.

Tragically, the world, the flesh and the devil tempt us to reject this identity, to forget who we are, or even to oppose the truth.

Our own hearts attack our identity – often so weighed down by our own sin and shame, wounds, loss, trauma, fear, anger and self-condemnation.

Our own wounded hearts can also tempt us to have contempt for our neighbor – or even worse – to have hate for our neighbor.

Our pride can attack our identity: our own self-righteousness, lack of self-reflection and false sense of self-reliance – that we can do it ourselves.

Our own community can attack our identity: Our family members, friends and colleagues often attack our identity through their own sin, their woundedness, and through the times when in their words or deeds they place us in a box – based on arbitrary things like race, social status or education. 

Our country’s political divisions can attack our identity: Our country’s political polarization can tempt us to live first as conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, instead of as Catholics, as Christians. 

Yes, certain political perspectives are much more consistent with the fundamental moral law and the truth of the human person than other political perspectives. 

The Catholic Church has justly and repeatedly condemned socialism, communism, racist ideologies and atheistic secularism. 

However, that is not the point of this talk. The point of this talk is that in this hyper-politicized popular culture of our times – many of us, myself included – forget that we are called to live first as Christians. 

Our Catholic faith should be the driver of all our political activity. 

Our media environment can attack our identity: Our country’s media, with so much of it not grounded in the fundamental truths of human existence and human dignity – can tempt us to live in panic, fear or even hatred of those who disagree with us.

Our racial divisions can attack our identity: Hundreds of years of slavery, discrimination, dehumanization, second-class status and the resulting bitterness, anger, temptation to revenge, temptation to hatred, and the growing divide along racial lines – combined with the political division – can tempt us too to abandon our true identity as sons and daughters of God and to limit ourselves to our racial ethnic identity alone. 

Finally and importantly – the evil one, the enemy of our souls – is constantly seeking to destroy our identity through lies about who God is, who we are in God, and through lies about God’s plan for us. 

When they come, these attacks on our identity must be rejected. We must stand firm in the truth of who we are in the almighty power of God. 

The Drama of Our Own Hearts – Hidden Life and Lord of the Rings

How do these attacks on identity play out? What happens when we accept our identity in Christ? What happens when we reject it?

We see the drama of the pulls of our own hearts powerfully depicted in the 2019 film A Hidden Life.

This Terrence Mallick film is a true story about the life of Franz Jaggerstatter, a farmer in rural Austria in the 1930s and early ’40s, who was devoted to God, family, his community and his country, in that order. 

When drafted into the Nazi-controlled Austrian Army, Jaggerstatter eventually becomes a conscientious objector. 

He stands out as a sign of contradiction, contrary to so many others of his time who were indifferent or deceived or paralyzed by fear, or so intimidated by the spirit of the age, that they simply

  • Conformed

  • Gave in

  • Looked the other way, or even

  • God forbid, gave their hearts over and actively collaborated with the evils of the day.

In a chilling moment in the film, Blessed Jaggerstatter remarks that his countrymen, his fellow townspeople, presumably virtually all of whom are Christian and likely most of whom are Catholic, in the midst of the cataclysm of his times, have forgotten who they are.

Similar to the loss of the true identity of many of the townspeople in the film A Hidden Life, we see a similar tragedy due to the loss of true identity of the hobbit Smeagol, who tragically turns into the lost creature Gollum in the amazing trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

Gollum had been a hobbit but became so obsessed with the ring of power, so consumed by the darkness, his mind so darkened to the truth, that he has forgotten who he is, forgotten where he came from and forgotten his own name. 

Unlike the character of Gollum, the real life Franz Jaggerstatter remembered his Catholic identity.

Franz Jaggerstatter:

  • rejects the spirit of the age, 

  • he rejects the temptation to give in to the immoral demands of the prevailing culture,

  • he rejects the tyranny of conformity to evil that would have destroyed his Catholic Identity,

  • he perseveres in love for Jesus Christ,

  • he keeps his Christian identity. 

  • He refused to fight in the Nazi-controlled Austrian Army and was executed.

  • He lost his life in martyrdom.

  • Yet he tastes life eternal with our Lord. 

Blessed Franz Jaggerstatter loved God and his fellow man too much to save his life but lose his soul.

How did Servant of God Jaggerstatter persevere as a Catholic to the end? 

How do we persevere as Catholics to the very end?

