Aug. 19th, 2008 03:40 pm
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
In 2009, when the champagne is uncorked in celebration of Darwin's legacy, we might pause to consider the presuppositions we bring to the question of what his theory tells us about God. There are essentially only two options. Either the wonder of human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a creator. It remains a mystery to me why some people claim it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.

OK, OK, I'll be the first to say I don't understand evolutionary theory. I like my intellectual puzzles nicely preserved in manuscript form, thank you.

HOWEVER, all this binary stuff really shits me. "Do you think intelligence came out of nowhere" is the kind of question the creationists used to ask at school, and it made sort of sense coming from them, given that a) a fair treatment of evolutionary theory wasn't exactly available at my school and b) there aren't exactly a lot of cunning monkeys running around my home town. But this dude's a Proffessor of Mathematics, presumably he knows that evolutionary theory doesn't say intellgence popped into being with Homo Sapiens (despite the fact that you might think so from the species designation). There's such a thing as a SCALE. DEVELOPMENT. IT HAPPENS, people.

As a subset to this: this kind of mindset is all homocentricism. People can't seem to shake the idea that human intelligence is something vastly different to any cognition shown by animals, instead of a matter of scale. *Grumbles* Mind you, non-homocentric approaches to Christianity are pretty hard to find.

FURTHERMORE. The other thing that shits me when intelligent people dumb things down to create a binary- either because they think the general public won't understand it, or because they're being rhetorically devious- is that it presupposes that evolutionary theory and theistic belief are incompatible. *Stabs things* Like there aren't plenty of mostly-sane Christians out there of varing degrees of intelligence and education who can cope with the idea of God bringing life and intelligence out of mindless matter over a space of time considerably longer than seven days. *stabby stabby*

(*Grumble* As a subsidiary rant: and here was me thinkin' that losing faith would mean I didn't get angry about this sort of thing. GAH.)

(Subsidiary note # 2: Hi Dad. Mum doesn't know about that last set of brackets. Kindly don't mention it just yet.)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (purple)
Y'know, my Dad's not much of a talker. He'll talk your ear off if you ask him about, oh, the second world war or the invention of the assembly line or the works of Steven Jay Gould, to say nothing of installation-free software, vintage aeroplanes, and guitars. Personal questions, though, never really come onto the radar. This has at times annoyed or frustrated me, although right now I can't remember when or why. The speed at which he used to flee if he should chance upon Mum, Joel and/or I discussing such educational matters as condoms or menstruation was highly entertaining- faster even than the speed of retreat should he stumble upon a theological conversation, which is odd, Dad being a lifelong atheist.

At some point it occurred to me that our schooling must've been particularly tortuous for Dad, an atheist of the leave-well-enough-alone variety, given how much religious shit we copped. Mum was always justifiably proud of me for standing my ground, but it must've been extra infuriating for Dad to stand by and watch one lot of religious nutters give his daughter shit for not being the right *kind* of nutter.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent. Point of this post was supposed to be that my Dad has always spoilt me to high heaven and let me do my own thing. While I always appreciate being spoilt, I don't always remember to appreciate the other half of the equation. Then I read about things like this, and I realise how very lucky I am. Thanks Dad!
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (purple)
From a book the Wife leant me. A conversation between Uncle Hilary, the elderly priest of Big Village, and Malony, an ex-comedian mysteriously masquerading as an Irish handyman. Hilary explains to Malony how it is that he, a parson, suffers from 'failure of faith':

'... You know how it is in the black moments it's always the apparent failure of what you live by that gets you down. Only apparent, of course, for the mere fact that you're wretched because you think your faith's gone means you've got hold of it pretty firmly. If you had no faith you wouldn't care one way or the other, would you?'
'I wouldn't know,' said Malony, with gloomy self-satisfaction. 'I've no faith myself.'
'You've all the marks of it... What made you first take to the drink in Clerkenwell?'
'General ugliness of things. I was a romantic youngster. Thought life ought to be a lot different from what it was. Then a pal of mine let me down.'
'There you are then,' said Hilary comfortably. 'You believed in beauty, in loyalty. Drunk, you still believed in them. If you hadn't, you wouldn't have been drunk. Have some more coffee.'

