Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mine Eyes

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

No, not a spoiler passage from the new Harry Potter, a lyric from The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a song I found in the missal at Mass this past Easter weekend. Yes, I went to church. I had not been in over a year. Before college, I missed Mass only a handful of times. Now I am absent and church politics give me reason enough not to return. This weekend I decided to join my family, but instead of sitting with them in the main hall and putting on appearances for the other families, I sat in the last row of the chapel. It has a view of altar "stage-right" when the stained glass is cranked open. I felt more comfortable back there, and it was a good spot to view it all from in my jeans.

Now when I go to church, its hard to see beyond the symbology and performance of people coming to see and be seen. Its strange because I still consider myself a religious person. I believe in a higher power. I pray. But the rhetoric of the church, like the fear instilled from the song lines above, feels misplaced. Thats not my faith. Thats not how I want it translated. I guess it would be exciting if Mass were like the song above, but a parking lot full of SUVs hardly feels like a hundred circling camps.

I originally stopped going to church because I didn't like the idea that I had to go. I wanted to wait until I wanted to, when it would have meaning for me again. As my days go marching on, I am not sure it ever will.


Blogger Ms. NOLA said...

It's sad to see the misappropriation of faith. When I was in high school, my religion teacher said we shouldn't abandon the church because of it's faults. Rather, we should stay in and fight to make those changes. His logic: why throw out the baby with the bath water?

But as a feminist, I can't see how one can reconcile with staunch hypocracies like the Catholic church's positions on women, reproductive rights (an issue for men and women) and homosexuals, among others. I don't like being a part of a community that rejects my issues at face value, rather than considering them the way I grappled with ideas like faith as a child.

Maybe at the heart of this is the imagery and iconography of violence and warfare. Notions of hell overwhelm the work of social justice. How can this change?

Tue Mar 29, 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger R J Keefe said...

It not only can change, it will inevitably change. One's only hope - not backed up by history, I'm afraid to say - is that change will not be accompanied by violence.

Tue Mar 29, 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Nola said...

I'm glad you included this... I know most of the words to all five verses of the battle hymn of the republic, but I always forget the variations on "His Truth is marching on..." such as "His day is marching on"

Tue Mar 29, 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Wouldn't the masculine form be Mr. Nolo or Mr. Nole?)

From Carly Simon to Battle Hymns, we'll have to swap ipods.

Wed Mar 30, 10:11:00 AM  

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