Season 2 - Episode 2: Father Greg Boyle
Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of the largest gang rehabilitation center in the world, discusses the radical power of kinship. "Father G" as he is most commonly referred, shares his own formation journey and calling into vocational ministry. His stories and experiences of finding God in all things are sure to inspire any listener towards a life of radical kinship.
In the face of law enforcement tactics and criminal justice policies of suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence, Fr. Boyle, his parish and community members adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treat gang members as human beings.
In 1988 he founded what would eventually become Homeboy Industries, a conglomerate of social enterprises employing and training former gang members in a range of vocations, as well as providing critical services to thousands of men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life.
Father Greg is the author of the 2010 New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. His 2017 book is the Los Angeles Times-bestseller Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.
Fr. Greg Boyle: The God's dream come true is, as Jesus says, that you may be one.
Kinship is God's dream come true.
Sara Barton: Hello. My name is Sara Barton and I am the university Chaplain at Pepperdine University. Welcome to Pepperdine Spiritual Life Podcast. A podcast about how people in our community, along with our friends and guests are finding and joining God's good work in the world. Jesus said, "Seek and you shall find." I will be talking to people who are doing just that. So let's get started.
Sara Barton: Today my guest is Father Gregory Boyle, aka Father G, aka Pops. Do I have any other names that I have forgotten there?
Fr. Greg Boyle: None that I can repeat on the air.
Sara Barton: Okay. Greg, Gregory I'll call you. Greg, Gregory. What do you like?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Nobody calls me Gregory, that's for sure.
Sara Barton: Okay then, I'll call you Father Greg. Welcome to the podcast and welcome to Pepperdine and welcome to my home where we're hosting this podcast. Thank you for speaking in Chapel just a few minutes ago.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Sure.
Sara Barton: We really loved having you there. And then you for meeting with some of our non-profit students in just a little while. You're getting around to many constituents at Pepperdine today. So I have a bio here for you. I'll read a few items and then you can add a few more if you like. So you're a Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit order. You are the founder and director of Homeboy Industries, the world's largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program, with degrees in Philosophy, English, Theology and Divinity. You're the author of two great books, Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir. By the way, we love those degrees in our house. You cover all the same ones that we have. Philosophy, English, Theology, Divinity, so you're right at home. And you are in the California Hall of Fame. You've been awarded numerous civic Medals of Honor and Humanitarian Awards. So this is the bio. Anything you would like to add to that?
Fr. Greg Boyle: No, that I like you to... you've got everything.
Sara Barton: Got everything. Well this is your bio. The things that people read when they turn to the back of the book or they introduce you in public. I'd like to know, what is your spiritual life bio, if you were going to add some to that. How would you describe who you are as a spiritual person? Where you started out? Where you are now? This is Spiritual Life Podcast, so what's your spiritual life bio?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah, well I was born and raised in Los Angeles by exceedingly Catholic parents. So that was part of the air we breathed, it was sort of the Catholic life, and we were kind of a Norman Rockwell painting, every Sunday. It was my parents and the eight of us, walking to church. And so that was the life into which I was born and raised. Then I was educated by the Jesuits and then this was a time when Vietnam War, and so I found them, this combination of prophetic and hilarious, which I love that combination so I was very attracted to it. I thought, "Wow, I'll have what they're having." Because-
Sara Barton: The Jesuits are hilarious and prophetic?
Fr. Greg Boyle: The Jesuits, yeah. So I saw the Jesuits and I said, "This is... they're remarkable." And there were lots of them when I was taught. So I was drawn to it and so I joined the Jesuits. Once you're a Jesuit, you're kind of steeped in the spirituality of Ignatius. Saint Ignatius of Loyola and he has the spiritual exercises which is a very deeply, sophisticated, psychological kind of construct that has a way of seeing God and that's quite large and spacious. In fact, Ignatius always talked about, "The God is always greater." I think it's [Trisha Favela 00:04:25] who says, "Our notion of God is like a jar, we're always breaking." That we're supposed to break it because, to make room for this larger notion of who our God is. And I like that about Ignatius and all these other things. About the discernment of spirits and how do you know if you're in fact doing what God wants you to do. Things like that.
Sara Barton: Do you remember your first thoughts of God seemed like to you as a kid? As a young person?
