i follow the religion of love

i follow the religion of love
, Hassan Massoudy, 2003

A few years ago while i was in the UK i visited the Word into Art exhibition at the British Museum. Last week I found the catalogue from the exhibition, and read it through again. I was really struck by the description of the piece shown above. It reads like this:

Massoudy has written this phrase from the mystical poetry of Ibn ‘Arabi (died 1240) in red in the angular style of script called Kufic. He has highlighted and enlarged the word al-hubb (love) in blue. In Kufic it is very rare to show the dots that distinguished the letters – meaning has to be derived from the context.

[emphasis mine]

Meaning has to be derived from the context… I love that there’s form of Arabic alphabet that demands that interpretive work by its readers. i wish there were a form of the English alphabet that could indicate likewise… Words are given their shape by their context.

I’ve mentioned before that when I write for the paper I get a flurry of emails and responses from people. There are two categories of responses [well, three, if we include the normal ‘you have absolutely no idea, how dare you call yourself Christian’ responses – which are a little strange, given that i never describe myself as Christian, precisely to avoid such emails]. The first response is from people telling me that I’ve written exactly what they think. These emails come from a cross-section of the religious population – conservative evangelicals, tibetan monks, progressive christians, committed atheists. The second responses come from people who tell me that they never knew there was someone else who thought like them. These are the beautiful and often heartbreaking emails, the ones that I want to honour somehow with something more in depth than a 800 word opinion piece.

For a number of reasons I’ve been wondering whether to start a parallel blog, or some kind of online presence, specifically focussed at exploring faith for those who don’t quite find their faith anymore in the label ‘Christian’, but who don’t resonate at all with any other kind of label. It would have a different focus to this blog, which is about alternative worship, and communal / public experiences of the sacred. I’m really happy to do the thinking about where i am, about my faith and spirituality as it’s unfolding, in a public space [i do it all the time in the newspaper!], but this doesn’t seem to be quite the forum in which to do it.

I’ve been hesitating doing that because it seems self-indulgent, but the idea’s been sticking with me for a while so i thought it might be worth putting out there… if you’re interested in where this might go, let me know…


  1. Cheryl, I think you have a good idea. I guess a way to go that wouldn’t be so self-indulgent would be a blog that allows for multiple contributors. I have been a part of such a blog, http://de-conversion.com, which has been a very thriving community for debate and discussion around issues of faith. However, I don’t tend to spend much time around there these days, for the same ground seems to be threshed-out over and over again, due to the growing number of evangelical Christians frequenting the site. I really want to have discussion with people who still have a heart for something ‘spiritual’. I would be more than happy to assist in any way in the maintenance of such an endeavor if there truly is an interest in it.

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