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Lions Roar : November 2018
The Acts of the Apostles says, “And awe came upon everyone.” That suggests the measure of health may well reside in our abil- ity to stand in awe at what the poor have to carry, rather than in judgement at how they carry it. I stole that from Pema, by the w ay. (Laughter) I’ve been using it all these years. That’s kind of a confession. Homies try to make friends with their wounds, because if they don’t, like all of us, they get tempted to despise the wounded. The hope is that we can, in exquisite mutuality, look at each other and with breathless delight say, “You’re here.” Then the only response is to say, “Yo u’ r e here.” And right there is kinship. After one of our homies was killed in a random shooting, the question I was asked most by his friends was a good one: “What’s the point of doing good if that can happen to you?” I thought it was a good question, worthy of an answer. I stood in front of the packed church at his funeral and I said, “Here’s the point. Before he left us, he knew the truth of who he was. That he was exactly what God had in mind. ‘Oh nobly born’ was he. He remembered, in a community of tenderness, who he really was. No bullet can pierce that: death can’t touch it. For it’s a lie that talk of God doesn’t comfort you. You’re here.” Question from moderator Jose Arellano: Because we’re talking about spirituality, what is your take on God? (Laughter) I’m just saying. PEMA CHÖDRÖN: The God language actually makes me uncomfortable. That’s interesting, since I talk so much about being comfortable with uncomfortableness. (Laughter) I’m sitting here sort of thinking, “Oh God, I wish he’d stop talk- ing about God quite so much.” (Laughter) Then I’m thinking, “Well, work with it, Pema.” (Laughter) I resonate so much with your message, Greg. I just don’t call it “God.” I call it “uncovering what is basic and good in humanity.” My problem with the word “God” is that it sounds like it’s some- thing other than us. Do you think of it as something other? FATHER GREG BOYLE: No. PEMA CHÖDRÖN: But to me, the word “God” always indicates that there’s something other. It’s like “father figure,” or some- thing like that, which is where my discomfort comes from. I don’t mean to be harsh, but there’s no point pretending other- wise. (Laughs) I do think that language gets in the way a lot. FATHER GREG BOYLE: Well, because there are a few people who believe in God (Laughter), I always want to call them to a fuller sense of God. I think we’ve settle for a puny God, a partial God, which has nothing to do with the God we actually have. After Dylan Roof killed all those people in the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston—and I’ve heard you speak about this, Pema—family members stood in front of him and said, “We forgive you.” Now, part of my way of talking about God is to say that that is the God we actually have. PEMA CHÖDRÖN: The people who said, “We forgive you.” FATHER GREG BOYLE: Yes, that “we forgive you,” with a great reservoir of love. Then when Roof was sentenced to be executed, people called it God’s justice. That’s the God we’ve settled for—the partial God. But that’s not the God we actually have. St. Ignatius of Loyola talks about the God that’s always greater. For those of us who use the language of God, it’s important to always remember that. Believing in people’s innate goodness, what I would call the unshakable goodness in every person, is so important right now, especially when you’re dealing with gang members. When we get to the place in our society where people demonize members of the MS-13 gang as “animals,” I would say that’s the opposite of who God is. That’s the opposite of the truth. People say, “Some people are just evil,” they divide people into “good guys” and “bad guys,” but I don’t buy that in any sense. At Homeboy, people who never felt that they were worth anything know they are worthy of love. —Pema Chodrön LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 32