Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What I feel, I can't say, but my love is there for you anytime of day...

The Greatest Beatle of them all. From Dark Horse: The Life And Art Of George Harrison by Geoffrey Giuliano.



I think I first realized it when reading Dark Horse, the biography of my favorite Beatle. The quiet one, the spiritual one.

And on an internet message board some time ago, during the time I was reading the book, someone announced (yes, you know the drill) Christianity Uber Alles and as proof, offered the pop-culture "facts" that the Beatles and Elvis were Christian, at least until John met that awful woman. [1] I wasted no time in jumping on it: Excuse me, but George was no Christian! HANDS OFF GEORGE.

The response: Show me where George officially converted!

And of course, I could have Googled my little heart out and not found a thing... Hinduism is not like Christianity. They do not dip you in water and then announce you are one of them. They just don't do it like that. George spent considerable time in India; learned to play their holy instruments; did whatever various gurus told him to do; financed English translations of the Bhagavad Gita and named his son Dhani. Isn't that enough for you?

No, not for this guy. And I suddenly realized that our world has been MARKED by the presence of the two major religions, Islam and Christianity, the religions that commanded their followers to make believers of all nations.

The Majors, in competition with each other, have very precise rituals for conversion. It starts with an altar call, the announcement: I am a Christian, I am a Muslim. It's on the record. And then, more rituals, classes, education. In Christianity, baptism, and in Catholicism, Lutheranism, Orthodoxy, there is also Confirmation, known as Receiving the Holy Spirit. All of these rituals leave a mark on the convert, as they do on those raised in the faith: you have crossed over. You have been accepted into a tribe; you are one of us.

On Easter, lots of new folks come into the Catholic Church; it's one of the main draws of the long Easter Vigil Mass, in fact... we can watch the faces of the people as they are baptized: some are so pensive and introspective and some are in tears of ecstasy. Some are looking at wives, husbands, moms and dads: I hope this pleases you, because this is embarrassing. The variety of faces reflect all manner of religious experience. I always pick the faces that look happiest, and afterwards, I welcome them personally into the Church. Thus, I am also part of the ritual, if I choose to be.

Other religions do not do this. Therefore, being the Majors, we can judge the conversion not to have really happened. We apply our standards, our measuring sticks, and then find them lacking. Where is the baptism? Did you ANNOUNCE yourself somewhere? Where are the official records?

They don't do it that way. WE do it that way.

Unfortunately, the lack of officialdom, like a lack of borders, can lead to trouble and weirdness. It can lead to appropriation.

And yes, I realize that Islam and Christianity, as The Majors, are appropriated all the time. Rather than see Christmas as Christianity encroaching on secularism, for instance, I tend to see it as the secular world stealing our cool shit. (Hey, Santa Claus was St Nicholas of Myra, goddammit, leave him alone.) When you have all classes of rock bands singing SILENT NIGHT, all you can do is shake your head in amazement. But when you are one of The Majors, you can endure that. In fact, it is just more proof of how BIG you really are. They have Santa Claus in Japanese store windows, now, take that! (Are we #1 or what?)

In the end, Christmas trees and bad carols notwithstanding, the question, the BORDERS, stay constant: ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN? There is only one answer to that. You can modify it any number of ways (and Lord knows, I love my modifiers), but in the end, there is only one answer. There is a BORDER, and there it is: Yes or no?

Again, other religions may not have the brightly-drawn borders; the yesses and nos are not in stark relief.

That means, the stealing is not as well-understood. How can it be stealing if they are giving it away? They do not do it like we do, after all... they don't have a ritual demarcating one's entrance. You can enter and exit at will, any time you want.

And so, people do.

~*~

Daniel Pinchbeck, photo from Sounds True.




All of this came to mind as I read Reality Sandwich, new to my blogroll. I've heard Daniel Pinchbeck's CDs regarding 2012, much of which is also in his book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. My first thought, after so much discussion and teeth-gnashing throughout Feminist/Lefty Blogdonia: Should he be doing that? Does the shamanic tradition properly belong to him? Is he stealing?

