The Pope, the Bishops, and the US Federal Shut-down:

Unmasking Domination & Idolatry

Pope Francis has been trying to guide the Roman Catholic Church toward addressing world-wide poverty and away from its obsession with opposing abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage. But the US Catholic Bishops are still obsessing on that agenda, and they have exported their obsession and their desire to disempower women into the Tea Party's decision to shut down the US government.
Before I take up the tensions and connections between the Pope’s words in Rome on behalf of change, and the Tea Party’s actions in Washington to prevent change –-- I take joy in recalling that for 50 years, I,  and then for 30 years The Shalom Center, have been supporting the empowerment of women, of gay and lesbian folk,  and of the Majesty of Nurture  (to quote the proto-feminist aspect of one major Jewish prayer).  
 We will do so again as we honor Gloria Steinem in our celebration of “This is what 80 Looks Like: Two Life-times Speaking Truth to Power.”  And our struggle continues. You can honor the past and  shape the future by joining us for the Celebration Dinner and the Honor Event on Sunday evening,  November 3. Please click to Https://

And at the end of this essay I want to say just a sentence about the other forms of Domination and Idolatry that are embodied in shutting down the government.
When Pope Benedict unexpectedly resigned and the Conclave of Cardinals  met, I pointed out that he and his predecessor John Paul II had stacked the Cardinals with men who would almost certainly choose a Pope to pursue their worst policies.
That is, men who were bitterly opposed to liberation theology and its “preferential option for the poor,”  who had conspired to hide sexual molestation of children by priests, and who were committed to the disempowerment of all women and gay men – inside and outside the Catholic Church.
So, I wrote, it would be a true miracle –- the infusion of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, the Breath of Life, into the Conclave, for those Cardinals to choose a Pope who would reopen the windows Pope John XXIII had flung open for a moment, fifty years ago.
It begins to look as if maybe the miracle happened with the choice of an Argentinean (what?!) who chose the name Francis (what?!) in honor of a monk who lived as poor among the poor, who delighted in Brother Sun and Sister Moon and Mother Earth, who learned with Muslims how to pray.  A Pope who has called the hungry mouths of the poor far more important as organs of religious concern than the genitals of men who love men or of women who choose contraception or abortion.
Maybe the Holy Breathing-Spirit, the Winds and Hurricanes of Change, blew the windows open again.

Windows open to let the Wind, the Breath, rush in. Open to the God Whose Name is YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh , the Breath, the God Whose name is “I Will Be Who I Will Be.” The God within all women, all men, all children, all life-forms. Echad. ONE.
As Torah teaches, carving out some small pieces of this Flow of Breath and erecting them as gods is idolatry. Those who erect dead idols become like them: dead.
Pope Francis did not invent those winds of change. They were coming from women of all religious communities and none, and from grass-roots Catholics who organized: –
  • To demand full rights inside and outside of the Church for men who love men and women who love women.  
  • To demand that the Church see the legacy of Jesus in acting to protect children, not to prolong the careers of marauding priests or bishops.  
  • To argue that married male priests and women priests would connect the structure of the Church much closer with the People of the Church.
  • To put nuns on buses to visit, to serve, and to support the poor, in the teeth of Vatican demands that they spend their energy opposing contraception.
What the Church –- and Protestant and Jewish denominational structures–-  need are whole new structures, more like a sukkah – a leafy hut that is almost all windows.  Not a fortress with some newly open windows.
Breezes from the windows now being opened in Rome have not yet blown away the bishops’ fortress  in America.
And therefore, they have not yet changed the Tea Party in Washington. Disempowering women and hobbling the choice of contraception is one of the ransom payments the Tea Party demanded for releasing the US Government they have been holding hostage.
They demanded changing Obamacare so employers can refuse to pay health insurance premiums for contraception that their women workers choose.  
Any employer, not just religious institutions. Any boss could say “in conscience” he was opposed to contraception and refuse to pay for the health-insurance premiums.
This pernicious idea –-  rooted in disgust at disobedient women and at sex that is not aimed at baby-making – started from the Catholic bishops. So bosses –- mostly male – and bishops – all male – would get to control women and their sexuality, once again.
The inevitable result? More unintended pregnancies. Abortion not “legal, safe, and rare” –- but more often, more illegal,  and more medically dangerous.
And all this trumpeted in the name of freedom of religion, when in fact it would trample on the religious freedom of millions of American women.
This was only one face of the domineering power and idolatry involved in the Tea Party’s insistence on shutting down the US government. Others were the victimization of low-income and working-class people hurt by the shut-down itself; the millions without health insurance endangered by the demand to abolish Obamacare; and the threat to local and global communities and ecosystems posed by the demand to approve the Tar Sands Pipeline.  I will explore these other faces of this domineering idolatry in other essays.
I will also explore an utterly different religious teaching, straight from the Bible and not from the bishops, that empowers women just as it celebrates the Earth. It’s called the Song of Songs.
Let me repeat that you can not only honor past struggles for the empowerment of women in our celebration of “This is what 80 Looks Like,” but can strengthen those struggles into the future.  You can join us for the Celebration Dinner and the Honor Event on Sunday evening,  November 3. Please click to Https://


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