- Elizabeth Goudge, The Herb of Grace, Coronet Books, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1965, pp. 237-238.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)
A few weeks ago, Archaeostronomy won a special package of Bonus Points from me (not that I imagine he wanted them nor noticed their aquisition), for noting that creationism is an offence to sane christianity just as it is to him.

Today's Bonus Points go to Greta Christina, for pointing out something I hadn't even started to forumulate myself. When people- ok, [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin- start on the rant about Christianity, and Christian morality, etc being founded on the 'cowardly' basis of either a) fear of God or b) desire to PLEASE God or c) both, I tend to just shut up and frown. Because it seems wrong, but how is one to argue without declaring one's morality to be nonreligious?1

However, Greta pokes holes in the argument on her own, staunchly athiestic terms.

"The logical conclusion of atheism is amorality/ nihilism/ meaninglessness."

If you've been hanging around the atheism debates for long, you've almost certainly run into this argument....

It's an annoying argument. Largely because it flatly ignores the actual reality on the ground: the fact that most atheists are moral people, aren't nihilistic, and do find great meaning in their lives and the lives of others. It's an argument that prioritizes the believer's own beliefs and prejudices over the actual reality that's sitting three feet in front of them staring them in the face....

I want to talk about a parallel argument that I've seen some atheists make -- an argument that I think is every bit as flawed, every bit as troubling, every bit as willing to ignore evidence in favor of one's own prejudices.

It's the argument that theistic morality is inferior to atheist morality....
The argument goes roughly like this: Theistic morality -- and the idea that theism is necessary to morality, the idea that without a belief in God people will have no reason to be good -- is a childish morality. It's a morality that's based on fear of punishment and the desire for reward... and therefore it's an immature morality. The atheist morality is based on genuine feelings of compassion and empathy and fairness, a deep consciousness that other people have just as much right to live in this world as you yourself do... and therefore, it's a more mature, more truly moral morality than the childish theistic morality that "good" is what you get rewarded for and "bad" is what you get punished for.

And there are two reasons I think this is a bad argument.

Firstly, she argues for the neurological hardwiring of human morality, which sounds very scientific and smart, but probably doesn't make much difference in terms of value judgements like 'cowardly'... the argument is about the terms we FRAME morality in, anyway.

She goes on:

here's my second argument against this idea:

It contradicts reality.

I know a fair number of theists and other religious/ spiritual believers. And they clearly have the same basis for their morality as I do for mine. The believers I know don't do good because they're afraid of Hell. Many of them don't even believe in Hell. They do good for the exact same reasons I do: because they feel compassion and empathy for others, because they believe in justice and fairness, because they understand that other people are people just like they are, because they want to see the world be a better place for everybody.

They may believe that these morals were planted in us by God, while I believe they were planted in us by the evolution of our genetic hard-wiring. But the basic morals, and the basic motivations for those morals, are essentially the same as mine.

And if I don't like it when bigoted theists deny the reality of my morality, then it's not right for me to turn around and be just as big a reality-denying bigot as they are.

So, again: bonus points for including sane religites as a key point of the argument, rather than as a disclaimer clause.


1. And I do persist in the, ah, delusion that i do have some religious foundation in my moral system. I'm allowed to be deluded, so ner.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
This song is captivating:

There's an interesting discussion at slacktivist over whether or not it constitutes a prayer.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (science)
Archaeoastronomy has just won serious bonus points... for making this distinction right in the middle of his argument against creationism/ fundamentalism, rather than as a footnote or disclaimer.

Even the pretence of a debate plays into the Creationists’ hands. This allows them to frame the argument as Science against Christianity. Yet if you look at the arguments it’s clear that this isn’t about Science. It’s about power. It won’t be power over scientists - they’re constrained by reality. It’s power over Christians that’s the issue. Answers in Genesis is quite open about this. Creation matters because it’s about evangelism.

That has to be a problem, because it’s not evangelism to generic Christianity. There are no generic Christians. There are Orthodox Christians, Catholics and various minor sects. In the case of AiG it’s evangelism for a very specific fundamentalist form of Christianity...