Fr. Greg Boyle: You know, our faith journey, for everybody, it's always subtraction. It's like on a boat and you have to jettison things so that you can stay afloat. So you're always discarding things, notions of God that are tiny and puny and partial, so that you can arrive at the God we actually have. So there were quite a number of things. There were jarring notions of God that I went, "No, I don't believe in that." So then you come to a sense of there's a huge gulf and difference between belief in God and knowing the God of Jesus. So, part of the task, I think in one's own life is to reclaim the mysticism of Jesus. It's like with Moses. Moses talks to God face to face. That's way different than belief in God. So you're always moving from the third grade, graduating to a higher level.
Sara Barton: We would hope.
Fr. Greg Boyle: You hope.
Sara Barton: We hope, yeah.
Fr. Greg Boyle: And you want to make sure you're not stuck, because then you've created God in your own image.
Sara Barton: What was your calling into ministry, and to be the priesthood? When did that happen? Was it when you were young, teenager?
Fr. Greg Boyle: I was pretty young. I was young. Again, I was educated by the Jesuits and I entered the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus, 47 years ago last Saturday. So, your reasons to enter are never the reasons you stay. But, I wouldn't trade my life for anybody's, it's led me to... more than half my life I've lived in Boyle Heights and worked with gang members, so that's been a gift.
Sara Barton: Well somehow along the way in all of this, you became an entrepreneur. You got into businesses like baking and tattoo removal. How did that happen? Were you surprised when you ended up doing the things that you're doing?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah. I would never identify myself as an entrepreneur, although I get invited to, "Come speak at our social enterprise, entrepreneurial conference." I go, "Why? I don't get it." So everything was by accident. One thing followed the next and you're responding. So there's no big game plan, certainly no business plan. And then all of a sudden some movie producer says, "How can I help you?" And he's quite wealthy. And I go, "I don't know. There's an abandoned bakery across the street from our elementary school. You could buy it. We could fix it and repair the ovens and call it Homeboy Bakery." So that was the absolute, utter extent of my entire business plan. That was it.
Sara Barton: That was your entrepreneurial impulse.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah, so it was never... I never read anything or knew anything.
Sara Barton: Yeah, a master of Divinity doesn't really prepare you for...
Fr. Greg Boyle: No, no it doesn't prepare you for much of anything really, when you think about it, though I loved my three years studying. It was a delight. People come in with alarming tattoos and want them off, "Well okay, let's find a doctor with a machine." When people are dealing with extraordinary trauma, we go, "Well, what if we had therapy?" Now we have four paid therapists, but 47 volunteer therapists, including two Psychiatrists who prescribe meds. We never set out to do any of that stuff, but you back yourself into doing those things.
Sara Barton: ... So what all is encompassed with Homeboy Industries now? It started with a bakery and now there's so many more aspects of it. Tattoo removal, mental health care, Homegirl Café, is that what it's called?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sara Barton: How many people do you employ?
Fr. Greg Boyle: We're quite large. So 15000 folks a year walk through our door. So keep in mind, according to the Sherrif's Department, there are 120000 gang members in LA County, 1100 gangs. So, my guess is there isn't a zip code anywhere in the county that has a gang that hasn't seen members of that gang walk through our doors. So we're in our fourth headquarters after 31 years. And the centerpiece is our 18 month training program, so Homies want in on that, because it's a paid gig.
So we always want people to work on themselves. It's not just a job, it's about healing. It used to be job centered. Now it's healing centric. And tattoo removal, lots of circicular offerings, everything, like 50 classes, from anger management, to recovery, to grief and loss, how to manage your money, you name it and we've had it. And then case management navigators, and then we have nine social enterprises. So, we've a lot of food things, the diner at City Hall, we have a restaurant at LAX Terminal 4, Farmers' markets, Homegirl Café, the bakery. We have a Homeboy Recycling, which is electronic waste. We have a thing called Homeboy Grocery where we sell chip salsas and guacamole.
Sara Barton: Mm-hmm (affirmative), I've had it, it's good.
Fr. Greg Boyle: In supermarkets on both coasts. Homeboy Merchandise, Homeboy Silkscreen. So anyway, there should be nine in there, somewhere.
Sara Barton: Quoting you from chapel, that sounds great.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah, that's right.[inaudible 00:10:14]
Sara Barton: That sounds great.
