Tuesday 12 August 2014

Doodlings digitalis

by Kim Fabricius

The kindest people are often people who have experienced great sorrow in their lives. Hence the infinite kindness of God.

Imagine buying a jigsaw puzzle of Jesus. Now open the box. If there aren’t lots of pieces missing, you’ve been ripped off – it can’t be Jesus.

“… nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes). Mark Driscoll is, what, 5’10”ish? Then make that nasty, brutish, and medium-height.

Some of us find it hard to pray. Is it because we cannot still our thoughts and focus our attention? Perhaps. But it may be because we are the kind of people who don’t like asking for help.

I am sometimes asked what book I would recommend to an intelligent enquirer at the border of faith, or to an intelligent believer on the brink of doubt. No question: Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Grayling’s The God Argument. Never has atheism been so self-refuting.

God’s Two Books, Nature and the Bible: atheists don’t know how to read the one, and inerrantists don’t know how to read the other. It is not accidental that poets among them are few.

If the tomb was not empty, I would cease to be a Christian. Likewise if the Chicago Statement or Intelligent Design were not empty.

George Tyrell famously wrote that “The Christ that Adolf Harnack sees … is only the reflection of a liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.” Indeed. And when conservative evangelicals look down the same well, they see – “Hell, that ain’t Jesus, it’s good old (perspective) penal Paul!”

You could say that Penal Substitution is the way that God tried decisively to deal with his anger-management issues. It didn’t work. Hence Plan B: Eternal Damnation.

There are two Holy Grails, the Last Supper Chalice and the Immaculate Autograph. The first, at least, is legendary; the second is entirely fantastical.

If you never question the Bible, the Bible will never question you – and then you are in deep shit.

And God looked down upon the crowd and the cross, the braying and the dying, and said, “Well, I’ll be damned.” And it was so.

When I prepare couples for marriage, and discuss the vows, and come to “till death us do part,” I always tell them to cheer up – it could be longer.

Giles Fraser has suggested that assisted dying is the final triumph of market capitalism – or better, Kaputalism (though its colonisation of fourth-wave feminism is also a quality performance) – but not only because of the apotheosis of choice, also because of its privatisation of suffering.

Another better spelling: Terrortories – as in the “Occupied” (or “Disputed” or “Unsettled” [sic]) Terrortories.

I used to think that God made so much sand for deserts and beaches, for their beauty, bleak or balmy. Now I think it’s for sandbags, for protection, from bullets and bombs, swishing and thudding.

“And then one day I asked myself, ‘How is it going to suit you to be called Brother Crow?’” That’s the eponymous hero Jayber Crow in Wendell Berry’s blessing of a novel, querying his call to become a preacher. I know the feeling: Reverend Fabricius has always seemed to me to be somebody else.

Btw, is there a finer modern American novel on the tender, patient, and suffering grace of God in creation than Jayber Crow? Gilead is as fine, but no finer.

To all ministers troubled by a sense of failure – and your point is?

Researchers in France have just published a study in the journal Science which suggests that crustaceans may be able to experience anxiety. Having consulted its sub-committee on psychological profiling, the PCA’s Mission to the World agency is now planning a crusade called Christ for Crayfish.

All writers fear the blank page, good writers fear the finished one.

I’ve stopped in many and various places, for longer or shorter, in my 65+ years: Great Neck and Huntington for childhood and adolescence; Middletown and Oxford for education; Amsterdam and Madrid for art; Kabul and London for dope; Haslemere for farming and Barth; and for 32 years, Swansea for ministry. Many memories, some cloudy but most still pretty clear, from the happy and holy to the harrowing and humiliating. Most of all, however, I remember that I was younger.

Someone recently asked me, admittedly half-seriously, whether I have made a Bucket List. I answered, full-seriously, that I cannot think of a more pathetic denial – of death, certainly – but, above all, of life. With perhaps one exception: to make the perfect martini. Then again, I’ve been trying to do that for the past 30 years. My point is that our intimations of mortality should refocus our attention on the quotidian, not bewitch us with the prodigious.

As I’ve gotten older, I find I’m not as big a sinner as I used to be. It’s sort of sanctification by attrition: I can’t drink enough to get real drunk anymore, I don’t covet and can’t lust like I used to, and what’s there to be vain or proud about? I reckon if I could live to 150 I’d be damned near as sinless as the Saviour.

BREAKING NEWS: Latest casualties in the invasion of Gaza: Proportion and Discrimination. Just War Theory (c. 400 – 2014): RIP.

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