There’s a lot said about the inerrancy of the Bible. Sadly there’s nothing about the fallibility of those who read it. Now you may be infallible and know the mind of God. Congratulations if this is the case, but it makes you part of a minority. A few minutes conversation will reveal that most other people don’t have the clarity of understanding that you do.

Indeed, a lot of Christians accept they don’t have all the answers. Most of the committed Christians I’ve met are as honest, decent and charitable as anyone else. Their reaction to the universe is one of awe and humility rather than certainty. I think they make a mistake naming that awe ‘God’, but they seem to consider the mind of God unknowable. When Creationists take the label ‘Christians’ for themselves they presume to speak on behalf of these people. That reveals amazing arrogance, but they have it in good supply.

highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)
And Libby Purves has found it. Christmas trees are categorically condemned in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 10, v. 2-4:
"Learn not the way of the heathen...for the customs of the peoples aredelusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest; The work of the hands of acraftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and withgold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter."

That's it. No tree for me. (YAY! we never remember it until christmas eve anyway, and then i lurks around for months before anyone can be bothered disassembling it...)


ed: In medieval/ early modern news, a Chilean priest has been sentenced to recite seven psalms a day as a parking fine. The sentencing judge declares that he did it as a tribute to Gallileo.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (One Way)
Not a meme, just an excuse to waste time with LJ and itunes.

my top 25 most played songs, with commentary )

There you go. How boring.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)
I've been meaning to put up a follow-up post to the conversations about evangelism and rock-bottom evangelees (is that a word?), because Interesting Things have been said. But in the meantime, I give you this quote:

Pastoral care says: I will listen to you. I won't try to fix you, I won't try to change you, I won't try to convert you, I won't try to turn you into someone like me- because God forbid I would want you to become like me! I will simply listen to you.

I have it in an old notebook, ascribed to "the minister at St Lukes". It had something to do with easter camp- I think maybe a reunion service, but maybe leadership training too.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)
This email from a sweet but, well, silly friend of mine just now:

> All,
> There will be a new children's movie out in December called "The
> Golden Compass". The movie has been described as "atheism for kids"
> and is based on the first book of a trilogy entitled "His Dark
> Materials" that was written by Phillip Pullman. Pullman is a
> Militant atheist and secular humanist who despises C. S. Lewis and the
> "Chronicles of Narnia". His motivation for writing this trilogy was
> specifically to counteract Lewis' symbolisms of Christ that are
> portrayed in the Narnia series.clearly, Pullman's main objective is to bash Christianity and promote Athiesm )

I usually let emails from this person slide, on the grounds that there's little i can do and it will only get her back up. But I couldn't let this one slide...

101 reasons why you shouldn't boycott The Golden Compass, ESPECIALLY if you're a conservative inclined to think it's attacking your faith )

While we're here:

Pullman talks about C.S. Lewis
Pullman talks to Rowan Williams
Wikipedia talks about Pullman
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)
... As to literary strategies, it is the invention of character that is most telling, and in the Genesis narrative it is God himself who is the most complex and riveting character. He seems at times to be as troubled and conflicted, as moved by the range of human feelings, as the human beings He has created. The personality of God cannot be an entirely unwitting set of traits in a theological text that declares that we are made in His image, after His likeness. There is an unmistakable implication of codependance. And it is no doubt some of the incentive for the idea expressed by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that the immanence of God, His existence in us, is manifest in the goodness of human works, the mitzvot or good deeds that reflect His nature. 'Reverance', says the rabbi, 'is the discovery of the world as an allusion to God.' And so in reverence and ethical action do our troubled, conflicted mines find holiness, or bring it into being. Recognizing the glory of God is presumably our redememption, and out redemption is, presumably, His.
-E. L. Doctorow, introduction to Genesis, in Revelations: Personal Responses to the Books of the Bible, ed. Richard Holloway (Edinburgh: Cannongate Press, 2005), p. 23.

Interesting. And pretty. Neale Donald Walsch put forward something similar (or, if he is to be believed, God explained something similar to him) in Conversations with God. Something entirely complicated and unorthodox which I didn't quite comprehend, about God realising God's selfhood through humanity or some such.