Fr. Greg Boyle: You're allowed to say that.
Sara Barton: Do you think of... or did you originally, or have you ever thought about what you're doing as evangelism or as ministry, as mission? I mean, evangelicalism, and all that goes with it in our country right now is sometimes what people associate with evangelism. Is what you're doing evangelism? Is it mission? Is it... how do you think of what you're doing and what do you think God is doing?
Fr. Greg Boyle: The poet says, "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, that sings the song without the words, it never stops at all." So I think living the gospel is singing the song without the words. Boy, do we ever get stuck. There, we think it's about words. We think it's about message. And it's just almost never is.
Sara Barton: What you think in your head.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah. I mean, you want to live as though the truth were true. Jesus says, "My joy yours, your joy complete." So the measure of it is joy. So if it's infectious joy, then it'll be contagious. People will get it. So we don't spend a lot of time... I was once on the Christian Broadcast Network and a woman asked me what we do there and I told her all and I told her all the things I just told you from tattoo removal to training to welcoming them, so they can find some rest from their chronic toxic stress. Well, I went on at some length about what we do, and when I finish she made a phase. And she said, "Yeah, but how much time do you spend each day at Homeboy Industries praising God?" And I thought, "Wow, I don't know what to say." So I said, "All damn day."
Fr. Greg Boyle: And I don't think she liked that answer very much because that's what I think the whole thing's about. If the love is not concrete, Jesus is not interested. So we spend so much time talking about how wonderful Jesus is, and Jesus is rolling his eyes and dozing off. It's like praising God for being compassionate instead of being compassionate.
Sara Barton: That's good. Well-
Fr. Greg Boyle: I mean, God couldn't be even remotely interested in it unless it's translated, unless you're living as though the truth were true.
Sara Barton: ... Well, you see the young people we have. Well, we have many young people here. We also have non traditional students throughout Pepperdine University, but we work with a lot of young people. So if you were telling young people and advising them, this is how you're seeking the gospel, you're seeking to live out the gospel. What advice would you give young people about what that looks? If they're feeling... they're seeking, they want to serve, but they're figuring out some of the things that you're describing?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Well, it's a little bit like parenting. I mean that's become a truism. So people will say about parents and their kids. Your kids won't always remember what you told them, but they will never forget how you made them feel. And it consequently, it's the same kind of thing in the living of the gospel. It's how do you feel? How do you feel when you walk into Homeboy Industries? If you're bombarded with a message, "Wow, I'm not interested." But if you feel welcomed, if you feel included, well, that's huge. So Jesus took only four things seriously, they're big things, but they're only four. Inclusion, non violence, unconditional loving kindness, and compassionate acceptance.
Fr. Greg Boyle: And so part of the living of the gospel is to take those things seriously and then live those things. And that's where the joy is. It's not because it's harder, because the harder thing is just the harder thing. But you want to do the thing that most greatly resembles the kind of God we have, because that's where the joy is. There's a longing out there. I mean, even right now after the chapel, kids came up and I think they long for something. A connection to... I don't know, aspirational, and it's about imagining a circle of compassion and then imagining nobody standing outside that circle. So they connect to that, rather than it's all message. It's all insert message in their ear lobes, rather than, "Well, come on over here and stand here and watch what happens."
Sara Barton: You know, at Pepperdine, we talked a lot about purpose, service and leadership. That's in our mission, it's something we emphasize with students, but a critique of Higher Education is that we take students out of their places where they're from, we bring them into the Educational Enterprise. It is not just a critique of Pepperdine, but a critique of Higher Education. And we educate them for a life of individual pursuits and upward mobility. So you will move in your life, you'll go where you... to get the better job you'll do... you have... You're working and serving in a place where you're from, where you... I mean you went and did some things outside of this area but you know this place, Los Angeles, you know it really well. What do you think about Higher Education, and what are some of your thoughts on students going to college and what we are doing? We're listening because we know it's important to listen. You're educating and in some ways in a very different way. You're a part of education as well. What do you think about the Higher Education Enterprise in your own experiences, or just as you look at it?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Well, we have a thing called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, JVC, and it's like the Peace Corps. And its graduates, mainly of our Jesuit Universities come and take a gap year and for a year, and they service. And their informal motto is ruined for life. And that's what you want to expose students to. So you want at every juncture, you want to turn things on its head. So there's the notion that at every graduation I've ever been at somebody is going to use the expression now go out there and make a difference.