Like Jaggerstatter and every Saint throughout the ages, 

  • in a world of such confusion, 

  • our spiritual survival depends on daily wandering into the heart of God, daily spending time with Him,

  • giving God the freedom to heal our wounds through the sacraments and through the power of the Holy Spirit, and 

  • giving our Lord permission to bestow on us our eternal identity as his created children made to be instruments of His love. 

In other words, for Christians today, we must every day go before our Lord to let him remind us who we are in Him. 

We need:

  • Daily encounter with the Person of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

  • Frequent adoration.

  • Mass – daily if possible.

  • Frequent confession.

  • Spiritual reading. 

  • Study of the Catechism and of Prophetic Voices of the Church such as St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Venerable Fulton Sheen, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Cardinal Gerhard Mueller. 

  • Christ-centered community in which friends and families truly accompany each other in intimacy and in the triumph, joys and hardships of life.

If we do not know who we are, we do not know how to act.

If we know who we are, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

We are the sum total of the Father’s Love for Us as St. John Paul II proclaimed. 

We have everything in God who is love, truth, beauty itself. 

We act out of the abundance of His grace, which is infinite. 

We are made to govern this world in love, justice, mercy, truth, freedom, beauty and goodness. 

If we do not know who we are, we do not know how to act.

If we know who we are, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

The Spirit of God versus The Spirit of the Age

We are called to choose the Spirit of God over the spirit of the age.

We are called to accept our identity as sons and daughters of God.

We are called to expect our Lord to provide everything we truly need, His love.

We are called to grow deeper in the reality of His personal specific love for us and in his provision. 

We are called to remember: the only thing we need is His love.

In knowing that all we need is His love, we are liberated from the false idols of money, career, power, sex, prestige, status – things good in and of themselves but which are less than the totally fulfilling love of God. 

If we accept his love and his healing power over us, we become who we truly are, and we go out in the power of his love to share the kingdom of God.

In sharing the kingdom of God, which is the love of God for all his people,

  • We Reject the false claims on our identity;

  • We Reject shame and self-condemnation;

  • We Reject the false identities that would steal our spiritual heritage;

  • We Reject the temptation to conform with the evil of the age; 

  • We Reject the temptation to hatred and contempt for those who disagree with us;

  • We Reject paralyzing fear, which is incompatible with faith in Christ;

  • We Reject seeking solely political solutions to problems which ultimately require spiritual solutions, namely evangelization and Christian revival; and

  • We reject ends-justify-the-means thinking.

We Are the Universal Church

As we reject the lies of false identities and the lies of the age, we should fully accept that the only answer to the times in which we live comes from the love of Jesus Christ.

The only answer to the times in which we live is the love of God, found in our Catholic faith. 

When the world shouts and hisses, who are you, we respond, we are Catholics! 

We are Catholic sons and daughters of God who is love incarnate. 

As many know, the word Catholic comes from the Greek word Katholikos, which effectively means universal or part of the whole. 

As Catholics we belong to the one universal Church created by God for all mankind. 

And as Catholics, we have a moral obligation to truly love all true beauty and goodness in history because that beauty and goodness comes from God.  

Our Catholic faith embraces the good and beautiful of every race and culture while throwing out that which undermines love, that which undermines truth, and that which undermines human dignity and freedom. 

As Catholics, we are called to celebrate all races and ethnicities and seek to guide all people to find love, to find Jesus Christ.

Our Catholic faith is universal in name and in reality. 

Various sources project that within 30 years, there will be well over 300 million Roman Catholics on the continent of Africa. Over 300 million Catholic Africans, Catholics in communion with Rome. Imagine that. It’s coming.

It is estimated that the majority of millennial Catholics in the United States – today – are indeed Hispanic. 

According to a news story in the Atlantic based on scholarship from a College of Charleston professor, as of 2017, there are more African Americans who profess the Catholic faith – 3 million – in the United States than African Americans who belong to the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church.

Much of the growth and sustenance of the Catholic faith across the globe is coming in the global south, in Africa, Latin America and South America. 

As Catholics, we are grateful to God for the heroic vital work of the Church in Europe throughout the past two millennia.  

  • My personal hero is St. John Paul II. 

  • I love Polish culture, dream of traveling to Vavel Cathedral in Krakow, and plan to name my first son, if I get married and my wife agrees – God willing, John Paul Carol (JPC) in honor of John Paul. 

