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When I first saw the original version of the movie, “The Stepford Wives,” I found it chilling.  Over the years, as I’ve met certain people of faith, it has occurred to me that they come across in the same way.  Everybody must act the same.  Dress conservatively.  Quote the Bible all the time.

I always wondered what was going on underneath the veneer.  Didn’t any of these people ask questions? Was this what they really believed?  If they had doubt, what would their recourse be?

This is how I feel when believers come to my door to spread the word of their gospel.  I feel like I’m being enticed with promises of fellowship and community, but when I listen carefully, I’m actually hearing judgment and negativity.  We want you just the way you are, but once we get you, we’re going to change you completely.  The few times I’ve actually opened my door, it has occurred to me to try to be gentle with them, because in their universe, they are doing me a favor.

What is so important to you that it’s the first thing you’ll try to discuss with someone you’ve just met?

The idea for this topic came from my son – a shy boy who doesn’t initiate conversations often – who asked someone online, “Do you Kraft?” He’s not talking about practicing witchcraft; “Kraft” refers to playing an online game called “Minecraft.”  The game seems to be a slow-moving, uneventful endeavor in which players dig caves.  Not much happens, as I see it.  But to my son and his friends, it’s engaging and entertaining, and it’s the first thing they do when they come home from school.

After watching him “Kraft” a few times, I realized it’s a metaphor for life.  With “creepers” and spiders that come out of nowhere, it can be a rather dark world.  You never know what’s around the corner, so you’d better be sure you’ve built your cave well.

My ministry is about encouraging others along the path of life, and trying to meet them where they are.  When I first saw my son playing Minecraft, I thought, isn’t there a “lighter, brighter” game he could be playing?  Why is it always so dark?  Why must there be monsters?

I’ve asked the same questions of God.  Why must life be so dark sometimes?  Why are there challenges so big they might consume us altogether?  Since I don’t know the answer to these questions, I’ll just try to share what I do know with my son, hope he’ll listen, and allow him to find his own way in the world.  Extending that philosophy to everyone I meet has made it possible to really get to know people, not just to make assumptions. Because really, there’s no lonelier cave than a closed mind.

I once had a friend who called me “Lorax,” a play on my name and the fact that I stuck up for the little guy: In this case, copywriters. My friend and I worked epically long hours; we even won an award for the best catalog copy in America…only to be told by our department manager, “Anyone can write.” Yep. I spent thousands of dollars and years of skill-building to be little more than a monkey with a typewriter. Someone had to stand up for us.

And I guess that’s become my ministry: Speaking up for those who are not heard or cannot speak. For example, I live in a Dog Town; that is, a town that loves its pups and thinks very little of those of the feline persuasion. I like dogs, too. But I love and care for stray cats because there are so few of us who will. (And I mean truly care for, not hoard. Hoarders are collectors, not caretakers.) I’ve never met a dog-hater, but cat-haters are a dime a dozen. So I speak for the cats.

I also speak for those who tend to be left out, short-changed, under-represented — women. I ask the Church to listen to us and let us lead. I demand equable wages. I represent, in my small, computer-bound way, a majority that, alas, is still treated like a minority.

This puts me on the surprising end of certain controversies. For instance, I don’t like the fact that human beings seem to be more important before they’re born than after. Where are all the Right To Lifers when it comes to children of color who need homes? Where are they when it comes to preventing violence against women? What responsibility does the Catholic Church take for its stance on birth control? What do all those cardinals and bishops think when they see women dying in childbirth or children starving to death because of their exhortations?

I am the Lorax. I would like to live quietly inside my tree, but I can’t. Not when I look around me. There are too many who need me to speak.

* The Lorax, a Dr. Seuss character, was a wizened little creature who spoke against the exploitation and destruction of nature.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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