Nothing to Proclaim

Last night I attended the excellent ‘Holy Ground’ event put on by Exeter Cathedral.  It was only my third visit but whenever I can’t go I often hear reports of what was on and how it went.

I really like the willingness of the Exeter team to reach beyond the pre-existing boundaries, to host speakers who will challenge and dare I say, yes I dare, upset/offend.

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As a worship experience, God is worshipped in wonderful Trinitarian language, and Christ is proclaimed through thoughtful, contemporary liturgy.

Last night after the Eucharist service, we listened to the guest speaker, Tony Windross.  I’d never heard of Tony, an Anglican minister somewhere in Cornwall.  He presented his case as his book title says, The Thoughtful Guide to Faith’. 

I sat there and listened; I tried to really listen, and see if I could hear anything worth dying for; indeed anything worth living for; anything that didn’t tear up my epistemological foundations with sweeping assumptions and generalities.

But it seemed to me that Tony had nothing to proclaim.  I totally agree with him that the Church-in-the-pews for too long has lived in the toxic environment of infantalisation and anti-intellectualism.  I myself have commended a book arguing the same things in Relating Faith, a book written by one of the cleverest Christians I know!

Continue reading “Nothing to Proclaim”

You ain’t no fundamentalist bruv!

Model_1_of_Fundamentalism_sculptureNow that the fuss has died down about that insanely pathetic knife attack at Leytonstone tube station by a supposed “fundamentalist”, it is worth a little bit of Zizek to calm our nerves and self-congratulation and sense of defiance.

What is a fundamentalist?

My former Principal once made a dismissive passing comment that fundamentalism these days is all ‘mental’ and no ‘fun’!  I thought it was a clever way to carve up the word, but this comment has stayed with me over the years and actually, has more truth than I thought possible.

As that wonderful, instantaneous phrase suggests, the man carrying out a cowardly, random act of violence, is no Muslim.  But what I think would be more shocking for the perpetrator, is to discover that even if he is a Muslim (which he obviously is, even the liberal West can’t take that away from him), he ain’t even no fundamentalist!

Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher I love and hate to read, captures the heart of this issue  in his magnificent book Living in the End Times, when he writes,

Zizekbook“…, are the so-called fundamentalists, be they Christian or Muslim, really fundamentalists in the true sense of the term?  What they lack is a feature easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the American Amish – the absence of resentment or envy, rooted in a deep indifference towards the non-believers’ way of life.

If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by non-believers (emphasis mine), why should they envy them?  When a Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he hardly condemns him.  He simply denotes benevolently that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating.

In contrast to the true fundamentalists, pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued, and fascinated by the sinful lives of non-believers.  It can seem that, in condemning the sinful other, they are struggling with their own temptation.  This is why the so-called Christian or Muslim fundamentalists are a disgrace to true fundamentalism” (emphasis mine).   p.469-70

So despite our current political language, fundamentalists today are not fundamentalists, and actual fundamentalists are nothing like this present perversion of fundamentalism, or diet-fundamentalism.  As one Australian comedian said regarding the war on terror, “I can’t believe it’s not terror!

Prophetic comedian truth aside, it is not merely that Islam has been hijacked; it is far worse – fundamentalism itself has been hijacked!  And that is no joke!

Continue reading “You ain’t no fundamentalist bruv!”

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