tag : bright yellow-green apples: or maybe

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Monday, June 06, 2005

or maybe

figure 6.8. the new temple?

I couldn't believe it when I heard wind of the concept in a review, so clich├ęd and obviously satirical it seemed. But no, there really is a tv show called spirituality shopper. Oh deary me, I suppose it does help to shine a damning spotlight on the way some people seem to approach the whole of life - as a commodity, and a thing you can pick off the shelf. Some readers will know that I often return to thinking about consumerism, identity, and faith at intervals - and it'll be no surprise that I thought Giles Fraiser's characteristically pugnacious critique was both helpful and stimulating. I missed the first show tonight, but will try and catch it next week so I can actually have a more informed view. After all, the world can do without another Christian Voice-a-like!

Ruth Ann's given some comments here. There are aspects of the views that I find very sympathetic, and would affirm - anything more devolved, liberating, open source or whatever, is to be encouraged. To some extent, there does need to be a greater appreciation by religion of this important aspect of our contemporary situation. There needs to be the spirit of the Pharisees amoungst us, who managed to deveop religion to bring a sense of the divine in every part of life. But, it's precisely because of my wish to see religion that's empowering that I'm a little concerned. I am extremely wary of any shift in religion to take up the clothes of shopping. Ultimately it's an act of selecting, and is done according to what you can purchase. It's an act which is conducted on the basis of how much you have to spend. And there are plenty disadvantaged in this world - few are actually part of the ultimately leisured class, who can spend lots of time and resources in casting around. To those with the resources, this 'revolution' is very seductive - and claimed as liberation. To those who might not be in such a position, to flit around picking little bits, it's going to exclude them just like many of us are unable to enter a world where you can chose one kind of ipod or another.

I'd encourage anyone to explore as widely as possilble, and to adapt and adopt where they find encounter. But I'd hope that this was done with at least some notion of community and relationship, with a context in the cultures and stories in which it rests. I can read my Rumi poetry, and as a Methodist I'll probably find some visions of the divine that are a revelation to me. But I cannot make any pretence that it's religion in the spirit of the prophets and visionaries to go around chosing what bits I like. I may well miss some of the more inconvenient and challenging aspects along the way. We all do that a bit, of course - casting God in our own face as much as visa versa. Though with all elements of religion packaged up in self contained units - a bit of funny dance, and bit of a prayer, a kind of meditation - it can just be a lifestyle choice, easily adopted and easily dropped. Like putting on a red bracelet and buying bottled holy water. Questions must be asked of ourselves.

Gile's article also given me some thinking to do, as my shrine sits under my bed wrapped up and packed away safely. What do I actually have it for? Is it to retreat into my own little world of self-indulgence? Can private devotion, and personally idiosyncratic religion challenge me sufficiently? Can I adopt the most sympathetic of the other, and retain a coherent faithfulness to the best of my own, without just acting like it's a few brands of breakfast cereal? Am I asking rhetorical questions? I need to work on how it might ensure I don't simply develop into a consumer who picks little bits and never respects the whole - especially given that my main institutional involvement is back here in Derbyshire with my lifelong chapel, and I'll be running off when I get the chance...maybe this aparently unconnected poem I wrote absent mindedly this morning is opportune, or maybe not...

oh you'd like that, wouldn't you

where are the monks? where are the crowds
that were wild standing at the window?
where are their rosary beads blue in
the morning light? where are the seas of glass
on which stalk many-eyed heavenly beings,
crying their urgent praise and prayers?

england's polite lands no longer welcome them so much,
or open their doors to anything
other than a card box ascribed with tailored symbols
of happy spending and tidy adornment
it's near a self-confessional world, and we all admit
style desires of shelf-gained imagery


Blogger Martin said...

... and everything was better when Christianity Ruled OK and we were burning folk at the stake. It's all the fault of those dark satanic mills, I tells ya.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous RobertB said...

My impression of Giles is improving; I wasn't aware he read folk like Denys Turner. :-)

Martin - as the in-house criminologist, what proportion of public executions in ye bad olde days might you estimate were for religious crimes, and what proportion for thoroughly non-religious civil crimes? Now explain why you imply christianity (whatever its fairly half-hearted role in the abolition of capital punishment) was the problem...

