Saturday, 12 September 2009

opinions for mid-September

Roderick Strange writes in The Times that Great achievements call for sacrifices and failures.

Andrew Linzey writes there about Brute creatures and the Passion.

Josh Howle writes about Yom Kippur in the Guardian.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Evensong calm ends my fidget.

Simon Barrow writes at Ekklesia about A different way of reading the world.

Last month he wrote about Abandoning the religion and politics of exclusion.

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif belief about The origins of religion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 8:51am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

I find Fr Linzey's piece totally compelling and very moving.

'Caritas Christi urget nos.'

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 1:42pm BST

The problem with Andrew Linzey's piece is not what he says about the animals and suffering, which is surely right, but that this is Christlike. Seeing as Christ could use language and rationalise, clearly Christ's suffering (on this argument) is less than that of the animal. Andrew Linzey is trying to find a link in Christian theology that is not there, other than portraying a myth or emotion from that which John Henry Newman felt at the time. The argument stands on its own and doesn't need this add-on.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 3:02pm BST

So Giles Fraser gets paid to attend Evensong, where his heart can tick to a different beat...

Religions in origin are of ritual and ritual binds tribes - that, in a sense, is their origin, and there are all sorts of rituals in life that bind us together. This relates to the imagined community and nationalism raised on Episcopal Cafe some days ago, where the institutional/ governance project gets added in.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 12 September 2009 at 3:10pm BST

"Likewise, says the Epistle of James, when Christian communities are bolstered with self-regard, when they bask in the approval of the rich and powerful and convince themselves that the correct belief alone will justify them, they deceive themselves. This is especially the case when they simultaneously deny justice and dignity to those on the margins, to labourers, to people living on the edge – those who present to us the tangible judgement of God on the way we arrange our lives and our world." - Simon Barrow -

Of all the articles on this thread, I find this, by Simon Barrow, the most helpful to me in trying to understand what it is that the LGBT-deniers are up to in their desire for supremacy in the Anglican Communion at this moment in time.

As Simon points out in this article; conservative self-regard, which sacrifices the rights and liberty of others to be who they intrinsically are by nature (on the altar of our own view of righteousness) is what is preventing certain members of the Communion from being able to accept the reality of one another's gender and sexual orientation differences without splitting apart. A 'Covenant of the Righteous' may not be the answer to our problems at this time.

This 'narrow way' - far from being consonant with that prescribed by Jesus in the Gospels - is one that leads to a paucity of spirit, which can be counter-productive to the ready availabilty of redemption which Jesus promises to all who look to him for salvation. The biblical 'Poor of spirit' are those who know their need of God - not those who think they already have God in their pocket because of their 'right-living', who therefore think they have no need of further redemption.

Generosity of spirit is a charism given to the 'humble in heart', who know their need of God.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 2:09am BST

Well, but ritual can also affect our conscious state, too. I took Giles' comments as more psychological than sociological...

Posted by: Peter of Westminster on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 4:43am BST

Yom Kippur is like Christmas and Easter rolled into one with pancakes?
I realize Josh Howie's piece was partly tongue in cheek, but he also had some good things to say about this holiest of Jewish days, and in my humble and maybe too literal reading of that particular passage, he didn't help anyone understand Yom Kippur at all.
If he’s going to compare Yom Kippur to any Christian holy days (a very risky business: each religion has nuances the other doesn't), I think Ash Wednesday and All Souls Day without the Christology is more apt. It is a day of reflection, a day of introspection. It's a day of “Where am I going?", "What have I done?" It is a day to take stock, to find those areas where we have failed, and to resolve to make amends.
It is a day of "If you have sinned against God, approach God with heartfelt atonement and God will forgive you without hesitation. But if you have sinned against your neighbor, first go to your neighbor, make amends and ask your neighbor's forgiveness, then God will forgive you."
It is a day of being reminded of our mortality, remembering those who have gone before us, remembering the dark times in our people’s past.
It is all that and more.
And save the pancakes for AFTER the fast!

Posted by: Peterpi on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 5:19am BST

"So Giles Fraser gets paid to attend Evensong, where his heart can tick to a different beat..."

We know by now that you don't get what faith is all about. That's fine, but it really does rather mean that you keep commenting about things of which you yourself admit that you don't understand them.

