The church has always understood disenfranchisement in political and economic terms. The church likes to “speak truth to power” (government and business) about its political and economic oppression and disenfranchisement of the people, conveniently ignoring its own position of power in the lives of the people, and its spiritual, emotional and psychological oppression and disenfranchisement of them.
It is time for us to understand oppression and disenfranchisement in emotional, psychological and spiritual terms. Who speaks for/to the emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually disenfranchised? The church is the embodiment of their disenfranchisement, the power behind the diminishment of the spirit of the people. Yet, who speaks truth to power where the church is concerned? The church prides itself as the conscience of government and business, but who is the conscience of the church?
What is the mechanism by which the church rights itself? Sees itself, evaluates its own impact, changes its mind, alters its course? Who conducts a performance review of the church? What is the structure by which the church is changed for the better? How does the church examine itself?
How does the church determine which beliefs are worth believing? Which practices are worth practicing? How many beliefs and/or practices have been jettisoned over the years, politely put aside without any official declaration as to their unworthiness of our allegiance or even affiliation? How much of what they believed/did in the early church, or the church of the Middle Ages, or the church of the Reformation, does the church continue to believe/do? We should make a list. Things Once Believed And Practiced But No Longer Believed Or Practiced. That would reflect how foolish it is to believe that the things we believe are sacrosanct, beyond question, worthy of eternal veneration and submission, that the practices we practice must always be practiced.
Life is not static. The more rigid our beliefs and practices are, the more dead we are. The more resistant we are to examining our beliefs and practices in terms of what is helpful in living the life that is ours to live, the more dead we are.
Our work is that of living our life and becoming who we are, which involves us in the process of dialog with our shadow and becoming who we also are. What are the tools required to do the work that is ours to do? Helping us answer this question is the prerogative of the church.
The church rights itself through on-going dialogue with a broad range of perspectives in the service of inquiry and exploration into the truth of our experience and our evolving understanding of what is helpful in living the lives that are our lives to live. What we believe and what we do is informed and transformed by that dialogue. The core of our perception of who we are and what we are about is dynamic and alive, changing, evolving, becoming.
This is the nature of relationship with transcendence—it calls us beyond ourselves into an ever-deepening engagement with mystery. We don’t know who we are or what our life is in an intellectual, rational, logical way. We know who we are and what our life is experientially, as we step into the mystery of finding our way to what is right for us.
What does it take, really, to do the work that is ours to do, to live the life that is ours to live, to be who we are? Living a meaningful life means doing what is meaningful to us with our life. No one can say what that is for us. No one knows what that is but us. Listen to yourself. Stop looking for directions in stars and tealeaves and secret signs. Direct your own life. Follow your own intuition, your own passion. Do what is meaningful to you! You know what is meaningful and what is not. Live toward what is meaningful. This is not difficult. Your sense of what is meaningful is the operative force in your life. Don't be duped by the bright lights of Gay Paree. Follow meaningful.
Ah, but. We don’t get out of the gate before we need help finding our way to the life that is our life to live. It is not enough to tell us to do what is meaningful, to follow meaningful. If it were only a matter of doing what resonates with us, that would be one thing, but what tantalizes us trumps what resonates with us. And we are carried off with those cartoon-like hypnotic eyes locked onto the object of our fascination into the distant regions of the wasteland. We think something meaningful is resonating with us when we are mesmerized by the sights and sounds of Las Vegas, and Bourbon Street, and Gay Paree.
A different kind of problem with doing what is meaningful is finding the personal strength and authority to live our own lives. We are hesitant to let ourselves care about what is meaningful to us. What would our family say? What would the neighbors think? We have to care about what we are supposed to care about, and everyone knows what that is. So we shape ourselves around someone else’s idea of what is important and call that being alive.
It’s complicated. We cannot just be told to find our way to the life that is our life to live by doing what is meaningful. Yet, that’s the way, as fraught as it is with potholes and pitfalls. We have to trust ourselves to what is meaningful even when we mistake enticement and temptation for meaningful. We have to risk being wrong in our search for what is meaningful. And we have to find the courage to do what we think is meaningful regardless of what Those Who Know Best (Truman Capote) think we should do.
This is not easy. And the church has to be on our side encouraging us, nourishing us, nurturing us, sustaining us, enabling us to do what is difficult: Listen to all of the voices within until we can discern the voice that knows what it is talking about—and follow that voice through Gethsemane to Golgotha if need be in doing what needs to be done no matter what.
Here is the heart of the matter: We don’t choose what is meaningful to us, it chooses us. So. What do we care about? How do we express it? How would anyone know we care about it? What does caring about it say about us? About who we are? About who we are not? What do we care about is the question. We can wonder if it’s worth caring about later. For now, it is enough to know what we care about. And to care about it. To do what is meaningful until we see that it is a sham, and we were wrong. Then we have to start over with the next apparently-meaningful thing and give ourselves to it and see what happens.
This is the wonder: We don’t have to be right about it being MEANINGFUL. We just have to be right about it being meaningful to us. We cannot do what someone else thinks should be meaningful. “You’re a boy in the deep south. You should like guns. Here’s a gun. Go shoot something.” We have to listen within for the voice that knows what it is talking about, and take our orders from that source.
What if we are wrong? Guess again! We are here to get guessing down! To become better guessers over time! Guessing wisely is wisdom! We guess our way along the way! Who knows what they are doing? We can’t wait to live our life until we know what we are doing. We start right now by doing what is meaningful. And we can’t wait to be sure. We guess and go!
We are looking for meaningful. Not easy. Not exciting. Not sexy. Not entertaining. Meaningful. Don’t forget what we’re looking for. Not comfort. Not security. Meaningful. Sacrifice everything in the service of meaningful. Meaningful to us, of course. We make the call.
We avoid being stuck by assuming personal responsibility for our own life and living in the service of our evolving idea of what is important, of what is meaningful. And this is heroic stuff all the way. Where did Odysseus find what it took to face the Cyclops? That’s were we find what it takes to face our lives and to live OUR lives.
The revolution is simply reclaiming our lives, making our own choices and our own mistakes, living toward ends that are meaningful to us. It comes down to this: Listening for the voice that knows what it’s talking about, watching for the white rabbit, trusting our instinct and intuition, and letting the outcome be the outcome. Getting it wrong is just a step on the way to getting it right, and getting it right is just a matter of time.