In Alice Walker’s The Temple of My Familiar, Lissie is an old woman who tells stories of her past lives. Although she has lived in the southeastern United States all her life, many of her memories are from Africa.
She remembers living in the African trees in one of her earliest incarnations. She remembers living on the ground in a later life, and she remembers, “the chopping down of our hair,” as if their hair were a mighty tree. She remembers fellow Africans dealing in slaves. She remembers the priests, “Of course they were feared, if not respected, and of course the fear looked like respect, I guess.”
I played flute in my parents’ Catholic church after I graduated from college. Like many others I was disillusioned with the Church after early feelings of oppression and some bit of higher education. Anyway, I needed a musical outlet, and the Church provided that for me, so I was prepared to set my disillusionment aside.
But I remember the last mass I went to. A missionary priest had traveled to Texas to perform the sermon for us that day. He was there to ask for donations to support the Church’s missionary work in places like Cuba, the Dominican Republic and West Africa. He spoke of West Africa saying, “The Muslims aren’t there yet, and they’ll use force if necessary.” I was so disgusted with the hypocrisy that I never went back.