Comments: Opinion - 28 May 2016

How many of us keep mementos from our family past? I have family possessions that have been passed down to me... the Gordon Highlanders cap badge of my uncle who fell in Burma... photos of my great-great grandfather...

There is also the sense of 'thin' places (as they say) where the awareness of deeper reality feels somehow closer to the surface.

So while I don't feel relics should be venerated, they may nevertheless offer feelings of connection for some people.

The week I first found out about Therese de Lisieux, I had the strangest co-incidence. I went round for a meal with a teaching colleague, and somehow I raised the subject of Therese.

She sprang up and rushed up to her bedroom, returning with a little box stuffed with cotton wool. It turned out it was a ring, made out of one of Therese's ear-rings. My colleague is French and a descendant of Martin family (two rings, made from Therese's ear rings, had been handed down to her and her brother).

"Here, you can put it on," she said, so I did. She even offered to let me keep it, as she herself had given up on religion and I'd mentioned I was exploring convent life. But I wouldn't accept a family heirloom like that.

At the time, I hadn't yet read 'Story of a Soul' which had a huge impact on me. I went home that night and looked up Therese de Lisieux on Wikipedia (!). I had no idea at that stage, what a connection that ring led to, but it was part of a journey that was leading me deeper into contemplative life, and I think it was something that was meant to be.

So I don't dismiss the power of relics.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 28 May 2016 at 11:46am BST

A propos the Guardian editorial, the very rapid recent statistical decline of Christianity really warrants much more attention than it has received so far, especially within Christian fora.

Of course, everyone knows that religious observance has been fading for a long time, but it is becoming increasingly evident that the 'orderly management of decline' is turning into a rout.

This is more especially a threat [an existential threat?] to the Church of England, which has often attempted to justify its established status (with ever less credibility) on the basis that England is at least a nominally Christian country, and that it caters to at least a plurality of professing Christians. Even this claim is now, arguably, in jeopardy as the percentage of even nominal Christians (a large number of whom are pensioners) now appears to be in a minority. The rapidity of the decline may also have some implications for the oft-repeated (and, perhaps, dubious) claim that the Anglican Communion has approximately 85 million members.

If little or no plausible argument for establishment can be made on the basis of statistics, I suppose that means that the remaining props that 'validate' establishment are: (i) the presence of the Church in most local communities (a claim, however, that is being subverted by the closure of churches in many places); (ii) the custodianship of a very high proportion of the valuable 'built heritage' (again, this is being diminished by closures); and (iii) its performance of various national rites within agreeable architectural settings. Which is all pretty thin gruel and is essentially an appeal to the past.

Perhaps there are other claims that might be advanced. It would be useful to know what contributing clergy believe these to be.

The comments on the editorial are especially noteworthy for the number of CiF contributors who are - unsurprisingly for CiF - happy to dance on the grave of Christianity generally, and Anglicanism in particular (but note that their contempt is not typically animated so much by conventional Christian attitudes towards people of certain sexual persuasions as by the concept of faith itself).

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 28 May 2016 at 12:41pm BST

Interesting interview with +Michael Curry- clearly a man with a great and inspiring vision for reconciliation in a very divided country.

My main concern I have is about his view of Jesus Christ. He talks a lot about 'Jesus of Nazareth', but there's a certain stripe of liberal theology that puts a sharp divide between the 'Jesus of history' - essentially a human teacher about we supposedly know little - and the 'Christ of faith', as the church has received and proclaimed Him. From the way he phrases things I rather wonder if that's +Michael's viewpoint too.

That's important on lots of levels, but also will strongly impact how +Michael's vision might be implemented among Episcopalians - in effect he's asking people to follow just a human moral teacher. And if that's the case where will the spiritual power come from to implement that reconciliation and healing he is seeking?

Posted by Peter K+ at Saturday, 28 May 2016 at 3:56pm BST

"In 1900, the year that Nietzsche died, there were 8 million Christians in Africa. Now there are 335 million. And the growth rate continues to accelerate."

