Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Resources to Feed the Spirit: Phil Ewing on Desmond Tutu, Tom Beaudoin on Occupy Wall Street

Food for the spirit at the end of a long week:

At her beautiful Blue-Eyed Ennis site, Phil Ewing posted two tributes to Desmond Tutu recently on the occasion of his 80th birthday--here and here.  I particularly like the video resources Phil includes in both postings.  In the first of the two pieces, Michael Scherer of Time interviews Tutu in one of the magazine's "10 questions" segments.  And the second links to an AP clip of Tutu's birthday celebration at St. George's cathedral in Capetown, in which Bono sings for his "boss."

It's worth watching these and the other clips Phil provides simply to see Desmond Tutu's beaming face.  Hearing him laugh, watching him smile, restores one's faith in the possibility of humanity in a world in which the visages of many high-profile religious leaders (and their most ardent supporters) seem to have nothing spiritual at all about them.  Frequently, for many of us, the visages of our religious leaders beam a message that strikes us as the opposite of hope and joy.

And of loveIn a thought-provoking posting at the America blog site right now, theologian Tom Beaudoin asks what might spur Catholics to engage in an Occupy Wall Street moment within our church.  What "compelling love" might move you to take such a step? Beaudoin asks readers.

And then he asks,

Would it be your hope for the church as a sacrament of God's salvation in the world here and now, your faith in the prophetic call of the Spirit that assures a permanently unfinished character to every church arrangement in the name of God's future alone, or would it be your love for the gift of your faith tradition to which you find yourself inseparably wedded for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health . . . ?

All of those "compelling loves" work for me--perhaps above all, the constantly demanding hope that the church may finally beecome in even the tiniest respect what it professes to be: a sacrament of God's all-embracing love in the world.  Hope coupled, of course, with the recognition that the future belongs to God alone, and every arrangement, both social and ecclesial, that we make in the present to try to respond to the hope represented by God's future is tentative and flawed . . . .

And then Tom Beaudoin asks what might be the last straw that would push me to join such a movement in the Catholic church, given the compelling love that keeps me hoping and believing.  And I have to say, as I read that question, the very first thing that leaps into my head is this: that last straw has long been and remains many of my fellow Catholics.

Who seem to find it impossible to understand how brutally painful is their seeming inability to treat some of their fellow human beings, some of their brothers and sisters in Christ, as real people with real life stories, real hopes, real dreams, real loves.  Who seem to find it possible, day after day, to carry on with their lives--with their lives as followers of Jesus--as though many of their brothers and sisters are simply not there.  As though they do not count.  As though their humanity is fake.  As if they lack the finer human feelings that more elite human beings might feel, if they were excluded, demeaned, treated as non-existent, condescended to, and ignored.

About the ugly, destructive social arrangement of apartheid, Desmond Tutu has repeatedly said, Phil Ewing reminds us, that its most pernicious effect was "that it can make a child of God doubt that he or she is a child of God."  And that is precisely how many of my fellow Catholics have long made me feel, and continue to make me feel, as a gay human being, a gay brother in Christ.

Thereby making it exceptionally difficult for me to see, understand, and believe in my church as an effective sign of of God's all-embracing love for the world . . . . My church could do far worse, I have to conclude as I listen to Archbishop Tutu speak, than to lift up spiritual leaders of his caliber.  And of his humanity.  Rather than, God help us, the kind of leaders who have become common in Catholicism under the last two papacies . . . .

One of Phil Ewing's birthday tributes to Desmond Tutu also links to this moving reflection about the archbishop's significance by John Dear at National Catholic Reporter.

And finally, in this enumeration of items I've been reading that feed my spirit, I'd like to recommend another posting by Tom Beaudoin--this one at his Rock and Theology blog about Occupy Wall Street, in which Beaudoin has been participating.  The protesters' signs Beaudoin captures are a book in themselves--e.g., about the ability of certain perduring theological themes like the preferential option for the poor to keep grabbing people's attention even in a moment of history when powerful autocratic forces are seeking to use religion to their own ends, precisely to drown out the core messages of religious communities about compassion, mercy, the call to solidarity with those in need, etc.

I feel hope rise inside me when I look at the photographs in Tom Beaudoin's blog posting.  Then, I turn to the America blog posting in which he provides the link to his Rock and Theology piece, and my hope hits the rocks again, as I read the comments of some of my fellow Catholics who dominate the (non-)conversation at that blog site, re: the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Again, not feeling the love . . . .

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