It's worth asking, when it comes to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation: must God be unchangeable? Can God learn? It certainly looks as if Jesus of Nazareth learnt things- in the infamous Caananite Dog episode, a woman beat him in a theological argument. He chucked a tanty in the Temple (maybe for good reason, but still. That's hardly the apathetic1 God of the early patristic theologians.)

Anyway. These are some thoughts for the evening. I will leave you with another quote from Doctorow:

Overall, the women of Genesis may be subject to an exclusively biological destiny as childbearers- theirs is a nomadic society that to survive must be fruitful- and the moveable tent kingdoms in which they live may be unquestionably paternalistic, but the modern reader cannot help but notice with relief how much grumbling they do. (p. 3)

1. apathetic: Greek term, meaning immune to pathos, or emotion. (as opposed to disinterested, its modern meaning) An apathetic God is eternal, unchanging, everything humankind is not.
ed- and also EMOTIONLESS. To say "god is love" is to assert that God is not apathetic. But doesn't that statement rest on the assumption that God is changeless? I don't know. I am a confusible person.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (science)
As I mentioned in this entry, one of my summer projects is to read The God Delusion, as it has become increasingly apparent to me that it is going to be impossible to have a sensible conversation with [profile] goblinpaladin until I have done so.

Thus far, I have read the Preface. It is bold, and not nearly as... rude as I had been lead to expect. Dawkins is a man on a self-appointed mission. I don't think I'm going to like him and his mission, but I can hardly blame him for pursuing it.

1: What's in a delusion?

I don't mean you. You're not like that, is the common footnote to complaints about religion and religious people. I'm always pleased not to be hated, but am often disquieted by the accompanying assumption that i'm not a real Christian. Real Christians are Those People. Highly has a little bit of a personality quirk, that's all. A harmless delusion, if you will.
Religion is dangerous, [personal profile] highlyeccentric is not. [profile] goblinpaladin, shortly after he rescinded his declaration that I was not a 'real christian', got into an argument with a Dawkins-hating friend of ours. He went into Fanboy mode, as he does, rhapsodising about the evils of religion and the glorious vision of a world without it. (This is quite fun to watch, I recommend you get him started on it sometime.)
I'm not talking about you, he qualified. People like you and Highly... Highly's faith is beautiful. Dawkins isn't talking about you guys. He says so in chapter such-and-such. ([profile] goblinpaladin corrects himself below)
But that's not how it works. You can't say "The God Delusion" and then want to exempt those whose delusions are pretty.
The word 'delusion' in my title has disquieted some psychiatrists who regard it as a technical term, not to be bandied about...
The Penguin English Dictionary defines a delusion as 'a false belief or impression'... The dictionary supplied with Microsoft Word defines a delusion as 'a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of psychiatric disorder'. The first part capures religious faith perfectly. As to whether it is a syptom of a psychiatric disorder, I am inclined to follow Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, when he said, 'When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called Religion.' (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Bantam Press 2006) p. 5)
This is Dawkins' own definition. The "God Delusion" is corporate. Individually, I might be a little batty, and Jerry Falwell might have been out of his tree, but collectively we have a Religion. (And am I really any less insane than Jerry Falwell? Or am just less offensive in my insanity?) Dawkins knows that. Individually, I'm unlikely to feature on anyone's Atrocity List, let alone his the tiny summary thereof , which takes up a paragraph on pages 1-2. Nevertheless, just as his imagined world without religion has no suicide bombers and no televangelists, there is no room in it for me.

There is no room in it for me and my faith. But Dawkins is talking to me.
If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down. What presumptious optimism! Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument, their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods that took centuries to mature (whether by evolution or by design). Among the more effective immunological devices is a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely a work of Satan. But I believe there are plenty of open-minded people out there: people whose childhood indoctrination was not too insidious, or for other reasons didn't 'take', or whose native intelligence is strong enough to overcome it. Such free spirits should need only a little encouragement to break free of the vice of religion altogether. At the very least, I hope that nobody who reads this book will be able to say, 'I didn't know I could.' (pp. 5-6)
My arrogant assumption that I can (and will, thank you Mr Dawkins) read this book without coming out an atheist at the other end might make me one of the dyed in the wool faith-heads. But I have picked up the book, and i don't  think it's a work of Satan. So I'm probably one of those who ought to finish this book as an atheist.

