Sunday 8 January 2012

Doodlings unrelenting

by Kim Fabricius
A writer must have the hots for words but should never trust them, because they always stray.

Good theology is like fishing on a sunny summer afternoon, when you throw back most of the catch; bad theology is like a feverish hunt for the White Whale.

Arguments for the existence of God are a puzzle to the non-believer, a crossword puzzle to the believer.

Mistakes are part of any good description of God. Only heretical accounts of God are infallible.

What’s the difference between God and idols? Idols get really pissed off when you poke fun at them.

If I could draw like Dürer, Praying Hands would become White Knuckles.

For Advent reading, Rowan Williams commended two books published in 2011. One is Hauerwas’ Learning to Speak Christian. The other is Diary of a Soul by Pennar Davies (who used to teach and minister here in Swansea), which Williams describes as “an extraordinary spiritual testament from one of the greatest Welsh Nonconformist thinkers and writers of the past century”. In the book’s introduction, Williams observes that Davies’ “main purpose, and achievement, was his desire to bare his inner struggles – especially the struggles between flesh and spirit.” Davies writes: “Sin lurks in my heart like dust in a house.” How palely confessional, I thought. I would say that sin floats in my heart like shit in a toilet. Cesspool of a Soul would catch the whiff of my own diary. 

The Alzheimer’s-afflicted remind me of Sisyphus: they spend the day toiling to reconstruct their identity, then sleep, and then, next morning, begin the same labour again. Over, and over, and over, each day more punishing and futile than the day before. Except that Camus could imagine Sisyphus happy. 

If Christianity is unique, it is in declaring not the forgiveness of the sinner but the forgiveness of the righteous. The righteous too must repent – precisely of their rectitude. 

Tertullian said that one Christian is no Christian. So are a thousand. 

“Christian values”: that’s the phrase I would parse if asked to give an excellent example of both bullshit and propaganda. 

Which reminds me of a recent lecture by David Cameron in which the prime minister, oxymoronically describing himself as “a committed – but … vaguely practising” Christian, intimated that Rowan Williams should be doing more to “defend” and “promote” the “values” of the Bible – which may be accurately construed as “he should be doing more in the way of national moral policing and social control”. Of course, it is to be expected that a prime minister will deploy language (as Orwell memorably put it) “to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, particularly when he is talking about religion. Alas, how silly of me not to have anticipated that a gaggle of bishops would then proceed to genuflect at such gilded guff. 

The most devastating question that the feeble critiques of the New Atheists implicitly put to the church is: Are we simply getting the cultured despisers we deserve? 

The New Atheists are frauds. In fact, they are true believers. Witness the prodigiously fulsome obituaries for Christopher Hitchens: they are monuments to his apotheosis. 

In personal anguish, the answer to the question “Why me?” is not an explanation but a resurrection – though a hug, a cup of tea, and help with the hoovering will do. 

Have you noticed that for the truly exocentric person (i.e., the saint), there is no “problem of theodicy”? That’s because the faith of the saint is not contingent on contingency; the saint understands contingency itself as a gift. The problem of theodicy is thus best understood as a snag in sanctification. 

I venture to suggest that most local churches are Marcionite. And Marcionite eggshells, indeed broilers, are to be found in both liberal and conservative theology, and in liberation theology too. I’m thinking supersessionism. It’s damn near systemic. 

Theological persuasion is a necessary but not sufficient condition for most Christians who resist the inclusion of LGBT people in the church. Even personal contact may not lead to holistic metanoia. Psychotherapy may be necessary. Even, as a last resort, exorcism. 

“A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny at The Scripps Research Institute (2008) suggested that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a manner similar to addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin” (Wikipedia). Given their reading habits, that explains the mentation of many young evangelicals here in the UK. 

As Pascal said, “All of man’s misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly without an iPad.” 

Swearing may be bad for the soul, but it’s great for the body, its very visceralness a virtue in these gnostic times of ours. Besides, Stanley Hauerwas swears. Hauerwas has done for cussing what Barth did for pipe-smoking. 

What’s the difference between the Gods of Calvinism and Arminianism? Here is what they say to those in hell: The Calvinist God says, “Fuck you!” – The Arminian God says, “You’re fucked!” 

What are the cosmetically modified but contemporary gargoyles? “Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them.” That’s St. Bernard of Clairvaux, writing in the 12th century. 

True story. I once took the funeral of a young lawyer, and the crematorium was packed with colleagues, paralegals, and judges. We came to the climax of the service, where I was supposed to say “Let us stand for the committal.” Instead, the Reverend Plank said, “Let us stand for the acquittal.” Embarrassed? Absolutely. But following on from Romans 8:31ff., a slip of genius, don’t you think?

When I was young, I thought that one day I would grow up. Yeah, and when I was a young minister, I thought that one day I would know what I was doing.

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