Oh, dear, I see Giles Fraser is so enamored of numbers, he doesn't want to look below the surface.
There's a reason for the surge in African Christians. The collapse of the original African religions, aided and abetted by colonial governments and missionaries.
Most people seem to have a need for a belief in a higher power. Remove the higher power they were believing in, and they will find another one. So, Africans flocked to Christianity -- and Islam.
Also, I see the African Christian ledership revolt against new concepts of the role of women and of human sexuality as along the lines of "You imposed your religion on us. Now you want us to change it?"

Also, I believe Fraser completely misconstrues Nietzsche and Nietzsche's widely (and deliberately?) misunderstood "God is Dead" statement.
Nietizsche was saying that, IF secularization trends continue, IF aspects about modern society Nietzsche found disturbing continue, THEN the concept of God is dead.
Nietzsche wasn't celebrating anything, he was lamenting it.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Saturday, 28 May 2016 at 9:11pm BST

I just have a few minor points to raise with Giles Fraser. Yes, I agree the poor are more likely to seek the Kingdom of God. That doesn't mean they are more loved by God than rich people. As third-world nations are lifted out of poverty (rich people come in handy here) God will still find a way into peoples' hearts. Rich or poor. There is a crisis around 'belonging' and 'believing'. There are many people who belong to secular organisations and show admirable solidarity but don't belong to a church.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 28 May 2016 at 11:08pm BST

+Michael is a believer in the divinity of Christ. He stated that when he recites the Nicene Creed, he's not crossing his fingers, he's a believer.

The Jesus Movement and the Jesus Work is not limited to following a moral teacher, it is the work we do to turn the nightmare of the current world into God's Dream. It's a dream that Jesus expressed when he asked us to have compassion and love one another.

It is extremely liberal. In fact it is utterly radical. But it is firmly planted in the belief that our loving God calls us to radical love. We just don't want to do it. So much more convenient to create god in our flawed image rather than to see all people as created in the Image of God, to love them, to feed them, etc.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 6:58am BST

Guardian readers may find this response amusing

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 10:03am BST

Those who are pessimistic about numbers attending church might want to read Stuart Haynes for a counterpoint. Liverpool Anglican Cathedral succeeds by making itself part of the community. Southwark Cathedral is similar. Next to Borough Market, there are often dozens of people say in its small yard eating.

I suspect the marketing maxim of AIDA works equally well for mission. Attention. Interest. Desire. Action.

Liverpool Cathedral is working on the Attention piece. So much mission I have seen over the years instead expects people to jump straight to Interest or even Desire. There is little work put into Attention. No wonder so much mission work is relatively unsuccessful.

The key instead is to do as Liverpool is doing. Make the church an integral part of the community. People will then start to express Interest of their own accord, asking what the church's purpose is. That is the essential - Interest and Desire are pull from outside, not push from inside. They need to be supported and encouraged, but the targets have to believe they remain in control of the process and decision.

Well done Liverpool.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 11:00am BST

For me the very best of Christian expression has always been an amazing simplicity which talks of love. As Cynthia says, it is truly radical. I think TEC are blessed to be led by +Michael. If only ABC could put politics aside and speak as +Michael does.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 11:48am BST

@ Simon Sarmiento re: amusing beaker-view , That's funny!

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 4:06pm BST

Dream? 'Boy, I just wish..." seems like a pale substitute for "Truly, I say unto you...'. And while it echoes MLK, it is attached not to human yearning, but to Jesus! bow my head and look away when this mantra gets repeated, as it does, at almost every diocesan or national gathering. It's sooooooo Episcopalian.

Posted by William (Bill) Paul at Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 10:53pm BST

From The Guardian editorial: "Over the last 50 years 'religion' has come to stand for the opposite of freedom and fairness. This is partly an outcome of the sexual revolution and of the long and ultimately futile resistance to it mounted by mainstream denominations. 'The religious' now appear to young people as obscurantist bigots whose main purpose is to police sexuality, especially female sexuality, in the service of incomprehensible doctrines. Institutional resistance to the rights of women and of gay people was an exceptionally stupid strategy for institutions that depends on the labour of both."

How astute of The Guardian to notice. The Conservative Party of Canada has just concluded their post-Harper convention by ending its ideological policy opposition to same sex marriage. Apparently, Conservatives have figured out that gay bashing no longer yields votes. ( see link).

