COLUMN ONE of PATHS OF PRAYER, a regular column
HEADLINE Your peace prayer makes me violent
by William Cleary
William Cleary's new book is Praying Your Story (www.clearyworks.com)
An hour ago I attended a peace event in the park that tempted me to violence.
We stood in a giant circle. I was so proud of my Veterans For Peace hat, and my home-made sign that said: "Unjust War SHAMES America." My role was to sing a song and I felt rarin' to go.
But the Pax Christi people were the first to offer prayers, and they modestly suggested on the microphone that the interfaith crowd standing there reply to their litany of social sins with the words, "Forgive us, Lord."
I felt suddenly sandbagged. I can't call God "Lord" anymore! Worse, I get zooie when I hear it.
I could not pray along. I felt like the snob I always suspected I was, then gradually like a over-provoked terrorist. My stomach churned; I couldn't move.
I suppose this may mystify some readers. I can not call God "Lord" because I believe such language and attitude is offensive to the real Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. "Lord" is masculine. God is not. Were S/he so, maleness would be revealed as the superior gender, an illusion already poisoning most cultures.
"Lord" also is dominative, distant, medieval and war-like. The Holy Mystery in us and around us, who invented love and filled the world with it, who designed finches' wings, who set the speed of light and cares for us infinitely does not have the power of a lord - or he would better protect his poor serfs from attack. The real S/he-who-is, our loving Creative Spirit, is more cloud-like, mother-like, persuasive, indefinable and beyond comprehension: an unnamable sweet mystery. Not "Lord" of anything.
"Lord" also suggests that the prophet Jesus of Nazareth - who many think of when they say "Lord" -- was/is God. He's "Lord and Savior" to millions. People are free to believe that, of course, but is it helpful to foist the word on a circle of strangers of every faith and no faith - at a peace rally?
Maybe it's nobody's fault. After all, the Hebrew scriptures continuously calls God "the Lord" (among other, better, names), and has taught that language to the world. But the educated world has now come to appreciate - theoretically anyway - that women are fully human: fully everything males are. Roman Catholic churchmen have not really learned it - and ritualize every day at Mass all over the world that only males are dignified enough to enter the Holy of Holies. Time for change - in language and in rules for leadership as well. Or am I missing something?
The first time I saw a man and a woman, side by side, celebrating the Eucharist, I had an ah-ha moment. (They were Presbyterians.) I suddenly realized what a revolutionary teaching was that simple sight, that symbolism of equality, the two together, side by side, visual mutuality. And I could see clearly the negative lesson given out at each Mass when only males officiate, and God is always "the Lord." Too bad Jesus wasn't a little more Presbyterian. #