Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Let's Really Tackle Taboo

Look, I'm a Terror Blogger, and terror bloggers seek out Punk Bloggers. At the moment Lesley Fellows wants to turn punk blogging into an art form.

I wrote a blog entry recently about taboo and the sacred. My understanding of these is informed by Social Anthropology and then passed across to the Sociology of Religion.

Suddenly Lesley is into taboo busting or at least taboo displaying. She sees that taboo and the sacred come together, and thus wonders whether in tackling these taboos there is a kind of transference so that pain runs together with healing. Christianity contains these taboos:

Incest: Because Mary calls God her father and yet her father impregnates her and she gives birth.

Homosexuality: Jesus gives John (the one he loves) over to his mother as Jesus dies, and thus there is a form of union or what we might call Civil Partnership.

Child abuse: Where God punishes his own innocent sacred son and indeed kills him as a sufficient and necessary exchange to avoid punishing everyone else guilty for the fall.

Cannibalism: Eating Jesus's flesh and drinking his blood at the Mass. The taboo among Jews of eating the blood of an animal is heightened via him saying, 'This is my Body, this is my Blood, eat and drink in remembrance of me.'

These are apparent paradoxes, but they will only be so because a taboo is generated by common understanding and legitimising consent that then makes something sacred. Taboo gives and protects the sacred, and the sacred then comes out of the taboo. It means that to get spiritual benefit you must take risk and give.

Somehow by participating in this mythic set up you can tackle your own taboos and generate healing. I wonder. Yes, possibly, if the myth works, but for that it needs believability and consequent power.

Actually, in modernity, to get healing, you take down the taboo. You talk about what is made taboo, eventually to understand it and bust it, and clean it all out. You find the guilty party, and they really are guilty.

The question, always, is what kind of work does any taboo-sacred do, and this is not located in the horror of the taboo but in the beliefs and consent of the people and culture, and what is the product of their sacred making activity.

The Kula ring exchange of fairly pointless tokens requires a lot of physical effort in the boats around the Trobriand Islands as these get passed around. The point is the exchange of material effort for spiritual gain and the product is the binding together of an understood community.

The contemporary Eucharist is similar and a pretty harmless activity. There is material effort in time and money and turning up, involving an exchange of some pointless edible disc and horrible wine, all of which is given in the hope of a spiritual gift and the binding together of the Christian community and its going back out into the world.

A lot of these myths are being weakened by the modernity of education and technology as providers of explanations for living, and by some postmodern understandings of narrative. We as much read around myths as we participate in them. Turning them into cod psychology is evidence of their weakness, and a gamble of an exchange too - because if they are put into psychology to make them stronger, there is an exchange indeed if psychology rejects them and then they end up even weaker and exposed.

The myths are becoming rubbish as taboos for sacredness and here is why:

Incest: Jesus was born of two parents and Jesus own ministry pointed towards God and as Jew never equated himself with God, only as a servant of God even if (towards the end) as a key servant.

Homosexuality: Who knows? There is a disciple Jesus loves but the implications are not given. Anyway, the gospels are biography-like and not biographies.

Child abuse: This is so much rubbish. The real crime would be for God to rely on a rotten and cruel regime at the edge of empire by which to kill his deity Son, having killed so many others on the way. Why not send his Son to our sort of society, where the atonement would rely on Jesus getting an Anti Social Behaviour Order at best, or being moved on by the police rather like they do with gypsies and travellers. See what atonement theory that produces.

Cannibalism: this relies on the most literalistic view of a faith act that is scientific rubbish. Roman Catholic explanations about surface appearances and real goings on within are but heaps of nonsense.

The point is that a Western liberal mind cannot pile on to these myths 'work' that they are no longer able to do, if they could do them in the first place.

I say that Affirming Catholicism is dressing up and ritual play because the myths are basically bust. They become something in themselves for some sort of residual binding effect. If you are a Protestant Liberal you are on even thinner ground.

However, there are some taboos I'll put past some such modern liberal types.

Jesus was wrong on several matters: the end time, his choice of disciples, his understanding of the past. A deity should have got these right. There is a problem with his ego - as to why he should be the suffering servant to motivate God to bring along the transformed Messiah - Jesus or someone else.

Clearly Jesus was human and limited: He cannot be at best coequal with God. Indeed he was not God. A God relates to trees, to mountains, to disease, to events, to stars and planets. He was just a bloke.

The accounts of resurrection are accounts of something that did not happen bodily or to a single consciousness: They are clearly mythical in story construction. They are early Church theological statements: they might be the language of the time given into what we would call spiritual experiences, and clearly relate to messianic expectation that was wrong. The Ascension and second coming are Christian innovations to stop the resurrection appearances being continuous. In any case, humans rot rapidly and consciousness is most likely brain dependent.

So why make such a man the cult centre of a religion? Even if he is some sort of tragic-heroic figure of an ethical good (according to texts) he is not what the Nicene even Apostles Creed say he is.

So next time you liberals preach, preach the pure humanity and limitation of Jesus. Say he was wrong and say we have to decide these things for ourselves.

A lot of the talk by evangelicals against The Episcopal Church, that it has somehow denied the Creeds, when it hasn't, is to throw at it the ultimate taboo that it no longer believes, is no longer 'in' with the Church.

So now here is a taboo. And this one works, and it does because it has career and bureaucracy implications behind it. It also involves feelings of emotion and dependence for some fluffy individuals. Avoiding this taboo leads to some incredibly inventive postliberal theology - such as standards of role performance by which Churches identify themselves and their believers.

What bollocks is that? You mean you don't believe it because it has no objective basis, but you continue to trot it out as some kind of label?

Or try the bollocks that is Radical Orthodoxy, living in a bubble of non-research based Platonism, the pure Church of fantasy land?

You don't say what you think, and it leads to the incredible. But this is how taboo operates now, and it leads to a feeble and dishonest sacred. What is the sacred result of honesty to where things lead? Is that so difficult to know? Honesty itself, freedom, space, reflection back and reflection forward based on using the mind and clearing the mind of clutter.

1 comment:

tony mcneile's unitarian sermons and writings said...

We have been creating stereotypes ie Phantom Friends who we expect to respond to us when we call. They do not have to be real. If you wanted Phantom Friends for good and 'evil' would not Jesus and the Devil be good ones?