Over the years I've heard my share of complaints regarding the "prayer of confession" in weekly worship. Not everyone feels this way, but it's not unusual to get a critique regarding such prayers' negativity. "Why do I need to say I'm no good week after week?" people ask.
I often think I hear colleagues asking, “How could we attract nuns to our church?” Actually they’re talking about “the nones,” of course. One of the clearest findings of the Pew Forum’s new religious landscape study is that fewer and fewer people have any religious affiliation at all. Catholics and mainline Protestants show the biggest drop.
A few years ago, during a vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (a place where my family and I go every couple of years), my children were playing with their cousins on the beach. I was taking photos as they frolicked in the gentle surf along the wide expanse of seemingly endless ocean. There were sea and beach creatures, along with colorful shells, that also caught my photo snapping attention.
Somewhere in the midst of my attempts at capturing as many “Kodak moments” as I could, I lost my footing and fell.
I went on a walk along the bay in Rhode Island. It was the path I took daily, so I was sure footed and looking at the horizon, until I almost stumbled upon an animal corpse. I’m not sure what it was. It was so bloated and distorted—spots of brownish gray fur, the size of a small dog but with much tinier legs. It smelled of warm rot and I became immediately afraid.
Recently I asked my Facebook world what they were hankering to read a post about; the answers were few. But two friends both said they wanted to read something about love. One of them, a former college professor of mine and a drama queen in the absolute best sense of the term, said this, “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” I don’t think my former professor is a religious sort of person, but her suggestion immediately took me to the Song of Songs.
Finding a crack in the door of patriarchy, which still patterns the life of both the church and the world, Carolyn Custis James swings it wide open, redirecting the gender conversation towards its rightful focus: the malestrom.