Much of Pinchbeck's work is about psychedelics and spirituality, which we could rightly claim is the recorded tradition of another tribe altogether, a tribe with a recognized pedigree, in which he does belong: hippies. (Pinchbeck's mother was Joyce Johnson, paramour of Jack Kerouac.) But there is a particular way that hippies approached enlightenment, and that is not necessarily the way Native Americans did, even if the mescalito is the same.

From the blurb on Pinchbeck's recent CD, titled Emergence 2012: The Soundtrack for Global Evolution:


Take a musical journey into the lush soundscapes of the 2012 phenomenon with Emergence 2012. Inspired by Baktuns—or cycles of the classical Mayan calendar—this mind-bending music infuses psychoacoustic rhythms with the chants of ayahuasca shamans and natural harmonics found deep within the forests of South America. Created by sound healing visionary Alex Theory and Daniel Pinchbeck, bestselling author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl.
And now we come full circle, to that place where hippies encroached on Native American religion, as well as Eastern religions.

Or did they?

What if they feel they were directly asked by [fill in words for God here]? What if, in fact, this is The Truth? Does the religious activity still qualify as "encroachment"--or is this the end result of an exhaustive spiritual journey? Is it cultural appropriation and imperialism if one BELIEVES THEY HAVE FOUND THE TRUTH?

I don't think it is.

This is not appropriation, any more than learning another language is. I think it is endorsing another spiritual truth. It is LEAVING The Majors, for something one finds more suitable and real.

But I'll be honest: I get unaccountably nervous when I hear hippies employing ancient chants that were never theirs.

And then AGAIN: If white hippies with education and privilege announce that something is genuine and true, isn't that something of a revolutionary endorsement? This is the real thing, not what I was taught by my own culture--is a pretty powerful statement. (Maybe THE most powerful statement.)

Where does appropriation start, when we talk about religions? Because they are not simply cultural, they are accounts of life, creation, consciousness, truth and morality. They are VERSIONS of how we approach the divine.

Can we rightly say this is stolen, when it is being endorsed as the Truth, above and beyond The Majors?

What do you think?

~*~


[1] If you haven't read Cara's fabulous several-part series on racism, sexism and Yoko Ono, go over there RIGHT NOW and read the WHOLE THING. Great analysis.

[2] The title of this post is from the first lines of my favorite George Harrison song, What is Life? (And yes, I realize it was produced by Phil Spector, subject of much fulminating here at DEAD AIR.) Embedding has been disabled, she sighed once again...

The song was also employed to excellent advantage in the DEAD AIR favorite GOODFELLAS, which I also intend to blog about one of these days.

20 comments:

Dave Dubya said...

Daisy,
I have to say, I love your topics.

Maybe that person was thinking of the song "Awaiting on You All" from All Things Must Pass.

"You dont need no passport
And you dont need no visas
You dont need to designate or to emigrate
Before you can see Jesus
If you open up your heart
Youll see hes right there
Always was and will be
He'll relieve you of your cares."

Of course the context was "Chanting the NAMES of the Lord" which isn't confined to Christianity.

That said, I'm sure George was a far better "Christian" in the eyes of the Creator than most Bible thumpers ever could be. He walked the walk and loved the love.

Like many hippies, he saw the core universal truths of many religions being essentially the same.

Namaste.

John Powers said...

In Christianity sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace."

Marshall McLuhan is known for his aphorism "the medium is the message." He's also viewed as some sort of "prophet of the electronic age." McLuhan died in 1980. Being in my fifties I remember going into the media room of the university library and playing a 16mm copy of the film "The Medium Is the Massage." The film was kind of mind blowing, but it's funny to think now about it. The film was an hour long documentary on McLuhan by NBC TV. So in order to watch a television program from 1967 in 1972 I was alone in a library room with the tick tick tick of a film projecting on a little white screen.

That's a an off topic excursion. I'm not sure why I bring it up, but before I leave it, few realize that McLuhan was politically conservative and a Catholic. The school of thought associated with McLuhan is sometimes called the Toronto School. And an earlier academic, Harold Innis is connected to it.

