What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions


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All I Want for Mother’s Day

I know I’m jumping the gun a little bit, but I just received confirmation in email of my reservation for Mother’s Day brunch (I got my request in early because this place fills up…local, scrumptious, organic food creatively prepared), and I thought this year I might have time to finally commit to memory Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation so I can declaim it at the table, though I’m not sure I could do it without crying. My son turns 18 the week before Mother’s Day, and we’ll have to register him for selective service. Not that the thought of other mother’s sons going to war doesn’t also bring me to tears. Do you know the poem? We all should:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.


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That Didn’t Last Long, Or: My Intolerance for Intolerance

I tried. I tried really hard to be Orthodox. So much of it felt lovely. But there were these dark shadows nibbling at the edges. The biggest of them sported a familiar shape: patriarchy. Male supremacy has smeared its dirty fingerprints all over everything about it. Dig into the patristics and you’ll discover the worst kind of misogyny. Women told they should feel shame for their very nature. Beyond not having our calls honored, not being allowed into any part of ministry beyond baking for coffee hour. The author of our liturgy may not have denied the existence of our souls, but he and his brethren sure said plenty of nasty about us. 

But every shadow has a bright spot. I followed my husband into Orthodoxy, and he followed me out of it into feminism. He used to take quiet umbrage when I used that f word, when I fingered patriarchy here or there as the underlying source of some problem in our culture. Now, having done his best to participate in this most patriarchal of religions, he gets it. It was too much even for him. As part of our recovery from our attempts to embrace orthodoxy and its inherent misogyny, we read Sarah Bessey’s blessing of a book, Jesus Feminist. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It made me cry, tears of relief. Yes, yes! Please.

The other thing that bugged us was the church’s stance against marriage equality. It’s not like we ever endured a homily about the evils of same sex attraction or anything. It was never spoken. But once, at the diocesan family retreat, sitting at a table with some priests, discussing the possibility of my son’s entering seminary, I voiced a desire to see more of the spirit of John the Baptist afoot, to see godly men speaking truth to power. And one priest piped up with praise for our bishop having written a screed against New York’s legalizing marriage equality. Really? I asked. Is that what we need to be worrying about? What about dropping bombs on children? How easy it is to worry about someone else’s sex life instead of confronting the military-industrial complex that makes our lives easier. But almost since the beginning there has been complicity between orthodoxy and empire. It goes on. Well, it can go on without me.

The real beauty part is that now I’m feeling free again to continue to explore my spirituality outside the confines orthodoxy imposes. The spirituality of my indigenous forebears, for instance. The green magic of my Celtic roots. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still very much a Christian. But what that means is so much more flexible and fluid and life-affirming than what these small-minded men have so far imagined. I know it has everything to do with love, and any Christianity that says I can’t love every one of my neighbors as myself is a false Christianity in my book.