(Monday • 6 March 2006) I’m thinking about faith.
Many of my progressive Catholic friends miss the rituals and mysticism of their faith but cannot in good conscience participate in what they describe as a repressive and greedy organization. These days, their evolving spiritual practices include worshipping the moon or Spiderwoman weaving this big world. Others have joined Unitarian Universalist fellowships. And others use energy work and meditation to fill the void.
I once worked with a group of radical Catholic activists who rented whole floors of apartment buildings that we used as stealth offices. Priests’ or nuns’ bedrooms were off limits, but everyone otherwise walked freely between apartments, setting up women’s pottery collectives in Nicaragua; acquiring, organizing, and delivering humanitarian aid to Central America; writing inclusive non-hierarchical lectionaries and responsorial psalms; working to end the death penalty and to free Mumia; working to include women in the distribution of holy sacraments; editing and creating an inclusive non-hierarchical Bible; thwarting the anti-choice movement and the many sexist bishops who oppose women’s equality.
The founders of this organization—a Jesuit priest and nun—have since been excommunicated, but their work goes on.
One of the many things I learned as we ate our hummus and bean sprout sandwiches was that the now rabidly anti-choice Catholic church actually allowed abortions until the late 1800s, when the pope conveniently declared abortion an excommunicable offense just as France’s diminishing birth rates threatened its ability to maintain a strong army.
(Not coincidentally, the emperor declared the pope infallible soon after this decree.)
Matthew Fox, another radical Catholic, said
There are two Christianities in our midst. One worships a punitive father and seeks obedience at all costs. It is patriarchal, demonizes woman, the earth, science, gays, lesbians and deep thought. It builds on fear and it supports empire-builders. Its theology includes a Punitive Father in the Sky and teaches original sin.
The other Christianity recognizes the Original Blessing that all beings derive from. We recognize awe, not sin, not guilt, as the starting point of true religion. We recognize a Divinity who is source of all things and is as much mother as father, as much female as male. We honor creation and diversity. When God created everything, He pronounced it all good. We are here to make love to life. Yes, we are here to make love to life… Delight in creation and take your dreams into our politics and institutions….
We live in the midst of a suicidal economy, motivated by love of money. We have reached a dead end. What we need to turn it around are hearts in love with life. How do we do it? We first must move from domination to partnership and we begin by educating our young in awe and wonder, not how to take tests. Awe leads to reverence which leads to gratitude which will reinvent our species. This is the task of our generation, to regain awe. The 3 R’s need to be balanced by the 10 C’s; contemplation, creativity, chaos, compassion, courage, critical consciousness, community, celebration, ceremony and character.
I don’t recognize a divinity as the source of all things but do recognize that it is possible that we, plants and animals and people alike, could make up a larger soul (but not in an icky Borg way).
And we certainly make up boocoodles of matter and antimatter.
I also favor the notion of honoring creation and diversity, and appreciate the notion of being here to make love to life and delight in creation and take our dreams into our politics and institutions.
As Barbara Kingsolver says,
The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what to hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can't say it. Elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers or the destroyed. That's about it. Right now I'm living in that hope, running down its hallways and touching the walls on both sides.
LISTENING TO: Ferron (Beware you sagging diplomats for you will not hear one gun, and though oceans lie between us, we will not be undone. And it won't take long . . .)
READING: Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes
BEST-OF SPAM: A cure for every disease!