Sara Barton: Change the world.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah. But if I don't know how to do it, how do you cling to the notion of make a difference without it being about you? And it can't be about you. And so that's how you turn that on its head. So you go, "No, don't go to the margins to make a difference, go to the margin so that the folks at the margins make you different. So that the widow, orphan, and stranger change you." So we go to the margins, we go, "Now, what do I do?" No, it's not about what you will do. It's about what will happen to you here at the margins. So I was in Chicago and a young woman who was in her senior year at a university there came up to me and she said, "I'm afraid to go to the margins." I said, "Why are you afraid?" She said, "I'm afraid I won't fit in." And I said, "As long as it's about you, you'll always be afraid."
Fr. Greg Boyle: And I couldn't believe that left out of my mouth like a big old frog, but I think it's true. And it can't be about you. Otherwise, it's about fixing and saving and making a difference. Which is part of the problem why people burn out. It's not because they're just the most compassionate people you've ever known, it's because they've allowed it to become only about them. So I don't tolerate that. We have 87 senior staff at Homeboy, and if they come and there, "Wow it was me, and oh my god I guess I'm just so compassionate because I'm burning out." I go, "No, that means you're doing it incorrectly. It means you've made it about you. But the minute it's not about you, you will never be depleted because you're going to the margins. And oh my god, this... you delight in people and you're allowing yourself to be reached by people rather than spending your day trying to reach people."
Sara Barton: I love the idea. I think now we have a new tagline ruined for life, I think that will sell, right? But-
Fr. Greg Boyle: [crosstalk 00:18:43] I think that's what you do here because you have a certain kind of idea about what's the point of education. And if the education can ruin them for life, wow, that's a wonderful place to be.
Sara Barton: ... A higher aspiration.
Fr. Greg Boyle: It is because then it's... then suddenly they're putting first things recognizably first. And you go, "Oh, okay." And you don't do it because it's harder, but that's where the joy is. And they won't know that until they've turned this whole thing on its head. Service is good as far as it goes and it's where everybody starts.
Sara Barton: Purpose is good. As far as it goes.
Fr. Greg Boyle: But service is the hallway that gets you to the bottom. You want to get to the exquisite mutuality of kinship, where we belong to each other, where we're connected to each other. Because that's where the joy is, and people don't know that. People think it's just doing the hard thing.
Sara Barton: I read your book about kinship, Barking to the Choir, I love it. I hope many who are listening to the podcast will read it and Tattoos on the Heart as well. So kinship you did to explore, in the book, is that something you've been talking about and doing and living into the last, did you say 31 years? Or is this something that's recently, language that describing what's happening? How did you come to the focus of that book?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Well, I think it has evolved over the years. But it's... you kind of say, "What's the point of all this? Well, how do we stand against forgetting that we belong to each other?" Not us and them, just us. And so the just us is kinship connection. I always call it the exquisite mutuality because there's no daylight that separates us. It's not service provider, service recipient, it's not the golf that we imagine, it's not about me lifting people up. We never say at Homeboy, we transform lives. We never say that. We say that here in this community of tenderness people can find their transformation, because that's where it happens. In a place of tenderness and where people are cherished.
Sara Barton: I know Notice that you mentioned in the book as you talked about kinship the father wound. Describe that for our listeners, what is the father wound? How does it come up in your work? What is the... you mentioned a reparative process associated with that. What is that about? How can you teach us...
Fr. Greg Boyle: Well, I can't pretend to know the psychology of it all I mean, but every gang member has a problematic relationship with his father. And so that's a canyon that needs to be filled and made straight. It's funny a Homie the other day said to me, I love my father, even though I never met him. And you go, "Wow, I'm not even sure how you pull that off." So there's a notion of father and men especially need to have that connection where they need to be fathered. And it's not about having the father they never had. It's all about knowing that you're a son worth having, and that's key. And I again, I don't pretend to know exactly all the contours of that, but I know that Homies find that, and discover that, and then it enables them to develop resilience that they didn't have before.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Of course, Homeboy is like a sanctuary where they can find rest, and be cherished, and then they become the sanctuary that they sought their, then they go home to their kids. And for the first time they're providing that and you are breaking a cycle at that point. They've all decided to become the fathers they never had. Or if they did have fathers, they're almost all problematic. Can't think of a single Homie, honest to God, where that was a relationship that was intact. But of course, kids join gangs because they're despondent, they can't imagine a future, they're mentally ill, they're hugely damaged and traumatized, and the absence of the father can contribute to that.