Which means, if the Anglican Church of Canada stays the course mapped out by its House of Bishops, the church will be more to the right than Canada's right wing party and its born again Christian cohort.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 11:12pm BST

@ Pam, "That doesn't mean they are more loved by God than rich people. As third-world nations are lifted out of poverty (rich people come in handy here)..."

Yikes! Let's not forget the preferential option for the poor from Catholic social teaching, nor the fact that wealthy companies (and individuals) are sitting on mountains of cash, thanks to governments' policies, rather than investing in the economy. Hard to square with building up of a just common good for which the kingdom of God is a NT mythological symbol.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 12:26am BST

"the poor go for God". If that be the case then, thank God, they will always be with us in order to keep the rumour of God alive and kicking! Certainly in the glory days of the Anglo-Catholic Revival the poor were given glimpses of Heaven and eternity as faithful priests provided bells and smells worship in many a slum parish. In contrast today it is the rich in England who keep the C of E afloat and financially viable in chic HTB style churches with all those numerously planted offshoots in such places as Brighton and Lincoln. But let us never forget that Our Blessed Lord commended the widow and her mite for she gave to us all an insight into the means of Grace and the hope of glory.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 4:52am BST

Dear William (Bill),

What exactly do you think we're praying when we say "on earth as it is in heaven?" That's the New Jerusalem, the Promised Land, or God's Dream, and likely a number of other metaphors.

If you don't like metaphors, fine. But don't claim that they aren't connected to Jesus, who taught us that prayer, and asked us to live into a more compassionate life. Jesus spoke in parables, stories that weren't literally true but are indeed spiritually true.

I'm sorry if you have a limited imagination, but I'm here to tell you that that metaphor is solidly based in the Gospel of Jesus.

And it is so much more true and more loving than literal readings and personal piety religion that likes to order others around...

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 5:11am BST

Another view of "disappearing Christianity" is in this article by Stephen Cherry

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 7:47am BST

"The Jesus Movement and the Jesus Work is not limited to following a moral teacher, it is the work we do to turn the nightmare of the current world into God's Dream."

Leaving aside the dubious 'God's Dream' thing, can you clarify what you are saying? Is it:

That which keeps Jesus' work from being 'limited' is that we pick up from where he left off?

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 8:10am BST

@ Rod, you're right, of course. Catholic social teaching is about preferential option for the poor. And there are a lot of poor people in the world. Rich people, which includes anyone with a (waterproof) roof over their head, gainful employment and more than enough food on their table, need God's love just as much. We'd have a much more equitable world if the rich group helped the poor group more, stating the obvious. But God's love is for everybody.

Posted by Pam at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 8:14am BST

From The Guardian editorial, as quoted by Rod Gillis above: "Over the last 50 years 'religion' has come to stand for the opposite of freedom and fairness. This is partly an outcome of the sexual revolution and of the long and ultimately futile resistance to it mounted by mainstream denominations. 'The religious' now appear to young people as obscurantist bigots whose main purpose is to police sexuality, especially female sexuality, in the service of incomprehensible doctrines."


I honestly think that many people abandoned a loose association and identification with the Church because of the seeming bigotry and policing of sexuality.

Of course, there are other reasons too, but people I have spoken to like reasons for disassociating from the Church, and things like sexual abuse scandals, and perceived bigotry against gay people, figure high in the list - whether you regard them as reasons or excuses.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 8:41am BST

Susannah, I disagree. The common explanations for why reduced numbers are bad are that it threatens church viability and reduces the social influence of the church. What you don't hear is that it matters if fewer people are praising God.

The church has become preoccupied with itself and forgotten the Lord. The church is self-important rather than humble. The church teaches charity but the homeless are on the streets rather than in priests' houses, church halls and diocesan offices. Immigrants are drowning in boats without the church clamouring for them to be allowed unrestricted access to our countries of abundance. Priests and officials expect salaries rather than relying on charity and hospitality.

And what of communion itself? It was intended as a satisfying meal of bread and wine which feeds both body and soul, a meal which is shared daily would mean nobody was hungry. But it has been reduced to a feast of crumbs. Quite literally it has been reduced to a symbolism lacking in substance. The accompanying prayers are big on sin and forgiveness but light on praise and the sense of community of sharing a nutritious and enjoyable meal together has been totally lost.

