Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Paul Simon on a Monday

I'm gonna leave you, and here's the reason why -
I like to sleep with the window open, and you keep the window closed.
So goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

Are we really this fickle?
At divinity school, I meet Catholic women who have chosen to stay in the Catholic church, despite the fact that they cannot be ordained. I'm amazed by their strength of character. They claim the tradition, vocally, proudly, but reject the pieces of the tradition that aim to keep them on the margins of leadership and relevance. They battle with traditions that aim to control their lives and bodies in ways that don't respect their autonomy. They argue with historical interpretations of religious truth that make them less sacred than men, less fit to be priests.
In Buddhism, this would be called "staying present to conflict."
For my friend K, this has meant going to her mother's house for Christmas although she is not allowed to make decisions about how the family celebrates, the food they eat, or even what they watch on TV. Evn as some of these activities have conflicted with her values, she says she has learned to be present with the ways the celebration doesn't match her ideal. This year, her mother passed away. She and her siblings recreated her mother's Christmas, the meal her mother would have made. The central relationship that held them all together was wrapped up in a complicated and fraught ritual, made no less important by its immutability and complexity.
Unitarian Universalists are open to searching. We do a lot of it. We create our own rituals, our own ways of celebrating important relationships, our own philosophies a mix of personal experience, old wisdom and fresh perspectives. How many of us have the chance to stick around and try sleeping with the window closed?
Conflict: The Chewy Middle
In many ways our churches present us with this challenge. Our varying backgrounds and ideals mean we may frequently be confronted with a ritual that doesn't resonate or a social justice agenda that leaves us cold. But this is the chewy middle, where church becomes a verb, where fellowship becomes a practice.
The voices of my embattled, centered, visionary Catholic friends are some of the strongest women's voices I know. They have learned to live with conflicting truths, to speak unpopular truth, to confront the imperfection in the party line, as a continual practice. They have learned to face hard-line authority not with a plea for lenience but with two feet planted.
Our more catholic confederates show us clearly the strength that comes when love and vocal resistance travel together.