5:52 PM  
Blogger mary said...

from "vague and flitty comments r us"...

evenin'. okay, the show's name is crap. and i think unreflecting of it as a programme. having watched a good two thirds of it, i found it fascinating and promoting tolerance and understanding between the religions, as people realise that bits of all are useful and a good way to worship and have their own beauty. at first i was a bit confused to see jonathan edwards presenting, as i didn't have him down as someone who would venture outside purely christian broadcasting. but although the constant closeups of him walking down the girl's street whilst pondering about her spiritual state grated, i think his involvement sent out a message of tolerance to the christian church. so good on ye, mr edwards. i think the whole programme, whilst being slightly on the "how can this improve my life" side of things, did a marvellous job of presenting religion as something real and helpful and alive. and in the consumer-like world of today, isn't it nicer how we're looking into how centuries old religious practises which enable you to connect with and worship god to transform your life and the lives of those around you, instead of getting vast amounts of plastic surgery or having laurence leweyln bowen paint some snot coloured swirly thing on your living room wall. this stuff actually has substance. whilst the units seem self contained at first, people get curious, want to know more. i'm not sure whether i have any right to sift through the big skip of world faith, taking little snippets i feel are godly, leaving the things i don't like and making up bits of my own. but there's summat that unites all the religions, i just see them as a church in little bits really. perhaps the same god has revealed himself through all of them, different interpretations, different styles, different cultures. one multicoloured faith.

9:17 PM  
Blogger mary said...

p.s, my post is longer than roberts! *in shock* :P

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and yet I'm nothing more than a line in your book...

10:00 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Martin -

I'm not enturely sure where that's leading, so I should probably just agree and call for a public burning of all new agey books on noon this sunday in all town centres. Maybe smash the mill windows too, just to be sure.

12:30 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Mary -

The first thing that astonished me actually, was the Edwards was presenting. The last I heard, he was playing the acceptable face of hard-line evangelical subculture mores. But suprises abound.

There's a lot there, so I'll just pick out a couple of bits. The main thing I would like to stress - much as it makes me appear defensive - is that I'm very much inspired by the possibilities of our pluralist society. I have issues about how it might be expressed, and how tolerance is a mere poor shadow of valuing difference. But that's another matter for another day. Here I'm a little bemused by the way religion might be fashioned by consumerism. This book review tells of how the anti-capitalist movements have been - and are - co opted into aiding the very things they're existing to challenge. I can see the possibility of the same happening for our world religions, how they might be domesticated and relativised in relation to the one absolute. The primacy of markets and spending in them.

12:51 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

ps. Just to add a little tag. The best thing we have about religions is that we can share our different stories and visions. But sharing them, and hearing others, is maybe impoverished if they're more packaged and relegated to what a lifestyle coach can teach you works. Fundamentalist pragmatism, where something is adopted for as much as can be gained from it, is a very limited approach. Was there much discussion about what religion is about giving, as well as what might be gained?

I really need to watch it!

1:00 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Rob -

I'm glad you can appreciate the great Giles a bit more these days ;P

Anon -

What an intriguing line. Are you the same person as the last one? Either way, come fourth and show yourself deary. I'm quite welcoming really.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

I just found your mention of 'England's polite lands' quite interesting! I do think I know you well enough to believe that you'd never buy into this we've-all-slipped-since-Wilberforce mentality that seems to be endemic in the church, but I'm not ever entirely convinced by this notion that we used to be nice and now we're not...

11:28 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

I forgot to answer Jazzy B's question. Or rather I didn't actually notice, so here goes:

I couldn't really put an estimate, although the specific form of execution I mention was, as far as I'm aware, used mostly for witchcraft and heresy (although I have no solid fact to back that up).

Christianity is not the problem of course, and although Christians perpetuated slavery in this country, for instance, they also had a role in its abolition. I just refuse to draw a distinction between reverence for monks and God and a mystical golden age of politeness.

10:03 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I think you're taking the poem's colourful immagery and turns of phrase a bit too seriously, Martin. It was more a bit of spouting that seemed to relate, after a fashion, to the witterings in hand. How it relates is up for interpretation, but I was not harking back to any past utopia by any means. That's a boring and tired cliche, which you rightly castigate. There will always be issues to face, always have been. It's just that I think one of the contemporary ones is consumerism & free markets.

12:37 AM  
Anonymous RobertB said...

My understanding is that witches in England, when executed, were beheaded or hung.

I think we may have been partly at cross-purposes; your initial comment was a little enigmatic. My understanding of Laurence's poem was that it was *present-day* England which is `polite' - too polite to welcome many-eyed heavenly-beings (and monks etc) stalking across our tidy landscape.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Laurence, I think you're reading more into my tone than was actually there... That said, it's a slippery slope with these things, one day you're doing a bit of spouting about the witterings in hand and the next day you're bemoaning how you can't put an England flag on your landing in case an asylum seeker burglar gets offended, trips over an uneven skirting board and sues you for it.

Robert - your understanding and mine are not actually mutually exclusive as you seem to imply, but again I'll politely withdraw...

10:45 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Thanks for the warning, I'll do my best to stave off such a dire potential situation arising...if you ever catch me so much as looking at a Telegraph, please poke me in the eyes till I stop...

12:42 AM  

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