Sunday, May 22, 2005

Praying With Our Feet

I came across this article by Maggie Ross, author of one of my favorite books on mysticism *The Fountain and the Furnace: The Way of Tears and Fire*. She's a Christian solitary, bound by all the vows of a nun, but not living in a bounded community. One might expect that she would have a rather old-fashioned outlook on the rest of the world -- and in fact, the texts she studies and talks about are much older-fashioned than anything that comes from conservative Christians who think they have "that old-time religion". But that expectation would be wrong.

This article is a fiery denunciation of those that are refusing to accept gay priests in the Anglican church. But what she says would be true for any issue, or any religious community. Some quotes:

Faith is not about suspending critique, but about exercising it.

The sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels apply to discernment in this life. He wishes to teach us a wisdom into which we grow progressively that enables us to shake off the shackles imposed in the name of the closed and unthinking strictures imposed by family, culture and even religion. We might say especially religion, since our Christian religious institutions seem to have recreated the very sort of religious climate that Jesus spent his entire ministry criticizing.

But faith is precisely about challenging complacency. It is about finding security in insecurity, the realization that unless we work hard to maintain a hole in the heavens (Lathrop, 2003) by which the closed universe of human self-consciousness is breached, human engagement will be tragically determined by the fear of "death," which is not mortality but our fantasies about mortality, which are in fact fantasies about power and control, in whose name real death is inflicted on others.

By contrast, so-called values imposed on others by frightened people can only be abusive, and values inflicted under the name of religion by the bigoted, the arrogant and the greedy are no values at all. A culture based on greed and fear wants its members to be team players, sycophants, ciphers. It does not want to produce people who can exercise a critique.

It also means that in our learning and teaching we have reverence for a kind of holy self-doubt. Our thoughts are not God's thoughts, and when we start pretending they are, we create havoc.

There is always risk involved in such a stance. Such people may be regarded as mere crackpots. As non-members of the establishment, particularly the religious establishment, they are considered presumptuous even for raising their voices to be heard, much less insisting on keeping on being heard. And if by some miracle they escape censure, or persecution, or being silenced if only by being ignored or isolated, they will continue to speak out until their last breath.

With so many fake Christians around, it's really nice to meet a real one. And a real Christian has a lot to teach those of us who follow other spiritual paths.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Karen, thank you thank you thank you for turning my attention to this article by Maggie Ross. laurie