Christianity and Wisdom

Metmuseum Reliquary of Mary MagdalenLeviticus 20! say the homophobes, and many gay people say “Fuck You” to that by leaving Christianity. Why would anyone stay? Because Christianity is Ours, at least as much as theirs, and they will not take it from us. And it is a handy store of human wisdom.

Susan is a wise woman. I watched her at our Greenbelt Quaker meeting with R, a pretty slip of a thing aged around 14. Perhaps R commented that we normally have flowers in the centre. I noticed when she brought something from the lawn grass of The Mount, to place on our banner; then trot off, and find a daisy, to replace it. R took pleasure in her contribution; Susan, physically old but able to enter the joys sorrows and conundrums of all ages, delighted in R’s pleasure, and their pleasure delighted me.

One woman ministered that we should not be waiting under the Master’s table for crumbs to fall, when there is a place at it with our name on it. I thought that rather good as a bon mot, though when I retailed it someone said she had heard it elsewhere this weekend. We all got the allusion, and possibly many atheists would too, so pervasive are our stories.

Considering my own progression into Wisdom, I wonder how I am doing. How much, really, should I have learned by 48? Passing by a tent I heard The Scargill community on bodies. Ours is a physical religion, with a God who so delighted in human bodies that God lived in one. (Or All, I would say). Our bodies are wonderful, and a gift. The Spiritual and the future matter, but not to the exclusion of the Now and the physical. I saw my body was beautiful when I transitioned, and that all bodies are beautiful at a Quaker weekend shortly after. You might say that the emphasis on humans as spiritual, rational beings rather than as animals with animal responses and needs is a Christian failing; I would discern its root in the Enlightenment; but my Christianity has the answer. All of the human is beautiful and valuable.

I left the tent in the cold night, got a cup of tea and sat outside at a table. I opened conversation with the woman there- so much easier at Greenbelt than on, say, the London Underground. She could accept the truth of that, that all human beings are beautiful (a truth one can find in strands of feminism and psychotherapy as well as Christianity) about others, but not about herself. I told her how beautiful her eyes were.

Different ideas in Christianity have value at different times. I find the American Evangelical insistence on Original Sin, and the Remnant who are saved, divisive and destructive, but in a genuinely embattled persecuted community it could give strength and hope. I disliked at the Eucharist singing of heaven after death- Heaven must be here, an idea beloved of more Christians than just Quakers- but for slaves, tired of living and scared of dying, it could give a way out of despair. Such hope might let them see ways to improve their lives which despairing people could not see.

6 thoughts on “Christianity and Wisdom

  1. Oddly enough, I’ve always thought of Catholicism as ‘mine’. Religious art was my passion for most of my life. If it weren’t for Mike, the house would still be full of it- but he finds it disturbing, so I’ve adapted…
    But of course the Catholicism I think of as mine is that of politics. The kind that allowed me to work with the church- or at least put me on the right list.
    In that sense, you can’t separate division and religion. It’s part of the foundation.


    • I had a little difficulty understanding- Catholic politics means, for me, the Falange in Spain and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. Then I thought, you mean politics inside the church, which Bishop to befriend.

      Quakers seek to avoid that politics: we share the jobs among ourselves, moving between them, serving the meeting rather than exploiting power, but even with us some see cliques and in-groups. And yet- I hope some in the Catholic church seek the right, rather than the politic, decision. “We are all sinners” should not mean “Well, let’s enjoy it”. I was on the Parish Church Council as an Anglican, and before that I went to the Synod of the Diocese of Edinburgh, but at that level we are scouting round for volunteers, rather than jostling other steely-eyed ambitious folk.


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