There are prophets, great teachers, modern-day scripture scholars, among us, who are shining a bright light into to the dark corners of Christianity’s past–and also on to the sparks of grace and truth and justice that have been intentionally hidden from us. Matthew Fox and John Shelby Spong are two of them.
I don’t often go deeply into religion these days. They’re man’s religions, and I am not a man. Yep, the mirror says so. Definitely feminine body, shape, form, soul, mind, spirit, life immersion, perspective.
I was always drawn to religion, though; the first-born…. And a girl… Had I been born with different body parts, I might have gone into the priesthood…except for that part about remaining celibate for life. That still could have been a deal-breaker.
Even so, when the good sisters in parochial school had us pray for vocations (to the priesthood and religious life), I got one. How do I know? Because it didn’t go away. I tried to ignore it–that being-a-girl rule and all. Of course a convent was a possibility…only I grew up in a house full of guys….seven of them. And there was still that celibate-for-life rule. I wanted options then too, especially with something so important.
I had a thirst for learning about religion and spiritual things–and growing up Catholic gave the imagination a lot to play with: angels, archangels, sinners and saints; heaven, hell, purgatory, limbo; sacraments, the mass, Mother Mary and the rosary. I wanted to know how life works and understand universal spiritual things, especially the wisdom and principles that applied and made sense across religions and cultures and people and time and honored the earth and the heavens and all creatures great and small.
There were a lot of life things that influenced that thirst: I was born with it. And I grew up a on farm, loved the animals and all of nature around me; developed friendships with people of other religions and walks of life, and found that I had a leaning toward justice and equality. And the inequalities in role options for women in my Catholic religion was noticed. Definite contrast to my gaining clarity. I saw a husband and wife go through the exact same course of study. He was ordained; she received a certification. He could perform pastoral services in the church as a member of the clergy; she could not….because of different body parts? Oh really?!
Having received my own spiritual calling and discovering that it didn’t go away, and that it got stronger as I got older, I learned that the Spirit of Life doesn’t care if one’s religion blocks their way. You don’t get out of the assignment you came for. A different way is shown to you, and the door opens wide to welcome you. And the package the messenger comes in can be truly delightful!
There will be no doubt or question that Somebody is trying to get your attention. It will be an energy rush of an amazing kind.
On the cusp of my thirtieth year, I returned to school to become a youth minister, a role I was uniquely qualified for and excited about. (Hmmm. Anyone else you can think of who got called into service around the age of 30?) I majored in religious studies, with a minor in secondary education. And I was so ready to soak in everything in those classes–and I was hearing differently, seeking, listening, seeing–what was written…and not written between the lines. And I was asking the questions of a young adult who was single, female, and a spiritual and social feminist. I had just spent ten years working for attorneys. Law interested me. In my career, it would be a common thread….business law, canon law, employment law…
In the course of my studies into the roles of women in religion and in the bible and in the church, I came across the work of Matthew Fox, a Catholic priest at the time, and his work on Creation Spirituality and Original Blessing…and I found home, vital pieces of my Catholic heritage, my human heritage, my feminine spirit heritage, I’d never seen–and it was in the Scriptures right before my eyes…and elsewhere in our early church traditions. So connecting, balancing….and he got expelled from the church for it. (And now you know you want to read more…) He also wrote The Hidden Spirituality of Men and many others.
His recent book, or at least the one that came to my attention today and started this little excursion is The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved. Back in my religious studies days, I’d heard Ratzinger’s name, and let’s just say, he was more contrast to gain clarity. By the time he became pope, I had already walked out the door. For some still in the door, or interested in religion and politics, this might be a good read. I just know that I appreciate and respect Matthew Fox and know that he is a messenger among us. I also know my gut does not trust the being in the pope seat right now, and the prophetic words I once heard in my childhood still ring in my ears: The antichrist will be found in a place he should not be. And she said…the papacy…and she has no remembrance of saying it. I heard it, though; we were standing in the kitchen. The words are so far from my point of reference now. For others, though,maybe they aren’t. If you’re drawn, explore; make up your own mind; trust your own instincts and your common sense.
John Shelby Spong is another scripture scholar, a retired Episcopal bishop, whose work has left its mark. This man is a researcher, a husband and a father of four daughters–who has taken his own journey of dealing with issues where his church said one thing…and his experiences and his dance with the Sacred was showing him more. He writes humbly and with incredible insights into the human Jesus as Hebrew and Jewish, and addresses questions everyday people ask about what’s written in the bible. His titles include This Hebrew Lord, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, Living in Sin?, Born of a Woman, and more.
Wow! That was quite a little journey the Muse took us on today. Somebody must have needed it… or I wouldn’t have been compelled to write it.
For any being of spirit on this track of soulful living, though, seeking a spirituality that makes sense, and honors intelligence, independence, creativity, creation, equality and love and sensuality and all that earthy life stuff–and who need some of the deeper bible and church history stuff like I did–these two authors have stuff that will feed and fuel your spirit.
…or you can tap me and my resources for a private coaching retreat.
A couple of Coffee Conversations would be a good idea too. Love your life. Breathe in Gratitude. Exhale blessing. – Anne