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The Scrivener: A Different Spiritual Chimney

…The message of many of the churches I investigated was "We Are Right". Nowadays, the message of televangelists matches that of some Muslim clerics — "I Am Right". We live in an era of egotism and arrogance…

Brian Barratt presents some profound, and profoundly sensible, thoughts, on religions.

To read more of Brian’s well-considered words please click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page. You will also find a stimulating welcome at his Web site, The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas

The idea was that you shouted your list of wants up the chimney. Father Christmas was somewhere up there, and he would hear you. As far as I could see, the chimney was awfully narrow and it was lined with dirty black soot. The chimney-sweep hadn't been for a while. It would be very difficult for Father Christmas to come down inside it. More importantly, I doubted his existence.

As a good little boy, I went to Sunday School. I was never quite sure why I had to go, but I went. It was the thing you did. That led to regular attendance at church and eventually Confirmation classes. My older brothers and sisters had gone through this process. They went all the way. I didn't. I doubted the validity of what was being taught.

Some years later, in a different branch of the Church, I found myself doing the teaching. The senior minister and his assistant minister B.A., B.D., usually conducted the Midweek Fellowship at the city church. This was a gathering of stewards, elders, Sunday School teachers, and lay preachers. They were taught, or reminded of, the tenets of the Christian faith.
I was asked to take over and run the meetings. So there I was, at the tender age of about 20, the youngest lay preacher in the circuit, teaching older and wiser people the basics of Christian theology.

Each week I prepared a talk. The Fatherhood of God. The Holy Trinity. The Resurrection of Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit. Salvation by faith. All the standard doctrines. Until doubt once again rose in my tiny mind. On analysis, I didn't actually believe what I was teaching others to believe.

For some of us, curiosity goes hand in hand with doubt. Along the way, I...

...Relished the hypnotic beauty of the Roman Catholic service of Benediction, in Latin, but did not believe that a wafer magically became a bit of Jesus.

...Noticed that the folk at the Baptist church thought they were superior because they interpreted the Bible differently.

...Restrained my laughter at the thunderous rhetoric of a Full Gospel Church of God pastor.

...Questioned why Jesus hadn't arrived after the local Christadelphian ecclesia announced that he was coming (55 years ago).

...Sat patiently through Christian Science services.

...Gazed in fascination at the plunging neckline of a portly middle-aged Spiritualist medium while she pretended to convey messages from the dear departed.

...Resisted attempts by Seventh Day Adventists to convert me to their way of thinking. Their attempts were easy to resist but the vegetarian meals were very nice, thank you.

...Discovered the sheer hypocrisy and Bible-based cant of branches of the Dutch Reformed Church (in southern Africa).

...Obtained a rare copy of the Liturgy of the defunct Catholic Apostolic Church (Irvingites), and visited their magnificent Gothic revival cathedral in Gordon Square, London.

...Listened intently to visiting Ramakrishna-Vedanta Society swamis at the Hindu temple. I wasn't too impressed by the fire-walking ceremony, though.

...Read widely about Theosophy and attended Lodge meetings. After many deep and meaningful discussions, the local President told me in awe that I am a very highly evolved soul. That was nice.

...Almost started the process of becoming a (lay) priest in the local Liberal Catholic church. Moving to work in another country put an end to that.

I'd better cease this written ramble through a distant religious past. The side-paths could be esoteric. Let's skip the intervening fifty years. The message of many of the churches I investigated was "We Are Right". Nowadays, the message of televangelists matches that of some Muslim clerics — "I Am Right". We live in an era of egotism and arrogance.

A few people gather at Stonehenge to worship the ancient Celtic god Jol, whom they probably call by his Roman name, Sol. Some folk in Greece are trying to revive worship of their ancient gods. It would be interesting if northern Europeans revived their ancient gods, too. We would have a new set of claims as to who is "right".

Hindus continue worshipping God through their thousands of ancient lesser gods. Buddhism is essentially a philosophy which doesn't need a god, but branches of it are religions in that they've added a few gods along the way.

Humans create gods and God in their own image. Apart from decrying the arrogance and violence which might accompany this process, who are we to condemn someone for shouting their wants up a different spiritual chimney?

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2007


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