World News and the "Holy Remnant"

By Will Baker

I was up late last evening. And after a few glasses of wine I found myself watching a newscast. As I sat there in my living room, with the Vermont winter night’s cold pushing in all around our snug little home, I watched images of violence, mayhem and suffering flash before me. The news announcer had one of those trademark BBC broadcaster voices…"This is Nigel Lennon…BBC World News." And what a dubious record of human achievement this hour of "news" provided me with.

And I had to ask myself: "what is up with humanity?" For we all know, when we compare what we see going on all about us, to what we know has occurred time and again throughout history, that there are certain unfortunate themes that seem to repeat themselves over and over again. Call it a consequence of the Seven Deadly Sins, or of the Human Condition; call it what you will, but the fact is that collectively, we do have the capacity to treat each other quite poorly sometimes.

Some time ago I was having a chat with a dear friend of mine. He is a priest, nearing his retirement. Although I have only had the pleasure of listening to him preach for a relatively short time, his message sometimes resonates with me in a way that helps me to pull together all of my prior experiences, allowing me to make sense out of my entire life, past and present. Anyway, one of his lesser themes, which he has been hammering home, at least in the waning years of his active ministry, is the notion of "human advancement" [towards actualization], with advancements in technology, and in my opinion, communications technology in particular, as a factor.

He is firmly convinced, and can make a compelling argument that, "never before in the history of mankind, has such progress been made in the areas of peace and social justice, than in the Twentieth Century." He rightly points to examples such as the Civil Rights and Woman’s Movement to bolster his case, and his words ring true. And sometimes, but with less frequency he talks about the "Holy Remnant"- the folks, usually older woman, who attend daily mass at our church. By the way, to my mind, when I think of the Holy Remnant, a whole host, including those old women, comes to mind: Good folks, most not church goers at all, keeping the faith in their own ways. Yes, through thick and thin, they are humanity’s corporate memory. And it seems to me that, over the years, due to the reasons cited above, their increased ability to communicate with one another may have allowed some progress to be made towards the attainment of a certain level of "critical mass" necessary for our collective enlightenment. And if that is true, well then they should have our thanks.

Yet our capacity for love, mixed with acts of hatred amazes and confounds me. What is up with humanity? What goes through our minds to prompt us to sometimes act the way we do? I have to ask myself, where is our empathy? It seems to me that we sometimes have a curious habit, perhaps even a need to create categories of "others," and that this practice might make their mistreatment easier. For if they aren’t one of us, then maybe they don’t feel what we would feel in their circumstance.

Whatever the reason, it is a curious dynamic. That love and hate can exist side by side, almost as if they sometimes seem to be somehow balancing each other. But from where I stand I give thanks for the Holy Remnant; quiet guardians of the faith. And I share the Preacher’s optimism. Something is certainly calling us forward, individually and collectively to be something better than we are. And the World News Hour serves its purpose. It seems to me that, at the very least, it is a reminder of how much farther we have left to go.

 

 

 (Essay Collection)