Budding evangelists will tell you that it is important to reach out to people, bring them into the Kingdom of God, save their souls. If you ask them why, you'll get a host of reasons. Jesus said so in the Bible. It brings glory to God. That sort of thing. Sooner or later, it comes back to but they need to be saved. They have sin on their souls. They'll burn in hell. Isn't it selfish not to try to convert your friends, if you know that's the way it works?
It strikes me that this argument applies doubly to athiests. I can, and do, subscribe to the belief that "all things will be reconciled to Him" sooner or later. I can, and do, figure that God is a bigger and better evangelist than any christian will ever be, and that living faith honestly is the best and truest witness, and leave the problem of conversion up to God. But Dawkins has no higher power. His critical mass of athiests, if it is to come into being, can only come into being through the work and words of individuals. He cannot simply sit by and watch an entire planet foundering under Delusion.

So, kudos to Richard Dawkins for realising that. Don't do him the disservice of reducing his mission to "he doesn't mean you". I'm sure he'd concede that some of us are more of a threat to society than others. But I will be disappointed in him if I find an exclusion clause anywhere in this book. If God is a Delusion, then we are all deluded and we none of us belong in Dawkins' longed-for world.

On the other hand, this argument means I'm not allowed to say, of assorted religious nutcases, "but that's not me". Sure, it's not me. But we have the same Delusion. One body in Christ- me and Joe Nutjob. Made extra problematic by the fact that Joe Nutjob doesn't believe we have the same delusion, and firmly believes I am the work of Satan.
*Sighs* I don't know what to do about that. Here's the point where I should say that I've vowed to fight bigotry and poor exegesis in the name of Christ. But I'm not a crusading sort of person.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)
In churches where being Born Again is all the rage, it is fashionable to swap conversion stories. If not your own, then those of people you know or people who know people you know. These are the sorts of stories which warm the heart of every budding evangelist and reassure them that they have something to keep going for.

Over here in Sanity, where we like our converts to keep their brains functioning, we don't tend to swap heart-warming stories so often. Our stories are less spectacular, and we are more inclined to debate theology than talk about personal revelation.

I offer you the anecdotal story of Miss Q, who taught our family in our primary school days.

Now, Miss Q was the soul of loveliness in a primary school teacher. It was to Miss Q that my mother forced my shame-faced brother to return the precious hoarde of blu-tac that he, seven years old, had been filching from the classroom all term. It was Miss Q who called my mother to let her know that Joel had been praying every morning in class devotions that his father wouldn't die in an aeroplane fuel tank.
Miss Q, like many of the teachers at our school, was young, idealistic and conservative. I never had anything much in the way of theological conversation with her, so I can't share any horror stories or anything. She was simply nice, and narrow.
Anyway, time went on, and God was consistently failing to bring Miss Q the husband and family every conservative girl grows up knowing He will bring her. She and Miss G, who was in the same boat, were getting up and singing All my friends are getting married at the school ball. God comes through for Miss G- that's another story in itself, and rather a rather amusing one at that- and not yet for Miss Q. By now, Joel and I are both in high school and we don't see or hear very much from her. After a while, Miss Q can be seen leaving school on the back of a dashing gentleman's motorbike. A year or so more ticks by and word on the small-town gossip line says that she is engaged; bumping into her in the shops we hear she's married and pregnant. She glows with delight and the joyful faith of someone to whom God has given everything she truly wanted.

Over the winter break this year, i take my mother to the School Of Discipleship with me. Mum comes home all fired up and inspired by the experience of being around so many enthusiastic young people. Not something you get often in the church anywhere, let alone out here.1
Shortly after I go back to uni, Mum bumps into No-Longer-Miss Q in the local supermarket. She and her husband have moved in just down the road from us, as it turns out. She asks how Mum is going, asks after Joel and I. Mum tells her about SOD and the joys of being around enthused young people, and also says something about the fact that she had felt a bit swamped by all the theological language being tossed around.

Miss Q says she understands... her husband has been to theological college2, and since they started going out, he has taught her about reading the bible in context.
She says she sees things differently now. No details are exchanged as to what things, or how differently, but nevertheless. It may only be a small change. I doubt she will ever be a screaming liberal. But somewhere in the last few years, Miss Q has figured out that it's a good idea to think about God as well as read about Him. That, if you ask me, is pretty darn cool.

