Invitation

imagesI’m feeling very nostalgic for the 80’s these days. Although I was inching my way to 30 and beyond as the decade progressed, it was a time when I arced through many galaxies on the journey to becoming who I am today. And yes – without a doubt – God was woven into every element of every fiber of this time.

You may wonder why I say that… Well, I lived in the juiciest years of that decade as an executive by day, but dressed all in black and skulking around dark, smoky, loud, generally unsavory nightspots when the sun went down. I stayed out too late, I smoked too many cigarettes, I definitely drank too much. And I danced and danced and danced, imagining it happiness at the time.

There were many happy moments, but happiness was what I sought. Happiness was an elusive pursuit, always bolting around the next bend before I could grasp it. And how I tried to gather it up in clenched and greedy fists, fueled by a heart that was Continue reading

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Going up, not taking sides

lamottA short Ascension post featuring the words of Anne Lamott. Apparently her priest friend said them to her, but since they were in her book, they kind of became hers. It doesn’t matter, it is simply true – no matter which “side” you are on. Having said that, diving deeply into God by letting go of our own images, symbols, desires, transference, projection, and more, at least to the best of our ability, is pretty key in this.

Simply put, it is pretty dangerous to assume that God takes sides. Especially when they all end up being yours.

hectorWhen Jesus ascended he reminded everyone that the Spirit would come. When Jesus ascended he was pretty clear that he would always be with us in that way. When Jesus ascended he said nothing about whose side he was on because there is only one side in this – God’s side. If you think that is about preserving your own life, it might be a good time to go back and revisit how we got to the Ascension in the first place, that whole cross and dying thing. I know I need to review it pretty regularly, because no matter what I might write or how I might sound out here, I know almost nothing other than that each day I simply must start anew.giotto_ascension

Exceptional

Over on Facebook, a theologian friend posted a question asking (I paraphrase) if others thought that American exceptionalism was a sin. Lots of interesting answers followed, many in agreement, clarifying why they thought it might be a sin, with more leaning towards yes. If reading these words sets you off – in either direction – hold on, that is part of the point.

One of the commenters pointed towards it being a sin because it is a lie. That makes sense to me, at least in the way that I see and understand American exceptionalism, because at its root the sin of pride is poised to leap in and co-opt, thus leading us further astray. Someone else pointed out American exceptionalism in the light nationalism, mentioning Gaudium et Spes. They also noted that St. John Paul II warned us about excessive nationalism; he certainly saw the fruit of evil that came from such a position.

NationalismThis all has me thinking because excessive nationalism, which is not to be confused with patriotism. I am worried about what grows out of such exceptionalism,  and it seems like a runaway train to me today. My biggest problem with American nationalism is that is seemed rooted – as I mentioned earlier – in excessive pride. Also, maybe it is just me, but it seems inherently disordered through the lens of faith because God has loved each and every one of us into being, so how could one country be full of people who are superior?  However, while our way of life offers us many gifts, I do not think that this is it and that everything else is flawed in some way. How arrogant is that?

As God’s people I do think that we need to keep asking ourselves questions like this, so that we are engaged with the dynamism of our lives in Christ. If we can’t see – or even be willing to see – that a position infused with the exceptionalism sort of mindset is one that risks our humanity, then I fear we are lost. The idea that we are unlike any other and without equal implies a hierarchy that is not true. It is not a big leap from this point of view to great sins such as racism, sexism, and prejudice.

Another challenge of the position is that we reduce humans, denying them of their dignity, to a “group” that we oppose. Whether it is someone denigrating all “conservatives” or putting down “liberals” as if their was but one group-hive mind among them all is ridiculous at best, and sinful at worst. That’s bad enough, but the nationalism loads up all kinds of generalizations that are simply not true – and those are lies. And we know who the purveyor of all lies is, right? Some big contemporary lies might be that all Mexicans are flooding our borders to take advantage of our way of life is a lie,  all Muslims belong to a death cult intent on destroying our way of life, all Black citizens in addition to being lazy welfare users also want to kill our police.  We could all go on and on with examples, each one uglier than the next.

Are there truths in some situations? Yes, but no all can be all anything and it is a challenge of sin to think this way. Similarly absurd would be the notion that all Americans are the best people in the world and our way of life is completely without fault. That is the exceptionalism we see so much of on parade lately, and that is dangerous territory.

