May 16th, 2014


Links I found interesting for 16-05-2014


April Books 19) Need for Certainty, by Robert Towler

So, apparently lots of people wrote letters to John A.T. Robinson about their understanding of faith; and years later this sociologist read through them all to see if he could find any common threads. The answers were actually quite interesting - he finds basically five strands of belief among the correspondents, who presumably would all have positioned themselves within or close to 1970s British Anglicanism. Some ("exemplarism") want to follow Jesus Christ as a model for humanity on an emotional level; some ("conversionism") are deeply invested in the experience of being born again and how to share that with others; some ("theism" are interested more intellectually ni the nature of God; some ("Gnosticism") are much more into a spiritual connection with the unknowable, whatever it is; and some ("traditionalism") like the Church because it's there. Obviously there would be overlaps between these in the experience of any particular person.

I have always found it striking that the Church of England was able to embrace such diversity of doctrine and approach. But I did find slightly frustrating this (admittedly very short) study's omission to enquire as to whether these five strands (or their equivalents) could be found within other religious traditions, both Christian and non-Christian, or indeed within other non-religious belief systems. I wouldn't be vastly surprised to find that they are replicated, in different stengths, in any majority religious tradition in a given country. (I would expect minorities to have a more homogenous approach; but it would be interesting to test that too.)

April Books 20) Other People's Countries: A Journey into Memory, by Patrick McGuinness

I don't know how I heard of this - possibly through a Facebook recommendation, since I can't find it in emails - but it was a good recommendation. McGuinness's mother comes from Bouillon in southern Belgium, and it is basically his second home despite his British upbringng (Irish grandparents, diplomat father from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Welsh-speaking children). It's a lovely exploration of the historic town and its people, and the author's own background, through very short snippets of narrative, occasional poetry, and the auithor's own photographs. you don't have to be Belgian or even like Belgium much to appreciate it (though it will make more sense if you have enough French to understand why it's funny that Kevin Keegan should be known to locals as Kevin Qui Gagne). A lovely book.