On Pious and Empty Platitudes
AZ Spot just quoted the dumbest thing I’ve ever read by Chris Hedges. (And “Dumb things by Chris Hedges” is a big category:
Religious leaders, in churches, synagogues and mosques, at best voice pious and empty platitudes about justice or carry out nominal acts of charity aimed at those bearing the weight of resistance in the streets.”
If Hedges had said “at worst” or “too commonly,” I would agree with him. Religious leaders too often limit their engagement on justice issues to platitudes or minimal acts. This is often coupled with the implication that caring for the vulnerable is an act of individual virtue rather than a collective mandate. Feeding the hungry becomes more about assuaging individual guilt for living in a world with hungry people than about refusing to tolerate a plentiful world that allows people to go hungry.
But when Hedges says “at best,” he’s denigrated thousands of religious leaders who have dedicated their lives toward fighting injustice. A recent pastor of mine, for example, spent a term in prison for trespassing on a military base while protesting the School of Americas. The protest marked the slaughter of six Jesuit priest who had also lost their lives for believing too strongly in justice. The protest was inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero who was assassinated after calling on soldiers to stop violating basic human rights. Romero, in turn, was profoundly influenced by the assassination of Rutilio Grande, who was also killed after working on behalf of justice.
One of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s more famous writings is “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings are in “Letters and papers from prison.” Your books don’t get titles like that for pious platitudes.
If Hedges wants to criticize those who aren’t doing the work they should be doing, fine. But he need not disparage those who have given their careers, their freedom, and their lives for a passionate belief in justice.