One of Innis's important observations is that media can be divided into two types: time-binding and space-binding.

Blogs and the internet are space-binding. We can communicate in real time all over the world. Libraries and books are more durable and represent more time-binding forms of media.

Anyhow I've set up a couple of divisions: First that sacrament and the related constructs of what is sacred consist of a sign and a quality. Second that media, what McLuhan called "extensions of man[kind]" extend in both space and time. Media don't extend in these dimensions equally well.

I'm interested how "appropriation" becomes synonymous with "theft" so handily. The Latin root is proprius, and the connotation is both property and what is proper.

Part of the concept of theft is of course taking of property, but there is also the intent to deprive the rightful owner.

Cultural appropriation is often contrasted to cultural proliferation and it seems to me the distinction boils down to intent.

I tend to be profligate in cultural appropriation. Of course, I imagine no intent to deprive anyone of anything by being so. Being so I get two sorts of criticisms: "Don't be an ass!" and "Stop thief!" The latter challenge is the more difficult.

In the USA the issue of cultural appropriation of the sacred in Native American culture is especially subject to the charge of theft.

Listening to Native Americans is instructive. It's often pointed out that Native teachings are conveyed orally. Following Innis we might understand these teaching as space-binding. The sacrament is particular to the people and the place.

Assuredly many Native Americans complaining of cultural appropriation are crying "theft." In one sense embedded in that claim is the assertion, "You cannot take what is sacred." So the "theft" is a change of context where what is called sacred must be ersatz because the sacred exists within the particular context. Surely the expressions of "theft" are heartfelt. But I wonder if the word theft tends to obscure the reality to inappropriate appropriators. "Look at where I'm pointing, not at my finger!" The finger isn't what's missing it's where it's pointing we miss.

Sorry Daisy, too many words and too little sense. Here are some questions: Let's assume for the moment that at some point in his life Harrison was baptized and confirmed. Does that make him a Christian? If so how do you turn those sacraments off? (Given Harrison's Roman Catholic upbringing the squirrelly retort to arguments about Apostolic Succession are null.) What is sacred in these sacraments doesn't seem contingent on whims of personal identity--or are they?

Harrison embraced Hinduism. How does that cancel out his Christianity? In terms of how Harrison identified himself, the answer seems clearly yes. But from a view of the sacraments, what changes? Baptism it seems to me represents not our claims to Christ, but rather Christ's claims on us.

I can't see how qualities that are sacred can be stolen like stuff can be. I can easily see how sacraments can be abused and made hollow. Separating the link between the sign and the grace is the hazard. And I think all of us sometime or another fall into that trap. Rather than to assign culpability as if this were a matter of a property crime, I think we'd be further ahead by taking grace seriously and helping each other to find it through the maze of signs.

Aunt B said...

I think one main reason Native Americans get pissed off when white people appropriate their spiritual beliefs is that many white people then turn around and set themselves up to other white people as experts on Native American beliefs and practices, which they then transform into something other than what it's claiming to be.

I suspect that we do this because, even when we give up Christianity, we often forget to give up the framework of Christianity, so it's hard for many of us to imagine that you could have any religion without prostelization (if that's a word), without witnessing and attempting to convert others and bring them around to your way of thinking.

So, even when we encounter another belief system, even when it appeals to us, even when we think we understand it, we still put that old framework in place--we change it from what it is to how we can best understand it--with the equivalent of "priests" and "congregants" etc., even though that's not really an easy fit for most non-monotheist religions.

On the other hand--and I'm tickled that you brought it up--what can you do when the gods you've met tell you that something is the truth? If you believe them, well, then... I mean, if Erzulie comes to you and says, "Be my horse" and you say "Okay," are you, as a white person, barging into voodoo where you don't belong?

To me, it's a hard call. I think you have to honor the deals you make and keep a sense of humor about it. Often we're asked to do stuff that seems crazy--that's the drawback to spirituality (and I use "drawback" loosely)--you've got to be willing to do things that don't make sense--to you or to others--in order to come to know stuff that, if we're honest about it, makes no sense.

