stuff that’s inspiring me this week…

I’m working on resources for prison worship this week, and we’re focussing on Mark’s gospel. These are a few things that are shaping my thinking…

It all depends on what we let define the world:

Where a protest against human suffering takes place through a revelation of the sacred, the elimination of that suffering is not just desirable; it is not less than an obligation…
This is the final implication of the miracle stories: they will rather deny the validity of all previous experiences than the right of human suffering to
be eliminated.

– Gerd Thiessen [writing about Mark’s gospel]

This whole article is fantastic [thanks Blythe for sending it through] – it’s a reflection on Oscar Wilde’s writings after being released from prison – but I’ll pull just a couple of quotes to remind me:

But it is Wilde’s views on religion that are so adventurous and, to my ears, amenable. Where others might have faith in the unseen and intangible, Wilde confesses a more aesthetic fidelity to “What one can touch and look at”. He then makes the extraordinary pronouncement,

When I think of religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless, one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. Everything to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith.

It is the phrase, “Everything to be true must become a religion” that is most striking. What might “true” mean? Wilde is clearly not alluding to the logical truth of propositions or the empirical truths of natural science. I think that “true” is being used in a manner close to its root meaning of “being true to”, namely an act of fidelity that is kept alive in the German treu, loyal or faithful. This is perhaps what Christ had in mind when he said, “I am the truth and the life”. Religious truth is like troth, the experience of fidelity where one is betrothed. What is true is an experience of faith and this is as true for agnostics and atheists as it is for theists. Those who cannot believe still require religious truth and a framework of ritual in which they can believe. At the core of Wilde’s remark is the seemingly contradictory idea of the faith of the faithless and the belief of the unbelievers

– Simon Critchley

and this, from the same article:

For Wilde, Christ is the supreme romantic artist, a poet who makes the inward outward through the power of the imagination. Wilde goes even further and says that Christ makes himself into a work of art through the transfiguration of his suffering in his life and passion. Christ creates himself as a work of art by rendering articulate a voiceless world of pain. Wilde writes

To the artist, expression is the only mode under which he can conceive life at all. To him what is dumb is dead. But to Christ it was not so. With a width and wonder of imagination that fills one almost with awe, he took the entire world of the inarticulate, the voiceless world of pain, as his kingdom, and made of himself its external mouthpiece.

In his compassion for the downtrodden and the poor, but equally in his pity for the hard hedonism of the rich, Christ is the incarnation of love as an act of imagination, not reason, an imaginative projection of compassion onto all creatures. What Christ teaches is love and Wilde writes, “When you really want love you will find it waiting for you”. The decision to open oneself to love enables an experience of grace over which one has no power and which one cannot decide. As Lacan writes, “love is giving what one does not have”.

i think this article hints at where I find the common point between the worship in prison and the installations in the basement. It’s all searching for an encounter with the inarticulable – something deserved by everyone, not just those of defined religion… People often tell me that I must find the different parts of my work quite distinct, like being pulled in different directions, but the writing, the basement spaces and the prison all have, at their heart, this same foundation. I think it also defines the kind of post-christian chaplaincy thing that i feel really drawn to… but that’s another post all of its own.

We’re very focussed on Valentines Day at the moment. I sometimes wonder what the synod IT dept think about my internet usage – today, for a bit of inspiration, i’ve been googling Mills and Boon book covers, and browsing wedding dresses on ebay. I’m going to get a reputation i really don’t want.

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