Being in my midtwenties, my primary anxiety centers around “getting my shit together.” I am not alone in this – most of my friends are having their own varied experiences of this same central problem – what the fuck are we doing? The kids I hang out with, we’ve tried our damndest to de-centralize this problem, to call into question the inherent classism involved in that pursuit, to look at the impacts of race and gender and sexual orientation on the answers we do or do not arrive at.
But still, it persists. According to many in my social set, I have my shit together, or at least I am close to having it together. I don’t feel like I do, but I guess I understand why it might look like that. Within the last two years, I went from being a transiant, dirty, coffee slinging, heavy drinking wanton hussy bike riding hipster to something approximating a liberal “adulthood.” I bought a house, I’ve steadily moved “up” the ranks into exempt and pseudo-“professional” jobs. I have two dogs who I kind of treat like kids. More and more I’m looking at my romantic relationships through a long term lens. I have a mattress that didn’t come from a dumpster or my parent’s basement.
And I don’t believe that this is success; or that it is selling out. And I do. I believe that it is both success and selling out. Its scary to look at my life and see both how it fulfills me and sustains me, and how it runs contrary to what I so loudly espoused in my youth.
Are these the last cries of a dying radical? Were my parents right – that with enough time and a little material comfort, I would leave behind all the crazy talk about anti-capitalism and radical inclusivity and become just another boring liberal dotting a landscape already inundated with boring liberals?
And the only place I’m finding salve for all this is in religion. And that’s funny too, because I am growing further and further apart with the religion that, in many ways, was responsible for my initial politicization. But unitarian universalism doesn’t feel radical anymore; it feels boring and liberal. There was a time (in my life, and in the life of the country and the world) when proclaiming the inherent worth and dignity of every human being was a radical statement. And it doesn’t feel like that anymore. It feels like a shallow statement – a shallow statement I can get behind, but still . . .nothing deep, nothing that I can bite into and wrestle with.
Ok, my small and clandestine blog reading public . . .first, the context.
Andie Lyons, aged 18, arrives on the campus of CU Boulder, somewhat unwillingly. She is a “legacy”, which is to say, her parents met at a bar on University Hill and her brother pledged the Boulder chapter of some dumb fraternity and now, since she didn’t get some stellar offer from some better place, she has become the fourth and final member of her family to don the gold and black of CU. Having been the black sheep for neigh on her entire life, she accepts this truth reluctantly and immediately begins seeking out the counter culture to the best of her ability.
The result? 1) UMHE, the progressive ecumenical campus ministry which will set her down the path that inevitably leads, some 8 years later, to the Iliff School of Theology and the beginnings of a masters of divinity.
2) A bunch of anarch-punks who will eventually set her down the path of cooking dumpstered potatos at food not bombs and getting arrested on a semi-regular basis for civil disobedience.
Surprisingly, despite the co-occurance of these two events, Andie manages to keep the lines between them sharply dilineated, and indeed, her politics and her religion interface rarely, and when they do, with somewhat explosive results.
Because that’s the lengthy lesson I’m involved in these days. How do I make this crazy radical energy fit with this deep spiritual longing that I feel? The xtian anarchists who spoke my call last summer were just the beginning. Since then, I’ve been trying to parcel it all out.
I’ve been arrested before this weekend, but I’ve never been arrested while wearing a stole, singing hymns, surrounded by other people of faith. My civil disobedience has happened in the arms of the anarchist community, which is (generally speaking) staunchly anti-God. And while I can thank this community for giving me any number of skills that came in handy this weekend at the Transform Columbus Day action, where I and 87 others were arrested for peacefully protesting a hate celebration, I cannot thank them for giving me the kind of remarkable spirit that was the most effective tool this weekend.
And it wasn’t just the anointing and praying before hand; it wasn’t the hymns being sung or seeing an ordained clergy member across the circle from me. It was the fact that the comrades who were by my side were people who know intimately the ideas of forgiveness and change, but who will not forgive without accountability. It was the fact that we could say, with our bodies and our freedom, that the people who gave us our skin color, our names, our culture and OUR FAITH are the people who wrought wholesale devestation on this continent. And we are not going to let that legacy continue. I did not choose who I am or where I came from, but I will repent for the sins of my people. And that rhetoric, that language, those ideas . . .they are shared by the people who sat with me and sang and prayed; by the people who stood behind us and willed God into that street; by the people at their homes who kept vigil; by the people who sat outside the jail and held our strength when we couldn’t anymore.
I was blessed to be in a community of religious radicals. They exist. I needed to know that. Its in my heart, the images of those faces, the smell of that oil . . .it kept me strong this weekend. It will keep me strong throughout this process. This is a beginning, it’s also a marker. The call has been renewed, it’s echoes are sustaining me even in the midst of my barely concealed tears.