I often end up discouraged by the sheer numbers of stupid conservatives... I keep saying that there's no point anyone trying to change Christianity from the outside, that change has to come from within, from people like my mother and myself and Miss Q's husband, but I am always turned off by the hard vigour of the likes of Rev. Dr John Hirt, my chaplain, who is indeed fighting a dauntless crusade for the future of intelligent and honest christianity. Arguing with a conservative is like asking a brick wall politely if it would mind moving for you. Talking to a conservative about, say, why it might not be necessary to submit to your husband, or why Gay People might not be evil, just produces confused looks. So what's a girl to do? Go and hide out in the Centre For Medieval Studies with the sermons of Wulfstan, who was a hardline bastard but due to being dead for 1000 years can be forgiven for this.
This is one of those stories which come along every now and again and remind me that there is some value in living and believing honestly. That quiet, sane people can be the fulcrum on which quiet, sane changes turn. That it needn't be a crusade... That simply being here and being honest leaving the rest to God may be enough.

Here endeth the sermon for this Sabbath day.

1. In an amusing counterpoint, I have real trouble feeling like I know where i am and what i'm doing surrounded by groups of excitified young disciples all out to change the world. Knowing that my quiet, elderly congregation are coming together- twenty of them at best- every week and just... being there, getting on with their quiet lives and unspectacular faith, that's what gives me inspiration. Or balance, or something.
2. Theological college, not bible college. There's a difference. One of them requires a brain, the other requires only a highligher and a good memory for internalising bible verses.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)

This is a very rough story I wrote for

[livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin  tonight. He asked me what I would say to a person in crisis if I thought that evangelism would help them. How do you talk to someone who is at rock bottom? Can you promise them that God will make everything better? What do you tell them about a loving God when they are suffering?
I said that I didn't know, but that I have known several people who hit rock bottom and found God there.
have some of the preceding conversation )
So then I told a stowy. I have trouble logic-ing God anymore. Critical analysis and deconstructing and writing essays, that's my work now. God is in the narratives.
At camp once, they gave me playdough and asked me to make a picture of God. I wish they had given me pen and paper. )

that last line is a shout-out to a wordsketch he wrote at my request a while back, called Eternity. it was pretty. you should all read it.

[livejournal.com profile] lepsdavid, [livejournal.com profile] daiskmeliadorn, [livejournal.com profile] mangelbojangel, anyone else out there: what do you think, guys? what would you say to a hypothetical subject of evangelism in crisis? is there a code of ethics for these things? isn't it manipulative to take advantage of someone's vulnerable state? would you be afraid of manipulating them into faith?


Oct. 17th, 2007 02:53 pm
highlyeccentric: Me, in a costume viking helmet - captioned Not A Viking Helmet (not a viking)
Have I mentioned that Heavenfield is awesome? Fast becoming my favourite medieval blog, although not one to be read for light entertainment. Today, I present you Heavenfield on women in the life of St Wilfrid.

quote under here )

Some people make me cranky.
 "They're praying in the park," the voice said. At first I thought she said playing, so I explained that the school didn't have a lot of room and we encouraged the students to get some fresh air and, yes, I know children can be noisy when they play …
"No, no - they're praying, PRAYING."
Hmph. You'd think people would be able to pray wherever they damn well please, to whomever they damn well please, without causing a neighbourhood crisis.
And needless to say, if it were I and my friends praying in a park somewhere, no one would be ringing the university to complain. [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin might write a blistering letter to Honi Soit about the fact that he can't go anywhere on this campus without being bombarded with religion from all sides, but he'd get cranky regardless of whether it was us, the Islamic Students or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Somehow I don't think Ms Busybody Neighbour in that article would've been so even handed.
while we're on the topic of people interfering with religious practice, did you hear that China has banned living Buddhas from reincarnating without approval?
I'm trying to imagine the forms for that one...
Bitch, PHD, blogs about talking sexism and body image with young boys. Her son Pseudonymous Kid sounds like the soul of awesome, incidentally )
Speaking of [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin, he gives me cool presents. Like this gorgeous picture from [livejournal.com profile] urban_decay: JC with flowers
Ever thought that fairy tale characters might need a little therapy?
sample )
What's wrong with being Emo?
quotes from SMH article by the humourously named Mitchell Meek )
Fun stuff from Scribal Terror, to round off:
Don't fall through the art
Offical Seal of my favourite biblical antiheroine, Jezebel, rediscovered
Flying Nuns!
A love letter of 1881