However, we do an extreme disservice to the mission of Jesus Christ and to evangelization if we put God in a cultural box and project our Catholic European heritage to the exclusion of our Catholic heritage from the rest of the world: the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin and South America. 

As Catholics, especially today, we must evangelize, catechize and teach our young people using the universality, the global richness of our Catholic faith. 

  • When we exclude the work Jesus Christ has done and is doing over the centuries through Catholic witnesses, saints and martyrs in Latin America, South America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, we are being bad Catholics.

  • When we even implicitly act as if the Catholic faith is limited to one continent, we are being bad Catholics. 

  • When we fail to proclaim the fullness of what the Catholic faith is doing through our every race and people, we place God in a cultural box.

  • When we as Catholics fail to take the opportunity celebrate the goodness, truth and beauty of God manifested in every race and ethnicity:

  • we help fuel the lie that the world and the media are telling …

  • we help fuel the lie that the Catholic Church is a white church, which is false.

  • we help fuel the lie that the Catholic Church is only for white people, which is false.

  • we help fuel the lie that the Catholic Church is racist, which is also false.

Tragically, the culture of death is telling these aforementioned lies about the Catholic Church:

  • to drive people away from Christ and away from the truth, 

  • to drive people away from the beauty of family, 

  • to persuade young people to abandon God,

  • to persuade young people to choose abortion and sexual license,

  • to deceive young people to choose a life of hopelessness, enslavement to passions and a false identity, and

  • to deceive young people to choose a spiritual, emotional and psychological death. 

To be Catholic is to celebrate the infinite universal beauty of God in virtually every race, ethnicity and language.

To be Catholic is to proclaim the glory of God that the Holy Spirit has brought not just through Western Europe, but through Africa and Asia and Latin America.

To be Catholic is to proclaim and obey the eternal traditions that our Lord gave us, and the apostles and their successors, that do not change. 

To be Catholic is to embrace the fullness of the goodness and beauty of God in every part of our world.

We do not have a white Catholic, or Black Catholic, or Hispanic Catholic faith.

We have the one Holy Catholic faith, and this faith based on the Kingship of love, the Kingship of Jesus Christ, is what the world needs today and forever. 

We have a universal faith that incorporates all that is good and created by our Lord while rejecting all that is bad for humanity. 

The work of our students to bring greater racial solidarity to UD will do exactly this, if they and the students after them follow the Holy Spirit to bring about greater love, solidarity and healing here at UD. 

Racial Solidarity

Racial solidarity is greatly needed right now in our country. 

Some want to say, well racism is ancient history or well I am colorblind. 

However, sadly, racism and racial bias are not ancient history and remain a problem in our country. 

And to be colorblind is to be blind to the diverse richness and beauty God has created in other races, ethnicities and cultures. 

Our country enslaved Africans for over 200 years, until 1865. 

Our country committed the most heinous atrocities toward Native Americans during parts of our history. 

And in my opinion, and it gives me a righteous anger, in too many parts of our country still today, open discrimination and bias toward Chicano Latino Hispanics is not only tolerated, but also socially acceptable. 

Racism in America is not ancient history. 

As I said in other forums last year, even after the end of slavery, African Americans in the Jim Crow South lived under legalized segregation for about 100 years, until the 1960s, just a few decades ago, when many baby boomers were in high school or college. 

This culture of Jim Crow segregation in the South included, in some parts of the South, a daily living in fear of the KKK and other racist groups that threatened, terrorized and even lynched African Americans.

This legalized segregation did not end until the late 1960s with the passage of federal civil rights laws and the slow desegregation of public schools and places of public accommodation. 

In the North, though legalized segregation mostly did not occur, until the 1960s and ’70s, African Americans still lived as second-class citizens who were:

  • barred from senior leadership positions in business, education, the academy, law enforcement and government;

  • barred from living in certain neighborhoods through racially restrictive housing covenants in places like Detroit and other northern cities; and

  • frequently the recipients of police brutality in cities like Detroit, Boston and New York at the hands of predominantly white police departments. 

Even with the end of Jim Crow segregation, in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s through to today, racial bias, police misconduct, wrongful conviction and discriminatory and excessive sentencing toward African Americans persists. 

It was chilling and almost too much for me to watch the recent film Just Mercy, a true story about the wrongful conviction in the 1980s of the death row inmate Walter McMillian, who was totally innocent. He was not freed from death row until the 1990s. 

