“To believe is very dull. To doubt is intensely engrossing. To be on the alert is to live, to be lulled into security is to die.” -Oscar Wilde
INTRODUCTION: OBSESSED WITH THE FUTURE
The first part of the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent describes apocalyptic events and signs in the heavens and includes an ominous warning. One is not expecting to hear a text like this when one is busy getting ready for Christmas. Shopping and parties for this mainly secular event leave no place for an apocalyptic text. People want to hear “Silver Bells” and anticipate that “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The Gospel reading inaugurates the Season of Advent with this apocalyptic description: “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Mark 13:24-25)
When Jesus goes apocalyptic we overlook what is happening in our present time and focus on the hopeless future. And, who doesn’t think about the future? We save for a rainy day, we plan when to buy a home and how to send our children to college, and we hope to retire in comfort. We protect ourselves against future misfortunes with varieties of insurance. We’re obsessed with the future and hardly notice the present time in which we are living. And when we look at the present events we tend to believe that we are living in the last days of earth’s history. The Gospel reading concludes with a sharp command from Jesus, “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:37)
PART ONE: GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS?
When Jesus speaks about the apocalypse we feel hopeless because the future for us looks bleak. So, I ask you, when Jesus went apocalyptic, was it good news or bad news? I guess that would depend on your view of the present and how you see things going. I’m reminded of a story about a group of American Bible workers who were visiting believers in a part of the world that was being torn apart by terrorists. One night, after a long day of observing horrific events in their area, everyone was gathered in a room talking about the day’s troubling aftermath. Someone suggested going around and reciting passages from scripture that would offer encouragement and consolation about their situation. Most everyone recited the usual texts like John 3:16 or the 23rd Psalm. When the turn came to a local woman, she recited in her native language the last verse of today’s Gospel reading. Many of the bible workers were totally confused as to why she picked this verse, and how she found comfort in its words. Later that night they learned that this woman’s entire family had been recently killed. The promise that the Master of the house would soon return to his loved ones gave her comfort after the loss of her family. And by being alert and watchful of her present environment she was able to nurture hope for the future by keeping aware that she was moving forward.
PART TWO: OPERATION ENDGAME WAS FAKE NEWS
James Thurber was an American cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit. He gave us this advice: “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” A wise council that, so few follow. However, I did meet two activists who were aware of what was happening in the immigrant community, and they were fearlessly moving forward with a strategic preparation plan for the undocumented community. I met Tony and Linda Herrera at an organizational meeting during the 2008 presidential campaign of Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Tony and Linda were Latino activists who had founded “Unidos en Arizona” (United in Arizona) and I was impressed with their sense of urgency and watchful attention toward national and local developments regarding the immigration crisis facing Arizona. As Tony was leaving the meeting he asked me what I thought about “Operation Endgame” and if I believed it was real and in full operation.
In 2005 the leadership of Unidos began to sound the alarm that an extreme form of persecution was going to befall the undocumented community of Arizona. By 2007 Unidos discovered a plan developed by the Department of Homeland Security was in the works entitled “Project Endgame.” Its objective was the removal of all “deportable aliens” by the year 2013. This reality had implications on the order of magnitudes regarding the wholesale disruption that would be created once this plan was set into motion and an entire community across the country forcibly uprooted, rounded up and deported. Like leading the lambs to the slaughter, the failure of the majority of Latino leaders and activists to analyze for themselves the facts surrounding the warning from Unidos and having blind faith and adopting a “this could never happen” attitude resulted in the undocumented community of Arizona being unprepared for what was coming their way.
The election of President Donald Trump has created a situation nationwide that has begun the process of reversing the living standards, environmental protections and the social safety net of the American people in general and those of communities of color and the Latino community in particular. Aside from an agenda based on fanning the American public’s fears and stereotypes, especially around immigration, immigrants and undocumented immigrants, in particular, President Trump’s agenda has brought out of the woodwork, and into the forefront, the racist elements that have for the most part previously remained silent. President Trump’s proposed immigration policy has zeroed in on the presence of the undocumented community across the country.
The warnings Unidos en Arizona sounded ten years ago when Tony and Linda first got wind of a plan to wipe the undocumented community off the U.S. map, called “Operation Endgame” is finally upon us, leaving no doubt that the entire Latino community — both immigrant and nonimmigrant – face immediate and long-term threats to the general welfare, safety, and quality of life.
The general mission of Unidos is to defend and promote the long term interests of the Latino Community. The clear and present danger is to our most vulnerable members, the undocumented residents. It is with this in mind that we must direct the focus of our efforts to meet this challenge and extend the protection of our entire community on their behalf.
Beginning this fall USBN will begin broadcasting a new series entitled, “Endgame.” The program will share progressive political commentary, offer spiritual insight and report the latest strategies and tactics being brought together by Unidos and their allies to combat President Trump’s proposed immigration agenda.
PART THREE: A NEW ENDGAME PARADIGM
The name “Endgame” was chosen for the name of the series and is a term taken from the ancient game of chess–which is a game of strategy and tactics. During the “endgame” phase of a chess tournament–the common “pawn” becomes the most important piece on the board. Consequently, the name “Endgame” for the title of the show was picked because of the two factors about the game of chess that apply and relate to social activism—strategy/tactics and the importance of the pawn. I believe the endgame that we’re currently playing is against corrupt political powers and greedy corporations who will be challenged. I have faith that the “pawns” of our society who are diligent students of strategy and utilize an effective agenda, will be victorious.
A well-played chess game has three stages. In the opening, the players bring out their forces in preparation for combat. The middlegame begins as the players maneuver for position and carries out attacks and counterattacks. The final stage is the endgame when, with fewer pawns and pieces left on the board, it is safer for the kings to come out and join the final battle. The first part of the “Endgame” program will present the opening topic for commentary, followed by a segment that will include spiritual insight into the commentary. The third and final piece will be an ongoing series of SKYPE interviews with Endgame’s field correspondent, Tony Herrera. Tony will report the latest developments of Unidos as it continues to develop and join other community groups and allies who are ushering in a new epoch of community unity, growth, and enlightenment. Please continue to remember USBN and “Endgame” in your prayers.
In his book, “Advent Conspiracy” Pastor Rick McKinley asks, “Are you tired of how consumerism has stolen the soul of Christmas?” In his book he shows how to substitute consumption with compassion by practicing four simple but powerful, counter-cultural concepts: Worship Fully-because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus! Spend Less-and free your resources for things that truly matter. Give More-of your presence: your hands, your words, your time, your heart. Love All-the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, and the sick in ways that make a difference. Pastor McKinley asserts that Christmas can still change the world when you, like Jesus, give what matters most-your presence. When Jesus goes apocalyptic, it is a shout out for us to be ever alert and diligent in our present moment and to be hopeful and watchful, keeping the Advent of Jesus foremost within our hearts. On behalf of Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network, I wish you all a blessed Season of Advent, a merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Fr. Rick Romero is priest in the Old Catholic Churches International. He is a friar in the Order of Saint Francis, Old Catholic. He is the founder of Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network and is a tireless advocate for social justice.