Admiral of Morality: From the Diocese of Melbourne: Don't let the Church's failings distance you from God

Friday, March 23, 2007

From the Diocese of Melbourne: Don't let the Church's failings distance you from God

Roland Ashby is the communications director of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. He wrote the following at the end of February.

Sound words from God's people in Melbourne, Australia.

∞ ∞ ∞

Catherine Deveny claims in her opinion piece 'I used to be a believer, now I’m sort of an atheist for Jesus' (The Age 21/2/07) that she does not believe in God any more, yet does believe "strongly and deeply in love and truth." This, and her stated wish to "follow the example of Christ and be an atheist" perhaps speak to many today who are attracted by Christ, yet find much in the Bible that is incredible or unpalatable.

Aside from the fact that the Bible is 66 books containing a variety of literary genres and styles with multi layers of truth and meaning, many Christians who would perhaps share Catherine's incredulity or revulsion at some bible passages nonetheless choose to remain Christian in the great tradition of St Anselm, who did not chose to have an unquestioning faith, but rather a faith "seeking understanding."

From such a position it is possible to be open to perceiving and experiencing some of the profound truths of our existence. For some, the poets will perhaps describe this best. William Blake said, "If we cleanse the doors of perception, then we see the infinite in everything."

But how do we "cleanse the doors of perception?" I would suggest by breaking what Blake described as "mind-forged manacles." These, I believe, in this context are the manacles of language which can so easily manacle us to an illusory, alienating and dualistic perception of reality. In such a vision, we often see ourselves as subject and God as object, but this is to deny the very essence of God, who Tillich, a German Theologian of the last century said, is the very ground of our being: God is that which we consider to be ultimately most valuable, most worthwhile about our life. God is the very essence of our being and the source of our deepest consciousness. God is our very breath and our very life; not a grumpy, vindictive and capricious old man living at some distance away and trying to pull cosmic strings.

In such a non-dual perception there is a deep oneness, unity, interconnectedness and relationality to all life – something which the Christian mystics as well as quantum physicists agree on - and a powerful, transforming experience of God as the eternal, unchanging source of love and truth which Catherine so admires and seeks. It is this lived experience of God as love and truth which has been at the heart of Christian faith for two millennia; it was this which led St Paul and the other apostles to become martyrs for their faith.

It was from this that Christ brought us two great parables: The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan. Both speak of a radical and unconditional love and compassion.

And it was this which led Christ to the Cross--an unthinkable act for the rational mind! But such an act came out of Christ's union with God. Here, in this union, is a love so pure, a love so complete, that it is an integral part of its nature to suffer even to the point of death for those that it loves. In fact, to do other than this is not a real option to it, because to do so would be to violate its essential nature, which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams describes as "an eternal and unreserved self-giving."

Catherine says she is inspired by Christ's life and by the "great things" he said. But he was not just a great teacher, healer or charismatic revolutionary. His life and teaching came out of his complete union with God, a union with a pure and complete love.

Catherine – please do not give up believing strongly and deeply in love and truth, because in them you have already found God, and God has found you. Please do not allow some isolated bible passages, or the failings and inadequacies of the sometimes all-too-human institutional church, to prevent you from being open to an awareness of God.

The first woman to write a book in English, the 14th Century mystic Julian of Norwich, experienced an intensely life-transforming vision of Christ on the Cross. In her book, Showings, she reflects on the experience and asks God why she received such visions. In a moving reply, she is told to "know it well" that "love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love."


Blogger Lisa said...

What a marvelous statement! Do you have the URL for Ashby's column, Admiral?

3/24/2007 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger The AoM said...

Of course, here is the link, which I neglected to include in the main post.


3/25/2007 10:09:00 AM  

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