Friday, March 9, 2012

Boston U. Religion Scholar Stephen Prothero on America's 12 Most Influential Catholics

As soon as I saw that Stephen Prothero's list of America's 12 most influential Catholics included only one woman's name, I stopped reading.  Especially when I happened to be reading the list at the Commonweal blog site (where David Gibson posted it) on International Women's Day.

One can, of course, quibble with the term "influential," since influence comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and is mediated in all sorts of ways, seen and unseen.  For those with a spiritual bent, the "unseen" might, in fact, predominate, and the really influential person(s) in history may well turn out to be someone like an unwed mother living in the entirely uninfluential hinterlands of a grand empire, and her equally nondescript and non-influential son who dies the humiliating death of a common criminal sentenced to capital punishment by the influential of his land.  A tiny pebble thrown into the vast ocean of history, never to be thought of again . . . .

When I saw that Prothero's list begins with the Supremes, my eyes began to glaze over, and I stopped paying attention to his list.  Since these are the kind of purportedly descriptive lists of influential people that emanate from the desks of those living and thinking within the orbits of power, which really are intended to prescribe even as they purport to describe.

Which emanate from the desks of thinkers so mesmerized by power, influence, and the center that they miss the unseen, but compellingly powerful, people and currents exercising influence far from the center that the census-takers of influence inhabit . . . . It is entirely possible in the coming American elections, for instance, that all the men of power and influence who live and move and have their being in the centers of power will find out that the overlooked, unseen women whose votes they've taken for granted, on whose behalf they have spoken and made critical decisions, and whose influence they have discounted, will turn out to be the very voters on whose decisions the elections turn.

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