Thursday, March 26, 2015

When the fruit is ripe

“When the fruit is ripe, it falls.”
 Ralph Waldo Emerson
For more than five years I have devoted energy and time to serving Mary Magdalene, First Apostle, a Catholic womanpriest community—writing for it, writing about it, talking about it, promoting it.

It has been fulfilling and satisfying. I think women priests are the most effective challenge to the Vatican as it continues its unjust treatment of women. I will continue to promote MMFA and Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP). They have enriched my life and I expect this to continue.
MMFA has been a way for me to find out about myself. It has been a good chapter in my life, one that helped to shape me into the person I am.

But when the fruit is ripe, it falls. The time became right for me to leave the community as an active member. While the decision was forming in me, I expected sadness to cloud my days afterward. Instead, relief and excitement bubbled up even before I left the meeting that clinched it. In the days following the decision, exhilaration and joy surprised me. My inner being knew it was right for me before my outer being knew it.

I hope some of my contributions—blogposts, opinion pieces, Intercessions for liturgies, the website, and more—continue to serve MMFA. I invite readers to my biggest project for MMFA: Mary Magdalen, First Apostle.

I marvel at the good feelings unexpectedly bubbling up, showing the finger of my Spiritual Guide in coming to this decision. Amazing! I don’t know where this will lead me but know my Higher Self always is ready to guide me.

In retrospect I see how my Inner Beloved was preparing the ground for this development. Every morning and several times during the day I send requests to Her for guidance:
Direct my thoughts, words, actions, decisions, and feelings.
Recently I focused on releasing attachment to specific results, letting Her be free to guide me in ways I cannot foresee. And so She surprises me with this. I trust more surprises await, not necessarily all pleasant, but all ready to shape me into a better person.

I cannot imagine having never interacted with the inspiriting and holy people I met through MMFA and RCWP. I cherish them, and on a lighter note, I cherish the cat stories some of us cat-lovers shared when we got together to plan liturgy.

I’m leaving because my purpose in life at this time—to encourage spirituality free of religion—does not match that of MMFA. As an educator I like to nudge people out of familiar grooves of thought toward new and broader frames of thought. Toward deeper meaning. The divinity of Christ stands for each of us being an incarnation of divinity.

Thank you to those who have reached out after learning that I am leaving, and thank you to those who encourage me to continue writing. I perceive growing hunger for moving beyond traditional Christian teachings. Cradle Christians express gratitude for the challenging information I offer in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky: Cherishing Christianity without Its ExclusiveClaims. I assure you I will continue writing. Another book is beginning to take shape.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Liberating God from Patriarchy

Language shapes consciousness and consciousness shapes reality. That’s a bunch of abstract words, but if we understand the meaning of these words we can see that continuing to pray to a lord has devastating consequences for the human race.

We need to follow models like John Lewis, civil rights leader now in Congress, and Malala Yousafzai, the intrepid Pakistani teenager campaigning for the right of girls to education. At a ceremony commemorating the 1965 “bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama, John Lewis, a survivor of a nearly-fatal beating on that Sunday, urges civil right proponents to be bold,
Get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of America.
I invite Christians to push and pull until we redeem our patriarchal religion. I implore Christians who understand the far-reaching consequences of praying to a lord to resist it and model alternatives.

Christian God-talk that is consistently male promotes idolatry. The “Lord Father” image has become a god, an external deity, an idol. If this were not so, Christians would pray to God our Mother as freely as to God our Father. We would theologize about the inner realm instead of father and son. We would use terms like “Divinity,” “Infinity,” or “Sublimity” instead of “He,” “Him,” and “His.” We might refer to Her powerful help and pray,
God our Mother knows our needs.
We are hidden in the secrecy of Her divine protection.
She surrounds us with Her divine love, wisdom and mercy.
When troubles assail us, we turn to Holy Mother God.
If this prayer feels like blasphemy, dear reader, you have been praying to an idol.

Change happens as people feel safe to implement it, wanting to go only as far as is fairly popular. Standing up for gays, for instance, has now become acceptable, bringing more onto its bandwagon. Among Catholics, it has now become safe for lay people, not yet for Catholic institutions, to openly favor women priests.
But telling the truth about sexist God-talk … that still makes people nervous. The patriarchal lord-father still has many in his thrall. Until more of us speak boldly, in the manner of John Lewis and Malala Yousafzai, understanding cannot blossom. Until alternative ways of praying are heard, timid people will not feel safe to do it.

Let’s help human consciousness to evolve to a higher level. Dear Pope Francis and the entire Vatican need our fiery advocacy. Like John Lewis and Malala Yousafzai we need to move past fear and DO IT.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Catholic Civil Rights

On February 1, 1960, four Black students sat down at an all-white lunch counter in a Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina. They were refused service and told to leave, but they continued to sit there until the store closed. More civil rights protestors joined the peaceful protest, which spread from the Woolworth store into a massive boycott of stores with segregated lunch counters in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee as well as all over North Carolina. As sales dropped in the stores, owners were forced to give in and serve the Black students.

Continuing the movement on January 31, 1961, Black students ordered hamburgers at another segregated counter, were asked to leave, and stayed.  Ten students were arrested and sentenced to pay a $100 fine or 30 days in jail with hard labor. The NAACP offered to pay the fine, but Nine chose to endure the hard labor, beginning the strategy of “Jail, no Bail” to reverse the financial burden of protests all over the South.

Now the reason I tell this story.
On January 28, 2015, a judge vacated the convictions of the “Friendship Nine.” One of them said,
We knew that all of this would come to fruition and we would be exonerated.
We Catholics who support women priests and inclusive liturgical language know that all of this will come to fruition and we will be exonerated. 

At this time progress for women in the Church lags despite the kinder, more compassionate face presented by Pope Francis. On March 9, 2015, Lakshmi Puri  of UN Women appeared on the Newshour to assess the progress in equality of women worldwide. The story is not heartening. One in three women have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. I feel privileged to be among those who have not. No stats are available to tell us whether violence against women has increased or we just are more aware of it today.

In the field of religion, the most glaring inequality occurs in power and decision-making. Allowing more power to women is more than an issue of justice. When women control their own lives, they benefit not only themselves but their families, their communities, and consequently all of society. This was determined by Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. He says he prefers lending to women because they use the money more wisely than men—not on luxuries but on investments for the future of their families and communities. And he says they repay the loans more reliably.

Women with political power improve the entire field of politics. This is the conclusion expressed in articles, verbal opinions, and studies. Examples abound. One is a study by a Rutgers University center that found women make better politicians. Even recalcitrant cardinals now are giving lip-service to the idea of allowing women into councils of Catholic power.

The important word is “allowing.” Change for women won’t happen if it depends on what men in power allow. Women need to wrest the power. And this is what the Catholic womenpriest movement is doing. As Catholic womenpriests gain power, their example will inspire more women to openly oppose injustice in the Church. I have no doubt that benefits will accrue to the Church and to all of society.