Oct. 7th, 2007 09:54 pm
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (purple)
this is a story which I've heard in more or less the same form many, many times over the years. One of those I heard in from was Bishop Purity Malinga, of the Methodist Church of South Africa, so I assume some degree of accuracy to it. It's also a favourite of Peter Hobson, who is uniformly awesome. (Bron, if you've internalised any more details by virtue of working with him, please do share)

In the period immediately following the end of Apartheid in South Africa, so many crimes against black South Africans came to light that the state had neither the legislation nor the infrastructure to process them.
Instead, special community courts were set up, designed so that those who had committed the offences would be brought face to face with the individuals, families and communities they had injured, and would have to face their judgement.
A certain white police officer was brought to this court by a black woman. He had murdered her husband and sons, in her sight, dishonoured their bodies, and taken them away, refusing to tell her where he had disposed of them. She had been left alone, with no way to give her family a funeral or proper burial.
She brought him to this court, where his crimes were detailed and he admitted that he had done so. Then she was given the opportunity to stand before him in the courtroom and decide what sort of recompense he would pay.
This woman stood up, and she looked across the courtroom at the man who had murdered her family.
And she said to him:
I want three things from you. You have taken everything from me, and I want you to give me three things.
The first is that you tell me what you did with the bodies of my husband and sons, so that I can give them a proper burial and can grieve.
You have left me alone, to grow old without my husband or sons to take care of my house and to keep me company. I have no one of my own to take care of.
You cannot replace my husband and sons. But the second thing I ask is that you keep me company in my old age. Visit me. Mow my lawn and fix my roof. Eat Sunday lunch with me. Give an old lady someone to care for.
The third thing I ask of you is that you stand up, here in this courtroom, and let me give you a hug.

This lady began to cross the courtroom. And this man fainted dead away, before the whole court.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (purple)
Sometimes, I feel like Julian of Norwich )

most of the time I don't.
besides which, i'm not so keen on the idea of physical suffering as to pray nightly for a visitation thereof. and i could do without the stigmata, really. and without a near-death experience.


Oct. 1st, 2007 01:13 am
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (purple)

I gave a bible study the other day. Tried to tell them. Why should I care about the medieval?
      Because someone has to
         because all this human energy, this passion and doubt and strife and belief, should not go unmarked.
I read them some of The Dream of the Rood. They were nonplussed. Says one- apart from just being interested in them for themselves, is there something we can take from these Anglo-Saxons?
I, nonplussed. Why do we need to take something away? I don't want to take anything away. I want to sink in.
          Because. All this energy. A poet creates something beautiful out of his words and his faith.
          How often do we make beautiful things of our faith today, so busy changing the world?
Says another- we try to make something beautiful of our lives.

And now I realise, that's what it's about.
          A life is something beautiful.
          A life tangles many other lives. We call that a society.
         The grit and the dirt of human society. The curves of language and the edges of weapons. Music and politics. Famine and flood. Fairs and warfare. These make up lives.
          These are made of lives, and these are beautiful things.

highlyeccentric: Me, in a costume viking helmet - captioned Not A Viking Helmet (not a viking)
Greetings! On this here friday i bring you a collection of links, to exiting and interesting blogs. Some of them I've been reading for some time now and have probably linked to before. Others are recently discovered.

On the intellectual side: check out Jonathan Jarret in "A Corner of Tenth Century Europe" as he navigates the nature of property ownership in the middle ages.
After some musing I at least came up with an answer that works for me, and predictably has a lot of Matthew’s thinking in it (there were reasons I worked with him, after all). I would say that medieval ownership is not of the actual land, as we might conceive of it, to do with it as you like. Neither however is it separate from the land as Matthew’s view might sometimes seem to imply. I think medieval landed property is the right to take revenue from an identified place.
(emphasis mine) interesting stuff, which will require your brain to be functioning as you read it.