The whole thing is silly.

And yet, life changing in profound and good ways. I try to strike that note--what I'm doing is so stupid and yet, very important. I feel like, if I can hold both those truths in my head at the same time, transcendence might be glimpsed in the tension between the two of them.

Paul Maurice Martin said...

"There is a BORDER, and there it is: Yes or no?"

Where do you draw the line? For example, there are people who see themselves as Christians who believe that Jesus was entirely human - a teacher, like the Buddha - and not the Messiah.

SnowdropExplodes said...

But from a view of the sacraments, what changes?

In terms of RC sacraments, one's membership of the Church as the Body of Christ can be revoked by excommunication.

I guess in general, a failure to take the Eucharist (Holy Communion) represents a withdrawal from the Church; in fact, that has sometimes been used as a reason for RC faith-based schools in the UK to refuse entry to a child, if her/his parent has failed to attend Mass to take the Eucharist. So if George Harrison stopped taking Holy Communion, then in terms of the sacraments, he ceased to be a part of the Christian church.

As far as "theft" goes, I think Aunt B has it precisely, not just in relation to Native American religion, but a lot of other religious beliefs that have been appropriated by outsiders (mainly white western (middle-class) cultures). There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the influences that other traditions and cultures have had on one's own faith (I give a pretty big nod to some of the ideas of Taoism, for example). The problem comes when said Western White (middle-class) people start to proclaim the religion as "The Truth" and then start (re)interpreting it for others as their version of it and claiming that reinterpretation is The Truth as if they understand the religion better than its traditional practitioners and teachers. I think that very much does represent theft, and alienating a people from their own belief systems in an unacceptable way.

In fact, I am in danger of doing something similar with my explanation of RC sacraments - I'm not a Catholic, and most of my understanding of the RC church comes from comparative religion classes I took at school. So for me to explain it to other non-Catholics seems a little bit hypocritical - except that, as the OP explains, the RC Church is a part of the Majors and quite able to look after itself.

John Powers said...

SnowdropsExplodes explains excommunication and what is revoked: the excommunicated person is considered as an exile from Christian society. But the sacrament of baptism is "indelible," the baptized is "marked forever" so excommunication does not mean that a baptized person ceases to be Christian.

Aunt B very succinctly gets to what pisses off Native Americans about white people appropriating their teachings: it's the transformation into something else. And Aunt B.'s point about how important our existing frameworks are in this sort of transmutation is insightful too. There's and "outside" and "inside" to what is sacred.

A ceremony can be defiled, but it's something else to defile the sacred because the sacred isn't an it (object) of any sort.

The Native American Church is not a traditional Native American teaching. But its history provides fascinating examples of the tensions between outward and inward and how the sacred is understood by the secular government.

The Native American Church is based on Christianity. Its peyote ceremonies have challenged and extended legal protections of freedom of thought. The government has made ceremonial life difficult for the church, but for adherents what is sacred is wholly independent from the government.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I may be mistaken here, but I am pretty sure that in strict theological terms, if you aren't a part of the Body of Christ, as a member of the catholic (that's catholic meaning "encompassing all believers", as opposed to Roman Catholic) Church, then you aren't a Christian. Excommunication from the RC Church is an official statement that you are no longer a Christian.

The logic is as follows:

Baptism is a washing away of sin, which clears the way to God.

In the RC tradition, as the OP says, the Confirmation is "Receiving the Holy Spirit", and IIRC is accompanied by one's first Confession; if there is any "indelible mark", then it is the Fire of the Holy Spirit, and not the washing away of sin, that provides it. Gospel reference: Luke 11:24 - "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven spirits more wicked than itself, and they go and live there. And the final condition of the man is worse than the first." In other words, a baptism simply drives away the evil with which a person is tainted (in standard Christian orthodoxy, by Original Sin) and "puts the house in order". But to remain a Christian and free from the evil spirits, one must not merely be an empty house, but must welcome in the Holy Spirit to occupy oneself instead.