Sara Barton: Does that seem true with your... Do you call them homegirls? The women that you're helping as well? Is there a father wound there? Is it a mother wound? Is it similar?
Fr. Greg Boyle: I think it's similar. So it's interesting with women because we live in 2019 and so you want equality for women. And yet, we started Homeboy Industries, and nobody question that because gang members are 97% male. And though there's an increase in females going to prison, there's probably a decrease in women connecting to gangs. And if the Sheriff's Department who keeps tabs say it's closer to 10%, it's because they don't know how to count. They go, "Well, that's not that's not a gang member, she's the girlfriend of that gang member." So they don't really know how to... They think gang associate is a thing and it isn't. Having said that, we now we're at 40% female, but we could never find female gang members because they're just not out there.
Fr. Greg Boyle: But the profile of a female gang member is really quite wounded, just generally speaking. Almost a hundred percent have been sexually abused, hundred percent. And just damaged beyond belief. And which makes sense because gangs are the places kids go when they've encountered their life as a misery, and misery loves company, but with Women, times a hundred. So we relaxed our rules a little bit. Every male there is a gang member, but the females are at least felons, have been to prison. Otherwise we wouldn't have any females. But they're surely more complicated. Back in the day, I was on the state commission that inspected the Youth Authority Facilities. And I was always struck by the ratio of therapists in the male facilities, as opposed to the female. There was only one female facility, but it was just... I can't remember what the ratio was just huge that they had way more mental health staff in the female because the damage was just so pervasive.
Sara Barton: With what you know about gang members, what do you wish people knew or understood. People who don't know or understand the world that you're a part of, and that people you're engaging with, what do you wish people knew?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Well, I think part of the thing hurt today when I get introduced a lot like that where it says, "He tried something new treat gang members as human beings." But the goal in life, of course, is to see as God does. And so for 35 years, I've worked with gang members, I'm 65 years old, I've never met an evil person. Now, I've met a lot of people who have done bad things, have gone to prison, who have killed others. I've never once met an evil person. Now, you would think maybe I might have because I probably know more gang members than anybody, but I never have. Because suddenly you can... You're ushered into a new way of seeing, which I would humbly submit is that God wants to get underneath stuff.
Fr. Greg Boyle: So when people want to say, bad hombres or this guy is... these are just bad people, then you know that God doesn't agree with you. Because God isn't... I'm not more compassionate than God and I get this, where you can get underneath stuff, and you know that violence is a language and what languages it's speaking. And so, pretty soon you're able to stand in all at what folks have to carry rather than in judgment. And that's how God sees, I think.
Sara Barton: What do you think keeps people from seeing others as God sees. Is it... I mean, they're Christ following, Jesus following people who say that they would like to grow in their faith, but they really don't perhaps see others as God sees them. What advise do you give? How do we learn that?
Fr. Greg Boyle: It's interesting... Well, its funny in John's Gospel, he talks about the sin of the world. But what he's not talking about, is it singular. It's one sin. It's not your sins, my sins, it's not about a purity code. It's one sin. And the one sin is scapegoating, dehumanizing, the creating the distance between us. The God's dream come true is as Jesus says, "That you may be one." The kinship is God's dream come true. So whatever keeps us from that is the sin of the world. These are others, they don't belong to us. The original covenant says, God says, "As I have loved you, so must you have preferential care and love for the widow, orphan, and the stranger." And God identifies those folks because God thinks these are the people who know what it's like to have been cut off. And precisely because they've suffered in that way, God thinks they are our trustworthy guides to get us to kinship.
Fr. Greg Boyle: That's why you go to the margins. Not to make a difference, but that they can guide you. I heard a theologian named Ron Rolheiser, who talked about the widow, orphan, and stranger and he says it doesn't connect to modern ears because we go, "Well, we like widows. Orphans melt our heart." Stranger, maybe less especially nowadays, but they'll seem like odd personifications of the sub groupings of people who have been cut off. And he said that the widow, orphan, and stranger represented this notion. People looked at them and said, "We can live without you." Which is a fascinating concept.
