Joan Chittister: God Doesn’t Want to Hold Women Back

chittisterWith the release of the new Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, we learned that “if women received pay equal to their male counterparts, the U.S. economy would produce $447.6 billion in additional income.”

On FaithStreet, Sr. Joan Chittister also put out a great short essay on why God doesn’t want to hold women back and never has wanted to. It’s our human sin that keeps us from humility before God and equality among humanity.

“Don’t believe what they’re saying. The world is not in upheaval in our era because radical feminism has gotten out of hand.

No, our world is being shaken to the core and will never again be the same because its old systems are being challenged, its old certainties being rethought.

The political world has had to give up its reliance on the securities of the old geography. The social world has had to give up its notions of the natural privileges of class. The White West has had to give up its ideas of racial preeminence. And men are having to give up the old theology of male superiority.

In that old world, whole classes of people could be underdeveloped, abused, enslaved, oppressed, and disenfranchised — all with impunity. Unknown and unchallenged, local potentates, all male, declared their autocracy, and all-male institutions of every system institutionalized it. It was a world of nobles over peons, the powerful over the powerless, freemen over slaves, men over women. And all of them insisting to the oppressed that such stratified systems were, ironically, for their own good.

Most serious of all, religious people argued that God wanted it that way.

In the West, they said that the Judeo-Christian creation story taught that God designed, defined and created a hierarchical world that developed from one stage to another, from the dust of the earth to the crown of creation, Adam, the male agent of a male God.

In this world, women were not “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” equal partners in the human enterprise, as those words imply. Instead, women were labeled “help-mates” rather than, as David Freedman points out, ”a power equal to,” as the corresponding Hebrew term is translated in other places in scripture. …”–Joan Chittister, OSB  Read the rest.

Pope Francis: Let Them Breastfeed

Francis baptismsOn the festivity of the Baptism of the Lord, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel. During the celebration, he baptised 32 babies: 18 girls and 14 boys. One of the children, Giulia, was the daughter of a couple married by civil rites only, who asked the Pope during an audience if he would baptise their child.

“These children are a link in a chain,” said Francis. “You, as parents, have a son or a daughter to baptise, but a some years from now they too will have a child to baptise, then a grandchild… And this is the chain of faith! What does this mean? I want to say only this: you are those who will transmit the faith, you are the transmitters. You have the duty of transmitting faith to these children. It is the most beautiful inheritance you can offer them: faith! Only this. Today, take this thought home with you. We must be transmitters of faith. Think of these, think always about how you can transmit faith to your children.”

During his homily Pope Francis joked about the noise and the crying of the babies. “Today the choir is singing, but the most beautiful choir is that of children, who make noise… Some will cry, perhaps because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry: if they are hungry, mothers, go ahead and feed them, because they are the center of today’s celebration.”

“Francis said in December that women should feel comfortable about breast feeding during his ceremonies,” reported The Telegraph, “a trend which could alarm conservatives in the Vatican. Breast feeding in public is rare in Italy and almost unheard of during Catholic church services.”

Maureen Fiedler: How 12 Religious Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People

Sr. Maureen Fiedler offers an excellent overview of where faith traditions are on the question of homosexuality in her article Radio Program Explore Homosexuality in Different Faith Communities. Well worth the read, and tuning in to her 12-part radio series. These radio interviews could offer a great opportunity for small group conversations within your community.

Here’s an excerpt of Maureen’s article:

Public opinion about homosexuality is changing rapidly, and civil law is not far behind. Gays and lesbians are increasingly open about their relationships and accepted. In some states, they now can marry legally and adopt children.

But among those who are people of faith — with a few exceptions — gay men and lesbians wrestle with how to be faithful to their religious traditions while living fully the human reality in which they discover themselves.

That’s why it seemed just the right moment for “Interfaith Voices” (the public radio show I host) to broadcast a series titled “Gay in the Eyes of God: How 12 Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People.” It began this summer and will stretch into the fall. It was made possible by a grant from the Arcus Foundation.

This series offers much more than scriptural or theological conversations, although those are included. We hear the often poignant stories of gay and lesbian people struggling with who they are as they try to stay faithful to their respective traditions. …

Read the whole article.
Find out more about this series and Interfaith Voices.

Country Singer and Christian Chely Wright’s ‘Coming Out’ Movie

I met country music artist Chely Wright in May 2011 at the Lives of Commitment Breakfast hosted by Auburn Theological Seminary in Manhattan. It was a wonderful event and Chely’s faith testimony was as powerful as it was empowering. As the first “out” lesbian country music recording artist, she’s taken a lot of abuse within her industry and within her Christian community.

Here she talks to Charlie Rose and Gayle King about her new documentary, “Wish Me Away,” which follows her coming out process, and that she grew up “a little gay girl on a farm in Kansas” where homosexuality was called “the devil” by everyone she knew.

Chely’s opened the LIKE ME® Lighthouse on Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri, a LGBT center that provides a broad array of services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

Abbot Philip: ‘If we always agreed, there would be not much need to listen’

Abbot Philip is part of Christ in the Desert monastery in Abiquiu, New Mexico. I’ve visited there only once and it was a profoundly transforming experience. He writes:

One of the great challenges of the spiritual life is that of accepting ourselves as we are, even when others may not understand us nor accept us.

Each of us must walk a path of righteousness, seeking to do what is right in our own lives and in the lives of our families or communities. That sounds, as always, fairly simple. It never is. Why is it that others always have the answers to our lives when they seem unable to navigate well in their own? Why is it that others think that they should be able to make the decisions in our lives? These are questions that are asked of me from time to time. I see these questions played out in our own community and in relationships. In a monastic community, we get used to having others involved in our lives. It is part of living in community.

