Not every army chaplain exhaled pure Counter-Reformation spirit. The Franciscan Fray Antonio de Granata, for instance, who had done six years in the job by 1588, was an unregenerate pre-Tridentine figure, who sang profane songs to the sound of his lute, conducted bogus and prurient visitations of convents, extorted gifts, wore furs and gold chains, and battered his denouncers. He claimed at his trial for these offences to be a martyr who spoke the truth and converted sinners. His persecution, he suggested, was 'to force me out, and my Franciscan brothers with me and replace us with Jesuits. But St Francis will punish the persecutors of his order.' He may have been voicing a genuine Franciscan anxiety. Certainly, the Jesuit mission in the army was growing more important, as the need for a more active evangelization of the men became increasingly felt among their commanders. The new, evangelically aware orders of the Counter-Reformation, of whom the Jesuits were the most conspicuous and dynamic, were attracted to the army for the same reason as they felt drawn to the slum-ringed boom towns like Seville and to the dense, servile native populations of the New World. Rootless masses were at once an easy and urgent target for their ministry. Commanders interested in the spiritual welfare--or, at least, concerned for the dogmatic instruction--of their men seem to have recognized the Jesuits' special gifts. In 1587, Parma's call for a central Jesuit mission to the Army of Flanders was answered by his personal confessor, Thomas Sailly. Within a generation, the Jesuits could claim to have enhanced the morals and galvanized the strength of the corps of chaplains as a whole.Reminded of how the Jesuits were successful because they focused on the "rootless masses", anxiety welled up in me at the thought of all the evangelical Christians currently peddling hatred to folks full of fear and despair and anger. That's a high-yield operation; how can I ever compete with that? Answer: I can't--at least not just by blogging. I need to keep my eye on my ultimate goal: to move on to outreach. That scares the crap out of me for several reasons: I have no idea how to do it; I'm not great at confrontation; and I'm an agnostic!
Speaking of despair, I felt my mind inclining in that direction as I made my way west through Manhattan for a walk along the Hudson. But as my feet got going, my mind got going too. (I love how that works.) I thought of the websites that Grace found for me when I was looking for Biblical quotes about nature for my letter to the editor about the Link Trail. In particular, Fund for Christian Ecology came to mind. I'd been impressed with their expressed goal of "...reaching the Evangelical and Conservative Christian churches with a scriptural message of environmental stewardship." That sort of outreach can't be easy, and I admire anyone with the courage to do it. When I thought of this in the context of Meet Adam and Steve, I realized that these are the type of people I need to be talking to! After all, I doubt I'll be very effective at outreach by myself; can you imagine me walking into a church and saying "Well, you should know I don't believe in God, but listen, I still think... where are you going?" To do Christian outreach, I'd better enlist the help of Christians. To be an ally, I need... allies!
So I called and left a message with Bernard Daley Zaleha, President of the Fund for Christian Ecology. A long, rambling message. Bugger. I need to get better at dealing with answering machines. That's OK, though; it felt good to make a start. and it got me rolling. Now that I'd recognized my need for Christian advice and Christian allies, a plan started to coalesce. I thought back to some potential resources I'd skipped right past in my frenzy to get daily faces, such as The Church of St. Luke in the Fields and the Society for Ethical Culture. Then there are the gay and gay-friendly Christian bloggers I've met through Twitter such as @Tahlib and @strt_notnarrow. And let's not forget Steve, who is a Triangle Speaker. I need to talk to all these people to get advice and help in strategizing.
I can't pursue all these contacts in one night, but I did get started: I left a message with the Reverend Caroline Stacey, Rector of St. Luke's. This message was a bit less rambling than the previous one, I'm happy to say. Then I sent her an e-mail. So hopefully I can get rolling with the Christian connection soon, so that I can hit the ground running on the day when I feel ready to start outreach.