Friday, June 10, 2005

"It is impossible to say just what I mean!"--T.S Eliot

Among his other theses are: "God is both Father and Mother" and "Religion is not necessary, but spirituality is."

This is not, by the way, "radical feminist theology." It's roots are in the theology of the "Dark Ages." Which weren't really so dark.

Don't have my copy with me, nor the time to Google for on, but Julian of Norwich spoke of God as both Father and Mother in her "Shewings." It was not considered a radical concept, but it is one that has dropped away as belief and religion have more and more left everyday life and been relegated to the margins of our existence.

Which makes me think we need a dialogue here (Speechless? Jane? Leftrev?) about how fundamentalism and "tradition" replace a living faith when that faith becomes a matter of "Sunday morning" and "what churches do." Julian, in fact, an "anchorite," which meant she was "officially" dead to the world, yet she was more connected to her community than many pastors are to their congregations today. When faith is truly a part of the ordinary world, it is a living, breathing, complex "thing."

When it is shunted into byways and "personal beliefs" and "what you choose to do on Sunday morning" (this is NOT an argument for theocracy, BTW, or even a "religious society"), it atrophies into rigid doctrines, traditions, even images and metaphors.

Or at least, I could develop a line of thought around that. If I had time.
I want to get at least the skeleton of this idea out.

Immigrants never "leave" the "home country" so much as they try to preserve their memories of it, and so they want to place in amber the place they left. Examples of this will have to come later, but it's the basic premise.

The church, at one time, didn't just dominate society, it was society. In ways I'm not sure we can begin to imagine; and I don't think the dissolution began with the Enlightenment, or even the Renaissance. But for most of human existence, religion and "science" (which, after all, simply means "knowledge," albeit of a specific type, even in the original Greek) were not harshly separated.

Now, for a myriad of reasons, they are. Reasons, again, to be discussed later (or as you will).

What is left is a culture of "immigrants" who remember some vestige of a life lived with religion as a part of it (the loss of same being good or bad, depending on your perspective; again, another issue), and who want to preserve that vestige. My thesis, then, is that it is this desire to preserve the "vestige" that is at the heart of "fundamentalism," and even the interest in "traditions" (though I am by no means anti-traditionalist myself). Fundamentalism is not a response to Enlightenment thought, in other words, although its appearance is certainly connected causally to the application of such thought to Biblical studies (coming out of Germany in the 19th century, which ideas struck the immigrants of America as blasphemy, a sure sign of the decay of values of the "old country" since they had left). It may have been produced by that event, but the roots are much deeper.

So that today, a concept that raised no eyebrows in the "Dark Ages" (Julian of Norwich speaking of God as "Father and Mother;" Wisdom, by the way, is female both in Greek and Hebrew thought and vocabulary, which makes "God's Wisdom" feminine in the Bible), is considered scandalous and even non-Christian. But the roots are not in the rejection of "reason;" the roots are in the divorce of religion from ordinary life.

It occurs to me this ties in with the renewed interest in Celtic prayer, too, and the Carmina Gadelica. It occurs to me there is a book or two in this. It also occurs to me that I have to take my daughter to her point of departure for a three-week trip to China today, and I shouldn't even be here!

But maybe this will give you all some grounds for fruitful discussion until I can come back.

Two quick addenda, because they are related to this, and I don't want to forget them. I want to pick up on Rick's remarks re: Vaticn II, in the comments below, not because I agree or disagree, but because it opens a fruitful venue for discussion. That's one, and related is the other: I think this split in public/private life, while seen as a particularly Protestant boon (especially in church/state separated Protestant dominated America) actually marks the "death" of Protestantism.

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