Yes, the double standards regarding sex matter but the real issue IMO is that the church has forgotten its true nature and purpose. Its rituals are reduced to rote formulas which replace spontaneous and genuine community events. It has become a top-down organisation staffed by paid workers rather than a bottom-up community which shares.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 12:39pm BST

I don't often agree with Fraser, but he's bang on about religion flourishing among the poor.

That's why the West, if it continues along its neoliberal path, is likely to see a resurgence of Christianity, as people look for both practical support, and the hope of an afterlife to mitigate the pain of their wasted potential. I doubt it's any coincidence that America, with the least-developed welfare system among developed countries, is also among the most religious; or that, within its borders, religiosity's highest in the poorest states of the union.

Since the English people are also strangely devoted to neoliberalism -- they've elected a string of neoliberal governments since 1979 -- I wouldn't be surprised to see Christianity flourish there once more, and soon. I suspect that, however much they decry the circumstances of its resurgence, the church hierarchy will be secretly delighted. It the choice is between God and poverty, they'll take poverty, every time.

After all, they're not suffering it, are they?

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 1:56pm BST

FWIW, Cynthia, I have no problem w/the deployment of metaphors, but some deployments are better than others, some more apt, some more consonant w/ the NT witness than others. I can also appreciate that people in the pews may make corrections, enhancements, translations of weak or infelicitous metaphors that those of entrusted w/the teaching office of the church use from time to time. For me, "God's dream" is weak, misleading, and not a commendable use of language for what we are talking about.In fact, when S Hauerwas warns that "sentimentality is the greatest danger facing the church" it is this kind of talk that, in my judgment, is evidence of such careless thinking about the shape, content, and texture of Jesus' teaching and the finality of God's action in Christ. "Dream" also seems weak in terms of the relationship between eschatology and ethics. This is not to say that I don't like Michael. And what, in such an interview, can a slogan do? But to me the message is not much different than Browning et al even if it's a more gregarious, likable messenger. Personalities aside, I would like to see a more robust embrace of, say, Hebrew's insistence on the reality and ultimacy of a kingdom that cannot be shaken, therefore we move ahead both confidently but repentant, chastened, under loving/sanctifying judgment. This was a dimension MLK had clearly present in his theology and proclamation. Some far less robust, it seems to me, is in play with Michael, though he shares some of the rhetoric.

Posted by William (Bill) Paul at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 4:21pm BST

James Byron is onto something (as he usually is). We live in a society where people can now expect to live at least three or four or more decades after they are forced into retirement. A large proportion (indeed, the overwhelming majority) of those born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and thereafter will 'enjoy' defined contribution pensions (never mind those self-employed or casual workers on zero hours or other serf-like contracts who may not have access to any employer-sponsored scheme). One of my DC pensions has £40,000, which might (on current projections) net me as much £1,000 p/a upon retirement (or so Scottish Widows informed me last week).

It does not take a genius to calculate that I (or, indeed, anyone else) would need to accumulate a vast pension pot in order to have a standard of living even approaching that enjoyed by many of those defined benefit pensioners who will have made comparatively modest contributions to their respective (and increasingly unfunded) schemes. Moreover, a DC scheme is but a savings account under another name - and, like so many savings accounts, returns are dismal and are likely to remain so, whilst any such fund is likely to be devoured with alarming rapidity in the event of illness or some other disaster.

So, a generation faces the prospect of outliving its pension funds, with the savings being exhausted by the point at which they are most needed. And that's assuming that it can even afford to save for retirement when the increasingly insupportable cost of redeeming a mortgage to the licensed thieves known as predecessors in title and banks, or paying rent to the licensed thieves known as landlords, is taken into account. It's a creeping calamity in the making.

So, yes, there will be an acute need for a supposedly benevolent institution like the Church to come to the aid of the masses of ailing, starving and freezing geriatrics who may well throng the streets in decades to come - since the likelihood of an insolvent state coming to their rescue is doubtful. Such a grim outcome may create an acute need for the sort of collective social action and/or fellowship that the Church can, or ought, to provide.

