Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bishops and Such

"The bishop is always on the side of privilege"; those bitter words came from the mouth of my dear mother after one of innumerable kicks in the teeth from the ecclesiastical power structure (Dad was a great preacher but a miserable politician-- an ominous combination for conventional ministry).

I lived through many of those moments until, when I was 12, Mother broke down at the Annual Conference and wound up in a mental hospital for a year, an experience from which of course she never fully recovered. You'd be surprised how common this experience is for minister's wives. (It's only at my advanced age that I can see these things with some clarity.)

Like Nels Ferre I was converted to God at 9 and to honesty at 18. Four years studying science at Duke gave me another god; call it naturalistic reality.

With an enlightening experience at 30 the two gods came together: call one the god of matter and the other the God of Spirit. Thereupon I entered seminary and became a naturalistic theologian. Instrumental in this movement was one such named Ernest Wieman, but there were many others: Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, Carl Jung, William Blake; (I call Voltaire a spiritual uncle: "the first priest was the first knave who met the first fool", but he loved the Quakers). Finally came Joseph Campbell (his little posthumous book, Thou Art That, Chapter Six, has a beautiful, concise naturalistic summary of the New Testament period.)

Campbell pointed out for instance that myths of the Virgin Birth are endemic in the history of mythology (religions): the son asks his mother who is his father, and, getting an indefinite answer, goes in search of his (spiritual) Father. He listed any number of historical 'saviors' who had passed through this experience (I'm no savior, but that's sort of the story of my life).

At my usual early morning worship it came to me that Jesus fits the bill; he found the Father of us all.

God is an Absolute, about which nothing definitive can be said (Meister Eckhart referred to the God Beyond God); we can only make negative statements about God or poetical ones. Jesus assured us that the universe is beneficent, and the future is bright; beyond that, living in a patriarchal age, he tied the Absolute to a Loving Heavenly Father.

This was the substance of my 'enlightening experience': we can say nothing about the Absolute, but if we become "as a little child" we may experience our Heavenly Father (or Mother) in our emotional depths, and that experience may inform our lives from then on. We're no longer children of matter, but sons and daughters of God.

God's richest blessings upon you, dear readers.


Jon said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Larry. I was great to read of your insight and awakening experience.

I also liked the Campbell take on virgin birth--never thought of it that way before, and yet, OF COURSE!

Know what I mean?

Twyla said...

Wonderful, wonderful post. What an interesting summary of your unique spiritual journey. I, for one, whould be intrigued to hear more. Details, struggles, how you resolved me a spiritual voyeur! :)

Larry said...

That makes two of us, Twyla. Folks around here will also tell you I'm a terrible exhibitionist. If you really want more of my life go to my Old-New-Orleans. I'm waiting for a commenter before I proceed.

Jon said...
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Jon said...

BTW, what did you mean by your conversion to honesty?

Larry said...

I meant Truth-- a typo. I meant development of a critical consciouness-- to the point where you ask questions rather than just implicitly accept 'Authority' in a child like way.

We entered the kingdom "as little children", but we're not expect to stay that way. In fact too many 'good Christians' go from child-like to childish, and continue all the way through life just accepting the 'authority' that's handed down to them by their 'spiritual betters'.

Larry said...