Monday, October 12, 2015

Conversation on a Plane

Brucefield Church of Scotland
It was only a week or so ago that returning to Dunedin from Auckland I had a conversation with my fellow-traveller in the neighbouring seat.  As two Dunedinites returning home we swapped information and when he asked what I did I gave him the conversation-stopper "I am a priest'.  Oddly enough that led to more chat and we discovered some common acquaintances and he told me he had a subscription to that excellent Catholic magazine Tui Motu.  Just as we were about to disembark I asked him which parish he attended and he said none; that he and his family used to go but now they were just sceptical.

I really warmed to this guy and my response was simply something like: "Hang on that scepticism, there's no faith worth a candle without it."

Christine has been away and also shared an interesting conversation.  She met someone who had married very young and the two of them had gone off as idealistic young missionaries in the Church of Christ.What must have been a very extended conversation was summarised by the friend saying that now (years later) she was happier now that she did not believe in God because the God of her young missionary days made no sense to her now.   Christine's comment when she mentioned this was a wry observation about the damage 'faith' can do and how grateful she was to be an Anglican and to have had space and time within the church for a more generous faith to grow.

These are the kind of conversations that really present the church a question about the kind of faith we hold and present.  How do we say the creed without decoding it; re-telling it?  How do we sing some of the stuff we voice in some of our hymns?  How can we create opportunities for conversations of this kind?  Any ideas?


Anonymous said...

Philosophical completeness permits an argument for the moral high ground. But what if one were to present religion not as truth, not with specific mechanistic arguments, but merely as helpful allegory that has (in some ways, at least) stood the test of time? I suspect more people would be prepared to listen then, without scepticism about the institution and its historical failings overtaking all positive thought.

Even if we don't believe in any of the formal central elements, those of us who can step back far enough to see that what's being said is (almost always) worthwhile are usually happy to see religion as a benign and helpful influence. Though one still needs to acknowledge that a lot done historically in the name of religion is a very long way from the ideas being preached.

trevor james said...

What is truth? Pilate asked the question and he was by no means the first or the last to ask it. Your suggestion that we think of religion as allegory is not at all naive because all our theological vocabulary is freighted with metaphor - the metaphor is an alternative to silence, in a very Wittgenstein sense ( "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.") theology is silent as far as any empirical explanation of God is concerned. That said, I prefer metaphor to allegory as the latter tends to be rather limiting.
Thank you for this comment.