However, will the Church even exist in two or three decades' time - never mind in the critical mass to provide any form of assistance?

Posted by Froghole at Monday, 30 May 2016 at 10:39pm BST

"God's Dream" as a metaphor is used a lot by Desmond Tutu. It was born of the long and difficult road from aparteid to the end of aparteid. It doesn't seem sentimental to me. And when you're standing in the devastation of Port-au-Prince after the earthquake, the work and yearning for transformation doesn't seem the least bit sentimental.

As for this "therefore we move ahead both confidently but repentant, chastened, under loving/sanctifying judgment," sure. We most certainly need to repent of the way we treat one another, especially the way the powerful and rich treat the poor and vulnerable. But "loving/sanctifying judgement?" Sadly, that has typically been an excuse for the status quo to heap burdens upon minorities. Who is qualified to administer "loving/sanctifying judgement?" No human that I know. Unless it's one telling the powerful and status quo to get over yourselves/ourselves (I live on all sides of this) and address the misery we inflict on others with our consumption, homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.

Somehow I've never heard anyone interested in judgement be particularly interested in the real suffering of this world. Maybe I'll learn of some here.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 31 May 2016 at 5:22am BST

How sad that some who want to excuse clergy who support criminal penalties for sexual orientation stoop to parsing PB Curry's words to find a reason to condemn them, using such tiresome rhetorical gyrations!

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 31 May 2016 at 5:24am BST

"How sad that some who want to excuse clergy who support criminal penalties for sexual orientation" -- is this just Trumpian exaggeration or did you have someone in mind?

BTW, I didn't hear anyone engaging the text of +MC but rather the curious summary of a blogger.

But let's not let the facts bother us!

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 31 May 2016 at 11:49am BST

Regarding the poor, poverty, and the church(es), Christianity has been critiqued, with some justification, for being more in love with poverty than with the poor.

If there is any lingering value in the kingdom of God motif from the NT it is as a metaphor for economic justice v. economic exploitation. As a priest-economist and Louvian scholar once told us, Christ entered history as a community maker. We co-operate in building up community via economic justice and economic development.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 31 May 2016 at 5:06pm BST

oops. typo, that should read, "As a priest-economist and Louvain scholar once told us..." etc.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 31 May 2016 at 10:46pm BST

Cynthia, to expound, as I see things, I didn't mean you or me or anyone judging others, but that the kingdom of God, an unshakeable eschatological reality per Hebrews 12 (and for me,therefore, more real than a dream) stands over-against us (as a 'critical-comparative') in 'loving judgement' (which judgment can include affirmation)of any worldly state of affairs. For me, the more rooted we are in the whole of the NT, the better.

Posted by William (Bill) Paul III at Wednesday, 1 June 2016 at 4:26pm BST

@ Bill Paul, not sure the Kingdom of God is only an undifferentiated eschatological reality. One may draw distinctions i.e. present, future, and 'en prolepsis' eschatology. I wonder as well, if the notion of 'loving judgement' is something of a code phrase grounded in an attempt at so called 'biblical' ethics? See for contrast, clarification, and comparison the distinction between notions of retributive and distributive justice à la Crossan et al. Quite helpful perhaps.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 1 June 2016 at 6:43pm BST

All this talk about dreams - obviously commenting on the reflections of the TEC Primate. No doubt, like Martin Luther King, Bishop Curry is called by God to enunciate what he sees to be the Way Forward for the Episcopal Church in North America.

To downgrade dreams as wishful thinking is to call into question the Scriptural reference to dreams as God's revelation to faithful servants of the Kingdom (e.g. Joseph's dream revealing to him the purpose of Mary's pregnancy)

One can presume that Bishop Curry has been called to lead TEC in a time of receptivity to the wisdom of African-American pilgrims - like him - who has discerned a 'new and living way' for his Church in a time of social and political instability. Good on him! Let's hope he warns against the dangers of a Trumpian Presidency.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 1 June 2016 at 10:33pm BST

An important point from Father Ron.

Dreams are sometimes portals to astonishing deeper reality.

They are not less real, but more real, than the shadow-like flimsier world people return to when they wake up.

Not always, but sometimes.