For most of us here, it's not about theology, tribes, belonging to some earthly group. It just isn't. And comments that continuously insist that it is are rather missing the point.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 11:13am BST

I agree Father Ron, both Barrow's pieces are insightful.

Another thing that is preventing some from being more welcoming and accommodating to GLBTs, or even more active involvement by women, is the issue about how to admit they got it wrong.

For some, there is the belief that they worship "god". That is, Jesus is the "complete and perfect" fulfillment of God, and that before Jesus God did not love. Apparently bouncing Satan out of office for being a tyrant or annointing Jesus to be the Prince of Peace weren't acts of love?!? Similarly they claim that God is exlcusively male, and ignore or gloss over all the attributes of feminity or promises made to the feminine.

Solo scripturalists claim they have 2000 years of precedence to justify their bigotry, tyranny and sophistry. To relent on any one line of their arguments is to jeopardise their whole edifice. Saying sorry would be an admission that they made an error, are fallible, and thus no longer have divine authority to insult, abuse and deprive anyone.

Could someone please tell me if there is even one passage in the bible that advocates molesting children? Yet the words Christian orphanage or boarding school are for many synomous with places of rape and abuse. Christian priest or leader with pedophiles and their accomplices.

It's okay that these souls claim that their Jesus is "god". God knows the real God would never allow pedophiles to claim their approval or protection, nor tolerate 2000 years of misogyny and tyranny. Don't worry Jesus and heaven will continue to exist (just like Satan and hell do). God knows both Jesus and Satan love their worshippers, and they are both welcome to the company they have chosen. Nor does God mind that such souls don't believe in reincarnation - it keeps the trouble makers and abusers away from the rest of Creation that seeks peace and restoration.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 2:12pm BST

"Newman, of his genius, thus provides the christological basis for sensitivity to all innocent suffering, both human and animal."

The only problem I have with the Linzey piece is the lack of definition of "sensitivity". There are many for whom that "sensitivity" equates with the lunacy of "meat is murder". People who go to that extreme have shown themselves to be ruthless in their attempt to force their ideas on others. Lies, slander, propaganda, even animal torture filmed to falsely accuse the innocent are all part of their stock in trade, since their "sensitivity" to the animals is so much more important than things like simple human decency, truth, respect for others, and any other such pesky qualms. There's a huge difference between torturing and abusing animals on the one hand and eating or wearing animal products on the other. There is a large and very profitable industry based on the deliberate ignoring of that difference. It is ruthless, amoral, and vicious, and I would hate to see anyone giving such people the idea that their evil can be justified by some sort of Christian concern for animal welfare.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 2:58pm BST

Yes, Pluralist, some us do get paid to attend (or perform, excuse me, sing) evensong. Still doesn't make it any less powerful to us who love it and see Christ through it.

Absolutely stunningly wonderful Giles, I've passed this on to more than one rector and dean. I hope that your experience at St. Paul's is stellar. Every day. If nothing else, you deserve it.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 6:13pm BST

I'm surprised, but glad that Giles Fraser has discovered (or rediscovered?) the glories of Evensong...and also our own importance (or lack of importance!) in the great scheme or things under God. The more we all continue with the important work of prayer the better.

Posted by: Neil on Sunday, 13 September 2009 at 7:41pm BST

In a sense we are all too familiar with ritual, as it shapes and grounds nearly everything in daily life, and life in general.

Yet, we still do not understand much about ritual and the powers of ritual. Typical of Bellah to see it broadly. Ditto, the hints of evolutionary framework and dynamics.

Conservatives will either disagree, and wish to maintain a narrow-presuppositional slice of ritual, tagging it their true religion and dismissing all else. Or, they will grudgingly recognize ritual broadly perceived as the pale imitation of true, real conservative religion; and urge us that only in strict-closed conservative religion is our deep hunger for ritual life, nourished-satisfied.

I know Pluralist is just trying to be honest, scrupulous. But I think he may be involved more deeply in what Bellah is calling ritual - and thus all of us - than not. We bear life's ups and downs through ritual in innumerable ways and for innumerable reasons. Indeed, developmentally, we could explore the notion that only a ground of sufficient nourishing ritual allows higher individual and self-awareness or self-differentiation functions to emerge and thrive. That may be the oddly linking conservative to Pluralist catch, that deep lexicons of ritual call for and evoke deep lexicons of self-differentiation and individuality. Is that Jung? Self and Ego both needed, both necessary? Walt Whitmanesque?

