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More blatherings from me in response to Kay in response to Heather about my own special way to be Christian.

July 5, 2007

OCIBW…

I’m reposting my response to her here, because it was really way too long of a post to be in her comments section, and also because I feel like blathering on about it here as well, and I think it’s ok writing on my part. So, now for you reading enjoyment:

Kay – Heather’s rant, I believe, is in reaction to fundamentalist atheists and Christians – those who are literalists of one form or another: either those who believe every word of the OT and NT are literally true, factual, historical OR those who believe it is totally untrue, and therefore not factual or historical. The former position gives the bible ultimate authority, the later position negates any of authority for a “made up” book.

Heather and I are Christians of the Episcopal tribe, founded upon Anglicanism. (OK – so, historically, this was a church started so Henry the VIII could get a divorce, but stay with me, it does redeem itself). Anglicanism sees itself as a Via Media (a middle way) between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. As Heather notes, the bible was translated into the vernacular en masse during this time, and the Anglican tradition of the three legged stool of scripture, tradition, and reason (or God given intellect) as guiding principle of their faith came into being during the 16th century. That is, Anglicans try to balance reason up against what is written in the scriptures and with Christianity as it has been historically practiced. Anglicans don’t believe that everything written in the bible is without error – it was after all complied by man – not “beamed” down as a whole completed document.

Many other Christian denominations believe that tradition trumps all (for example, the RCs – “This is how it’s always been done, so who are we to ? it, God wants it this way, we can’t ever change.”), or there are those who believe that scripture trumps all (Calvinists, many baptists or fundamentalist non-denominational Christians who are suspicious of all things smacking of papacy, vestments, incense, etc.) Then there are those who believe reason trumps all (Universalist Unitarians, agnostics, atheists).

In atttempting to get some balance between the three, I believe there is more room for Christianity to grow – the conversation always continues. Hence, there are those, like myself, who see the OT as interesting historically, and in some cases redemptively (I mean, when you are feeling unloveable, you can think of the collection of HUMAN misfits God has always had to put up with to try to further humanity along toward a more “divine reality”: David, Moses, Jacob, etc. All had failings – BIG failings. All were chosen by God to be his agent amongst the people). And the NT is mostly about Paul and the early Christian practices, and Christ as seen through the eyes of those who had their own human/sociopolitical agendas: yet these people were inspired by Christ, and their own understanding of Christ, his life, and his leadership. So, it’s the closest to Christ we are ever going to get, 2000+ years later.

So…what am I saying? Christians, have never been as unified in their beliefs as many people believe. Early Christians came out of the Jewish tradition. The Jews practiced midrash, where they would argue hours on end, generation after generation, about the interpretation of scriptural passages. Early Christians believed a variety of things, just as Jews did, and once they invited in the gentiles all hell broke loose: a whole new set of cultures were introduced to Christian thought.

In the end, I think the bible tells some great stories, and some of them are even “true”. I don’t mean true in the factual sense (although, some of them may be), I mean true in the mythological sense of truth – a core or truth which is basic to the human condition. This is where panentheists can still be practicing Christians even though they might not believe in a “virgin birth” or even the “diety” of Christ: they do see the core truth in some Christian teachings, and get spiritually fed by contemplating and practicing upon these truths.

To try to separate the bible from the context in which it was written is a very dangerous practice, but, to throw away the truth contained in it, because it isn’t a simple truth or a convenient truth, is equally dangerous. The bible is only one tool among many that Christians have to try to experience the divine. It isn’t a recipe book per se, with exact measurements – it’s more like an essence book – a cook talking vaguely about the ingredients to make something, but, you know, you can add more of this, or less of that to suit your own tastes. Too many people try to use the bible as a bludgeon. I don’t personally experience the bible that way – OT or NT.

We are each unique. We will each experience the divine uniquely. We share basic human limitations, and varying degrees of comfort with the frustration we experience in attempting to know and describe something that is fundamentally beyond our experience. Some give up all attempts, and either swallow it whole or reject it wholesale. I think, though, that the struggle that lies between swallowing it whole or rejecting it outright is where the “truth” lies. Any my truth is unlikely to be exactly like yours (or anyone elses) because, we are unique, and will experience certain things uniquely.

