The God of Shit

Shit was a word that was prohibited in my childhood home.  We tried alternatives:

"Oh, crap!"

"You're not going to use that word in this household!"

"Oh, crud!"

"That means the same thing!"

Thus three four-letter words were eliminated from my useful vocabulary at a very early age.  I grew up not liking them.  I advanced in wisdom and age not using them.

Now it wasn't that there was no strong language used around our house. One of my sisters mentioned that my father spoke five or six languages.  My mother only three:  English, German and Profanity.  English was the language used with the natives and the kids; German with the few Austrians and Germans in Cheyenne, Wyoming who weren't ashamed to continue speaking it while World War II raged on; and, Profanity which was reserved to use on my father on special occasions when my mother had a need to verbally dump on him.  There is an explanation as to how my mother learned each of these three languages but I will share that another day.  I would also like to add that I think my mother was a very holy person.

The point that I would like to establish at the very beginning of my blogging life is that I grew up hating the word "shit." All that changed one August day in 1985.  That is when I walked onto an island of fecal material, a place called Nueva Tacagua, which lies hidden on a mountainside on the periphery of Caracas, Venezuela.  In architectural terms, Terrace B of Sector C of Nueva Tacagua was a "terrace."  In reality, according to a Jewish reporter who visited it one day, it resembled a concentration camp. For census purposes, I went to House #51.  For descriptive purposes I arrived at a pressed-cardboard shack covered with corrugated tin sheets to keep the cardboard from crumbling after sopping in a tropical rain.

I had been there once before.  However, looking a bit bewildered a little boy, Luis, asked if he could help me find my house.  When we arrived at #51, I was about to put down my bag when Luis said, "Caca." That's a word parents in Venezuela use with their children to say, "watch out."  It also means "poop."  Luis was using the word with both meanings.

Black sewage water ran in front of my doorstep, along the back of the house and to one side.  I don't think there was a square inch of land on Terrace B that had not had animal or human excrement on it at one moment or other.

Stepping over the open sewer, I entered my new home.  There, for the next eight years I would have the privilege of being with some of the finest people on the face of the earth.  But it was a part of the face that had a huge scar, a black scar.  Let us be clear:  a shitty scar.

I was now surrounded by the word I grew up hating.  I had come as a Catholic missionary priest, supposedly, I guess, to preach about God.  Instead I began a sincere reflection based on the theological statement of some bumper stickers of that time that read: "Shit Happens."

The bumper stickers that had "Jesus Saves" never impressed me as anything other than as advertisements for the banking industry.  But "Shit Happens"-there was a true theological concern.

If God was the God of everything, then God was the God of shit, too.  Why does it happen?

To me, that is a fundamental question that not only theology must confront but one that haunts every segment of human existence.  It is a problem that many people face daily, that all of us experience at least from time to time.

I won't write more about that now but before concluding I would like to say that I hope that what I write will in some way serve "the little people" of the world.  Little people are those whom others look down upon for whatever reason.  Most people I have known have been little people.

That contact with the little people, including my years in Nueva Tacagua, gave me insights into many aspects of life that I had never considered before.  Gradually in the weeks and months ahead, I would like to share some of them with you.

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