Excommunication is as much an official recognition that a person is no longer in communion with the Holy Spirit, and is thus sundered from Christ (it is officially not a punishment, but a recognition that a person's behaviour shows that he or she has rejected God - i.e. that he or she no longer has the Holy Spirit burning within). Similarly, failure to participate in the Eucharist is a sign of being sundered from the Spirit, and thus the Church. Indeed, some people will voluntarily sit out of the Eucharist while attending services if he or she feels that in some way he or she has fallen foul of some great sin, on the grounds that he or she feels sundered by their own behaviour from God, and will only take it again when he or she feels that they have expunged the evil from within themselves.

The official records mentioned in the OP are actually a part of a community record rather than theological statement of fact; it also says "these are the flock of this parish", after the fashion of Luke 15:7 - "...there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents..." (it's the conclusion of the parable of the lost sheep - I want to observe here that it makes no distinction between those once part of the church, and those who come to the church having never been a part of it). A person who has been baptised into the Church and who then turns away from the Church is seen as a "lost sheep" in that way, and the records of baptism traditionally said that it was the community's (and especially the local preacher's) duty to try to bring the sheep back into the fold. In effect, the mark is not from God, if a person rejects God, but rather from the local church community, to say "this person is one of ours, and it is our duty to bring them back to God if we can".

All of which goes to say that whether you take a strict theological view of who is or is not a Christian, or whether you take the person's own beliefs as the basis, then cessation of the Eucharist due to finding a different religion would count as ceasing to be Christian. The only way in which a person remains a Christian is in the sense that the community feels that it is their responsibility to bring that person back into Christianity (which, incidentally, was the absurd justification for the Inquisition!). And it is that sense of the Church as a community (as opposed to "The Body of Christ") having a claim on a person that I think led to the statement at the top of the OP that George Harrison was somehow a Christian despite his adopting a different religious culture.

Ann oDyne said...

The Harrison family were Catholic.
My Sweet Lord!

Meowser said...

Wow, Daisy, thought-provoking stuff. Especially the stuff about hippies and Native American chants.

There's a white pianist here in PDX, a very talented one, named Tom Grant. When I first saw him live a couple of years ago, he did a songs I'd never heard before, apparently a fan favorite of his, called "Witchi-Tai-To." I'm sure you remember the 1971 original, by the band Everything is Everything (beware of the Brewer and Shipley version, though, they got about half the words wrong). It was popular when I was too little to listen to FM radio so I'd never heard it before. Wow! What a song! You hear it once, you remember it forever.

I've heard Grant play this song a couple of times, and when he does so he always stresses his relationship with the late Jim Pepper, the Kai/Craw songwriter who led EIE and who wrote the song based on chants he'd heard as a child. He explains how Pepper taught him the song before recording it with EIE, and later recorded it with Pepper on one of Pepper's solo albums. Before I knew about the song's origins, I wondered why Grant felt like he had to explain that every time he played it. But now I understand that he was just trying to be sensitive about the "appropriation" issue.

Lots of white artists have recorded it, FWIW, most recently Jack Johnson. I love Grant's solo piano version for its simplicity, though, and I wish he'd record it that way. (Grant once recorded it with a bunch of cheesy synthesizers and the song just kind of got buried.) I don't see Grant as appropriating, I see him as carrying a song to new generations that the author himself is no longer able to.

Word verification: typer
(heh)

mikeb302000 said...

I've tried a few different things in my search, but always came back to the church of my upbringing. What helped me feel OK with that was a wonderful story about Ghandi - you probably know it better than I do. The way I heard it is when Ghandi was touring America a young man who'd lost his faith and was seeking asked him what he needed to do to get back on the spiritual path. Ghandi said he shouldn't need to convert to anything. If he was a Christian, he should learn to be a good Christian, if he was a Jew, same thing.

I always took that to mean that when it comes to religion, somehow, we're all right, we're all on the right path.

sheila said...

Very interesting post. I've read a number of 2012 books. There's so many theorys out there. Whether it's a spiritual enlightenment or a magnetic shift, I don't know, I have a feeling somethings gonna change then.

