As Christians around the world prepare for the canonization of Mother of Teresa of Calcutta, Salon Magazine has responded as one might expect: by smearing the Nobel laureate who spent her entire adult life serving the poorest of the poor.
Her crime? According to Salon’s George Gillett, Mother Teresa “was motivated by a desire to fulfill her own religious convictions rather than altruistic concern for the world’s poor” and therefore didn’t evaluate her work by “the utilitarian principles by which humanitarian efforts are ordinarily judged.”
In other words, at best Mother Teresa did the right things for the wrong reasons. As long as you serve the poor and needy without ever looking heavenward you are fine, but as soon as you say “our works are only an expression of our love for Christ” and you become guilty of the worst violation of secular humanism, or what Gillett calls “her religious agenda.”
Mother Teresa was guilty, in fact, of the great modern sin of political incorrectness. She freely and unapologetically invoked her love for Jesus Christ as the reason behind everything she did, a practice that is anathema to a world antiseptically cleansed from the grime of religious sentiment.
“I see Jesus in every human being,” she said. “I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
Mother Teresa has been pilloried for her open Christianity despite the fact that she was an avowed enemy of proselytism in her work with the poor. She served without ever making conversion a condition or even an aim of her care.
“We never try to convert those whom we receive to Christianity,” she said, “but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence, and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men—simply better—we will be satisfied.”
Teresa believed that those who find love, find God, and that the best way to bring people to God is by sharing our love with them. “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier,” she said. “Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
Gillett is having none of it. Fondly quoting Hemley Gonzalez, the leader of an online campaign called “STOP the Missionaries of Charity” dedicated to destroying the order founded by Mother Teresa, he says: “If people knew what she was actually like, they would find her repugnant.”
Mother Teresa, Gillett writes, was rightly taken to task for an attitude of “glorification of suffering instead of relieving it,” a strange way to describe the work of a woman who woke up before dawn each day of her life to alleviate the loneliness and pain suffered by countless men, women and children left to die on the streets.
Mother Teresa’s politically incorrectness didn’t end with the invocation of Christian motivation for her work. She also attacked some of modernity’s most sacred icons, such as abortion, which earned her the enduring ire of secular feminists.
In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she dared to say: “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself.”
Planned Parenthood nursed a special hatred toward the Albanian nun for her powerful condemnation of abortion, and in a 1986 article titled “Mother Teresa, the Woman of My Nightmares” let its bile run freely.
“This very successful old and withered person, who doesn’t look in the least like a woman, especially when she raises her clenched fists in prayer, and who, for us, is a very suspect holder of the Nobel Prize,” Planned Parenthood wrote in its official publication Sexualpedagogik, “has become for us the symbol of all that is bad in motherhood and womanhood, an image with which we do not wish to be associated.”
“You, you nightmare of women! You unliberated, enslaved wives, mothers, nuns and aunts, what do you want from us, who have finally decided that we are going to take control of our bodies, our children, and our destiny into our own hands?” it ran.
Which only goes to prove the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.
Gillett concludes his article in Salon by trashing Mother Teresa’s life’s work as unworthy of remembrance.
“Judged by any metric of medical standards, it is difficult to remember her legacy as anything other than an inefficient, sanctimonious and wholly ideological franchise,” he writes.
Yet in the end, Mother Teresa had the best possible response for naysayers like Salon Magazine, and even from beyond the grave she has the last word.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
And from her position now, the little nun who served the poorest of the poor knows she was right.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome