R eflections from the Editor For All the Underdogs among—and within—Us When I was a kid, I loved the cartoon character Underdog. With his scrawny arms, rounded belly, and pinched voice, he was the canine version of the 90-pound weakling. Even while routing a criminal enterprise or rescuing Sweet Polly from an alien kidnapper, he experienced humiliating setbacks. But no matter how many times he got flattened or thrown or pummeled—whether by the enemy or through his own clumsiness—in the end, he prevailed. At 4, I laughed at his cartoonish antics and mishaps; 44 years later, I marvel at how he modeled the life of faith. Without our Superpower, we are like Underdog’s alter-ego, Shoeshine Boy, “humble and lovable” but helpless. With our Higher Power in place, we may, like Underdog, stumble and gather bruises along the way—but we rise to the challenge and prevail somehow at the last. One of the things that attracts me to Father Greg Boyle, featured in this issue’s cover story, is that his faith is at once cartoonishly outlandish and pragmatically unidealized: He sincerely believes in the power of “boundless compassion” to transform former gang members’ lives, and he knows that the road to transformation is rutted with blunders and setbacks. When Boyle’s Homeboy Industries welcomes young people whose lives up to that point have been defined by gang affiliations, violence, and criminal activity, he draws on every available remedy to deal with their scars and deficits. He prays with them, and he trains them. He loves them, and he employs them. He promises them God will never abandon them, and then he walks alongside them every day, putting flesh on that promise. Outrageous and real. Like Underdog.
2 PRISM Magazine
You’ll find that the underdog story informs all the other features in this issue as well. In Managua, children who have been abandoned because of their disabilities, or who have become disabled because of abandonment, find a true home among the Christian women of Mustard Seed Communities. The staff have the precious—albeit unesteemed—privilege of loving their Lord through the least of these his children. In cities across the United States, young people raised in this country but undocumented through no fault of their own are finding the courage to step out of shame and hiding and raise their voices to say, “I am important. I have something to offer. Hear my story and allow me to share my life with you.” Their yearning to give back to a society that often vilifies and spurns them inspires us to see them and other undocumented immigrants in a new light. In Egypt, people of every age and faith who have long felt they had no say in their country’s governance are joining their voices to demand democracy. The new bonds being created and strengthened among the Egyptians offer hope to the whole embattled region, showing the power available to us all when we cross social and religious divisions to work toward a common goal.
At the end of the day, we’re all called to be Underdog the Slightly-Less-thanSuper Hero. We’re called to perk up our ears at the sound of injustice, to rush to the aid of the weak, and to restrain the oppressor, whether that oppressor be government, society, gang culture, or simply the spirit of despair. In Psalm 82 we hear God calling corrupt judges to the carpet for not doing their job—a job that, in reality, is shared by us all: “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough, you’ve let the wicked get away with murder. You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break. Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them” (v. 2-4 in The Message). Well, if those aren’t words to stir the soul I don’t know what are. Makes me want to jump up and sing the Underdog theme song! Any other Underdog fans out there? If so, join me as I sing: Speed of lightning, roar of thunder, fighting all who rob or plunder— Underdog! Underdog!
Make your PRISM experience even richer by engaging your small group in a discussion of the topics raised in the magazine. You’ll find challenging study/discussion questions for each issue at PRISMmagazine.org. Kristyn Komarnicki is editor of PRISM Magazine. She is particularly passionate about fighting for underdogs in the areas of human trafficking, education, and the criminal justice system.