A Little Meditation on the Magnificat

He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away. (Lk 1:51–53).

As a general rule, we like our Mary to look this way when she says this,

Magnificat | "And Mary said: 'My soul proclaims the greatnes… | Flickr

because then it’s pious and we don’t have to think about it. It’s a nice sentiment applicable to people like Herod and Hitler and we can think about beggars in 1950s biblical epics sobbing with gratitude without having to apply it to our lives.

Ocassionally, when we are enjoying the medieval capacity for piety which appreciated Mary’s more formidable side, we will savor thinking about Mary this way:

Blessed Virgin Mary Punching the Devil in the Face Poster | Zazzle ...

And we know, theologically, that Mary is the “terror of demons” who often gets invoked as the defender of children and other oppressed people. So there is a certain amount of room in the American Catholic psyche (largely formed by the experience of oppressed Catholics from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Germany and similar lands that have been under sundry bootheels) for seeing her as the defender who is not hesitant to whack the devil with a Big Stick:

The Download—Our Lady, Help of Exorcists, Terror of Demons

Relatedly, the biblical view of God nearly always sees him from the perspective of the underdog. He is the champion of–and in Jesus he stands alongside and is one of–the oppressed, not the oppressor. He picks a side, and does not spew “Both Sides” bushwah in order to crush the oppressed with guilt in addition to their poverty and powerlessness. He practices what Holy Church calls the Preferential Option for the Poor. He says, literally, “Blessed are the poor” and “Woe to you who are rich”. No. Really. It’s right there in Luke 6:20 and 24. You can read it yourself.

But there are limits in American Catholic piety for the Mary, Champion of the Underdog narrative. Namely, when we stop being the underdog and start being the oppressor. We like being the hero, not the villain. We like saying “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” as a way of saying, “You’re just as bad as me, so get off my back” not as a way of saying, “I am not fit to be called your son, Father. make me one of your servants so I can just get a decent meal.” We suffer, as white people in the US, from Disney Princess theology:

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And so the words of the Magnificat above coming from this Mary are instantly perceived as a threat and draw the reflexive cry “Stop politicizing the gospel!” from anxious white conservative Christians faster than you can say “knee jerk denials with a side order of systemic racism”.

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Painting by Tim Okamura

The funny thing is, you don’t have change a word of the Magnificat quoted above to fill prosperous white conservative Catholics with anxiety and resentment. The reason those words sound like something coming out of a BLM bullhorn at a peaceful rally is that the Civil Rights movement is a huge by-product of the gospel at work in that part of the Church–the African-American Church–that preserves the experience of Christians being persecuted by the rich and powerful.

You simply have to put those words in this mouth in this painting and the fury at “politicizing the gospel” comes pouring out from Good White Catholics. And the most impressive part? You needn’t say a word to or about the people who get furious over such a representation of Our Lady. They do all the work themselves by the reliable tactic of saying, “I resent your blanket accusation!” when nobody has accused them of a thing or said a word about them. The “I furiously deny that I fit the shoe I am desperately trying to put on” response is one of the weirdest reactions of the Good White Christian confronted by the challenge of persecuted brown Christian brothers and sisters.

Which brings me to the case of Gloria Purvis, of which more tomorrow.


52 Responses

  1. I read something recently (and unfortunately didn’t save the link) that said the idea of America loving an underdog is false. What we love is an underdog story. But unless and until the underdog wins, we hate them, because we hate losers.

  2. The BLM bullhorns are largely being manned by white college kids….and a serious chunk of the black communities are -laughing- at them.

      1. Absolutely, no disagreement from me. But then I’m one of those librul demonrats that actually believes in law and order and nonviolent protests.

        I’m sure you’d say the same for heather heyer, or George Floyd.

      2. ben said: “Absolutely, no disagreement from me.” It’s come out that in the case of the STL mayor, the “protesters” tore down an iron gate and threatened to murder the McCloskeys. Do you still consider them peaceful protesters?

      3. @ken w.