Anyhow, I think people can practice many religions. I think when someone finds something that feels right, they stick with it for awhile. I feel it's more about the individual GETTING there, rather than HOW they get there.

I love hippies. I was too young to be one but grew up in that whole era.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Yall are deep! My readers rule! :)

Okay, quickly:

Paul, I guess I was referring to statements like the Nicene Creed, which are pretty precise and have no theological wiggle-room. (I personally consider anyone Christian who says they are... ditto any other faith.) My point is that there is some point in nearly all Christian worship (and Muslim worship, from what I understand), in which you make a public confession/statement. This "public confession" is not necessary or standard in the non-Majors. As I said, I think the two largest religions evolved to compete with each other, and "Are you or aren't you?" evolved along with that, for that reason. Perhaps the question was not as pressing in other religions due to the nature of their belief, or because they were not trying to "convert all nations." (As Aunt B is saying, this turned into a whole modus operandi of its own.)

If conversion is the main thing, then "proof" you have succeeded would be necessary to know you have accomplished what you set out to do...hence, the evolution of the public recitation of the creed (Catholic) or the public altar call (Protestant).

Hope that made sense!

Snowdrop: Excommunication from the RC Church is an official statement that you are no longer a Christian.

No, not necessarily. Since Vatican II, it is official that one can be saved outside the Church. Now, this is considered "incomplete salvation" or somesuch thing (translation: purgatory for you, dude!)... but an instruction to leave does not mean you are not Christian, but does mean you are no longer Catholic.

Official excommunication is lots harder than people think it is. Just like secular law, you can appeal the decision all the way to the top, if you have a Canon lawyer willing to do it.

John and Snowdrop, interesting conversation! Snowdrop writes: whether you take the person's own beliefs as the basis... Hilaire Belloc announced Calvinism was a heresy based on what John said about the sacraments:

But from a view of the sacraments, what changes? Baptism it seems to me represents not our claims to Christ, but rather Christ's claims on us.

Belloc said if we are saved by Christ, our "beliefs" from moment-to-moment did not essentially matter since Christians were already saved by Christ 2000 years ago; the idea of being "saved by belief" means you save yourself, basically, not that Jesus Christ has saved you... and that's where he got the idea of it being heresy.

Thus, the common Baptist question "Are you saved?"--Belloc thought was actual heresy. (!)

Meowser: Yes! I do like the song "Witchi-Tai-To"--but was only marginally aware of its roots.

SnowdropExplodes said...

No, not necessarily. Since Vatican II, it is official that one can be saved outside the Church. Now, this is considered "incomplete salvation" or somesuch thing (translation: purgatory for you, dude!)... but an instruction to leave does not mean you are not Christian, but does mean you are no longer Catholic.

Official excommunication is lots harder than people think it is. Just like secular law, you can appeal the decision all the way to the top, if you have a Canon lawyer willing to do it.


Thanks for putting me straight on that - I guess my understanding of RC theology is based on the history of the RC church more than on current teachings.

Belloc said if we are saved by Christ, our "beliefs" from moment-to-moment did not essentially matter since Christians were already saved by Christ 2000 years ago; the idea of being "saved by belief" means you save yourself, basically, not that Jesus Christ has saved you... and that's where he got the idea of it being heresy.

That is strongly at odds with the theology taught at just about every church I've been to where this has been preached upon or discussed, and seems to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding by Belloc of what is going on. I think it is also clear from NT scripture that this is the case.

The commonly taught theology is that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to be saved; the other necessary condition is to welcome Christ through the Holy Spirit into one's heart. In terms of the sacraments, that seems to me to be analogous to the baptism and the confirmation respectively. It seems self-evident that one cannot welcome Christ into one's heart if one does not believe in His power.

This theological argument is commonly phrased as "God has, through his Son, given you the gift of salvation; but it is up to you to accept that gift, or reject it".

Obviously, one cannot be saved if one rejects the gift of salvation.

It seems to me that the question of who is "saved" then resolves to differing ideas of what it means to have accepted the gift of salvation.

John Powers said...