And so the opposite of that, to see as God sees is to say, "We can't live without you, we won't live without you." So that's where I am in terms of the... with gang members. Because especially when I started, they were the most dehumanized human beings in LA. Now, maybe that's Change. They didn't belong to us. And as Mother Teresa says, "The problem in the world is that we've forgotten that we belong to each other." So it became clear to me, "Well, that's what I'm going to stand with. And I'm going to cast my lot there." But that notion of we can live without you, is really to my ears, well, that's sort of different and the sin of the world says, "There are lives out there that matter less than other lives." And living the Gospel is standing against that.
Sara Barton: That's so good. I mean, some of that is how we see others, and some of
its how we see God. So many people maybe have this vision of God as angry wanting
to judge, and that might send us to a fiery pit forever. I mean, that is the vision
many people have of God. So how does our vision of God impact how we think about our
own sin and the sin of others?
Fr. Greg Boyle: That's the whole thing. Again, as I said this morning in Chapel, I think it's the most consequential notion. That will determine everything. Now people think it's, "Oh, it's on Sunday, I'll I think about God, but during the week, I'm going to do this." No, this is... once you can't align yourself to the God of Jesus, and reclaim the mysticism of Jesus. And it's odd, and these are controversial things, but find me a mystic who believes in hell, and I will think you have located somebody who's not a mystic. And the reason is, as they grow and leave behind their third great notion of God who's vengeful, as they grow in this face to face knowledge, they go, "No, that's impossible. It's impossible." And you go, "Yeah, This is the God who loves us without measuring without regret. Who's all welcome, God is inclusion."
And yet because we're unsophisticated and lazy, frankly because those thoroughly good human beings are unshakable good. But it's hard for us to access that goodness sometimes, because we get tired and we're lazy and we want to cut to the chase and we're okay with being unsophisticated. So like Julian of Norwich who's great mystic, she's trying to struggle with this notion that says, we have an angry God or even if you look in some prophets who say slow to anger, you don't stay angry forever, but she gets to a mystical place where she goes, "No, God is in fact never angry. It's not who God is." I tell a story in the book where a woman very educated which wasn't the case, mainly in our base community, all women monolingual, no men, because the women said Men are cowards, that's why they don't come to these meetings because there was consequences to being in these groups. And a woman had a flyer brochure about some woman who had a vision in Bayonne of heating up tortillas and she turned it over and there was Maria and oh my god, let's build a cathedral.
Sara Barton: Is that the name? Yeah I've known it.
Fr. Greg Boyle: That's right. Yeah. It was some big thing, and she's going, we're all going to hell in a hand basket. And I remember [00:33:29], who's since died. And she kind of very humbly raises her finger like this and somebody calls on her and she says, "You know, I can only speak Spanish. I've never been to school. I can't read the Bible, and I certainly can't read that brochure you've brought here." But then she sits up and she goes, "I'm going to tell you something. God is not like that." Now, where did that come from? From her theological study? No. She had moved from a belief system, to a face to face knowledge of what kind of God we have. Where she could say with utter confidence, God isn't like the god you're talking about, with a confidence that blew me away. And I thought, Yeah, that's it.
Sara Barton: She's a witness to something. Yeah, she's a witness to...
Fr. Greg Boyle: And we're all invited to discard whatever thing we cling to, our third grade notion of God who if we just pray to him, we'll pass the math test even though we didn't study and we still live out of that. And that's just lazy with all due respect to people who still believe that stuff. Is just you're not even trying when you still cling to that God who's exacting, and vengeful, and angry, and pissed off, and can't you do anything right?
Sara Barton: That's no good news.
Fr. Greg Boyle: But we have that God. That's the God that people still think.
Sara Barton: Many do. What's it like to see a Homie embrace the God who's not vengeful? I mean, are there times when you see people light bob come on or is it you?
