Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When My Mother Burned a Book

Enough attention has been paid to the Florida preacher planning to burn a Koran. I refuse to name the man, to de facto glorify him as the media has by publicizing his idiocy.

Instead I question liberal churches. Where are they in this? I question Episcopalians. I was baptized one several years ago. Even if I don't attend church when other people are there I spend as much time meditating in churches as a congregant. Much attention, rightly, to ordination of women. Much attention, rightly, to same-sex marriage as a sacrament.

Nothing on the proposed burning of a Koran.

So let little me here and now say: It's a sacrilegious act to burn any book. My mother did it once. My oldest sister (by twelve years) had nightmares about Grimm's fables so Mom thew the book onto a pile of burning leaves; mid-1940s, before I was born.

As an immediate comfort to my sister it might have worked, but as a long-range aid to battling fears, nah. In effect, my Christian Science mother, a tiger in protecting her girls, wanted to eradicate the Grimm brothers, deny they ever existed, as she tried, pretty damn tragically, with her own body.

I once destroyed a book, not by burning but by tearing it in half. It was a mystery novel so dark I felt I needed it off the planet. I threw the halves into a garbage pail, and knew I was accomplishing little. The symbolic gesture, yes. But how much braver and more useful it would have been for me to make peace with my fear.

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote, "the divine Child flooded the darkness of my soul with radiant light." The "divine Child" takes many forms. I believe in an elegant radiance, without race and with all races, one that's universal and accessible to the seeker. Which means we can find something divine within ourselves to counter fear.

My oldest sister, for whom Mom burned the Brothers Grimm, continues to be a complicated and fearful human. Me? My darkness is part of me. My impulse is to deny what bothers me and I know to struggle with it.

If the church won't protest, I will. Sarah Sarai protests the burning of a Koran. I hope you do too. It won't move us closer to truth, divinity or absence of terror.

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