Amazing Glorious Fluke
There' a lot to criticize about Barbie. I also want to give Barbie the credit she is due. Let us acknowledge that before Barbie, the dolls available to an American girl were baby dolls, and that girls were thereby encouraged to think of themselves as nothing but mothers-in-training. Barbie does give girls a nonmaternal alternative model. Barbie isn’t even married. She’s a model of self-sufficiency.
And with Ken, America was introduced to the concept that a man is just one more fashion accessory. That’s perhaps not conducive to the healthiest of relationships – but it is a sort of antidote to the idea that women’s complete dependence upon men for their well-being and identity was the natural and inevitable order of things.
We Unitarian Universalists want this model of self-determination, choice, and freedom, and some measure of success to be something all our children can grow up looking forward to, girls as well as boys, and all girls – not just the ones who starve themselves skinny and are happily compliant. Even though there has been African-American Barbie, and Hispanic Barbie, and Asian Barbie, there’s a sameness to them all: same body shape, same facial expression. We have not seen overweight Barbie, or lesbian Barbie, or angry-young-woman Barbie, or social activist Barbie, or Minister Barbie or any sort of Barbie suggesting spiritual seriousness -- Zen Master Barbie, or Shi’ite Barbie, Guru Barbie, or -- how could they resist? -- Baba Barbie. (Rev. Julie Blake Fisher has made a series of Episcopalian vestments for Barbie -- but Mattel has not endorsed Episcopal Priest Barbie -- nor, for that matter, the Barbie Dream Church.)
We, then, are gathered here, we religious liberals, to celebrate all the things that make us Anti-Barbies, to honor people of all body shapes, all sexual orientations, rebels of various stripes, to celebrate our diversity; to resist homogeneity and sameness and to proudly let each of our unique little lights shine. We gather to LOOK, that first word that some of you in my generation learned to read – and to think, to hearken to the call of reason, even though we know it sometimes leads us astray.
While Barbie makes herself perfect by exhibiting unreflectively a cultural ideal, we gather to question and challenge our culture’s assumptions. And we recognize that we can’t always do that by ourselves as well as we want to, so we come together to find strength from each other, to wake now our senses – as one of our hymns says.
Awake. That’s the crux of it. We mean to be awake, to be alive – which, of course, Barbie is not – to grow and to change and not be the same for 47 years; “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” – to decry vile submission, to suck the marrow from the bone of life. We mean to be forever committed to further growth, to accept no settled doctrine, to stand upon the shoulders of our liberal religious forebears and declare that religion is not “a body of specific teachings and practices, revealed or taught, accepted through a leap of faith” – oh, no – religion is a gradual process of awakening to the depths and possibilities of life itself.
And to be a community -- the Community Unitarian Church of White Plains – which built this building in 1959 as if to be a haven from the Barbie onslaught launched that year: a haven and a training ground for strengthening our antiBarbie work of being real, and becoming faith full.
Each of us arrived where we are today through some strange and winding series of accidents. An unlikely and elaborate chain of happenstances has brought us together. Yet here we are -- a unique and improbable agglomeration of personalities united by geographic proximity and mutual commitment to encourage one another to spiritual growth and the free and responsible search for truth. What a fluke that we should be here together. What an amazing, glorious fluke -- a fluke we weave into a story -- a story that means community: people coming together to care for each other, affirm and strengthen our common values, work out a way to engage the wider world – a community that is the home of what is of ultimate worth, where we tell our story that encompasses all that is holy. And where we come awake to everything included in this grand fluke. May it be so.
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This is part 4 of 4 of "AntiBarbies."
Previous: Part 3: "Kindergarten Wisdom and Barbie Busy-ness"
Beginning: Part 1: "Things Happen for a Reason?"