Racial Harmony

The quest continues

By Father Joseph Doyle, SSJ

A protester is detained by Louisiana law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge July 9. (CNS photo/Jonathan Bachman, Reuters)

A protester is detained by Louisiana law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge July 9. (CNS photo/Jonathan Bachman, Reuters)

In light of the atrocious acts of violence over the past few months, new fears have arisen in both the African-American and white communities. People wonder when it will end and some ask themselves what they can do about it. One answer to the problem lies in the word: harmony.

Almost ten years ago, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, of the archdiocese of New Orleans, wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racial Harmony. The document demanded that all people recognize that we are brothers and sisters made in the image and likeness of God and that we treat one another accordingly. The archbishop called for an end to discrimination in schools, workplace and housing.

At the end of his letter, he offered many practical suggestions as to how individuals and parishes might work to bring about racial harmony. Now, ten years later, we can look back and see that some progress has been made.

At least there is more diversity. But diversity is not harmony. It might be a good starting point to have people who are different rub shoulders with one another, but that is not harmony. Many places of employment, institutions of learning, public service, etc. are diverse in terms of age, sex, race and religion, but often harmony is lacking.

When we think of harmony we think of music – how different notes, played on different (diverse) musical instruments, produce beautiful music. Unfortunately, some modern music lacks harmony and thus does violence not only to the ears, but to the soul. Likewise, some modern art lacks harmony in color, shape, texture, and so on, thus producing violence not only to the eye, but to the soul as well.

Harmony begins with oneself. It is called inner harmony when a right-ordered, virtuous life is the result of a right-ordered relationship with God. In the Catholic Church, the sacramental system, tradition, teachings and the witness of holy people are great advantages to living a harmonious life. From the harmonious individual, the ripple effect spreads to the family, from the family to the neighborhood and workplace and from there to the rest of society. Acts of violence find no place in such an environment, but because of original sin, they will always exist to one degree or another.

Ultimately, God is the one who brings about harmony, just as he did in the beginning with the creation of the universe as we read in the Book of Genesis. Through the original sin, Adam and Eve lost the inner harmony they once had. The Good News is that Jesus Christ restored the inner harmony to humankind by his life, death and resurrection – not only for individuals, but for communities as well.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see how there was harmony among the first Christians, not perfect but enough to have observers remark, “see how the Christians love one another.” Love is at the center of a harmonious life. It is God’s solution to the problem of violence in our society.

Father Joseph Doyle is novice master for the Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

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