(Lacey’s post inspired me to post this!)
progressives, well-meaning progressives, usually ask me a version of this question: how do you reconcile your progressive, female-bodied, transgender, queer, feminist, [insert pet] identity with the rigid, oppressive structure of Catholicism?
not calling names here, but double points if this is person who practices a non-oppressive Eastern religion as opposed to a Western one, or a person who goes to i heart Dutch Wax Print fabric as well as Alice Walker sacred snuggle nights and calls it a spiritual practice.
anyway, what kinda question is that?
well, let’s see. you might think i’m a radical Catholic, i know, because that’s the only way I fit in your paradigm.
some of my best friends are radical catholics.
but a radical, well-meaning catholic made the comment to my friend who wears a scarf over her head at Mass – a long scarf, wrapped around her neck – that she’s glad Brooke doesn’t wear the Mantilla. The Mantilla represents colonization and women’s oppression, while the brown scarf around Brooke’s neck looks freer, “it looks more Palestinian! That’s so nice!”
Brooke likes the mantillas, but she’s young, younger than me, and wanted some sort of on fire for God youth movement to catch on, and figured more people would be into wrapping Archibald Sisters scarves around their heads than the mantillas, the only person who wears a mantilla is Mrs. Duncan and she’s crabby. Brooke wanted something to catch on for young people, and yes, Middle Eastern fetish is saucy right now.
Never mind the play at pretending that we’re all happy Catholics and interfaith and pro-Palestine – after all, there are Catholic women in long skirts and shirts and scarves in the vicinity – thank you, Archibald Sisters, for catering to the Middle Eastern look, and Brooke just nods and says ‘thank you.’
Or my, well, you can’t really label them Catholic friends who laugh at the well-meaning radicals donating things to the mission in Tijuana when they don’t need like fluffy pillows and stuffed animals, they need money. “Do you know what the Hell it means to be that poor?” she asked.
And I was in a study group with these radical Catholics all fall and we had this intense discussion about how we must sing Kumbaya in the face of racism and we’re all one in Jesus, oh God, help us rise above! And maybe, just maybe, if we started apologizing to people of color, they’d douse our palm branches with holy water and absolve us. I guess I’m not a radical Catholic under those terms, anyway.
But anyway, I’m not trying to make you understand me or create a sacred healing space, that bubble where we all breathe on each other – can you feel the sacred healing?
Yes, in a non-oppressive way, I feel like you have made up for all of your wrongs, in, out,
I can’t talk to you about the pain, because there is pain that comes with organized religion.
You might wonder why most of the targets of my work are non-practicing or lapsed or religion hating people when, you know, You “should not be ganging up on the progressives because we all agree with each other more than the oppressiveness of your structure and the conservatives we’re not like them” (shudder, shudder, shudder at the word conservative)
Wanna bet? I can’t talk about the pain because you try to talk over it – oh, yes, organized religion is anti-woman, especially Catholicism, I don’t understand how you could do it – I start to say – I can’t tell you about how bad it felt to go to a sermon on Palm Sunday and hear the priest describe how many times, we complain too much. We complain about many things, including the church. Now Jesus didn’t complain. He followed orders.
But then you go on an on about the whole structure of organized religion and how its mind control for the masses and good for sheep who like to follow orders and Then pretty soon talk would turn to all of the so-called oppressive things being done in the name of religion, maybe yes, maybe no, everything bad in the world,
And it will circle, it would be an exorcism of sorts for all those recovering, so I can’t talk about the pain – you have it mapped out, honey – you know what you’re going to say, you have the book tour and Be Here now and now, you’re here.
a traditionalist woman told me, when I bought medals, holy cards, and holy water, that I was never going to Hell, ever.
I had all of the protection in the world to guard against the repellant forces of Evil.
my priest said, when I left the church – how many of you seen The Laramie Project? He’s the priest in The Laramie Project – anyway, he told me that there are good reasons for leaving the Church, but the only reform in the church is going to come from people who stay. In short, any blabbering about the rigidity of religion if you’re not an active part of one, particularly the one you are criticizing, an organized one with rules and such, is not gonna do squat. There are religious people already doing much more work than your talking will ever do.
so I am happy for you, in your notreligionbutspirituality life. But keep in mind that you’ve probably asked this annoying question to quite a few people who practice organized religion, particularly one that is ‘different’ from ‘yours’ with lots of ‘hard-to-understand-rules,’ how do you reconcile your progressive, female-bodied, transgender, queer, feminist, [insert pet] identity with the rigid, oppressive structure of insert religion here? I don’t reconcile it, I submit, I resign, I surrender. Which in turn promises gentle caresses and a new way to break down barriers, because Jesus didn’t follow orders, he wasn’t obedient. And hopefully those others you annoyed have taken you into another dimension with their answer, if it dignified one. Or maybe they forgave you and became your friend. Because as much as you might hate religious rhetoric, you still love it when someone forgives you.