And the racism and racial bias in our criminal justice system is still happening today.

We painfully have seen the videos and read the news stories of police misconduct toward unarmed black citizens over the past several years.

The murder of George Floyd was unjust and outrageous, and should never happen again. 

No, this is not the 1950s or ’60s, and our country has come quite a long way.

But racism remains with us today especially where it has only been decades since the legal walls of discrimination and dehumanization were torn down.

The laws have improved. The laws need to get even better in many areas.

However, we still have a long way to go in what matters most, healing the hearts of our country who have been so wounded by these prior societal conventions that normalized racism. 

In my prior position, I had the blessing of doing civil rights enforcement for a period of time at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

It pained me to see that, in different parts of the country, discrimination and racial attitudes persist toward Hispanics in United States. 

The racial bias toward Hispanics and the animus toward immigrants is a real stain on our nation. 

Our Catholic faith tells us that our nation has a just and legitimate right to secure our nation’s borders and uphold the rule of law in immigration.  

But our Catholic faith tells us we also must truly love the immigrant and welcome the stranger.

We are called to practice justice and mercy.

What do we do about the lingering racial wounds, the political upheaval and the cultural divisions that plague us? 

Prayer

First, we need to pray.

We are dealing truly with a spiritual problem that is beyond man’s ability to solve and requires our Lord to act. 

If ever in recent history there was a time to pray, fast and say the rosary regularly for healing in our country, that time is now. 

Healing

Second, we need to heal. 

We need to seek deeper understanding among communities of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. 

We need to engage in a process of communal healing and forgiveness, in our parishes, churches and community centers, in which spiritual repentance and reparation for the sins of racism, dehumanization and unjust discrimination can occur. (reference the Mass of reparation in Detroit)

The Christian Worldview

Finally, we need an integrated Catholic witness, to think with the mind of Christ and exercise a Christian worldview. 

It is important to note that modern political thought, modern liberalism and modern conservatism both, are insufficient to address the challenges of our age. 

Neither conservative nor liberal thought have the depth necessary to deal with the religious, cultural, social, and political breakdown in our country. 

No. The best answer to today’s challenges is found in Catholic social teaching, which is above any political ideology and is neither conservative nor progressive. 

Love is the only answer to today’s challenges.

The highest Christian obligation – to love God and to love every human being – is the only way forward for our country.

Christ and a Christian worldview that affirms the dignity of every person is the only way.

It is from this Christian worldview, that we as Christians:

  • Defend the dignity of all people, especially the vulnerable – the unborn – the most vulnerable and our preeminent priority – while we also defend the dignity of the immigrant, the person in poverty, the person who is disabled, and the aged – the elderly.

  • That we seek divine justice, in which each person is owed love. 

  • That we seek the truth of things, applying faith and reason together.

It is from this Christian worldview that we as Christians:

  • Seek a rule of law and a just society in which every person’s dignity and God-given rights are equally protected and respected;

  • That we seek to care for the sick, to be in solidarity – to literally suffer with the suffering, especially in times of public health crisis;

  • That we seek healing between all our brothers and sisters of every race and language; 

  • That we seek a new birth of civil rights in our country to defend the civil rights of all people, especially historically marginalized communities of color, and protect them from discrimination and dehumanization; and

  • That we seek a new birth of civil rights that protects the health care civil rights of the poor and communities of color who are too often unjustly denied medical care and have ongoing unequal access to medical care in general.

It is from this Christian worldview that we as Christians seek the common good and to share eternal life with every human being we encounter. 

And even when some within the world hate us, in return we must strongly offer our love for them.

Even when some in the world hate us, we must persevere in offering them the very truth that their own hearts truly seek. 

This is who we are. This is how God created us. This is our Christian identity. 

In a world falling apart, our Lord’s healing love and mercy gives us the eyes to see our true identity as His beloved Children and to share the promise of that same love and identity with all people.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, we go forward on our mission knowing that: 

  • our Father God loves us, 

  • knowing that His love frees us to be who we truly are, 

  • knowing that His love is the only firm foundation for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our nation and for our world. 

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May 5, 2021

By Callie Ewing, BA ’03 MH ’22 Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, canonized in 2015, were a French Roman Catholic couple and parents to five daughters, most notably St. Thérèse of Lisieux,...

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