        This is an interesting claim. So I looked it up. Fortunately, Bright fart boys Posted a link to an article describing the incident in the daily mail. No I should say that the daily mail is not exactly my idea of a good newspaper to go to when you want facts and reasons, sober analysis. But this is from the daily Mail article:

        ‘I thought it was storming the Bastille’: Missouri lawyer couple who brandished an AR-15 and handgun at protesters who they say broke down their mansion gate claim they were ‘in fear of our lives’ and were told they ‘would be killed’
        Husband and wife, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, were seen aiming guns at demonstrators who walked by their palatial property in St. Louis on Sunday evening
        Mark, 63, spoke out Monday claiming the protesters tore down the gate into their private community
        He said they were having dinner outside when a ‘hoard of people’ crashed through the gate
        The lawyer alleged they were in ‘fear of our lives’ and received death threats from the crowds and described the incident as ‘storming the Bastille’
        A livestream of the incident shows the protesters walking through an open, intact gate
        They are immediately met with an armed Mark McCloskey yelling at them to ‘get out’
        Police said Monday that the McCloskeys would not be charged
        There is an ongoing investigation into trespassing and assault by intimidation against the couple by protesters in the crowd
        The protesters were en route to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home to demand her resignation.

        So, if your accounting of the story were true, I would agree with you. But apparently, that seems to be some disinformation.

        If you look at the pictures, that hasn’t seem to be a fence in sight. McCloskey’s weren’t standing in front of their gate, they were standing out on the street where anybody could’ve reached them. If my life is being threatened by armed thugs, standing right out in the open with no protection isn’t the sort of thing that I would do.

        So, to be fair to your comment into you, I have no idea what the actual truth is. But if the daily mail says that this was all a fabrication, I’m gonna go with that

      4. Didn’t get this from Breitbart. Don’t read them.

        The McCloskey’s lawyer is claiming there was a 911 call prior to this, and the police declined to respond. Leaving the McCloskeys feeling they had to fend for themselves. Don’t know about you, but I want to hear that 911 call.

      5. Heather Heyer and a George Floyd were both victims of horrific crimes.

        In both cases, authorities moved swiftly to detain the perpetrators and prosecute the cases.

        In Heyer’s case, justice has played out and her perpetrator will never see life outside of incarceration. Am I the only person that thinks his copious amounts of prescribed anti-depression cocktails deserves attention?

        In Floyd’s case, the process is moving much faster that normal, and Floyd’s perp is denied bail while this plays out. We will see how he pleas this week.

      6. Heyer’s killer was apprehended on the spot and incarcerated immediately. If the 4 days it took Freeman and Ellis to charge Chauvin is too long for you, your beef is with them. It’s my opinion they resisted mob mentality and practiced great restraint when taking a little of time to examine the evidence and decide exactly what charges they were confident they could make stick before reigning in Chauvin.

      7. So what does that mean? You have to televise every death by a policeman to get the authorities to act?

      8. @toughluck said: “So what does that mean? You have to televise every death by a policeman to get the authorities to act?”

        In response to her opinion on the subject, Dave Chappelle said Candace Owens has a smelly*vagina*. That was televised.

        A black politician that has been working on police reform for -5 YEARS- sees his efforts beat down by -white elitists-. That too was televised.

      9. @Ken W

        Goshes. The further adventures of Ozzie and Harriet White is already falling further apart. Not a big deal in and of itself, but the spin being put on it by the right wing is a story. From Right wing Watch…

        Turning Point USA chief creative officer Benny Johnson attempted to claim that a white ​couple that aimed firearms at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis​, Missouri, were not supporters of President Donald Trump​, but rather Democratic Party voters. Johnson turned to Federal Election Commission data to support his claim, but there was a problem: ​He found the wrong guy.

