jeudi, novembre 30, 2006

Evil in the church, goodness on the cross

Recently it has been popular for intellectuals unfriendly to organized religion to attack it on the grounds that the institutions have been responsible for promoting mass murder, crusades, pogroms and encouraging engineers to fly planes into buildings. While flashy and certainly annoying to those of religious sensibility, this argument ultimately fails to convince. The reason? It doesn't account for the millions, perhaps billions of other believers throughout the centuries who have quietly done good in the name of their particular faith. What I personally find a more compelling argument against religious institutions is meeting people who trusted the institution and its representatives and were deeply, sometimes forever harmed by them. The diocese of Pennsylvania has recently been roiled by Bishop Charles Bennison's alleged involvement or lack of involvement in the sexual abuse perpetrated by his brother when he was a youth director at Bishop (then Father) Bennison's parish back in the 70's. In this diocese, the allegations have been the occasion for outrage. As more and more victims come forward to talk about their abuse by some Roman Catholic priests, victims and general public alike are plunged into the legacy of evil behavior by very, very sick men in the name of God. From cardinals to office clerks, church bureaucrats turned their heads while the lives of innocents were destroyed. Is it not understandable that some of these women and men cannot bear to walk back into the house of the family in which they were betrayed? God help us. The men and women who turned their heads and pretended not to see should be on their knees asking for forgiveness on behalf of the faith they represent. I myself have felt betrayed by church leaders I trusted. I was broken-hearted as lay leaders I cared about stood silently and let my reputation (or so I felt) be tarnished by gossip. The journey to forgiveness has been long and hard, and it's not over yet. Every now and again something occurs to push me back into the trauma of those months of public humiliation. But I don't get these men, like me so very broken, confused with my Savior. He's the guy who was hated by many of the religious authorities and secular authorities of his time. He's the man who was given into his enemies hands by one of his friends. He's the prophet, king and Messiah who let Himself be crucified so that he could experience our death and offer up our pain for our redemption. When old wounds are open, and my tears fall again, it is to His feet that I crawl-ultimate victim and final Victor.

mardi, novembre 28, 2006

Passages and rituals

Perhaps it's an evolutionary instinct that compels moms to worry about things that haven't yet occurred. I don't know how else to explain that for many years I've speculated about how I was going to share the "facts of life" with my daughter once her body started to change and mature. Remembering how my mom clued me in really wasn't a whole lot of help-first of all, I don't have very clear memories of it. Secondly, I was a shy and rather backwards child. The fact that the sexual revolution of the late 1960's was fermenting around me just drove me further into my shell-not to emerge until the hippies had gone back for their Wharton MBAs and had abandoned free love for PTA membership. My mother's attempt to enlighten met with little but hideous embarrassment on my part. I wish I'd asked her how she felt about talking to me. There are so many things I wish I'd asked my mom before she died. Without her here, I've had to muddle through on my own. Yet as my children have gotten older, I realized, with a measure of relief, that I am pretty good at straight talk. All the anatomical bits were given their Latin names, and the songs are the radio are examined for sexual content so that Sian will be aware (generally) of the kind of innuendo she is being exposed to. However, even a relatively relaxed mother like me cannot evade certain rituals. A week or so ago, I took Sian (and Colin, the poor kid) out to buy Sian her first bra. As we went through the mall, we developed a certain patter-we need to find the bra department, I would say as we walked through the china department towards the escalator. "Mom, you are embarrassing me," Sian would respond, playing her assigned role. "You mean body-plated armor" Colin groaned, wondered how on earth he'd been roped into this excursion. A child of great modesty, he turned a beauty magazine over in the bathroom because the cover had an artistically photographed, but definitely half-clothed woman on it. I could not imagine a 50's mom making the pilgrimage through Macy's in the same casually disorganized fashion that we did- we had a lot of fun. Now if I could only get Sian to stop sleeping in the bra so that I could wash it, I'd feel that we were truly launched in her great adventure towards womanhood-all in due time.