I believe…no ideology has monopoly on truth

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We have to stop categorizing ideology in strict binary terms. Black and white, either-or thinking might effectively describe those on the extreme fringes of conservative and liberal thought, but many of us fall in the grey zone of “somewhere in-between”.

One of my first blog posts, written in January 2011, was titled the trad-lib scale.

I like to think of the ideological scale as a very long one, with lots of room between the extremes of both conservatism and liberalism. And, unless you purposely place yourself so far to the right or left that you fall off the scale, there is room in our catholic (universal) church for all.

While the article was focused on the conservative-liberal division in our church, the idea of an ideological scale also applies to the current political divisions in our world.

What if we stopped mentally placing others into two simple camps; liberal and conservative? What if we acknowledged that thoughts and beliefs can and do find a home in the middle? What if we understood that this “middle” is an awfully big space? It may be full of questions and uncertainty, but questions and uncertainty shouldn’t be feared. Truth is found not by avoiding difficult questions, but by bravely working through them. Together.

Questions help us to test truth. To clarify truth.

There is real danger in an unmoving insistence on absolute truths, whether on the right or left. Too often, the most extreme voices are also the loudest and most passionate. Passion is a good thing, but not if it morphs into militancy. It becomes dangerous when one begins to divide the world into “us” and “them” and the “them” are to be hated.

It is becoming harder to find intelligent, rational discourse. Today’s social media is simply a collection of echo chambers. From newspapers to television networks, we choose the ones that speak the words we want to hear.

I’m not on Facebook, but I have a Twitter account. It’s addictive. I log in, and spend far too much time scrolling down the list, and clicking on articles to read. I applaud those who think like me. I chuckle at witty comments. I find justification and affirmation for my liberal rightness. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the voices that are bouncing around this echo chamber.

We left-leaning folks can be just as nasty and judgmental as right-wing conservatives. Being a smart-ass myself, I know the joy of letting loose with a snide retort or a sarcastic remark. I also know the regret, wishing I had kept my mouth shut. It’s hard to take words back.

No, I don’t believe that we need to sit back quietly, or speak only in soft, sweet voices that won’t hurt or insult anyone. These times require loud, brave voices to resist the many evils and injustices that threaten the basic rights of all. These times require rational, logical minds to point out the irrational, illogical reasoning of leaders who put their own interests before those they serve. These times require dialogue and true dialogue requires courage.

Courage is required to step out of our echo chambers and help bridge the ideological divide with sincere engagement with those who think differently from us. Who knows, we might find some truth in what they have to say!

 

I believe in…the holy spirit

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The above image was the banner on my blog for 6 1/2 years. It comes from a photo I took in Rome. The street was narrow, and I had to aim the camera high to catch the lovely windows and shutters. They symbolized, for me, the call of Pope St. John XXIII to fling open the windows of the church to let the Holy Spirit blow through.

I loved this image of flinging open windows. Letting out stuffy air. Allowing fresh breezes freedom to flow, settling into surprising nooks and crannies. It was the perfect symbolism for allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe newness into stale, tightly sealed, obsessively guarded traditions and teachings.

As children, we had to memorize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Honestly, I’ve never been good at remembering the list or being able to distinguish between them…even when I had to teach them. (Confessions of a bad catechist!) The twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit? Forget it.

For me, the image of God as Spirit, breathing, blowing, moving and inspiring is the most intimate and recognizable presence of God. I can relate to the biblical image of God being present in the gentle breeze. I love the association of the Holy Spirit with Wisdom, who is a SHE.

Marianists recite a special Three O’Clock Prayer daily, meditating on the crucifixion scene in the Gospel of St. John – Mary and John standing at the foot of the cross. There is a line in the prayer,

Holy Virgin, take us under your protection and open us to the action of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is ever present. We need to open our minds and hearts to hear Her voice. It’s what made Mary such a faithful disciple. Mary pondered and prayed. She listened. She waited. Because Mary was open to God’s spirit in her life, she was able to give her free and unconditional YES to all that was asked of her; even when she was asked to do what seemed impossible.

I believe the Holy Spirit is truly the spirit of wisdom and inspiration, and we need to have open minds and hearts to hear her voice, a voice which often surprises.

Here’s one way I used to explain the practical, daily role of the Holy Spirit to my kiddies…

Exam time was always stressful, and they’d pray mightily and ask us for prayers. I told them that they had to do the leg work first. Study!!! Sure, the Almighty could pull a fast miracle and infuse the necessary knowledge with no effort on our part, but it’s not God’s usual modus operandi. Pray for wisdom that you can study well, and retain what you need. Then, when you sit down to the exam, pray to the Holy Spirit for peace of mind and heart and the inspiration to remember the necessary knowledge that you need.

“Inspiration” is a glorious thing…

  • when a wee bit of information that was tucked away and forgotten in the dark corners of your hard drive suddenly comes to the fore when needed (I loved these “Thank you, Jesus” moments during exams… or Trivial Pursuit games with hubby!)
  • when the “light comes on” and you can visualize the solution to a problem
  • when you find the right words at the right time, gifting you with unexpected wisdom
  • when you feel at peace with a discernment
  • when you find the energy to forge ahead with a difficult task
  • when…

During the triple sign of the cross on the mind, mouth and heart before the reading of the gospel, a dear friend of mine used to quietly make the same sign on her stomach. It was her personal acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit at work in her “gut”.

We can call it “gut instinct”.

We can call it “inspiration”.

I believe it’s the Holy Spirit actively at work in our lives.

 

 

 

 

I believe in…children

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I began this new “I believe in…” project with renewed energy and plans to post several times a week. Can you hear the sighing in the back-ground? That’s me laying another guilt trip on myself.

Can you also hear the laughter, giggles, cries and sweet new words? They’re the reason that I’m not posting regularly.

Hubby and I retired just in time to delve into Grammy and Papa duty in a big way. We had our own five children within eight years. We now have six grand-children under the age of six. With summer here, we’re spending more time than usual with our grand-kiddies – helping out parents with summer child care as well as family visits here at the lake. And, we’re loving it.

Parenting is an often messy mix of joys and struggles, successes and challenges. As grand-parents, memories of raising babies and children flood back and are re-lived. Holding a wee one as they drift to sleep. Pudgy arms wrapped around your neck. The look of recognition in a babe’s eyes when you enter the room. The first words of a toddler. The first time they call YOU by name! The wonder of a pre-schooler’s thirst for knowledge.

Having children in your life is one sacramental moment after another – a feeling of deep love that hints at the divine love of our creator.

Bringing that first babe home is also the biggest culture shock of your life as you face the reality of 24-7 care. Personal plans change. Social lives transform from wild fun times with friends, to juggling wild children while squeezing in fun with friends. Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep becomes life’s biggest goal. Heck, I used to pray for four!

Our hearts are filled with empathy for the daily challenges faced by the young parents in our lives. We understand. We were there.

When they are faced with more serious challenges, our hearts break with them. We feel their worries and fears. We share the sleepless nights. We offer support and help however we can. We pray always.

Our retirement was not planned, but it was timely. We are able to give our children and grand-children the gift of our love and our presence. We are blessed in return. Abundantly! We are honoured to have these wonderful young souls and their parents in our lives.

So, I will write when I can…and feel no guilt if I don’t. If I’m not blogging, I’m probably busy playing. Not a bad gig, if you can get it! 🙂

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