Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Response for Spencer

You should go read Spencer (and my brother, while you're at it) in the comments from yesterday's post (or was that yesterday? I'm in paper fog). Both were well said. Although bro, you're gonna get a kick out of my universalism paper I think.

Actually I hope Spencer reads it too (I'll post it) because he'll see where he fits in in the larger scheme of universalist theories. For me, what's been most interesting has been finding all these nuances to the term, and how differently it's been used throughout history and now. My goal is to help people see there are many ways to think about universal salvation, and some are compatible with Scripture, Tradition and Reason, and then they can go read more about the ones they like (from my ever-lengthening bibliography).

I mean, it's not going to be the greatest paper ever. I don't have tons of energy and I don't want to overdo it. I've spent 3 half days on research and hope to finish writing this afternoon. All told it will be about 12-15 hours for a 10 page paper, which I know is too much. So I gotta discipline myself or I'll go overboard.

Besides, I wanna read these books for fun now. Especially the one I recommended yesterday. And I'm reading The Great Divorce for fun and boy howdy if that isn't a laugh riot.

Anyway I promised a response to the comments. I just wanted to say that I flipped through the rest of the book (remember I'd only read the first chapter and end before) and I think what's happening is that we're talking about the same thing using different words. Which spencer said in his comment, and he's right.

Like for instance, on p 59-60 he has a list of the differences between "spirituality" and "religion". But all the spirituality stuff is what I do in my church and what I consider my religion. The religion stuff is what I consider fundamentalism. So it's just semantics.

I think his thoughts are very good for people still in fundamentalist churches or anywhere where religion is not how he describes "spirituality." Yeah, definitely. But what I want those people to do is not make new communities of faith from scratch but rather join my church. Seriously. I think everyone should go there. If you don't live here, move here.

OK, I guess you all can't move here or traffic will be even more unbearable. But there are really great churches out there - churches that are everything he wants to see Christianity be. And so I'm lucky to be at one and I don't mind the word "religion" because my "religion" is awesome. These churches are really out there. There's mine. And cota. And probably Spence's. I know there must be others.

What's interesting is a lot of these churches are the ones that do the rituals - especially Eucharist. How about that? And that's one of the things that I have to disagree with Spencer about. He says rituals are important but not central. And I say they are central. I say there's no faith without them. But I'm a radical sacramental theologian, not an Evangelical. I know Evangelical - really Protestant - faith is based on a personal relationship with God. And I get that. But I don't think it happens apart from the rituals that bring us to God and God to us. So I add that.

It would be so cool to study how the other religions use rituals in that way, wouldn't it? My friend is going to India for three weeks in December and kind of hinted I might come. I'm seriously considering it.

Okay, I am totally out of the realm of serious thought and into procrastination now. And I have to finish my paper. I'll be so happy when it's done. So I must bid you adieu until probably tomorrow. Cheers to all.


Anonymous said...

I've read the interchange between Spencer and you and am intrigued. There is no religion without ritual. ritual is the basis and reminder of the foundational elements of any religion. It is what creates community between the people who share that ritual. I am reading Joseph Campbell's book Myths to Live By. Obviously, this book is secular, but even so there is a connection in terms of the importance of rites to establish community. I'll give you the quote as he said it, then explain myself. "Myths are the mental supports of rites; rites, the physical enaactments of myth." (p. 45) I know that myth is not the same thing as religion and I'm not saying it is by using the quote. Rather, the last part of the statement gave me illumination for the rituals that I endured as a child in church. Without my conscious knowing, everytime I participated in the Lord's Supper, observed a baptism, attended a wedding or funeral there I absorbed the elemental aspects of the religion. It was, in the end, the rituals I had performed countlessly without intent that helped me remember my center later when I wanted to remove myself from a church that no longer made me feel that community. The rituals were the physical reenactments of my beliefs. Because they were so a part of my physical self, they seemed to remain even when I wanted nothing to do with it. The rituals were what made sense to me in all of the talk in any organized religion. I began to do the the rituals with intent and experienced the community of believers. They were what held me and guided me to a new understanding of my Christian life.

I have taken part in some churches that have removed ritual because of it's ties with the Catholic church. They seem sterile and removed from the truth of God. (And I am not a Catholic, nor was I raised one--stern Calvinism for me,) Throwing out rituals that seem outdated will not renew vigor in a church that is striving to seek members. Rather, that church will appear cut loose and watered down. It IS the rituals that make the religion.

Stasi said...

This is one of the most beautifully written and TRUE comments I've ever had (and I really could not have said it better, myself!!).