Why I write
When I was in third grade I wanted to be a third grade teacher. In fourth grade I wanted to be a fourth grade teacher, and so on up the grades. The top grades of high school were as far as I dared go with these aspirations. College was a must for me in spite of the fact that my oldest siblings weren’t allowed to go to high school. In retrospect, my matriculating for college seems almost unbelievable. Where did that daring come from? At the time I couldn’t imagine life without college; it would have been the end of life for me.
Young people will not understand what a big deal this was. It was 1961, before the counter-cultural revolution; the only post-college careers for women were teaching and social work. In my totally-Catholic world, the only women in college got there by joining a religious order. My dad, a farmer born shortly after the turn to the twentieth century, was certain that his children didn’t need more education than he did—eight grades. Because he did well, didn’t he?
My decision to attend college and other turns in life happened TO me as much as they were directed BY me. There’s a thread inside each of us pulling us into certain paths. But it is possible to go against this pull, more commonly called our vocation or calling. I know women who, I have no doubt, were led toward divorcing their husbands, but they resisted out of fear. I know that fear intimately, experienced the agony of it. But scuttling back into a corner of supposed safety does not bring lasting peace.
I’ve digressed. My point is that education is in my DNA. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to educate others. The thread pulling me through high school and college teaching didn’t stop there but led me to another occupation in education—writing as a dissenter in my religion. This also required, and still requires, confronting expectations, confronting fear, and confronting my exasperating desire to please others.
In my un-remunerated role of educating adults, I try to bridge traditional Christian beliefs with new currents in spirituality, which does not mean “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” In a version of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, I reassure those who feel bereft because they have lost childhood beliefs, and I disturb the fixed mental paradigm of persons who cling to those beliefs.
I invite them to consider concepts foreign to their accustomed world view, to enlarge their perspective and expand their consciousness, to face down discomfort with the unfamiliar. I also try to mediate between academic research and ordinary people who don't have the time or inclination to read the experts.
Yes, my writing is provocative. That's how change happens, and change is required of us all. But we don’t have to give up what is important in our spiritual upbringing—the essentials of love, wisdom, hope, and the assurance that the spirit world stands ready to assist us in meeting any challenge.
Cradle Catholics have the challenge of repudiating Church authority, which we were trained to treat as the law of God. If there is any good coming out of the clergy sex abuse scandal, it’s the lesson that divine authority must not be confused with Church hierarchy. There are plenty of provocative Christian experts who can help us to grow out of childhood beliefs and into a richer understanding of spiritual reality.
One is Robert Funk who writes these words:
The plot early Christians invented for a divine redeemer figure is as archaic as the mythology in which it is framed. A Jesus who drops down out of heaven, performs some magical act that frees human beings from the power of sin, rises from the dead, and returns to heaven is simply no longer credible. The notion that he will return at the end of time and sit in cosmic judgment is equally incredible. We must find a new plot for a more credible Jesus.
Offended, a traditional believer asks plaintively,
Why is Catholic teaching not enough?
It is enough if properly taught. Truly Catholic teaching includes all humans everywhere—women, non-clergy, GLBTs, and people of faith who imagine spiritual ideas in non-Christian terms. It recognizes Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as Christian symbols, not actual persons. It applies doctrines such as Trinity, Incarnation, Christ’s Death and Resurrection universally. It does not limit divinity to a certain man or a set of male individuals remote and inaccessible except through Roman Catholic rituals and clergy.
I had written most of this post when a minor change in my life grew into a significant signal for me. It turns out that this post is peculiarly apt for announcing that I will either post sparingly in the future or discontinue this blog. I have been promising to organize my writings here into a book and that’s impossible as long as I’m both blogging and supervising student teachers.
But please stay tuned before I say goodbye.
After posting this, I learned that the St. Cloud Times published my piece: In case of womenpriests, justice & truth will prevail.