        If Johnson had bothered to continue scrolling on the election data page​ or had taken a few additional seconds to check where the individual he singled out in his tweet registered their donation from, he would have seen that ​the​ Mark McCloskey he found was another man by the same name who lives in Michigan—not Missouri. Rather, the gun-toting McCloskey in Missouri is recorded donating $2,700 toward the Trump campaign and allied Republican causes during the 2016 election cycle.

        For the record, I don’t approve of lawless behavior. but so far, peaceful protesters have bee labeled as violent, and that seems not to be the case. The “innocent” “victims”– plenty of quote marks are gonna be needed for this– turn out not to be Evil Demonrats who are hypocritical and pandering to those poor, iggeruunt darkies– but Jabba the trump lovers.

        I have a strong suspicion that a lot more nastiness is going to unfold.

        You bring the popcorn.

      10. “ St. Louis City Counselor Julian K. Bush affirmed that Portland, as well as several other streets in the West End, are indeed private.

        “They are owned by the property owners, and the owners pay for them, the street repairs and maintenance,” Bush said Monday.

        “The city has no right-of-way onto those streets,” he said.

        Bush said homeowners are within their rights to exclude people from either driving their cars or walking through those areas.”

        If the city counselor is correct, then the protesters were trespassing.

      11. Ken, My position is the homeowner should have just gone to talk to the folks instead of pulling guns on them.

      12. My position is the McCloskeys should have just stayed inside and let the situation play out. By the letter of the law, the McCloskeys had every right to brandish their weapons…..even use them. The way I know St. Louis and Missouri sentiment, the county prosecutor could get a indictment and likely even a conviction, which would likely be overturned on appeal at the district or state level. The protesters were on private property. They knew that. They admitted that. They might get away with that in St. Louis. They would not get away with that in Lone Jack.

      1. I’ve resided, studied, worked, worshipped, and served in the urban core for 4 decades. Far from a snow white Olympus. I did not explain anything to anyone. Rather, I listened to them.

      2. A black politician that has been working on police reform for -5 YEARS- sees his efforts beat down by -white elitists-. Exactly -who- is on Snow White Olympus?

      1. Go into the urban core and “listen”. You will find some that affirm your preconception. You will find some that do not affirm your preconception.

      2. @bensnewlogin:

        I listen.

        From my own backyard to an opinion on the other side of the world and all points in between.

        From as far left as Democracy Now! to as far right as Mark Levin and all points in between.

        I think listening is a lost art.

        Forgive me if I tend to give more weight to what I see and hear firsthand as opposed to reading it in the Federalist or the Huffington Post.

    1. You can’t read, or possibly can’t add up, or both.
      You said:
      “The BLM bullhorns are largely being manned by white college kids”
      In the article you cited says: “46 percent of those who said they attended a BLM protest are white.”
      46% is less than half.
      (And the survey your article links to states that 41% of those marching are under 30, which is again less than half, and “under 30” isn’t “college kid” either.
      So 0 out of 10 for accuracy, basically.
      Oh yeah, and your citing of “Free West Media”, which appears to be some kind of alt right site blithering about the “deep state”, puts racial equality in scare quotes, and talks about the “alleged” fight against discrimination is not a good look.

      1. Never read Free West Media before now. I Googled the topic, that link popped up, saw they cited Pew. Is Pew “alt right”?

        There are plenty of voices in the black community, liberal and conservative, that are expressing very real concerns that the significant (no matter how you crunch the numbers) presence of white democrats is nothing more than pandering, and that after November, those same white democrats will be nowhere to be found. Their concerns are justified. Candace Owens on the right and Fr. Pfleger on the left have been talking about this for years. Hawk Newsome was just talking about it today.

    1. Possible mistake, Mark. A friend wrote me and said it was THOMAS, not Roberts. Either way. 😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😬😳😳😳

  3. No, it was Roberts. Happy, MAGAs? You elected a traitor for nothing.

    Meanwhile, Susan Collins better start figuring out how to file for unemployment bennies.

    1. I’ve sure her brow will be deeply, deeply furrowed in consternipation. If she really feels emotional, she may well wring her hands. That’ll show them.

