Thursday, 28 February 2013

Beyond Boundaries

It seems I've got myself into some more trouble again, this time at Thinking Anglicans, after I decided to make some increasingly rare comments (that were accepted). I'm not in trouble with the blog owners, as far as I can tell, but with one of the normally broad comment-makers who dismissed my making any comment at all.

It started with the matter of entryism all over again, coming to Sheffield, and I commented because I've had this as a main feature of my own blogging and comment making in years past. I'd taken the time to transcribe a video of the entryism strategy which, by the existence then of text, promoted my blog and comments in the public sphere among other blogs. But perhaps I went too far, because then at Thinking Anglicans came a more 'devotional' entry which did have questions built in that I answered from my perspective using history or its absence. Thus creating debate, with Erika Baker debating me again, someone referred to the pointlessness of such historical scrutiny as just the resultant all-too-familiar denial of Christ and so I answered Erika and then added that no I don't follow Christ. To which the normally broad minded 'Father Ron Smith' wondered why I bothered to comment and regarded me as necessarily adverserial. But (as I hope will appear) I am not adverserial as the questions within were open to access by anyone using history, but I am not a follower of Christ. What makes this more interesting is that the first blog on entryism turned into the apparent heresies of The Episcopal Church and its leaders, and Martin Reynolds (who once telephoned me!) regarded the views as within Anglican diverse opinion. So I asked what's that and then 'Helen' refers to the Jesus of the Gospels as distinct from the Jesus of Paul (which I think is not quite right: the Jesus of the Gospels is still the Jesus of Paul, it's the Jesus of history that is the issue).

So having bowed out earlier thanks to Rev. Ron Smith, I make a comment that the boundaries could be the incarnation (that somehow the definitiveness of Jesus tells us something about the world) and the resurrection (that Jesus returns in some sense that defines the future).

This is obviously very loose, and on reflection would have been considered Unitarian in the nineteenth century if not largely so in the first half of the twentieth century. I suppose I should add a focus upon these, but that would still be the case for Unitarianism over that time. Although I could add 'The Trinity' the fact is that despite the liturgy many an Anglican is Unitarian in the old theological sense or possibly Arian in some sense. (Pure Arianism is as supernaturalist as anything else: but there is a kind of acquisition of subordinate divinity that some believe.)

I'm not a follower of anyone, that's all. It doesn't make me hostile to Christian sources, and I still use them. I also use Buddhist, Humanist and Pagan. There are no boundaries. I am not limited to any particular book of scriptures. Jesus is not definitive for me, but there are ethical arguments and investigations about how ethics have possibly been lived, just as there are claims about religious and ethical pathways. We are not forced to accept one package or another, but can mix and match where there is a join. When the chips are down I am a religious humanist, but draw from various sources. At the moment I'm looking again at a book on liturgy and all its relationships, and thinking how these relate to service construction. There are areas to consider of processing through, of exchange and gift, of sorry and thanks and carrying on. I might chat about these ideas with friends going on a Unitarian worship course, and I might add an analysis of liturgy on my website. But it is not Christian as such, and it's a matter of clarity that it is not.

Here is a very interesting 'first impressions' of someone at a Unitarian church and meeting someone who says she's Unitarian but not Christian.

Pluralist Website


Anonymous said...

I think this post illustrates very well why you were turned down for the ministry.

It seriously suggests you seem not to understand religion and why people are religious. These 4 months are the equivalent of the Christian High Holy Days, the core of what Christianity is about. Therefore, to start debating on a blog in this style, even on a more open-minded Anglican one like this, is effectively trashing other people’s experience. I can understand why Erika takes you on the way she does.

Overall, you appear to take a largely intellectual and verbal approach to religion, treating it as an object for analysis. Yes, texts and movements can be analysed and such analysis is useful as an end in itself.

However, here is the essential disconnect: this type of analysis is not doing religion.

The problem is this type of analysis is all about the left-hemisphere of the brain and religion in its best forms is about developing what is beyond the binary, “monkey” mind.

I guess the interviewers/trainers picked up on the fact you were likely to analyse a possible congregant’s experience from an intellectual perspective – what was right and wrong about it and where it fitted – yes, my dear, that sounds as though it was post-liberal, Radical Orthodox, puritan, independent Anglo-Catholic - rather than from one of what it actually meant to the individual concerned.

Which all rather begs the question: Do you have any experience of actually doing religion?

It’s as though you push away any real engagement with religious practice by this constant analysis.
It suggests you might actually be frightened of any encountering any real religious experience.

For example, when you attended an Anglican Church, I cannot call you Anglican, you seem to have spent whole services analysing the liturgy – what you could or could not say. What did you agree with or disagree with in the sermon. All words, analysis.

Did you ever actually stop and listen to the service as a whole? Take in the atmosphere of the Church?

After the last service at Hull, you came out with a written critique of the sermon. Again analysis, words.

Do you actually get anything out of the prayers, meditation, music, silence i.e. those parts designed to get people out of the binary mind i.e. the more religious bits?

However, sadly, you would not be unique, because this is one of the biggest issues, in fact, faults within Unitarianism. In many places it has degenerated to just words. Insome places, services have become an opportunity for someone to draw on the energy from a congregation to fuel them while they deliver their party piece, sorry, sermon, which is received in turn by the audience as an opportunity for right/wrong binary thinking. Why, they might be debated immediately afterwards, not even waiting for the coffee.

And everyone wonders why it has all degenerated the way it has.

Hey ho. There are some promising hints that there might be a shift towards a more “religious” approach, but I don’t hold out too much hope.

Louise said...

I'd be interested to know how many recent Unitarian services Anonymous has been to. It is certainly not my experience that, 'In many places it has degenerated to just words'.

Many of the words that I hear and deliver myself are a reflection of a faith that is experienced. The depth of those personal experiences of faith move me, inspire me and resonate with me much more than the words of credal religions.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I think 'anonymous' assumes rather too much about me and religious experience, as if analysing the sermon or liturgy detracts from religious experience. Also I know the reasons I was not continued in training. So I think your personally directed anti-intellectualism knows rather less about me and my history than you think. You seem also to know little about Unitarianism.

Why not address the issues and why not stop hiding behind your anonymity?