prophets take to the streets

womens-march-logo

Now, more then ever, prophets are needed to stand by and hold the new leader(s) to task. Like biblical prophets of old, women and men are being called to make life hell for leaders who ignore the down-trodden while languishing in comfort and plenty. Prophets are needed to preach mercy above judgment, compassion over tyranny, and economic fairness before unbridled wealth. (catholic dialogue, November 14, 2016)

I spent January 20th in a funk. A deep funk. I avoided the news, not wanting to see or hear the inauguration of a man I had already spent too much energy loathing; too much time writing about. What more was there to say? Hope was a fleeting dream. The world seemed a darker place.

Then came January 21st.

I had read about the planned Women’s March with excitement, but couldn’t shake the pessimistic funk. It would probably be fewer than expected, I thought, giving more reason for the new president to gloat over his victory.

I cautiously opened up my Twitter account early in the morning. It was already filled with positive energy. Stories and photos circulated from around the world. The news began pouring in of larger than expected crowds. I watched with pride as women and men gathered in Winnipeg to show solidarity with marchers in the US. I regretted not being there myself.

I read tweets from women and men I followed in Rome, Boston, Washington and beyond. I felt like I was there. I rejoiced as the crowds grew. I breathed a prayer of thanks as the protests remained peaceful until the end. It was a glorious example of non-violent resistance.

Some naysayers, pointing to the more aggressive signs, criticized the lack of politeness of some marchers. Really??? This was especially ironic, considering the lack of respect and basic manners of the person the marchers were protesting against. Besides, the days of women as meek and mild handmaidens is long past.

I thought the signs showed brilliant creativity and humour.

Satire is one of the most effective political weapons. Being laughed at can often deflate egos quicker than anger.

Others criticized the seeming lack of a unified message in the marchers. This, I thought, was one of its greatest benefits and a lesson to be taken to heart.

Solidarity amid diversity is a powerful tool. The gathering of many smaller voices into one great call for change CAN make a difference.

The big question being asked now is, what next? I believe that the Women’s March has laid a strong foundation for speaking truth to power. Hopefully it will energize and affirm many more women and men to take on the mantle of prophet, to poke and prod those in power to ensure that they work for justice and peace for all.

 

 

 

dialogue is not for wimps

We find comfort living in idealogical bubbles, hanging around like-minded souls. But what if those bubbles burst? What happens when family or friends not only disagree with us, but have planted their banners in camps far across the ideological divide?

We are hearing more and more about the need for dialogue, both in the church and in the world.

Next week, this blog will be six years old. For six years I have been trying to explore and promote the concept of dialogue. Six years later, I feel I know less than when I began.

I spent almost 20 years travelling to continental and international leadership meetings of Marianist Lay Communities, an International Association of the Faithful. Respectful dialogue is a Marianist trait. We believe in “unity amid diversity”. We believe in “staying at the table” during difficult conversations. We believe in active listening and inclusivity of voices.

Nice words are easy to write or speak. They are much harder to live. I’m beginning to wonder if they can sometimes become a barrier to true, effective dialogue.

I’ve sat in too many meetings where we dance around the elephant in the room, seeking peace in platitudes and writing up nice reports. We talk of dialogue, but avoid certain issues at all cost if we know there will be disagreement. In a world that is becoming increasingly divisive, we desperately cling to unity by avoiding all conflict. We ignore disagreement, hoping it will go away.

Dialogue is not a “new age-y” form of conversation where all are affirmed in their oneness with each other and the universe. True and meaningful dialogue is tough. It is messy. Unlike debate it does not seek conflict for conflict’s sake, but conflict can’t always be avoided.

Conflict should energize, not silence dialogue.

Dialogue is not for wimps! This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in these past six years. I have written many articles on dialogue for this blog and other publications. I can write nice words. I often fail miserably at dialogue in real life.

I’m an introvert who hates confrontation. I clam up when faced with a bully, allowing them to dominate the conversation.

I obsess over each word I write. I obsess over words I’ve spoken. I sit on fences or straddle them so as not to insult or anger anyone. I tailor my words to the listener.

We need more civility and gentleness in the world, yes, but sometimes trying too hard to “be nice” simply feeds our need (my need) to be liked by all.

The first step of dialogue is to verbalize your own thoughts without fear. To speak your own truth with courage.

This is what I believe… This is why I believe it…

If these words are followed by proverbial crickets, then all I have done is provided myself with a soap-box and had a good rant. If a rant takes place in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, is it still a rant? Probably. But it’s certainly not a dialogue.

If someone hears my words and responds with their own words,

Yes, but this is what I believe… This is why I believe it…

Now we have the beginnings of a dialogue!

I am an unfundamentalist catholic parent

Cindy Brandt is a self-proclaimed “unfundamentalist Christian”. She started an online community for other parents who view and live their Christianity through a lens other than black and white certitude. In an article for Huffington Post she describes the

10 Signs You’re An Unfundamentalist Christian Parent

The article had me nodding in agreement over and over. I proudly proclaim that I am an Unfundamentalist Catholic Mom and Grammy! Hubby and I both love our faith, but have rejected the dogmatic, judgmental, self-righteousness of certain fundamentalist forms of Catholicism.

Here are some of the signs from Brandt’s article that resonate with my own Catholic experience.

faith is fluid and evolves

I came to this realization in my thirties. Certitude in belief can be comforting. Apologetics, with its black and white answers simplifies defending your faith. But, it can also make faith mechanical and soul-less.

Faith needs to be wrestled with before it is fully embraced in mind and heart. And the wrestling never ends. Yes, this is dangerous. Brandt readily admits that leaving room for doubts can lead to “moments of weak faith and perhaps even loss of faith”.

I’ve experienced this several times in my life, even recently. I cling to the belief that faith, like love, goes through a “romance, disillusionment, true joy” cycle. Faith can, and often is, strengthened through the dark times of weakness, questioning and doubt. (That’s not to say that the dark times don’t suck!)

reject hierarchical parental authority

While Brandt is referring to the parenting style of many fundamentalist Christians, more and more Catholics are also rejecting this style of leadership in our church. We need to promote a church of adult believers, not child-like blind obedience. We need servant leaders, not bullying father figures.

promote gender equality…fight against homophobia and racism…

Gender inequality, homophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination may have been part of the fabric of history but they have no place in today’s Catholic church. These are issues we’ve discussed with our children many times, and continue to do so. We refuse to defend the teachings and actions of our church if and when they are discriminatory.

build a larger table not a higher fence

This is a great image and motto. (And, no, we’re not talking about a certain President-elect.) Some continue to promote a smaller, purer Church. Would it really be a better Church if all doubters, questioners, and lukewarm Catholics were finally shown the door?  If you insist on booting out all the sinners, you’ll find precious few saints left.

Despite woundedness for some of us from the religiosity of our past, we still find beauty in rituals and desire to cultivate spirituality in our children.

This past weekend, we celebrated the baptism of our two newest grand-babies. The celebration took place in our home parish, where all our children were baptized. The wee lads were wearing the baptismal gowns worn by their parents. The sacrament was lovingly celebrated by a kind, hospitable, big-hearted pastor. No lectures. No hoops to jump through. Just a wonderful warm welcome into the Body of Christ.