A question was raised on my Usual Suspects entry: that if I find orthodoxy and heterodoxy uninteresting, why do I continue to write about the Church of England and Anglicanism.
Well, it is a good question. There is the notion that once you have left, you should wipe your feet to leave the dust behind and consider other matters.
I think there is an ambiguity of the liberal religious person who was in the Anglican fold as a liberal for some time but has moved out and on to a deliberate liberal religious community. First of all, you have left the tribe and that is tantamount to letting other people down as you no longer put your effort in to the argument. Indeed, you might even start to see things from a perspective you once opposed.
As in: Well if the creeds say that, why don't you obey them? Why are your fingers crossed behind your back? What about those moribund Anglican thirty-nine Articles? No one is forcing you to stay there ducking and diving, but if you do, ought you not to believe in these without all the sophistication of the various 'strategies' of representation including preaching?
Now in fact I have not gone in for this kind of argument, though many a Unitarian does. There is more to theology than sophisticated somersaults for people who don't believe in the plain meaning of things. There is, I say, a genuine liberal-postmodern and boundary free approach to theology, and I'll nurture it wherever I find it. Issues of people obeying institutions is for them.
Secondly, I have sat in a congregation while a curate made some public promises, and I said to myself I could not make these. Four times I have made an effort towards considering ordained ministry in the Church of England, with varied degrees of conversation and push. But in the end, although it is not available to someone who thinks like I do, yet I observe people who do think like I do and yet can make these promises.
It is also a matter of general history. There is a history of overlap and tension between Unitarians down the ages and Anglican liberals. There isn't now because theology has been largely given up by Unitarians when it comes to these conserving postmodern devices. But in the later nineteenth century there was still an 'objective' cultural Christian consensus and Unitarians were trying to make sense of Christian thought-forms as science, social science and history developed, and they naturally mixed with others like intelligent Anglicans.
But it is fascinating to go back, say, to the younger James Martineau and his crowd, as in Liverpool, and to see people then deliberately excluded from credal Christian communities who, with those expressions of thought, would easily fit within mainstream Christianity today. Some of the social and symbolic definitions of the Trinity today would be accepted by Unitarians of yesteryear, even if with a rapid shake of the head. These people were very ecumenically minded, and I like to think that I am as well.
Martineau wrote about Church-Life or Sect-Life fifty years before the sociologist Ernst Troeltsch came up with the distinction, and there is much in Unitarianism that is still sect-life. Martineau opened himself out to a very broad Christian-liturgical theism, highly subjective and beyond any Bible (the Bible was an example of what was important in general), whereas today's orthodox seem to trap themselves within the particularity of a bubble story without objective root (there is only what is important in the particular). As I say, contrast Unitarians eager to promote just one Christianity that they believed was true and good that with an Archbishop today who talks about stories and visions as though someone else can pick their own: why should anyone today want to be trapped within just one story?
There are even evangelicals who appear to be evangelical while living out some sort of performance-as-reality, and they baffle me the most. Most evangelicals, and most traditionalist Catholics, will answer that they are within one 'story' because it is the real history of the world, of the universe: it is the one revelation. To others looking at them it seems like they are on Fantasy Island. But I'm not talking about them. I don't agree with them, obviously. I'm talking about liberal types who know that evolution, including humankind's emergence as several and now one species, is a chaotic system; who understand at least that there is the relative and quantum reality; and that ethics stand alone and are situational and do not derive from revelations according to some previous cultural civilisations' belief patterns. I'm talking about the world of wonder, of awe, of consciousness and therefore suffering and attachments, that we understand together.
But, in the end, if even the liberal folks in the Churches are tribal, and must stick together, and defend the patch, then I am out of that.
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