While your brain is on, and only if you're feeling nerdy, proceed over to Heavenfield and read about Northumbrian Ethnogenesis. Or about my favourite people, the Venerable Bede and St Æþelþryþ.

A new discovery, courtest of Dr Virago at Quod She, is The Last Protestant Dinosaur. A useful reminder, for those of us over-exposed to Peter Jensen, that there are thinking Anglicans out there. I'm not going to agree with him every time, but you definitely can't say that he doesn't think long and hard about his beliefs. Check out his musings on "The way the truth and the life", his problems with Canterbury ("what could we through into Boston Harbor to protest prelacy without representation?") and his contemplations on the "Queen of the Sciences".
I quote from the latter:
For me, relinquishing our crown seems like a strong strategic move in the way that all death to false persona releases energy for new life. So many pastors tell me of the struggle to get the attention of their upwardly mobile families who have worked out strategies for passing on achievement and economic success to their children. Clearly they have declared where their self-interest lies and, considering the goals they articulate, they are wise. After all, getting involved with a living God with a track record of complicating the lives of her followers seems a risky investment at best - a junk bond, maybe... Spiritual journeys should be preceded by warning labels: "Warning this ride may cause extreme discomfort and get between you and your money."

Much less challenging but no less fun, i recommend Scribal Terror, for weird and whacky news and pictures. For example, check out the best security guards for chickens.

Also new, via Unlocked Wordhoard and In The Middle, is Dan Reimen of Wrætlic. I quote from his introductory post:
This is the first time I was supposed to stand in front of 160 students and "teach"--if thats what we are calling that activity. I hope, really and desperately, that in the end I did "teach." But the upshot of the whole thing was having to somehow work with the mandate of historicizing a text I would much rather treat like a lover (and I think this is a theoretical statement, which is to say a poetic one): being faithful and betraying, singing about and cursing, getting bored with it, and simply drifting off in wonder about it--then of course there is still the activity (of reading) itself. The best moment of the whole lecture--I think--occured when stopped and simply read about 30 lines of the poem. Following Tolkien's old mandate, I read the damn thing as a poem and these students looked up suddenly and were stunned. This, this boring thing they read disparate translations of and would be forced into using as "evidence" for some kind of ill-fated essay written under timed duress on the "Making of the West" (which is the title of their dept.-chosen text)--this was a POEM. And I do not mean that in a historically frozen sense. I mean that they percieved that this was a poem to some other reader too. Perhaps they remained unwares of that final bit, but I think I could see it in their hairs standing on end. (emphasis mine, again)
I love him for the love he has of the text. Lovely text. Sexy language. (or is that just me?)

Speaking of love for language, I greatly appreciated Mary-Kate Hurley (Old English in New York)'s recent post over at In The Middle. She considers the concept of "endangered languages" and the human cost in language loss. Then she turns to her own dead languages, and her difficulties translating OE into modern english.
LJS's response was interesting. He discounted genre as a factor -- rather, he explained my problems with translation as a function of loving language. More precisely, a function of loving Old English more than I'll ever be able to love modern English. I'd never really thought the problem through in those terms, but it makes some sense. I nearly always go for the too-close-to-the-original in my translations. I think it's because I'm worried what my inability to be truly faithful to the original language I'll lose something vital. Or worse yet -- something still living in the dead language.
yes indeedy.
And she has some interesting things to say about translation and preservation of languages not-quite-dead-yet. Go, read.

And to round off with something frivolous: Geoffrey Chaucer speaks out in support ot Britney Spears.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)
I have been planning, since Easter, a coherent and cohesive blog post about the having and keeping of faith. I've been storing up things- notes, conversations, things i read- and I think I have enough to write it.

And now I realise that I shouldn't. Because that would imply that I have some kind of cohesive faith experience- I don't- or that I have some lovely logical progression of reason to hold faith together. I don't. I don't believe anyone who says they do.

So. Instead, you, O Blog of Mine, are going to get the snips and bits and thoughts which I have thought and bitted and snipped over the last nine months, in incoherent installments.





highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)

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