Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Room of One's Own

Because I have not mastered the art of linking to another post, I have copied this, again - I copied yesterday's also. I liked the title " A Room of Our Own" that is a similar one to Kate Chopin's short story of ages past -- "The Awakening".
Because my bell is ringing, I will have to tell you why I chose this to blog about - later...
Read and enjoy.

A Room of Our Own
By: Diana Butler Bass
Monday May 4, 2009
Categories: Christians, Defining Progressive, Religion in the Public Square
My family lives in a typical 1960s house in the Washington DC suburbs, and I work at home. "Typical 1960s house" equals small and no closets. As a result, my books were taking over and there wasn't much space to write. We decided to move my job to the backyard. Thus was born "Mom's writing cottage," a 150 square-foot white clapboard house with green trim and a window box. In recent weeks, my daughter and I planted flowers all around making the tiny house literally bloom with creativity--not to mention a plethora of purple pansies.
About two weeks ago, I posted pictures of my cottage on Facebook. What happened next truly surprised me--my wall and my inbox were literally flooded with comments. "Oh, it is so cute!" wrote a good number of my friends, "I want one, too." Strangers requested copies of the building plans. Indeed, the envy factor ran so high that I apologized for causing so many people to break the 10th Commandment--Thou Shalt Not Covet.
As I read my these notes, I began to realize that they represented a powerful spiritual impulse in our culture--to have a place, a cozy place of retreat, to think, read, reflect, and pray. A little place to do good work; a room to call one's own (many people quoted Virginia Woolf's famous line back to me).
The really odd thing about this is that many--if not most--of my friends self-identify on Facebook as "liberal," "left," or "progressive" when asked about their politics. They are activists, justice-oriented, politically engaged, non-profit do-gooders, and most of them live in cities. They are busy people working to make the world a better place. They feed hungry people; they lead marches at city hall. Frankly, their response to the cottage reminded me a little of the kind of thing that Thoreau might hanker for--a tiny corner of the world where one might better encounter the spirit in order to feel the ethical heartbeat of the universe.
There's a bumper sticker that says: "If you want peace, work for justice." I think that is true. New progressives, however, may want to turn it around: "If you want justice, seek out peace." Historically understood, progressive faith has always insisted that activism springs from prayer; that ethics must be grounded in devotion. Thus, the way to social transformation is a way that knows when to retreat--not escape--but retreat to connect with the God who is justice, and whose beautiful dream of justice shapes the political imagination.
When I was a teenager, I read a book by Elizabeth O'Connor called Journey Inward/Journey Outward (no longer in print). In it, she argued that the greatest mistake of 20th century religion had been to sever the relationship between spirituality and social justice. She pled for the inner of devotion and outer life of activism to be reunited.
With all the difficult challenges we face with international relations, the economy, and the environment, it is a good thing to remember that fixing the outward circumstances isn't the entire goal. A more complete progressive goal is to help bring about a world in which all people might experience the profoundly human journey of loving God and loving neighbor. We have to pay attention to the inner life as well as the outer one. Journey inward. Journey outward.
Many thanks, Facebook friends. You reminded me that progress often involves retreat--the right kind of quiet pause to grow deeper as we reach further. And if you are ever in DC, come by the little house for a cup of tea. We'll talk about changing the world.

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