The Sovereign Country of God... the beautiful country... is eternal and substantial. And sometimes that deeper reality may come crashing in on a person, informing their mission and lives here on earth, strengthening their faith, offering vision for how, truly, God's sovereign reign and good estate may be built in our waking lives (if you want to call them that).

Though, really, the lesson of supernatural dreams is that dreams can themselves be a waking, to a more substantial, a truer, reality and the tangible eternity of God.

To take a little glimpse from the psalms:

"When the Lord restored the captives to Zion, we were like those who dream." (Psalm 126)

Vision is framed around getting on with practical love and an awakening to the reality and possibilities of God, and the breaking through of eternity in our transient, passing lives.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 10:18am BST

How did human dreaming become God dreaming?

"We were like those who dream" isn't God's dream.

Joseph had dreams and so did Nebuchadnezzar and Carl Jung and so do you and I. But none of this is God's dream, "who neither slumbers nor sleeps."

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 11:18am BST

Regarding the idea of dreaming, one can hearken back to Martin Luther King's, 'I have a dream...' speech. We are familiar with the media clip, but if one studies the text of that speech in full, one finds King integrating hope, justice, racial equality and biblical turns of phrase with regard to the transformation of present social realities.

It is not merely dreamy eyed but dream as a powerful and solid visionary challenge. King's speech gives substance to the notion of dream as social vision so much so that it can be seen to be on the same level as biblical metaphors like the 'kingdom of God'. Just as God can be said, metaphorically speaking, to have a 'kingdom ' or a 'house with many rooms' so God may said to have a dream. Dr. King's speech, the universal prophecies of Isaiah, Jesus teaching about the kingdom, and so forth, instance what one may also call 'God's dream', with full implications for our participation in helping realizing it.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 12:58pm BST

The link below is to Day 1 and a sermon preached by The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, now the PB of TEC, in 2013. The sermon is titled, God's Dream.

Curry's Text is Luke 13: 10-17. He talks about the 'God's dream' notion at length, noting that the woman healed by Jesus according to Luke was enabled to live out the fulfillment of God's dream for her-- a very engaging and pastoral exegesis.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 3:49am BST

Thank you Rod

Posted by Kate at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 9:00am BST

On the word "dream": I think our conversation about PB Michael Curry's use of the noun "dream," as in "God's dream," may be encountering the phenomenon of the UK and the USA being linked by the Atlantic Ocean but divided by our common language.

I think the culture of the USA is perhaps more rhetorically idealistic, which we may inherit from the Puritan wing of the English Reformation, folks who were profoundly influential on our culture with their aspirations to create in the colonies a "city on a hill," an ideal society that could serve as a model for all. Their aspirations are echoed in language like that on the Statue of Liberty, with its promise to Europe that "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" can breathe free in the USA.

I think we in the USA are therefore more accustomed to use of the word "dream" in the sense defined by the OED (noun 2.3.a) as "vision or hope for the future; an ideal, goal, ambition, or aspiration," hence (noun 2.3.b) "A national aspiration or ambition; a way of life considered to be ideal by a particular nation or . . . other group of people, or (noun 2.3.c) "someone or something, esp. a situation, considered to be ideal by a particular type of person."

I think we are accustomed to this usage from our casual references to "the American dream," and by our familiarity with MLK's use of "dream" as the word to describe his hope, expectation, desire, vision of the future of race relations in the USA, and his desire to make clear that he believed that vision is deeply American, part of the "American dream," not as it was often derided at the time by King's opponents as "unAmerican," "foreign," even that great rhetorical bugaboo of the time, "communist."

The contrast between King's hopes, his "dream," in this sense, and the facts of American experience as they played out in King's life, often seem to call for, and we turn to, in the USA, a response grounded in biblical language.

I think PB Curry, when he uses the phrase "God's dream," is rooted in that dimension of American culture, and thinking of biblical language like Isaiah's images of a time to come when the lion will lie down with the lamb, or Revelation's promise of a New Jerusalem, where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more pain, or suffering, or death, because all will be made new.