Oh crap…I’m rambling and blathering…

I’m Christian, because, culturally I’m a Christian. I was raised RC, and I have a host of psychological reasons for feeling spiritually fed by liturgy, etc. I can enter a peaceful state there, and I enjoy hymns, and the predictability of the words, and I’m ok with the patriarchal language employed – because I think God is those things plus much, much more, and yet much less too. It’s where I go to meet the divine. It works for me – but I’m comfortable (or at least more comfortable) with ambiguity. I don’t understand the hows or whys of it all, I just know it works for me. I concentrate on the Christian teachings that hold meaning for me (like the prodigal son story, or the challenges to the blind following of the law – where the law has become more important than the God whom it was supposed to serve, etc.) than those stories which are difficult, except to ponder what buttons those passages push for me, and what, if anything I might do about it.

I’ve learned, that when a button is being pushed, the divine is usually trying to tell me something which I don’t want to hear. Sigh.

I have no easy answers. I just struggle, but I made a decision to stay Christian because it’s still a good construct from which to contemplate the divine.

I know this is something some of us struggle with to varying degrees of success, and I know it’s not an issue for some of us at all. But, there you have it – some of my thoughts on why I follow Christ, even though I’m not an orthodox Christian.

I’m sure you’ll all sleep better tonight now.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2007 12:30 pm

    I don’t know if I”ll sleep better tonight, but it was certainly an interesting read.

  2. July 5, 2007 1:09 pm

    That is well written and interesting. I am curious where is the original posting that this refers to.

  3. episcopalifem permalink*
    July 5, 2007 1:48 pm

    Mystical – I think you’d enjoy Kay’s site. The original post is here: Round and Round.

    And Kay’s post is in response to the post from Heather place that I pointed out below.

  4. July 5, 2007 2:07 pm

    (OK – so, historically, this was a church started so Henry the VIII could get a divorce, but stay with me, it does redeem itself).

    Eileen, Henry VIII had no intention to establish a new church. He always considered himself Catholic. After all, it was Pope Leo X who conferred the title Fidei Defensor, which is Latin for “Defender of the Faith,” on Henry. The English monarch retains the title until today, for good or ill.

    The English church had a good deal of autonomy over its Christian history, partially because of its distance from Rome. A likelier candidate for the establishment of the English Church, IMHO, would be Elizabeth I, who tried to sort things out after Mary’s bloody reign and tried to find the middle way for her subjects that would lessen the carnage. Of course, her reign was not without its share of bloodshed, either.

    Of course, I could be wrong, since I am not an expert in church history.

  5. episcopalifem permalink*
    July 5, 2007 2:10 pm

    Me neither, Meems. I’ll leave church historicity up to the experts.

  6. July 5, 2007 3:38 pm

    Thanks, Eileen.

  7. July 5, 2007 8:02 pm

    Blather away all you want in my comments Eileen. Me likes it.

    And Mystic Seeker had me in his blogroll already. 😉

  8. July 5, 2007 8:51 pm

    Ramble & blather all you like, Eileen. It’s a great read & i agree very much.

    Our parish’s deacon, Jan Bales, once told a class i was in, “the Bible didn’t fall from heaven in a ziplock baggie.” The same idea as your “not beamed down as a complete book”.

    Mimi’s got the right of Anglican history, too. At least that’s how i l’arned it! Elizabeth I’s actions had a much greater impact on Anglicanism than Henry’s rejection of the Bishop of Rome. Not to mention Mary’s bloody persecution of British protestants between Henry & Liz.

    The rich history of the British Isles’ provincial monasticism, led by powerful Abbots & Abbesses who paid no heed to Rome, also greatly fed the early CofE development.

  9. episcopalifem permalink*
    July 6, 2007 11:35 am

    Hey Scott! It’s good to “see” you! Haven’t had a chance to catch up with you in awhile.

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

    If there is anything I can do, it’s surely blather on and on…

  10. July 6, 2007 3:44 pm

    Hey, that was well-written indeed! I enjoyed it. I still don’t know what I am, by the way.

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