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 14 September 2009 at 1:10am BST

"The key to understanding mimetic culture is ritual. I think ritual is the phenomenological basis of all religion. Ritual, of course, is part of our lives. If you live in the university, you are hemmed in by an extremely elaborate set of rituals. We don't call it that, we don't remember that, but that's what it is." - Andrew Brown -

Andrew Brown says something here that instantly connects with what Giles Fraser is talking about in his relfective piece about the Evensong experience at Saint Paul's Cathedral. Isn't all our liturgy a mimetic exercise which just happens to fulfil our deep spiritual need for experience of the immanent? And is this not what sets it apart from the mere secular experience of dully repetitive structure?

Centuries of Christian tradition have gifted the Church with some incomparable liturgical gems - not least of which is the simple (and in a more ornate setting the complex) setting of the Mass, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. This is why the more conservative amongst us get a bit rattled when the order and calm of our favourite liturgical offering is beset with the clutter of fitted drop-down screens for modern hymns, sets of bongo drums, and other assorted paraphernalia -all geared to coax us into singing along with the latest charismatic choruses.

There's nothing like a beautiful choral setting, a dignified procession, and the orderly staging of The Liturgy to raise one's thoughts to the Infinite. (And, of course, a whiff of incense)).

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 14 September 2009 at 6:00am BST

One of my own sharp experiences of ritual has been in the practice of martial arts, which I've pursued for some decades now. After long work to perfect movement and countless repetitions, the dance forms of the arts, the "kata," become veritable moving meditations, deeply centering, transporting. I've also taught martial arts, and when I do, I'm not "transported" a bit -- teaching, as the old saw goes, is different from doing. But that effort to teach is a good sacrifice and a moral act, as it helps "transport" others.

I mention all this, because I wonder if Giles Frasier's experience is not somewhat akin to mine when he write:

"...liturgical subjection is just the way in which my own clock is forced to tick in time with a very different beat, a beat that is not all about me and my next skittish must-have desire. It is amazing that, during many years in parishes, this beat did not ever really make its way into my soul. I guess I was too busy being in charge.

And that, of course, is a terrible indictment of my own ministry. Take care that it isn’t true of yours as well."

And I wonder if he is not being too hard on himself here. The world and duties of a parish priest are far from mine, but I imagine a priest as a teacher, helping to transport others. And perhaps in his new duties (which I also don't understand), he is now able again to "dance the kata."

Posted by: Peter of Westminster on Monday, 14 September 2009 at 9:10am BST

"there are all sorts of rituals in life that bind us together."

Absolutely, and they are so much a part of what it is to be human that even those who scorn rituals end up inventing them. Look at how we, after rejecting the rituals of the past as patriarchal and oppressive, even stupid, invent new rituals to mark the important life milestones that we inherently, as humans, feel must be marked by ritual. Look at how we put ritual back in to our lives, having thoughtlessly deprived ourselves of something so necessary to our existence. It's particularly noticable in some streams of Protestantism. There, ritual was rejected as a Romish superstition, yet now we see all sorts of new ritualistic things, like "prayer shawls", specific times for specific acts in public worship, like the "worship" portion of the service as distinct from the "preaching" portion, worhsip flags, the reintroduction of formulated prayers, like the "Jabez Prayer" in place of the extemporaneous prayers that were once considered "right". I have known many people, and not just fundamentalists, to criticize Anglican worship as "praying from books", since reading prayers was not actually praying, as far as they were concerned, yet they seem, latterly, to be at least subconsciously adopting such "read only" payers. It's really quite fascinating how we humans just naturally ritualize numerous aspects of our lives. To me, it speaks of something deep within us that helps to define what we are.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 14 September 2009 at 3:44pm BST

Please don't submit Andrew Linzey's godly writings to this kind of denigration Ford.(It has nothing to do with terrorism).

Christians' treatment of other sentient beings will one day be seen as the issue it is. Fr Linzey is a forerunner of that age, when the Spirit will do a new work, for those creatures.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 at 6:13pm BST

I am far from having worked out a personal solution to this in my own life. I am far from satisfied with my own efforts. But surely all who feel called to, must seek a solution to the sufferings we impose upon animals ?

I am sure that some future generation will look back on our time with incomprehension--just as we look back on the cruelties and injustices of past centuries.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 at 12:34am BST