Friday, March 29, 2013

Enemy Lines

It means a lot that he called. I missed it-- left my cell phone at home, and Patrick picked up, which is a relief. It's not a conversation I was ready to have.

There wouldn't have been an apology if he was a fundamentalist preacher instead of a Catholic priest, I'm certain. There wouldn't have been an "I used words I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry." There would have been an "I'm sorry you interpreted what I said other than the way I meant it. I'm sorry your feelings were hurt, but I was only speaking the truth."

I think that fundamentalists don't understand how words work.

If I'd been home to answer the phone, I would have gulped and said that it was a poor choice of words, and that I was glad that afterward he thought of us, sitting halfway down the huge sanctuary at the cathedral, and that yes, it did upset me to hear those things said about non-Catholic Christians, and that while I know we'll never agree on the matter, if he wants to sit down informally some time, as a friend and a mentor instead of as the priest at the pulpit, and try to tease the idea apart, maybe we would both learn something that we needed to know.
I wouldn't have said that I broke down in the car afterwards, because I'm tired of homilies that are a bullet list of things that good Catholics don't do, tired of jabs at the evils of mainline Protestantism, tired of homilies that are about how the rest of American culture is going to Hell in a handbasket, tired of the battle lines that the bishops have drawn between themselves and the government, themselves and the medical industry, themselves and everybody who isn't a registered Republican. I'm tired of going to my husband's church and hearing that everyone else is on the other side of the enemy line. I'm tired of the line getting drawn between my husband and myself.

Before the bishops rallied against the healthcare mandate, I used to go to Catholic church and hear about Jesus. I liked that. Jesus and I are just starting to get to know each other.

But a before these Catholic and Baptist churches in Northern Virginia, I used to go to my parents' church in East Tennessee, where I didn't get to know Jesus but I got to know Paul, or something like Paul. I learned the bullet list of things that good fundamentalists don't do. I listened to jabs at the evils of mainline Protestantism. I learned how the rest of American culture is going to Hell in a handbasket, and I learned to chart the line between myself and the public schools, myself and the scientific disciplines, myself and everybody who wasn't a registered Republican. It was us, and on the other side, everyone else.

The statement the priest made was that the nation is suffering from the Protestant mentality, in which people believe that they can judge for themselves what is right. Once I believed, along with the Catholics, that that individualistic kind of doctrinal formation was the worst sin any so-called Christian could commit. It was to step off the straight and narrow path of submission to authority, and to get lost in the mire beyond. I guess I've become a good Baptist, because now I believe that God didn't give me a conscience just so that I'd learn to mash it until it looks exactly like my pastor's.

So I won't join the war against contraception. I won't, and not just because it's uniquely Catholic and I'm not Catholic. I won't, because I can't join the war against evolutionism, or the war against family values, or the war against the war against Christmas. I'm too tired and too suspicious to join. I'm suspicious of anything that makes me feel righteous the way that being a young-earth Creationist made me feel. I'm suspicious of anything that lets me off the hook of genuinely loving my neighbors-- the kind of love that listens to their stories and learns something, instead of plugging my ears and saying, "I'm sorry if you think my words hurt, but they're the truth." Now I've been on both sides of the line, and I don't want to go to war.

And when I am dead and gone the war will be about something other than evolution and something other than contraception, and there will be some other reason that everybody else is the enemy. And I wonder how many people will be sick of going to church and not hearing about Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. Damn. These last weeks I've been so sick of people. Just...I want to quit being a human if this is what it is - the hate speech, the ignorance, the war rhetoric, the oppression. I've realized I don't want to dialogue anymore. I want those people to stop being wrong. And yet I know love and listening are the only avenues to change. Sigh.