I never know what to say as far as my views on spiritual matters go, it's complicated. I tell people I don't believe in God, which is true enough in a way, but misleading too. In any case I'm not trying to present myself as a theological expert. What I'm trying to point to is the two links in what Christians understand as sacred: the outward sign and the inward spiritual grace.

The Catholic Ensyclopedia entry on excommunication affirms that baptism is indelible.

Why I point to that is to point to the inward spiritual grace. Even for an atheist like me, that's something to take seriously.

I love this post and all the comments!

Bryce said...

i agree- great thread, D.

SnowdropExplodes said...

Well, I did say that I was not on secure ground talking about Catholic tradition.

I guess I would disagree with the fundamental definition of a Christian. While I accept that one cannot undo the fact of having been baptised, and having one's sins cleansed in that act, it seems daft to me to use that as the defining characteristic of "a Christian".

I find that the Anglican tradition seems to be closer to what I described - the original "39 Articles of Religion" that set up the Church of England imply that it is possible to be sundered by very grave sin from one's baptism cleansing (emphasis mine):

Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again, and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

(incidentally, I find myself identified directly as a heretic in the 39 Articles, for other reasons)

The C of E tradition also breaks clearly with Catholic attitudes to sacraments:

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly- ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome [i.e. Roman Catholic Church] hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.


In several respects I am much more familiar with, and faithful to, the C of E and Methodist traditions, and that's where most of the theology I've expounded in my last comment comes from (although I have heard the same in other non-RC churches and Christian groups as well).

I suppose it all comes back down to the whole thing in the OP of the Xian and Muslim religions "keeping score".

Anonymous said...

It's also worth noting that i think you may be conflating Islam too much in here. Christianity and Judaism both have HARD-CORE conversion requirements, but Islam really doesn't have that much of a 'conversion' routine.

One of the things that's always fascinated me about Islam, in fact, is that 'conversion' requires very little. If you say, out loud, ONCE, the phrase (in Arabic): "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet", then you are a Muslim and bound by the Five Pillars.

There's actually a sort of continuum of hard-to-easy from Judaism down to Islam. Judaism doesn't really WANT converts, takes them only with a HUGE show of desire to convert on their part, and seven years of rigmarole. Christianity wants converts desperately, but still makes them go through a lot of stuff (less if you're one of the "magic-formula" evangelicals, where all you have to do is "accept Jesus into your heart" and be baptised, i suppose, but some even so.) Islam? Say some words. Start going to mosque. That's it.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anon, good points... but mosques DO keep careful records of membership--when the govt wanted to start profiling potential "terrorists"--they found all the suspects they needed in the carefully-kept membership records.

My point was that Indigenous faiths, and in many heavily-populated areas of the East, membership just isn't as painstakingly documented.

I think (just my opinion) this stark difference came about due to the two major religions 1) competing and 2) going to war with each other.

"Keeping track" has always been used as a weapon (by the Majors) against the other, too. When one religion or the other gained power within a government, they would invariably start in on the people of the other religion, and the already-existing membership-lists were pretty helpful in doing that.

Thanks for your comment!

belledame222 said...

Oh, oh. I read "Breaking Open The Head" and really liked it. 2012 is...yeah, I dunno. I ended up selling it.

Besides questions of appropriation--he wrote the first one more as a kind of, well at least he didn't present himself as an expert, I guess--but, hm, mostly I feel about him that he sort of plunged into these other realms without, yeah, not only cultural context in the sense of honoring the culture, but that there are -reasons- why the ritual and the community are important...I think he was careless, basically, and now he's a bit...lost. Is my impression. Maybe it's just because I don't really give a damn about crop circles and shit. But it feels like he did a full on X-files 180, you know. "The Truth Is Out There..." yeah, no, I don't think it works the way he thinks it does, but I can't put my finger on it.

ZenDenizen said...

As usual, I'm about a month behind on posts!

As a Hindu, I really appreciated this post. I tend not to discuss religion because I don't like to discuss rituals and other "tangible" aspects. I believe religion is a personal and spiritual thing and not a communal activity.