June 3, 2010

Joan Chittister: Spunky Revisionist



"The important thing to remember is that religion itself is meant to be only a means to sanctity, not an end in itself. Religion is at best a finger pointing at the moon." -- Joan Chittister

I'm not Catholic, and I struggle to find common ground with the Catholic Church, but I do love a feisty woman, and Sister Joan Chittister is nothing if not spunky. You know the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, "Well-behaved women rarely make history"? It's odd to think of a nun as an ill-behaved woman, but Chittister is making history, working within the church to change its old-school ways, -- its views on women and evolution, for example-- and not everyone is a fan. In researching her I found more than one hostile blog post and responses too imbecile to repeat.

Chittister has been speaking her mind for 35 years, at least, has written just about as many books, and has a long, long list of accomplishments.

I'm a little slow, however, and just learned about Chittister at the Unitarian Church last Sunday when our minister, in her sermon about how war is more harmful for civilians than soldiers, quoted from Chittister's speech, "Women, Power and Peace." Here's an excerpt:

"And we must cry out the answer to the ends of the globe women have everything to do with war. Everything. Everything. Everything. Women as a class excluded from the war making system on every major determining level go to war in the worst possible way. They go unprepared, unarmed, and unasked whether they want to be defended, defenselessly or not. Women are booty of war, their bodies have become the instrument of war, their children have become the father of war. Their homes have become the rubble of war. Their daily struggles to live have become one of the horrors of war and their futures have been left shattered in the shambles of war. They die, too, from bombs and bullets. They die in large cities and small villages today for lack of food and then they die left behind for lack of water or they die for years after that from drinking water destroyed by war and left filthy with human feces. They die in tent cities without medicines, without clothing, without sons and husbands and hope and they die seeing their daughters do the same. So much for the commitment of men to the protection of women. So much for the notion that men spare women the suffering of war.

"Oh, yes. When all the warriors have finally left their battlefields, it is the women who are left abandoned there, either to rise or die alone in the ashes of war and the cemeteries of anguish. If truth were ever told war falls hardest, longest, cruelest on the backs of women. Indeed, women must have a role not only in the reconstruction of society’s already ravaged by war, but more than that, they must take a voice until they are given a voice in the development of peaceful alternatives to war as well."

It's a long read but definitely worth the time. If that's on the heavy side for you, you might like another article: "The God Who Beckons: Recent Discoveries in Science Have Given Us a New Picture of the Divine Creator"

In fact, there's all sorts of Chittister reading out there. Have at it! I think I will, too.

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