    2. “You elected a traitor for nothing.” Yeah, it’s clear that the GOP have never cared about the concerns of socially conservative Christians. No matter – they’ll keep voting against those socialists because JUDGES! regardless, because you KNOW what happens when those godless, gay-loving pinko commies get hold of things!

  4. There’s a prayer to Our Lady, Queen of Angels, that calls upon Mary as the commanding officer of St. Michael. Very powerful.

    1. Found it. Yeah, it commands St. Michael to protect us but then it continues on to all bishops (including Roger Mahoney, a demon according to many ultra right Catholics), clergy, etc. and then all public servants from mayors down to teachers. None of which I disagree with. But nary a word about St. Michael filling the poor and helpless, and sending the rich away hungry. Unless there’s another one out there, not quite the Magnificat. 🙂

      Just a side note: the Psalms and a lot of the Old Testament prophets contain exhortations to the kings (presidents), judges and the government about feeding the poor, caring for the sick and orphans, treating immigrants as if they were citizens, etc., etc. Not one word about not taxing the rich to provide for that. It also has a lot about corrupt kings and judges.

      1. This is the one I had in mind:

        August Queen of Heaven!
        Sovereign Mistress of the angels!
        Thou who from the beginning
        hast received from God
        the power and mission to crush the head of Satan,
        we humbly beseech thee
        to send thy holy Legions,
        that, under thy command
        and by thy power,
        they may pursue the evil spirits,
        encounter them on every side,
        resist their bold attacks
        and drive them hence into the abyss of eternal woe.


    1. I simply believe that Tim Scott, Fr. Pfleger, Candace Owens, and Hawk Newsome deserve equal voice on the subject. 2 names from the right, and 2 on the left. What they have in common is they have all expressed concern that the white liberal presence is mere pandering, and that same white liberal presence will abandon the black communities come November…only to reappear next election cycle. There is precedent for their concern.

      In case you missed it, I spoke positively of Freeman and Ellis earlier.

      1. I agree that we whites have failed to provide sufficient support to people of color. I know that I lack passion to sustain the effort to support the struggle of my fellow humans. For most of the time I am asleep and awaken when a crisis of conscience arises. Therefore, I am part of the problem that resists change even if I believe in change.

      2. Oh really?


        Mississippi election commissioner: “I’m concerned about voter registration in Mississippi,” the commissioner wrote. “The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too.


        Equating black people voting as “voter fraud”, is a hallmark of white racist Republican party. This racism is not headed by Trump, but Chief Justice John Roberts.

        It is John Roberts who is the leading racist today. He is the cunning brain behind the charges to deny black people the right to vote. He is the one who struck down the Voting Rights Act. Trump is just smoke, that will vanish.

        John Roberts and his buddies on the court are pure evil. They are the moral philosophers that drives white racism, and they are the one’s building it’s intellectual, political and moral framework, along with racist Catholic Bishops

        Whites have systematically suppressed blacks at the voting booth since ever. Whenever blacks organize and try to assert democratic power, their leaders have been killed, or barriers erected for them to vote.

        Setting up less polling booths in black precincts, so that they have to stand in lines for half a day and lose wages, to vote

        Prosecuting and incarcerating blacks at higher rates, criminalizing an entire race, and then denying them, as felons, the right to vote. See Florida where people overturned by referendum, the law that ex- felons cannot vote. Ergo, more blacks could vote. Republican lawmakers still gutted the reform, the courts struck down the Republican Shenanigans, and now the Republican thugs are appealing to a court packed by Trump and Mitch and Rethuglicans, all to deny black people political power.

        Voter ID laws, another barrier to poor black people to vote. Supported by Republicans and John Roberts

        Your crocodile tears and concern trolling don’t fool us . We are not idiots, who cant see through your adolescent logic

        This will end when John Roberts find that the Court has thirteen members. We will make it happen.

  5. Most nations are both Israel *and* Egypt, though generally not simultaneously. Even Israel is both … israel and Egypt.

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