tag : bright yellow-green apples: the right space

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

Thursday, June 30, 2005

the right space

figure 13.9. get behind me

There’s talk of revival. But you needn't to put your hands in the air quite yet, rather Ash has given some fairly pugnacious thoughts on notions of revivalism, a scattering of intresting reflections.

By sheer coincidence, I’ve been reading an Open University study document called Women, Community, and Evangelicalism in 19th Century Britain – in a village carnival of all things. A couple of the essays discuss the early formation and development of Methodism, and the perceptions of what God was up to in it. There’s a fascinating contrast revealed between such founders as the Wesleys and some later participants who took the movement on. The latter included some very excitable preachers, who deliberately sought to provoke a state of high agitation in communities – drawing on any rhetoric and local issues that might push people in a religious hysteria through which they could gain converts to the Methodist chapels. The former were definitely quite averse to this approach – they took their gospel message and divine inspiration around the country, but sought to establish settled congregations that would live and integrate a long term (much as I hate the word in this context) sustainable life within the communities. They were trying to encourage an approach of continuous, organic, reformation - religion lived always anew. Funnily enough John Wesley – to whom so many Protestants, from Charismatics to Anglo-Catholics look with admiration - noticed how a crash revival soon followed into a drop in involvement as the mad enthusiasm abated, and people found a hangover with the loss of excitement and enthusiasm.

Ruth Ann’s been considering notions of space, with some possible implications for religion. There’s something very persuasive about the idea of trying to create the conditions in which people might grow and encounter God, without overly structured direction and layers of constructed meaning by others being placed on them immediately. Superficially at least, this would seem to support the approach of the freely radical revivalists, who shunned the denominational structures of institutionalised Methodism to deal with communities ad hoc. After all, they didn’t bother with consciously ecclesiastical belief, it was individual souls that were their focus. But I’d suggest the whole ‘crisis’ kinda approach - where people are in some way induced along the desired path of responce to thier gospel into the desired outcome, and thus each person finds conviction - is actually quite antithetical to the positive developmental space. It’s pretty close to abuse, to push people into pre-conceived notions of what a right spiritual result is – perhaps even bypassing the creatively sensitive work of the holy spirit. And to conceive the moment of encounter with Jesus Christ simply as an isolated revelation, for each single unit, misses the point of our faith as a relational one. Space is not the same as introspective spiritual masturbation.


Anonymous Donna said...

There are a lot of spiritual masturbators in the US. :-P

9:42 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

hehe I'm sure there are! But I shall restrain myself from going any further on that, cos I don't want to be just making a political or nationally partisan point - there's enough of that most other days ;P

12:16 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

What do you mean by "spiritual masterbation"... within the context of your post, i think i've missed what you are trying to get at..

9:51 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Apologies - perhaps I should have demarked my two main points off more clearly than I did.

I was trying to indicate my aversion to a kind of religious initiation/revival that was all about getting a big reaction - feeding people the certain faith package and trying to get a tipping point where they're roused into a big one off reaction. This is so removed from everyday life, so alien and detatched. The spiritual high is a moment of isolation - by its nature revivalism calls people away from thier 'mundane' lives where they're told there's compromise and sinfulness without grace. But it then needs a detatched life to continue, because it was constructed by the overblown atmosphere, the pressure of the preacher's conviction, ect. It easily abates otherwise, when people have to live in a world where there isn't a rousing talk every minute, with an amen sung. It's said that a high percentage of student Christians, for example, drift into agnosticism after thier heavy involvement in campus life - the alternative world is no longer there, and the fuel needed to keep it going is gone. This is why I used the word masturbation - it's a detatched inward looking life with brief frenzies of hollow 'passion', in a sense, very different to mutually engaged and enriching love.

I might still be getting in a verbal muddle here, of course!

11:43 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...


I should add here that I didn't mean to sound nearlly so negative as I seem to have been in all. I wouldn't mind actually affirming some notions of revival, and in terms of outcome there's been posatives - maybe there will be posatives in the future. Spontaneous religous enthusiasm is a potent fource that might be directed in many ways - and creative people can harness its energy for social benefit, or to establish balanced divinely inspired communities.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

thanks for explaining. i agree

12:01 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

That's reassuring - if you agree with at least some of the ramblings then there must be summit in them.

11:50 PM  

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