Politics, Public Policy and Progressive Faith

31 May

Don’t wear the sign; be the sign

Sally Steenland (@ssteenland) of the Center for American Progress posted audio and an edited transcript from an interview she did with Sr. Joan Chittister (@joancdc), a Benedictine nun who has served in leadership positions among her Catholic sisters and who is a writer and speaker about spirituality and justice in many forms.

The top of the interview deals with the nature of power, authority and leadership–interesting, if a bit academic in places, at least for me on a Friday night. Then they turn to the new Pope and his advice that nuns not use their vocations to pursue ambition. (Asked for her response to that, Chittister reviewed the competent worker-bee history of nuns in the Church and concluded:  ”Nuns don’t get money, they don’t get power, and they don’t get civil or ecclesiastical positions. So no, I can’t answer the question because I don’t understand it.”)

My favorite part of the interview, however, is Chittister’s response to Steenland’s inquiry about the increase in the share of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated, the so-called “nones”; here’s an excerpt from the nun’s take on the nones and how to respond to them:

Well, the way you spread the word is: Don’t worry about wearing the sign; be the sign. You don’t have to wear a sandwich board saying, “I am religious and spiritual and know what you should do.” You do have to be the best of the mystical presence that your tradition brings. Certainly in Christianity, that means that you begin to go through life putting on the mind of Jesus, trying to see the world as Jesus saw the world.

There has always been a great mystical dimension to Christianity. Our saints were mystics. That means they go right into the heart of the Gospel and the spiritual pulp of human life; they’re not as intent on the hierarchical, legalistic, and clerical.

What happens in a world that sees itself as participative and in a state of transformation? People rise up and say, “We’re here too. We want to be part of the discussion. We want to be as honored.” I am a carrier of the best of my tradition; I believe the spirit of God is still alive.

There’s more–on that question, the lives of young women today and other topics. Read the whole thing.