Photograph by Mac Kilduff
This Father's Day, I woke up early to attend church with my wife and daughter. It was my child's first time attending church, and my second time attending my wife's church. Normally, as an atheist, I wouldn't go. I have nothing against going to church or Mass (I will go with my parents to Mass because it makes them happy); it is just not something I have any interest in. The reason I had an interest today was because I learned that at 10:00 a.m., the downtown churches would all be ringing their bells in support of Mother Emanuel, the parishioners there, and the nine people who lost their lives.
Growing up in the Catholic Church and going to Catholic schools, I was taught from a young age to be socially active. Part of our education was to do community and church volunteer work. I became an alter boy as soon as I could. I also would go on mission trips with our church's Monsignor (Father Allen), where we would bring clothes, food, school supplies, baby products, and other items to the poor. The Catholic church that I belonged to was also unique in the fact that it had a priest who was married. Father Kuhn was one of the few priests in the world that was married with the blessing of Pope John Paul II. These two priests were hugely influential on my upbringing, advocating for various social issues—promoting racial equality, advocating on the part of prisoners, helping the poor, being church leaders that were vocal in their support of gays and lesbians. And while I may be an atheist today, I feel like Fathers Allen and Kuhn would be comfortable knowing that I took away these lessons.
So, today when I attended church with my wife, I was pleasantly surprised to see my wife's pastor speak on a topic of social importance. He called for a ban on guns, the removal of hateful symbols, and an openness to dialogue about race. And while I disagree with him about some things (I would've called for the removal of the flag of the army of Northern Virginia from statehouse grounds and told my parishioners that to vote for someone that supports it is morally wrong), it was nice to see leaders in our community take a stance.
Father's Day was a fairly somber day this year, but sometimes the best days, the days where you feel like you and your community have moved forward, are. Don't forget the people that were shot in a church because of the color of their skin. Pass meaningful legislation now, and remove that flag. And promise to not vote for politicians who continue to support it. I'm talking about you, Glenn McConnell and Nikki Haley.