We monks are never to make decisions just by ourselves. Married couples are supposed to do the same thing in their family lives. Even the abbot cannot make decisions in a totally autonomous manner in the monastic life. I have to consult a Council or a Chapter on almost every important decision. It is not just that I have to do that, it is also that doing so is a real help in living the monastic life and serving a community.There are times when the advice or the votes of the Chapter or Council are not what I want to hear. There are times in a marriage when one spouse really does not want to listen to the other. That is the nature of advice.

If we always agreed with one another, there would be not much need to listen to one another. Ultimately, of course, each of us must make his or her own decisions when they are decisions of the deepest levels of our lives. We must listen carefully first, we must weigh carefully all that is told to us—and we must make a decision. Most of the time in the spiritual life, we are not making earth-shattering decisions. I do not have to decide every day that I am going to remain a monk! I do not have to decide every day that I will try to pray! Daily spirituality is mostly about trying to do well the things that I have already decided to do. That is why it can get so very boring at times! There are times in everyone’s life that an important decision must be made. My personal experience is that those types of decisions have become less and less as I mature. There are decisions that I must make in my own life, but they are not the direction setting decisions of my younger years.

Now it is a matter of faithfully living out what I have promised and decided. For me, this is one of the reasons that life is more peaceful as I mature. One decision builds on top of another. If the first decisions are well made and strong, everything built on them remains strong. Sometimes I see people struggling so very much because they have never made good decisions. Or they made good decisions and later abandoned them. I certainly wavered about lots of decisions when I was younger, but in due time I reaffirmed those decisions and kept on the path which they indicated. Spiritually, it is very important to make good decisions, especially about the most important things in life. With good decisions, we have something on which our lives can be built.–Abbot Philip, OSB (The Abbot’s Notebook for Wednesday Apr 18, 2012)

Joan Chittister: ‘Our Days Are Like Grass’

“As for us, our days are like grass; We flower… the wind blows… We are gone.”– Psalm 103

The psalmist speaks out of a social situation from which our generation and culture need to learn: To the psalmist life is temporary, fragile, daily “redeemed from the grave.” Survival is a matter of massive human effort and natural hardship. The land to be cultivated is desert; water is scarce; foliage is sparse and scrawny and fragile. Every day life is a blessing of mammoth proportions.

But now we take life for granted. We feel invulnerable. Therefore, we lose sight of the brief gift of time and our needs. We know better the needs and weaknesses of others than of our own.

We act as if we’re here forever. We spend time as if we have nothing but time. We fritter away the great things of life: gospel commitments, family, prayer, nature, and responsibility for play and things that serve ourselves—ambition, clothes, consumption.

We think we have forever. We’ll do what we have to do later: we’ll reconcile “later;” we’ll settle down “later;” we’ll pray “later;” we’ll get some order in our lives “later;” we’ll study the nuclear thing, the economic thing, the racism thing, the sexism thing, “later.” After we get finished with the very important things we’re doing now.

Nevertheless, today we too have been “redeemed from the grave.” The question is “Why?” Whatever the reason: do it now. —Joan Chittister, OSB

From Songs of the Heart: Reflections on the Psalms by Joan Chittister (Twenty-Third Publications)

Catch the Vision: Tar Sands Protest Art

Day 1: Sixty-five arrested. Locals were released by 8 p.m. Out-of-towners held in D.C. jail until Monday morning arraignment. The D.C. police seem to want to make an example of the first group in order to discourage the next 13 days of sustained protest.

What we know is that the small but real sacrifice of these few to be held over the weekend will be joined by hundreds of others. In determined peaceableness, we will flood the streets. We will raise the banners. We will fill the jails. Because we can not do otherwise. The cost of inaction is simply too high.

Some highlights from Saturday: Jim Antal, former head of Fellowship of Reconciliation and now president of the Massachussetts Conference of the United Church of Christ was arrested. Kristy Powell, originator of the One Dress Protest, was arrested. Lt. Dan Choi, leader of the protest against the former military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, was arrested. Fr. Jim Noonan, Maryknoll Catholic priest, who spent years in Cambodia under Pol Pot serving AIDS patients was arrested.

Thomas Merton: ‘Turning an Adversary to a Collaborator’

“…for non-violence seeks to ‘win’ not by destroying or even by humiliating the adversary, but by convincing him that there is a higher and more certain common good than can be attained by bombs and blood. Non-violence, ideally speaking, does not try to overcome the adversary by winning over him, but to turn him from an adversary into a collaborator by winning him over.”–Thomas Merton, Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice (1968)

Fishing in Deeper Waters

fish-chowder-trailer-2-howthNice to have a note from Dublin psychotherapist Coinneach Shanks on the symbolism of fish. This in response to  my Ireland photo (right) of the Tram Chowder in Howth with its “Fish is Life” slogan.

Coinneach blogs at Psychotherapy in Dublin and has some beautiful photos and lovely reflections on the deeper symbolism of our everyday world. Here’s part of his comment on the symbolism of fish:

Fish are water symbols and are as the vendor correctly suggests, symbols of life. Fish and reproduction are well known companions. They make many, many eggs and are considered almost universally as prosperous and fertile. But Howth is a fishing place and the myths of casting the net and hauling fish from the depths are also cross cultural. Peter was the Fisher of Men, catching the souls for conversion and thus saving them from damnation. For psychoanalysts – well, we fish all the time. We are looking for material from the unconscious, which can be compared to the sea. By allowing spontaneous forces to operate, hidden material of great value may be brought to the surface.

Read Coinneach’s whole post here.