tideshift

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Imposed Illusion"

This link goes to a very long essay by Noam Chomsky, well worth the reading time.

I saw The Da Vinci Code this past weekend. I had read the book years ago, and thought both were very good, even if parasitic critic types have panned both. To me, Dan Brown has picked up powerful themes of the feminine sacred and women's power within and without historical Christianity - well-addressed by Mary Daly, Elaine Pagels and other feminists and theologians - and presented them, bearing his privileged legitimacy as a man, in a popular and highly entertaining format.

His work is historical fiction; like all fiction, it carries a significant amount of truth, and like all history, it involves the selection of people, documents, artifacts and events to make a certain point and uphold a certain worldview. I happen to agree with the worldview of The Da Vinci Code: that women and the feminine spiritual energy have been overwhelmingly suppressed and virtually destroyed throughout much of recorded history, and that a resurgence of that irrepressible energy, through today's female descendants of the well-nigh obliterated, is ongoing and soon to reach critical mass.

That's how I feel on a good day, like when I saw that film, although it's interesting to note that the official Vatican position is apparently not to call for a boycott, which might stimulate interest, but to convey a mild contempt for the shallowness of Brown's work, and hope that by belittling, marginalizing, ignoring it, the novel, film and message will simply fizzle through lack of interest.

Despite feeling encouraged by the popularity of both book and movie, it leads to uncomfortable conflict with some Catholics, who argue, rightfully, I think, that the Catholic Church is often singled out for blame for atrocities that other cultural institutions have also committed. These arguments reach no conclusion; the winner-take-all format of arguments is problematic for those who can and do see the merit of many sides of any issue. I try to think through the dynamics of these arguments, believing that it might offer me some insight into why Iraq is on fire with the violent end result of such ideological conflicts and power disputes.

What I want from the Catholic church is an admission that even though that institution is not the only institution to drive women down with everything from historical erasure to witch burnings and even though women are not the only targets of such betrayals of Jesus' example, in fact many women have been destroyed and damaged by Catholic teachings and the acts of Catholic men.

I suspect what Catholics want from the general public is the exact opposite: an acknowledgement that even if some Catholic teachings led some Catholic leaders and followers to commit some atrocities, by far the greatest number of Catholics throughout history have been humble, faithful people - men and women - who have made enormous contributions to the salvation of humankind through contemplation, scholarship, practice of the healing arts and care of the souls of parishioners worldwide.

Fair enough. The problem is: who goes first? Must Catholics first admit to the reality of Malleus Maleficarum http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/ , the Inquisition, the bloody Crusades, the legitimacy of historical debate around (and suppression of evidence for) the true role of women, including Mary Magdalene, in the early Church, before non-Catholics will acknowledge the tremendous good done by the admittedly fallible human beings who have carried Christ's message of love, charity and hope forward for two millenia? Couldn't we both go at the same time? Or am I just wrong about what the conflict is about to begin with?

There are moments when it seems like a new lens snaps down over my eyes, and for a short time things really look different, although I can never sustain the new view. But today I'm in one of those phases. Having read Noam Chomsky's essay, and knowing that groups like MoveOn and Faith Voices for the Common Good, and many others, are working hard and collectively on new vision statements, statements of principle, new, concise platforms of what the left stands for and what we will work to make manifest in the world, I found myself suddenly profoundly grateful to George W. Bush.

Without his monumental immorality, ignorance of the facts of history and of current events, without his enormous egotistical arrogance and massive power grab, all the momentum building worldwide for non-violent forms of law enforcement, for clean, renewable energy technology, for universal human rights, and economies geared toward sustaining people and not profits, would be just a tiny, fledgling ripple with no chance of reaching tsunami size. Bush has focused the human mind in the collective; he's sharpened and simplified the debate; at this turning point, we either head toward univeral salvation, or univeral annihilation. There are no gray areas of complexity anymore.

We are either with him, and his narrow focus on destroying enemies without recognizing their genesis in ourselves and our American/strategic/self-interested actions, or with the terrorists - the worst, most neglected, reviled, misunderstood, dangerous aspects of ourselves wanting desperately to be respected, healed and embraced.

Bush is like Judas, in the new story, the way the new Judas is in the old story: without Judas, no sacrificial lamb. "Mysterious ways" indeed. For in a twisted way, Bush is our terrorist, and we must begin to truly respect, heal and embrace him if we are to head away from the annihilation path.

I close with a quote from the Chomsky essay:

"Another conservative suggestion is that facts, logic, and elementary moral principles should matter. Those who take the trouble to adhere to that suggestion will soon be led to abandon a good part of familiar doctrine, though it is surely much easier to repeat self-serving mantras. Such simple truths carry us some distance toward developing more specific and detailed answers. More important, they open the way to implement them, opportunities that are readily within our grasp if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and imposed illusion."

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