This gets me back to my last post, about what we might choose. As people of God, in particular for those of us who are Roman Catholic, we are asked to live in ways so that all may be one in Christ. Instead of slicing and dicing, choosing either or, we are invited to live holistically and in service to the other. That is not so easy to do if you are inclined to pigeonhole the worth and the unworthy, the good and the bad and so forth. For about the 804,482th time I refer to Anne Lamott’s great line, illustrated in the image below.

quote-you-can-safely-assume-that-you-ve-created-god-in-your-own-image-when-it-turns-out-that-anne-lamott-16-72-26So tell me readers, what do you think? Is American exceptionalism a sin? If so – why? If so – why not? In the end, I’m left thinking that sin easily springs forth from this mindset. for the reasons I mentioned and more. I’m curious in these days of so much talk of our nation’s greatness and failure how things look to you.

 

 

Amusement park theology

51ErBZc24ML._SY355_This is a repost of something I wrote two years ago. Call me a lazy blogger, it is true. That said, I am always interested in what I had to say before, because sometimes it does not ring quite a true as it did in my past. At other times, it rings more truly. This is post that reflects the latter.

For a long time I understood the Trinity as God the Father as an old man with a white beard, God the Son as Jesus who was blonde and blue eyed, and the Holy Spirit as a Dove. That was easy! Maybe not so fast…

The Trinity often gets watered down, expressed poorly, or worse. True enough we can’t so easily express what the Trinity is, and it is a bit too facile to keep saying that the Trinity is simply some mystery of God. Of course the Trinity *is* the mystery of God, but are we invited by God to dive deeper rather than walk away with a pat answer?

Perhaps the trap is to either get too heady or theological. I may have done so with my throwing in of the term perichoresis in the original post, but I will leave it, but it is about dynamic being held in dynamic movement in the end, not big words. Ultimately the invitation of God – of the Trinity – is into deeper and dynamic relationship. It can be like falling in love and it can be like a ride at the amusement park. Whatever God or Trinity is, constant motion, dynamism, and movement seem to be required. Now that speaks to me, that’s why I keep saying yes. That’s why I keep going “wheeeeee!” What a ride!

PlaylandParkway 136x93When I was a little girl, my father, loved to take us to a local amusement park, Playland. This old fashioned park was shown to the world in the Tom Hanks movie, Big. I can easily recall the excitement of seeing the Playland Parkway sign, letting us know that we were almost there! Wheeee! Let the fun begin!

When I was about 11 years old we headed there one day, to meet up with another family who had a daughter about my age. She wanted to go on a ride that terrified me. And no – I had never been on it, but just the thought of it sent me reeling! It was called the Round Up at that time. It iis the one where you stand up and hold on, but when the ride gets going, centrifugal force holds you in place. My dad liked this ride, but I would never go on it with him. However, not wanting to act like a baby in front of another kid, I Continue reading

What kind of king?

What-kind-of-king-willA good friend who is a college professor called me recently; she expressed frustration about issues around plagiarism and cheating. As she described the scenario to me, I heard two things; the student appeared to be somewhat defensive, and my friend was ready to lay down the law, hard. Curious about the power dynamics, I asked her about what might happen if, instead of starting with force, what if she began with a question.  If nothing else, my friend would gain the element of surprise, as the student was likely geared for a fight. Skeptical, but open, she agreed.

A few days later she texted me, reporting that the meeting went Continue reading

Wheeee! Some thoughts on the Trinity

PlaylandParkway 136x93When I was a little girl, my father, loved to take us to a local amusement park,  Playland. This old fashioned park was shown to the world in the Tom Hanks movie, Big. I can easily recall the excitement of seeing the Playland Parkway sign, letting us know that we were almost there! Wheeee! Let the fun begin!

When I was about 11 years old we headed there one day, to meet up with another family who had a daughter about my age. She wanted to go on a ride that terrified me. And no – I had never been on it, but just the thought of it sent me reeling! It was called the Round Up at that time.  It iis the one where you stand up and hold on, but when the ride gets going, centrifugal force holds you in place. My dad liked this ride, but I would never go on it with him. However, not wanting to act like a baby in front of another kid, I Continue reading

God’s Field Hospital

There is nothing like a papal interview to rouse your humble blogger from her slumber. I’m sorry that I have not been around for over two weeks. And this is WAY long for any blog post, but what can I tell you. Get some coffee, have a seat, put your feet up, and see what you think.

ap_Francis_ac_130314_wgWith so much already said, parsed, analyzed, and dissected about the papal interview that was published on the website of America Magazine yesterday? I tried to write something last night, but too many thoughts were still swirling in my head. Were? Still are.

