8/21/2009

Philip Dick, an Episcopalian, brings the consolation.

Near the end of Philip Dick's strange and wonderful book, The Divine Invasion, Linda Fox, the Advocate (for Herb Asher and for many others) says,

"In a little while things will be all right. It (the fallen Belial or Satan) came out of its cage and it is going back." He (Herb Asher) said, "What if we lose?" "I can see ahead," Linda said. "We will win. We have already won. We have always already won, from the beginning, from before creation. What do you take in your coffee? I forget."

Matthew Harris, our son the biologist, and astutely able to classify groups was the one who informed me: He said, "Philip Dick has got to be an Episcopalian." It turns out that is true.

Dick, the writer of science fiction, became an Episcopalian as an adult and Bishop Pike officiated at his wedding. He also wrote "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer" a fictional portrayal of Bishop Pike.


The little passage just quoted reminds me very much of what Archbishop Tutu said in 1982 about apartheid, "we've already won, but they don't know it yet."
Of course, for the moment the struggle continues, but always with hope. And, yet it is wonderful to know that the Advocate, the comforter, may not actually remember just how we want our coffee. It turns out the big picture is the big picture, and the little the little.

13 comments:

  1. I am reminded of a comment made by the daughter of a GOP member of Iowa's legislature to some folks who were opposed to gay marriage in Iowa that the battle for marriage equality had already been won in her generation.

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  2. I believe this is one of those really true statements that it will take the rest of my life to really live into. But it isn't just Episcopalian. We need to be willing to share that world view and not just name it for ourselves.

    It is what the Gospel is!

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  3. One can already see the "victory" that is possibly waiting if the proponents of homosexuality normalization do indeed "win". Simply look at the de-Christianized but "tolerant" western Europe. Why would anyone think the outcome here would be any different?

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  4. Christopher (P.)23/8/09 7:21 AM

    Robroy--

    As far as dechristianization, do you mean the 45% of Italians who claim to attend one or more service per week, or the 44% of Belgians, or the 35% of Dutch? (The U.S., in the same poll, stood at 44%). Some very "strict" societies, not at all liberal, had attendance in the single digits: Russia, Armenia, and China, for example.

    My point: simple correlations between doctrine and attendance don't work,and in this case, I rather think that social expectation and established social patterns explain as much as doctrinal positions.

    Socially and politically, we're all well past the point of compulsory attendance--so if churches attend to people's spiritual needs, even if through social mechanisms as much as sermons, then people will come; and if they don't, people won't.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/rel_chu_att-religion-church-attendance

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  5. If I weren't an Episcopalian, I'd be an Episcopal.

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  6. robroy: You are confusing cause and effect. One of the reasons for the "de-Christianization" of western Europe is that the Church (esp. the Roman Church) has clung so stubbornly to things that modern, educated people recognize as outdated cultural attitudes and mistaken "natural" law instead of enduring spiritual values.

    Bill Ghrist

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  7. Christopher, thanks for the link. Bill Ghrist might want to look at it and see that RC countries are doing a lot better than Germany and the Northern Europeans. The former soviet block countries and China aren't really relevant. Northern European countries like Sweden are very relevant and provide stark warning of the undesirability of the the liberal course. It has the same attendance as the non-Christian country of Japan. Pretty appalling. Before embarking in a radical liberalization of American Christianity, I would want demonstrated evidence that it would decimate Christianity as it has in Sweden. We could do without the "victory" that Mark+ desires.

    And one caveat. I was surprised by the high rate of church attendance in the Netherlands in the linked article (35%). Other sources differ: "A small minority of over-18s (11 percent) attend church or mosque services every week."

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  8. Christopher (P.)24/8/09 7:44 AM

    Robroy--

    I guess that I would wonder two things: 1) why you consider some countries as "relevant" and others as not, especially in a globalized world; and 2) why you don't consider the effect of cultural patterns, the most prominent of which is that the Catholic church requires weekly mass attendance, on pain of mortal sin for not going when one could, and the Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, etc. have rather more relaxed rules. I have Scandinavian friends who are religious but who don't attend services weekly, which is the statistic measured in the survey that I found.

    My general point: look at specific situations. If American exceptionalism applies at all, it applies in religion, where the U.S. pattern is quite different from other countries. But this difference goes back far, far into the past. To think that the act of affirming the ministries of all people would change this pattern, beggars the imagination! I suspect there'll be a bit of shuffling about among the profusion of churches and congregations that the American experience provides, but not that it will result in the wholesale repudation of the Christian religion, as you imply.

    If that were the case, of course, it would provide a stark contrast between a homophobic world, and a church that stands and witnesses against that sin.

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  9. Robroy,

    I know you like numbers, but remember: vehicles such as a census report numbers that show shifts in society, but the raw numbers do not tell you exactly why the changes have occurred. You can use that information to run cross tabulations, etc. and that can lead to additional research.

    A good social scientist tries to eliminate (or include) every possibility to determine what has caused a change. New variables can be introduced, and you can even go with your intuition - your research is just that. But of course, the method is to prove that you (or rather, your hypothesis ) is wrong. They don't call it "null hypothesis" for grins.

    Your hypothesis that huge percentages of Americans don't attend church because the institutions are too liberal may be true for some people. But that begs the question - why don't they then find, join and attend a conservative church?

    The possible explanations for someone not attending church can also include: not believing in God; a bad experience with church (including burn-out for the believer who volunteers too much time to the institution); a nature that prefers private to public devotions; societal pressure against it; even a change to another belief system.

    You can learn all about this by taking graduate level classes in research methods and statistics (my undergrad stat in B-school had a completely different focus). I would recommend taking the courses required by a graduate student in public policy. If nothing else, you learn how much you don't know about valid research, which is of course one of their educational objectives - even if it isn't stated in the syllabus. It teaches you to find experts when your where your training is inadequate, with the bonus of knowing what type of professional you need.

    Yes, many of us here make assumptions about other people's motivations about church and faith. So do you. There's nothing wrong conclusions reached by anecdotal evidence as long as they are stated as such. After all, as Christians, we do sometimes just go on faith!

    If you have pursued the type of studies I have outlined - in social sciences rather than the hard variety - I have jumped to the wrong conclusions. If so, then tell us that you have decided that your rigorous course of education has lead you to the conclusion that accepted social science research methods are are full of errors. And then tell us why.

    Otherwise, you just disagree, and that's fine. Just clearly state you are going with your heart, and your interpretation of doctrine, dogma and theology.

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  10. Thanks, Lynn, for the advice. I don't know whether my wife would allow me to go for a third doctorate.

    You miss the point entirely. I am saying that we should be running in the opposite direction of Western/Northern Europe where church attendance is in the single digits. Hardly something to emulate.

    Christopher, former Soviet bloc countries and China are not relevant because in these places you got sent to labor camps for being an Evangelical Christian, so it hardly surprising that church attendance is low.

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  11. Why folks even bother to reply to cranks like Robroy is beyond me.

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  12. I have kept charts of Sunday attendance for years, but I see a danger in letting what I might call market research to become the dominant factor that shapes out theology or our mission priorities. Just because a theology attracts new members doesn't make it right.

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  13. Fr Mark,

    Where can I find Tutu's quote.

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