Monday, 17 September 2012

Those annoying spiritual folk

I enjoyed this post by Nancy at Seeker, but at the same time it made me smile. It made me smile because I think a lot of vicars feel irritated when people say that they are "spiritual but not religious" or , "you don't need to go to church to be a christian" or "you are closer to God in a garden than in a building. I think it annoys them in the way that teachers feel irritated  when we are told, "you learn more outside a classroom than you ever do inside one." This is a point at which I want to retort, "Yes, but you don't pass your exams that way!" Sometimes we hate hearing things that relate to what we do but which have more than a grain of truth...It also made me smile because it reminded me of this clip. I know I've posted it before, but just in case you haven't seen it... Enjoy!

9 comments:

  1. Oh so that's what this religion thing is all about?

    Daventry here I come.

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  2. Thanks for the mention and for posting this clip again - it's funny but oh dear there's a grain of truth! I think many people are afraid to go into a church or approach a vicar because of a secret fear of being treated like that. I've often heard all the phrases you mention especially when doing baptism/funeral visits or meeting couples who want to marry in church. It often sounds like an apology or an attempt to seek reassurance about something people are often unsure about.

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  3. Luckily for me, I honestly haven't met many vicars like that:)!

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  4. i love this sketch :)

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  5. It is a great clip. I think "spiritual" people can be rather annoying too!

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  6. Mmmmm, I know. I even have a teensy bit of sympathy with the vicar in this:)

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  7. Rather worringly I would have been a priest like that ....

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  8. cynicism, n.
    Christian usage: an uncomfortable truth

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  9. I am unsure about the ‘spiritual but not religious’ thing. A good deal of the people I work with in palliative care will state, when I asked them about their religious beliefs ‘I’m spiritual, but not religious...’. Obviously, when I’m in the position of social worker (and more often than not the role becomes more counsellor, rather than social worker) I don’t display any thoughts or feelings I may have on the subject. Again and again I am asked by patients ‘What do you think happens to you after you die?’ Several will ask about belief and religion – which, by the way, is why professionals have to put their own religious beliefs (or lack of same) to one side when dealing with vulnerable people. My personal reply to ‘What do you think happens to you when you die?’ would be ‘You are stuck in a hole in the ground and rot... that’s it, lights out, fade to black...’. It is also what I hope happens to you when you die. Up until Job that seems to be much of the thinking in the Old Testament too – until Judaism came cheek by jowl with other religions. I just bounce the question back – it is not my business to force my views on other people, particularly people often too weak, ill and distressed to argue.

    I was out in Islington earlier this week, having dinner with a fellow PhD and we were lamenting how studying religion close up has basically shaken our own beliefs in organised religion. She is ‘doing’ Islam, I’m ‘doing’ Christianity and neither inspire – the tenets and beliefs of the religion may be wonderful on paper, but the actuality of congregational life is pretty miserable. I suppose – if you’re going to make headway in a church – then the best thing to do is ensure that the personal is not overcome by the communal – which perhaps explains (as my friend and I have both concluded from our research and our personal experience of church life) why there is such unbridled egotism evident in a good number of the research interviews we have done. It is all ‘me’ ‘me’ ‘me’ with a goodly number of my research subjects – how God has planned their lives, done things just for them and how everything works out just fine for them, because they are Spirit filled Christians. The irony is for much of the recorded interview they moan about their fellow believers and the church in general. Hence they employ that old tactic of pathology – the Devil seems to be the root cause of almost everything that goes wrong or that they perceive as wrong in their church and their experience of belief. As an observer, my own assessment is rather more mundane: we’re all responsible for shit and just saying it is the Devil, is yet more inverted pride, so endemic with some of our believing brethren, as the subtext is ‘I’m so special, the Devil attacks/tempts me...’.

    I think the main reason the churches aren’t doing very well is quite simple: the welfare state, greater equality before the law, universal health care and leisure time, has eroded the power of existential uncertainty that was a great stalwart of religious belief. Moreover, people have time to enjoy themselves in this life: something illness, poverty, the factory/feudal system and economic and political uncertainty left little time for in the lives of our forebears. The hope was that the next life might be better than the present. Now the present is very good, so who needs another ‘make believe’ life to come?

    Whatever, I think we all know that you don’t have to go to church to be a good person – in fact, from my own experience (and this encompasses some 30 years as an adult member of several churches of differing flavours) some of the biggest shits I have ever met have been found in the pews, rather than outside of the church. It is just that in the ongoing effort to seem special and believe one’s life is special and different to that of our wider kith and kin, we like to think there is something special about church folk, because in doing so we magnify ourselves and say there is something special about us too!

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