Upon awakening I recalled fragments of my strange dream from last night. Dream analyzers, don’t tell me that this means something horrible please.

hardlandingIn the dream, I was on a huge plane, a plane about the size of several city blocks. And it looked like blocks, not like the interior of a plane! We had a hard, hard landing, which I particularly felt, because I was at the back of plane. Upon exiting the plane, I could see that it was not just a hard landing, but that we had had a crash landing, and while no one was hurt, everyone seemed a bit stunned and disoriented.

ch10fig50-1Then I looked up across the tarmac. There was a field hospital off to one side, treating wounded people, although they did not seem to come from our plane. I could see all of this in the dream because one wall of the building was non-existent, and it was all on display. Here’s the thing… the field hospital was in an enormous old church. So many people inside of this church were being tended to. I walked closer to the church/field hospital and saw that there were some terribly ill and injured people there. Each person appeared to have several people, doctors and nurses I guess. It was hard to tell, because no one was dressed in a particular way, just lots of people caring for others.

Today many of us are roused from our slumber in a world that feels a bit different. No -we as church have not crashed, but we have landed in a hard way. In a good hard way, if you ask me. Today we may feel a bit disoriented, rubbing the sleep from our eyes,  wondering “did that really happen?”

awakeupcallfromgod_lgUm yes – it did. It really did. And yes, it is time to truly wake up.

Yesterday, in a New York Times article about the papal interview, the papal interviewer, Antonio Spadaro, SJ, said this about Pope Francis, “His big vision is to see the church in the middle of the persons who need to be healed.” Hello dream analysis!

Spadaro was of course referring to the Bishop of Rome’s own words in the interview:

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds….”

Of course he said many other things in the interview, things that out of context can sound like a high pitched and dangerous sound to some, shattering eardrums and probably breaking hearts. He said things that may sound to others as if he is “on their side.” I use that phrase because I received an email from someone saying that I must feel satisfied now because, “Pope Francis is clearly on your side!” The person sounded hurt, angry, disoriented – and I can understand that.

keep-calm-and-hire-a-jesuit.jpgLet’s all keep calm if we can, please. And we already have a Jesuit at hand. TBTG, AMDG! (Thanks be to God, Ad Majorem Gloria Dei.)

What else can the church be other than a field hospital? As I ponder the imagery of Pope Francis’ language alongside the images from my dream, I keep thinking what I always think… Jesus did not ask people for their credentials, first he welcomed them. He welcomed them, he healed them, and while I’m pretty certain he meant to transform them, we don’t always hear that part of the story. People were healed, and off they went.

Look at the Apostles, that ragtag wacky crew of couldn’t-quite-get-it-right bumblers. Jesus was often terse with them, but he kept them at his side. Look at numero uno, the main man Peter, we all know too much about how it was him who deserted Jesus at the darkest hour. The true transformation of the Apostles came after the Resurrection.

If all that Jesus did was ask a lot of questions meant to let a few people in and keep most people out, I don’t know what to make of what we call church.

messyJesus came to heal, save, and transform. He came to sort out the disorder – to free us from chaos. And that is what I think that Pope Francis is doing, too. Using the name of a favorite blog of mine, he is going on about that “messy Jesus business.”

No rules have been changed, so no –  it is not a nightmare for those of you who feel like it was. No doctrine has been eliminated or discarded, so no – it is not a big party for those of you who think that you have been vindicated. By the way, I get that, because I do in fact feel that way. But unlike what my anonymous emailer said to me, Pope Francis and Jesus are not on “my side” any more than they are on any one side. They are on our collective side, which in fact means – there is no side.

Like my field hospital in the dream, the one missing a side that is, the church is an open hospital, with people streaming in. Some stream out to be certain, many will never enter, but there it is. Healing awaits, no insurance ID required, no group number or employer number is asked for.

I’ve quoted Anne Lamott so many times on this  more times than I can say, but I will say it again…

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

It is a big, big church. I think that Pope Francis has said that over and over and over again for these six months that he has been pope.  Think about that Gospel that you heard last Sunday, the one with the prodigal son story in it. Let’s remember that most of us are the wayward brother come home, we just like acting like the indignant other brother.

The hospital church is open, fully open. Come on in, have a look around, be healed. Then and only then, we’ll see what happens.