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Lilith has special depth for young Catholics

NCR Staff

For young adult Catholics, the Lilith Fair stirs especially deep waters, according to 39-year-old Mark Anderson.

“I guarantee you, there are thousands of young Catholics, especially young female Catholics, who are being touched by this,” said Anderson. He recently took part in gatherings of young adult Catholics sponsored by Call to Action and the Women’s Ordination Conference, where he argued that reform groups should take heed of what’s happening at the Lilith Fair.

“There is definitely a sense in this of the power and the possibility of women,” Anderson said. “It touches on what a lot of young female Catholics are struggling with, which is, ‘Is there a place for me within this tradition?’”

“Beyond the emphasis on female artistry is a very clear sense of a spiritual element,” Anderson said. “The very name points to that, it grounds the Fair in the Judeo-Christian tradition and at the same time implicitly critiques it.”

In ancient Jewish legend, Lilith was Adam’s first wife. She was expelled from the Garden of Eden and in later tradition was regarded as a demon. In some feminist rereadings of the tradition, Lilith has emerged as a symbol for suppressed femininity.

“It’s a very potent metaphor,” Anderson said. “For Catholics, it raises anew the question ‘Are women going to be given justice in this church?’”

“Sarah McLachlan and the other women of the Lilith Fair didn’t feel they were getting justice within their structures, so they went out and created their own thing,” he said. “That’s both heartening and worrisome for those in institutions struggling with the same issues.

“It takes us back to the bottom line, which is, ‘Will the institution open itself to the gifts of this huge portion of the population, or will it drive them away?’

“If we as a church can’t find it within ourselves to reach out to those folks, we’ll lose them. There’s every reason for our institution to embrace something like the Lilith Fair.”

National Catholic Reporter, October 9, 1998