Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Nothing-better-to-doodlings


by Kim Fabricius

People will phone me and sometimes begin, “Sorry to disturb you.”  I always answer, “Hey, I’m in the business of being disturbed.”  I’m serious.  Disturbances are the ministerial vocation, the locus of insinuating encounter, the way the good Lord says, “Excuse me …” – and an anticipation of his final interruption.

If life stinks, it’s because human behaviour is almost entirely an involuntary excretion.

Humans, it is said, are the universe becoming self-aware.  Bullshit.  That we are conscious beings is the grandest of illusions spun by the old Conjurer, the basis of his entire Project Pandemonium.  The odd conscious being appears now and then, but we are always quick to kill him.  The devil can’t believe his luck. 

In the Tractatus Wittgenstein wrote: “At death the world does not alter, but comes to an end.”  At Christ too.

Today I passed an electricity generator and a pylon surrounded by a metal fence.  On the fence there was a pictogram of a lightning bolt striking a prone man, and a sign that said “Danger of Death”.  The pylon suggested a steeple, the generator an altar, and I thought of the church.  But only for a moment.

Is prayer therapeutic?  Only if it kills the patient.

Of course, it’s okay to pray in a foxhole.  It’s just that if you do not pray in ordinary, prayers in extremis make no sense.  That is why our Lord’s cry of dereliction makes total sense: it comes from someone whose whole life was a prayer.

Few things have taught me more about prayer than standing in a long queue.

If (with Barth) sin known is always sin forgiven, in worship should not the Absolution precede, not follow, the Confession?  Of course I know that this reversal subverts the entire course of liturgical history, but then as Milton said, “Custom without truth is but agedness of error.”  In this case, lex orandi, lex errandi.

Another thing: our personal prayers should begin with forgiveness – but not asking God to forgive me, rather giving voice my forgiveness of others.  As in the Duke Ellington sacred song “Don’t Get Down on Your Knees to Pray until You Have Forgiven Everyone”. 

The more the emails I send to others, the less I seem to correspond with myself.

To articulate what you know with clarity, economy, and elegance is a great gift.  But to articulate what you do not know, if only as a clumsy gesture, is a greater gift still. 

We are told to preach our certainties, not our doubts.  Bad advice.  Because there are false certainties and true doubts.  As for tone, better the stuttering than the stentorian.

I have so much respect and affection for Rowan Williams that I have tried – I really have tried – to agree with the suspension of his own theological “opinions” in his irenic arch-episcopal leadership of the Anglican Church.  But I have to ask: what if Archbishops Chrysostom, Cranmer, and Romero had taken that vocational view?

Rowan Williams will eventually publish a Summa Theologica.  It will be called The Collected Poems.  

Professor Steven Pinker,
that prodigious prestidigitator of a thinker,
wondrously waves a wand of statistics and tables – 
and pulls Peace from a hat piled with Belsens and Babels.

Two sections of the brain of Albert Einstein will be on display at the Welcome Collection, London from March 29th to June 17th.  Professor Richard Tetzel-Dawkins of the British Humanist Association has announced that viewing the relics will grant students the remission of three terms and two final exams from the purgatory known as English university education.  The Association had also considered relieving students of any responsibility to read books, before realising that such an indulgence would be completely superfluous.

“Liquid church”.  Fine.  But bring a straw: it’s a milkshake, not a malt.

I say give Joel Osteen a break.  After all, he’s an Oral Roberts University drop-out.

What will hell be like?  Ask a Quaker at a Saddleback Seeker Service.  Oops – can’t find one?

The problem with WWJD ethics is that you could ask the same question of, say, Gandhi.  Whether Christ is living or dead makes no essential difference to an answer that will be trapped in immanence.

Informed as an English major by F.R. Leavis’ “Great Tradition” – which includes George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Henry James – I’ve only just gotten around to Thomas Hardy (who didn’t make the cut).  I am relieved to discover that I haven’t missed much.  Compared to Middlemarch, Nostromo, and The Portrait of a Lady, Jude the Obscure strikes me as a soap opera.

I had to smile when I learned that this year Opening Day for the Mets falls on Maundy Thursday.  The Passion begins.  Of course you could also think of it as Advent 1: the theme is death, judgement, hell.

Take a close look at the hand in Hans Holbein’s Dead ChristRude Christ?

In July, inshallah, I shall become a grandfather.  I told my daughter, “Wonderful, I can be silly again!”  Katie replied, “Dad, what do you mean again?”

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