Fr. Greg Boyle: I don't think its about a light bob. And I don't think it's so much even an insight. It's, how are you choosing to live? How are you with people? We have a guy who was shot in the head and was in a coma and walks with some difficulty and his arm doesn't cooperate with him. He was telling me not long ago about this guy who walked in. He didn't even tell me who it was he said, "He was the guy who shot me." And then he said, "You hired him." And this guy gives tours, the crippled guy. And he came in and walked with him, and we have what we call shadow. So somebody will give the tour but if you want to shadow him, learn how to give tours, and we have six tours a day from folks from all over the world. And so this guy who shot him walked with him. So, Jesus says, "When you say an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth, I say, love your enemies." And then Jesus hopes will do him, better do one better. And so these two guys-
Sara Barton: Go the extra mile.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Well, the extra mile is not to have enemies at all. To move beyond love your enemies to not have any, that's different. And God isn't saying, "Oh no, no, I'm saying just love them." You can still have them. Like I read this thing in [inaudible 00:36:35] the other day where I just took my breath away. And it was some woman who was saying, "We need to return to the discipline of loving your enemies. But before you do that, you need to have enemies, you need to know that you have enemies." And she named a guy who was the acting Director of ICE. She named him and said he's my enemy. And I go, "Wow. No, I hate to break it to you. And it's completely otherizing and it's dehumanizing and it's the sin of the world. Come on."
Sara Barton: [crosstalk 00:37:10] any otherizing.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah. I was horrified. I go, "I love that magazine. What are you doing? Don't say that." But I looked at me and I go "Young." I mean, this is what we did when we were young. Because you want to be [inaudible 00:37:26], you want to have opponent and you want to slay the bad guy. And there are no bad guys.
Sara Barton: That's good. Well, let me ask you. What are some traditional Christian practices, some... It can be individual things you do on your own, or things that you experience in community that fill you, so that you mentioned earlier, people burn out. How does your faith fill you so that you have the energy to do what you do? I mean, you've been through many years in the same place doing what I would think of is pretty hard work, you have probably experienced and had support, and you've also had people who criticized you. So what sustains you?
Fr. Greg Boyle: Well, I think you want to have a light grasp on things, so I don't really care about evidence based outcomes and success, I don't care. Mother Teresa says that we're called not to be successful but faithful. So as long as your anchor is fidelity, I'm going to be faithful to... I just want to love being loving, not return, I don't care if people love me back, and you're endlessly trying to shake that stuff off. But it's mainly about being anchored in the present moment. Rumi has a poem where he's talks about how we're invited to live in the infinite moment where everything happens. I always talk about the living room. You want to stay in the living room, but sometimes you leave your chair in the living room or anchored in lament. Which, what happened yesterday, I'll call that the bathroom.
And, or you're anxious about tomorrow, which I would call the kitchen. Not that you obviously need to go to both those rooms, but you want to stay in the living room because that's why they call it living. It's the present moment where you're delighting in the person right in front of you. That is what sustains you. In lament can't get a foothold if gratitude cut their first. So, you want to be grateful all the time right here right now. I mean, it's the key religious anchors, is the present moment, and we're only saved in the present moment. So why would you choose to be someplace else?
Sara Barton: But isn't it anxiety and depression are so linked to well, our worries about the past and our regrets about the past and our worries about the future?
Fr. Greg Boyle: And that's what Ignatius does about freedom. It's all about freedom. Jesus was free and so you just choose not to do things like guilt or disappointment, or success or failure. You let go of those things. You try to have a light grasp on stuff so that you can be right here. This is a silly example. But it happened the other day. I was coming home from a flight, I had two Homies with me. And we were packed in some kind of little tunnel. This is going to be the silliest example. But you could tell everybody was filled with anxiety and exhausted and people are speaking Farsi over here, and some people are speaking Spanish. We're all packed. It's like something of a tunnel.
Fr. Greg Boyle: And you could tell that there was this collective anxiety and worry about, what are they returning to? What are they going to encounter? When all of a sudden there's a voice on the loudspeaker and it says, "Hi, this is Jimmy Kimmel, welcome to LAX. We apologize for the construction but you'll forget all about it as soon as you're on the 405." Well the whole tunnel exploded in laughter, and I thought, "Isn't that interesting?" It brought us to this present moment where we were... as dumb as an example that is, but it was... and the Homies were laughing and the people speaking Farsi were laughing, apparently they also spoke English. They all just enjoyed each other, being in this present moment. And it wasn't about what you flew home from or flying home to. It was suddenly kinship, connection, humor, which I think is essential. Because, humor keeps us anchored in the duty to delight and in the people who are right here with you, so that you don't get ahead of yourself.
