Tuesday, 20 December 2016

No Blinding Light to be Had Anywhere

This is a very lazy post indeed as it mostly consists of someone else's words, but it's too good to let go by. Dr Abacus points me towards the recently-late AA Gill's account of his conversion to Christianity. I see it as a model exemplar of how to 'do evangelism': always be truthful and don't care too much.

"I am a reluctant Christian. I was once interviewed by Lynn Barber and I told her I was a Christian but not a homosexual . . . she didn’t believe either. “You can’t be a Christian,” she said, in her parlour maid’s voice, “you just can’t.” Well I can, that’s the thing with religion. Absolutely anyone can. “But you’re not remotely Christian,” she continued. “It’s another contrarian affectation.” What, like bow ties? “Yes.”

"I wish it were. Having a dose of religion, in my milieu, at this time, is as awkward and inconvenient as not having it in 17th-century Norwich. It would be so much more socially easy to be a vain fashion atheist.

"I was brought up by atheists. I honestly thought I was immune to religiosity. And I didn’t catch it in a Methodist way after signing the pledge, I began to have vague spiritual unease because of art at the Slade and that really was contrarian. I’d go and sit in the back of churches and feel wordlessly moved.

"There was a family friend, an Irish Jesuit and university professor, who occasionally took me out to lunch and I would confide in him. He was a radical libertarian theologist, which was exciting, and he said if at all possible religion was something to be avoided.
Who would willingly lumber themselves with a book full of medieval rules, superstitions and the possibility of an eternity’s agony by choice? Far better, he said, to adopt a general humanitarian goodness, be thoughtful, charitable and kind and trust in the benevolence of providence to see you all right. He pointed out that, statistically, religious belief had no actuarial benefits: you didn’t get to live longer, or have less cancer; religious people didn’t have prettier spouses, politer children, more sex — quite possibly less sex — nicer offices or better weather. They did, on the other hand, get guilt (point of order here: it’s the Catholics and Jews who get guilt, Protestants and Muslims get shame). And of course remorse.

"You don’t really believe that, do you, I said. “Adrian, I wish to God I did, but I can’t because the space is already filled with a belief in God.” I think I’ve got it too, I said. “Which flavour are you?” Well, that’s rather the thing, I’ve got a formless faith.
He said: “If you want my advice, go with what’s closest to home. Faith is ethereal, the practice of faith is cultural. If you become a Zoroastrian or a follower of Cao Dai, a marvellous Vietnamese Christianity that believes Muhammed, Moses, Louis Pasteur, Shakespeare, Lenin and Victor Hugo are all saints, then you’re going to have to learn a lot of stuff . . . and get over a whole lot of other stuff before you get to the good stuff and it’ll have very little to do with your soul.

"“Weren’t you baptised into the Church of Scotland? I’d stick with Protestantism. Actually, I think it rather suits you . . . low to middle. Anglo-Catholicism would bring out the worst in you, all the dressing-up would get out of control and you’d become an architectural pedant doing brass rubbing.”

"So that’s essentially what I am — a lazy, middle-range Protestant with a mildly pedantic crush on the King James Version and the Book of Common Prayer."

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