Monday, June 16, 2008

Finally, My Say

Here's my comments on a few things that have been said. I plan on writing an essay (I do!) but my husband is home and wants me to come to bed. Who can resist that!??!

Question:Why did Sue Monk Kidd feel it was necessary to write this story for today's audience? By that I mean, what does a story that is set 4 decades ago have to offer to us today? What new lessons can we learn? Do women today still need stories about female strength? We seem to lap them up (ie Oprah's bookclub). But is it filling a need, or is it preaching to the choir? I can agree that the need WAS it still? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

I think that woman today are more confused about their roles than ever before (because they have more options), which makes them more uncertain about the choices they've made and more subject to guilt about the things they may have given up. I think this leads to more women wanting female empowerment stories, so they can feel better about themselves and their choices. I think any story that has a "universal" theme (acceptance, belonging, love, redemption, etc) will always have something to offer, whether written or just set in a period 40, 100, or 500 yrs. ago.

So according to the Catholic Church, Mary does not supplant God - she helps them worship God and communicate with Jesus. I don't personally agree with all this, but I can see where they are coming from. Sue Monk Kidd's characters have totally removed God from the equation. I believe it's because he's a MAN that the author chose to remove him from the book. And that's mainly why I have a problem with it. It's not different religions that bother me - it's that this has taken female empowerment too far for my tastes.

In the book August says she purposefully chose the Black Madonna for the very reason of giving the women around her someone to identify with. I think the author didn't purposefully take God out because he was a man, more than she wanted her character to be able to give the women around her something more accessible. I like how August is intelligent, intelligent enough to know what she is doing when she is choosing that symbol for her friends.

Also, having been around many Catholics since my marriage and having a mother-in-law, who despite being LDS now, is still very Catholic in many of her ideas--I'd have to say that it is extremely common for Mary (or sometimes other saints) to completely supplant Christ in Catholicism. In Hispanic culture, many not only just pray to Mary, but they'll have specific Marys, like the Virgin of Guadalupe, Virgin of the Poor, Virgin of Rosario, Virgin of Sucor, etc. They know it's all the same Virgin Mary, but the way they treat the different titles and names, it's practically like they are seperate Marys; i.e. they'll light seperate candles for different Virgins, etc. Practice of religion, especially in Catholism, rarely follows the guidelines of the church. I guess it didn't bother me as much either (the whole Black Mary thing) because I've been exposed to a lot of Latin culture (inventors of the genre mystical/magical realism) where things are accepted a lot more readily which are ascribed to "magic." For instance my mother-in-law is always having dreams and whatnot that she interrupts and states means this and that, which I think is completely ridiculous. Or she'll completely accept this or that as a "sign." It drives me nuts, but that's a lot to do with the culture (not just my mother-in-law), and I think a lot of blacks have that in their culture as well.

My idea of religion in the south (which may or may not be accurate) has always been that whites often a harsher view of God than blacks. From what I've read, "black" religion was much warmer, kinder, and user-friendly. All that "Praise Jesus, Hallelujah" and gospel music shows happy people celebrating God and Jesus - not being scared of them! Would moderately educated black women in the south have created their own pseudo-religion? It seems far-fetched to me. AND I think Lily could have found the redemption she searched for from the classic Gospel of the Black South.

Having lived in the South, I have to say I disagree--not with the softer view of God-but the classic Gospel of Black South. I cannot count how many times while working night shift at the hospital conversation turned to witchcraft, voodoo, and the like---AND how many of my coworkers who were African American had had experiences with that sort of thing. From what I understand the mixing of African beliefs with Christianity has always been a part of Afro-American culture, which falls right into place with the Black Mary beliefs described in this book.

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