Sara Barton: That's good. We just did the simple practice of being present in the moment, in my body, with others who are around me. That's essential.
Fr. Greg Boyle: That's right. And that's hard. That's the whole thing about breathing. And I always tell the Homies, because they always text me a thousand text messages and they'll... hair's always on fire and it's just, "Okay. Breathe. Don't forget to breathe." Because the breathing connects you to the present moment. Now once you go, "Okay, I have to do this in and do this out. And okay, I'm here."
Sara Barton: That's good. I try to practice Breath Prayer, and it's helpful.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah, it's extremely helpful.
Sara Barton: Breathing is not something we always do. Well. It's funny that-
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah. Or that we're conscious of, or aware of.
Sara Barton: Yeah, but it's so central to our life. I like that. Well, I want to do something. I'm going to read from Matthew chapter five, and we are including this passage in all of our episodes for season two on the podcast, and so we're interested in your reaction to the passage I'm going to read. So I'm going to read it and then I'm going to just ask you, how do you see the truth of this sermon being lived out? How is this being lived out? Or how would you hope it would be lived out? So, I'm reading from Matthew chapter five.
Sara Barton: When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up to the mountain and after he sat down, the disciples came to him. Then he began to speak and taught them saying, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. I'll stop there. We could go on and on. But how do you see this passage?
Fr. Greg Boyle: [inaudible 00:43:54] always come back to... I'm trying to remember his name. He was the South African theologian, who was tirelessly working to dismantle apartheid.
Sara Barton: Desmond Tutu? No, different one?
Fr. Greg Boyle: No, it's not Desmond Tutu. I can't remember his name. But I remember reading a book where... he's a scripture scholar and so he said that we've translated this as blessing or happy are. And he said that the original language once you stare at under a microscope, didn't stand for bless it or happy, it stood for you are in the right place if, you're single hearted, or work for justice, or-
Sara Barton: Merciful.
Fr. Greg Boyle: ... merciful.
Sara Barton: Pure in heart.
Fr. Greg Boyle: And so I always like that because I thought we're still spiritualize this. Where we think it's a spirituality but it's really a geography, it tells us where to stand. And that's key because we try to do it without moving. We try to do it without standing. We will Try to do it without going to the margins. And then we spiritualize, and then it becomes a poster. Where we stand is everything. And so, if you stand at the margins with the poor, and the powerless, and the voiceless, and those whose dignity has been denied, you're standing in the right place. Blessed are you.
Not in a sense of you are elevated to some place of superiority, but blessed are you because that's where the joy is, that's why you go there. And I always feel fraudulent because people will say to me, "Oh my god, it must be so hard, and blah, blah, blah." And I go, "Gosh. No, it's where the joy is." So I wouldn't trade my life for anybody's and for all the heartache, and all the things you feel, and all the kids I've buried, and all the two steps forward, eight steps backwards, I still wouldn't trade any of it. It's all just a total gift. But that's the blessed part. It's not... am just thinking of that now. It's not the, you've arrived at righteousness, boy are you a good person?
Sara Barton: Or life is going to turn out easy, or you're going to be... get lots of money. You are going to-
Fr. Greg Boyle: Yeah or we're like the-
Sara Barton: ... the hashtag blessed world.
Fr. Greg Boyle: ... Yeah, what's that gospel? I mean, not the gospel, but the thing where you are successful, and make a lot of money. What do they call it?
Sara Barton: Prosperity gospel.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Prosperity gospel. Yeah, it's like that. You'll be blessed if you do these things. You're going to have two cars instead of one. But it's really about joy.
Sara Barton: That's a good word. Well, we're coming to a close for our time. We're running out of time, and I'd like to ask you if possible, if you could just provide a blessing. Interesting, that we've just used the correct word of blessing. Could you provide a closing word of blessing for the Pepperdine Community?
Fr. Greg Boyle: So I would pray that people... That we all stay anchored close to the bone of the gospel, that we choose to take seriously what Jesus took seriously, that we find the joy in the only place that were offered it, which is at the margins, so that we enter into exquisite mutuality with others, so that there is no us and them, only us, that we might be in the world who God is open hearted, tender, compassionate and kind. And may we continue to be remarkable signs of God who loves us, without measure, and without regret. Amen.
Sara Barton: Amen. Thank you so much for that prayer.
Fr. Greg Boyle: Sure.