Monday, April 21, 2008

Would It Be Enough?

I love celebrating Passover. I love the big family gathering at my dad's home where we gather for the seder, tell the story, sing the songs, and eat the same food each year. I love our own somewhat quirky traditions and the history that we build together each year.

The Haggadah we use reminds us that we must tell the story of the Exodus as if we were there ourselves -- and that the struggle for liberation continues around the world. We sing a song called "Dayenu", it would have been enough, that says that each step towards liberation is enough.

It's hard for me not to rebel against its message. Partial victories are not enough. I've been working on sexual justice issues for more than 30 years now, and although we are farther on many, there is indeed so much work that remains to be done. Yes, abortion is now legal in the U.S., but inaccessible for many and still illegal in much of the world. Yes, women in the U.S. have greater equality than before, but the glass ceiling still very much exists in most industries, women still make less than men, violence against women is still epidemic, and the two largest denominations in the U.S. still don't ordain us. Yes, we've won the battle that sex education belongs in schools and faith communities, but the fights over content continue. Yes, a majority of Americans now support anti-employment discrimination for gays and lesbians (except in too many of the nation's religious communities) and some states recognize civil unions, but civil and religious marriage is denied most. And I could go on.

But, perhaps "dayenu" is to remind us that each of us as individuals can only accomplish so much, and that to paraphrase Henry James, "we will act as though what we do makes a difference." I'm also reminded of this quote by Reinhold Niebuhr:

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.

Together, we are making a difference, even though it is not enough.


P.S. This weekend, two religious leaders (from considerably diverse theological backgrounds) applauded the work of the Religious Institute on their blogs. I am so grateful to the Women's Caucus of the Church of the Brethren and this Unitarian Universalist minister for letting their readers know about our work. Dayenu.


jadedjabber said...

Thank you for these words. Sometimes I feel so hopeless about making changes in the world and I know that I have many decades ahead of me. It is inspiring to see your perseverance and message of hope. Neibuhr is certainly right on this one.

Ruth said...

Appreciated this post. I appreciate your blog in general. I'm a PCUSA clergywoman, have a daughter who is very interested in justice for transgendered individuals. She is working on her Bachelors in Social Work. Any tidbits of wisdom from you?

Anonymous said...

the issue of ordaining or not ordaining women is something we can't do anything about. churches/denominations can make up their own rules. like it or leave it. no, it's not fair. but that's they way it is. i was raised Catholic and i would love to see female priests..but that will never happen because the church has a specific theological reason for not ordaining women. sometimes u just have to let it be.

Mrs. Y said...

I thought the point of Dayenu was that the good lord doesn't owe us squat and we should be grateful for every blessing. Which is not at all the same as being content with what The Man gives us, I grant you.