What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions


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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.


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Another Unexpected Turn of Events

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If you’ve followed me and my meandering spiritual path (which, since it occupies a significant chunk of my mental space and therefore my poetry, has been a rather public one, which I have not let make me feel I couldn’t take whatever turns I was led to take, following the small, quiet voice that leads me), then you may or may not have seen coming what just happened. I surely didn’t.

So several weeks ago, since our pastor (at a congregational church we had joined about a year and a half ago, after my husband and I had both separately had our conversion experiences, his involving calm and rational intellect and mine hallucinations and vomiting, because that’s the way I roll, y’all — really, when in “Poem In Which I Address Richard Dawkins As Dick I say my soul “has grabbed me by the neck/ and thrown me down,” I’m not kidding) had announced that he was going to deliver a sermon about Martin Luther and the glories of capitalism, my husband decided we ought to check out the Greek Orthodox Church downtown, since already he and the boy (who grows a pretty excellent beard, btw), had been feeling pulled to Orthodoxy. Hubby had actually been baptized and christmated as an infant into a small Orthodox sect at a Carpatho-Rusyn Catholic church in Pennsylvania, as his father had been, and his father before him. A church actually part of the Greek Rite. And they were both craving weekly communion. And I rather failed to see the point of communal worship without it, myself.

And the church we went to was beautiful. And the liturgy was beautiful. Mostly standing, mostly sung. Long story short, we changed churches. And a few weeks into it, I’m thinking, really? Orthodox? I was facing the decision, whether or not to undergo the sacrament of chrismation, to officially convert. You might imagine what could give me pause.

And then, taking a rare moment on Twitter, this comes across my feed, shared by Milkweed Press, the press I’m intent on having publish my second book of poems, because the place the excerpt talks about, Maaloula, had just seen some of the violence that continues to tear apart Syria. And it felt like Godstuff. So much so that I chose St. Thekla as my patron, and I was chrismated two weeks ago. So that’s what happened. I’m now an Orthodox Christian. Me, who had poems published when I was still in Shreveport in American Atheist Magazine and Free Inquiry.

There’s a reason I call this blog “What I Meant To Say.” And God really does have a great sense of humor. And now I give an even bigger crap about what happens in Syria.

Keeping My Word

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Keeping My Word

I said I’d wear the obnoxious floral bike shorts if managed to raise $1,000 for the Southern Tier AIDS Program. Well, my generous friends and family gave over $1,200 to sponsor me in today’s ride, so here’s the proof. The shorts did not go without comment, you can trust.

Thanks to everyone who gave, as well as to those who let me know they couldn’t afford to give right now (times are hard!) but wished me well. We had a great day, and raised a whole bunch of money (over $200K!) which will go directly to helping people in our area.


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Open Letter to President Obama

Mr President:

I write not because I think you will listen, but because I can’t live with myself if I don’t give voice to my objection to your position on using force in Syria. I am sickened that we find ourselves, as Americans, in this position again, watching our government try to make a case for military action in a country that is not threatening us.

I’m not going to detail here how our foreign policy for decades has benefited an economic elite and caused the very unrest our military actions are allegedly intended to quell. Such knowledge is out there for anyone to discover, who cares to look.

I am going to appeal to your humanity, because, despite your actions that illustrate the contrary, I feel you must still have some, somewhere. You seem to love your wife and daughters, at least. So remember, when you order another batch of bombs or drone strikes, that many of the men you’re striking at have wives and children, too. Like the children you killed at that birthday party in Pakistan.

I have sometimes wondered if you’re not a hostage in that big house, unable to do anything but the bidding of the warlords who run this country, the industry heads who profit from our endless wars, the munitions manufacturers and dealers and Big Oil representatives. That if you don’t do what you’re told, you’ll end up like Kennedy. It must suck not to be a free man, whatever the perks.

But then I think that maybe you do have a choice, but have simply been blinded by the glitter of Washington, by having your ego stroked, by having so much smoke blown up your rear end. The leader of the free world, and all that. Pffft.

Let me tell you, Barack Hussein: your soul is in peril. Wake up. No one knows when we go to meet our maker. I suggest you put your own house in order. Do not keep murdering innocent people. There is nothing you can say from that Oval Office that will convince me that what the people of Syria need is more violence.

I’ll pray for you at the table tonight, that you see the light. That you might strive to deserve the prize the Nobel committee awarded you.

very best wishes for a more peaceful tomorrow,

Wendy Babiak

In Case You Thought I Was Kidding…

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In Case You Thought I Was Kidding...

…about those 80s bike shorts being obnoxious. I’m more than halfway to my fundraising goal of $1,000 for the AIDS Ride for Life, in which I’ll be riding 42 miles. If you’d like the opportunity to directly help people suffering from AIDS in the Southern Tier, click on the photo. It’s safe, secure, and tax deductible.


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Crowdfunding Sponsorship for a Good Cause

Speaking of feeling like a hero, in the AIDS Ride for Life, all the riders are considered heroes. I’ll be riding for the shortest bit, only 42 miles, but for me, that’s going to be pushing it. I’m in training…an 11-mile loop is feeling easy, and I’ll be increasing my distance every few days until I’m confident that I won’t keep anyone waiting at the finish line. The ride is coming soon, September 7th, and funds raised benefit the Southern Tier AIDS Program, which provides direct assistance to those in our area suffering from this still-all-too-prevalent disease. I only recently set up my fundraising page, so I’m playing catch-up a bit. 

Click here to give a little or a lot. Everything helps.