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War March
David Rider, May 10, 1999 -- As a faculty member at a Catholic University that was founded to provide education for American Indians and African Americans, I am required to attend certain ceremonial events held annually. One of these is a Mass just before graduation exercises. We "exercise" tomorrow; mass was tonight.
    A Bishop from the Virgin Islands gave a message, a "homile" I think it's called. He mentioned the killings in Littleton, Colorado, and then went on to say that it is always a Christian's duty to work toward loving one's neighbors and trying to prevent murder and other crimes against humanity. He mentioned the ethnic cleansing going on today in Yugoslavia, then said that it was just 50-some years ago that Nazi Germany was stopped from its holocaust, and before that, 400 years ago, it was an unholy alliance between African warlords and European slave traders that brought Xavier's students' ancestors to this continent.
    The guy sitting next to me, a white pharmacy prof I know, turned to me and said he thought religion was gonna be a bigger deal now after the Colorado killings. I whispered back at him that "religion" was not the solution but the problem in a lot of cases.
    He furled his brow in a telling way, and so I continued: Weren't those Nazis Christians who tried to exterminated the Jews? Aren't those Serbians Christians who are now exterminating the Muslim Kosovars? And weren't those Christian slave traders in Africa, to pick up some cheap labor because they had already nearly exterminated all the Indians on this continent?
    The pharmacy prof turned and whispered something to the faculty member sitting on his left, who looked at me as though I had a scarlet "A" on my forehead, and whispered something back to the pharmacist. The pharmacist said something like, Well, isn't it a good thing we're trying to stop the Serbians from finishing off the Kosovars? I shurgged and told him I didn't know about the good or the bad of it, but I told him I do know that it's ironic: Ironic that we're running bombing missions to stop genocide with airplanes bearing the name "Apache" on them - a victim of our own genocide.
    The pharmacist was startled, and quietly said he never thought of it that way...then he turned to the woman sitting next to him, said something to her, and she then looked at me with an expression I can't describe fairly - shocked, horrified, I dunno.
    As luck would have it, I then perused my official program, praying to my Creator that the Mass would end soon - they were still passing out crackers that people were told are the body of Christ and wine that people were told was the blood of Christ, and people munched and drank their way to Glory. I noticed that the final hymn was up next, and I elbowed the pharmacist sitting next to me, the man who could not believe that "religion" was the source of a problem, not the solution to one.
    I said, Hey, you wanna see what I'm talking about, just look at the title of the closing hymn in this Mass. It was...
War March of the Priests.

David Rider is an Associate Professor of Psychology and former Chair of the Psychology Department at a Catholic University


 


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