Posted by jnwall at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 4:45pm BST

@jnwall, interesting post. Thanks. God rested on the original Sabbath. One imagines an extension of the anthropomorphism, God resting under a tree in the garden, dozing off in the heat of the day, dreaming of a future for the creation She/He had made. One wonders as well what Jesus may have been dreaming about while he slept in the back of the boat while the storm raged ...the kingdom perhaps?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 11:49pm BST

You are surely correct that much of this is the DNA of New World thinking. It reaches from 'Make America Great Again' to Mormonism to 'Gaining back the Garden of Eden one inch at a time.' I would not have made the connection with puritanism so much as romanticism: the glories of wide open spaces and finding the New World water that reverses aging. Puritanism was not caught up, for the most past, in belief that we could outdistance ourselves from sinful selves, or that time moved forward inevitably progressively (whatever that might mean). There were appropriately dark notes in MLK's oratory, and I suspect were he alive today we'd be surprised where he might sit on the political spectrum. +Curry is a product of the sixties and his 'Jesus movement' is partly an effort to change the subject from litigation and sex, honestly acknowledging that without growth of some kind TEC--given its size--will have to deal with a decade of mergers, downsizing, and an average age of 60 in the pews. Will 'Jesus Movement' and 'Dream' oratory help? It is certainly more hopeful than David Booth Beers and 60M for lawsuits. It was only a matter of time before that agenda would need to change. God bless him.

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 7:03am BST

"God rested on the original Sabbath."

So the commandment to rest on the Sabbath means to sleep?

So God slept and dreamed "on the original Sabbath." --

What a curious literalism...

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 3:54pm BST

@ cseitz, re 'curious literalism" , just having some fun with imagination. nothing literal about it. By contrast, your rejoinder tends to evidence its own kind of 'curious literalism'.

"+Curry is a product of the sixties ..." Every boomer in western democracies is a product of the sixties. It is just a matter of locating one's self on the continuum that maps out the poles between accepting of or reacting to, as it were.

The "sixties" covers a lot of ground from music and the arts to the sexual revolution, from science and technology to human and civil rights and so forth. Which brings me back to Dr. Martin Luther King and the dream.

You wrote, "I suspect were [ Martin Luther King] alive today we'd be surprised where he might sit on the political spectrum."

He is not alive of course. Dr. king was a non-violent civil rights actor who fell victim to systemic violence and racism. What we may be able to locate on today's politcal spectrum is his legacy. PB Curry as a Christian and an African American seems to have a pretty solid handle on that. Hopefully it will have some benefit beyond TEC and into the wider Communion which has its own problems with human and civil rights. I like his notion of God's dream in juxtaposition to the nightmare of many current social realities.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 8:24pm BST

I think I get it!

These people parsing and hacking at Curry are angry and jealous because, though they talk, talk, talk, people actually *listen* to PB Curry.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 7 June 2016 at 7:24am BST

Regarding Bp. Curry's frequent mention of 'Jesus of Nazareth'--this can be a way of countering the frequent tendency (vaguely Gnostic?) of denying Jesus' full humanity. That denial diminishes the power of the Incarnation and its unique importance in reconciling humanity with God. Insisting on His full humanity in no way denies His divine nature. One of the positive things that has come out of modern science is that it has taught us to acknowlege the simultaneous truth of seemingly contradictory facts. This ability to embrace paradox is essential in our religious/spiritual life as well. Richard Rohr goes so far as to say: 'Even the human mind of Jesus did not know some things until he came out the other side of death. In fact, I do not believe the human mind of Jesus fully knew his own True Self as the “Son of God” until after the Resurrection.' [Richard Rohr: Immortal Diamond—The Search for Our True Self, p.147]

Posted by Bill Ghrist at Tuesday, 7 June 2016 at 6:33pm BST

"+Curry is a product of the sixties and his 'Jesus movement' is partly an effort to change the subject from litigation and sex, honestly acknowledging that without growth of some kind TEC--given its size--will have to deal with a decade of mergers, downsizing, and an average age of 60 in the pews. Will 'Jesus Movement' and 'Dream' oratory help? It is certainly more hopeful than David Booth Beers and 60M for lawsuits."

Wow, that's a new level of cynicism you've achieved there, Dr Seitz.

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 9 June 2016 at 10:36am BST
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