http://changingattitude.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/20150414_102331compressed-225x300.jpg 225w, http://changingattitude.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/20150414_102331compressed-56x75.jpg 56w" sizes="(max-width: 336px) 100vw, 336px" />Reading John 20.11-18 this morning, I concluded that Judaism and Islam are wise in not allowing images. Mary of Magdala wants to know who removed the body of Jesus and where this person has taken the body so that she can take it away herself and reinter it in a known place which can be visited and remember her Lord. She’s asking Jesus, who tells her not to cling to him. He is in an interim state (if we take the story literally). He’s not really here, and soon he’s not going to be here at all. She takes her message to the disciples – I have seen the Lord! But who and what has she really seen? What she has ‘seen’ is something that has to be processed and internalised.
Christianity allows images and as a result, allows people to create false images of Jesus and the deity. Creating an internalised awareness of the divine and of the absent Jesus is far more challenging. Letting go, not clinging, is incredibly difficult. We form attachments to people and objects and if we have profoundly good experiences of them, letting go is deeply painful.
I have a crucifix in my meditation corner. I don’t remember where I bought it and I’ve never seen another copy. It’s plaster-of-paris, I think, easily chipped and broken. I silently interrogate this figure, with water streaming from its side at the level of the diaphragm. I imagine this passive, wilting figure to be nevertheless still flooded with energy and compassion and infinite love. Jesus is as potent on the cross as in the mysterious resurrection encounters. The energy and love and presence are seamless.
Reading the Gospel narratives we are tempted into seeing a sequential development – from crucifixion through empty tomb and resurrection to random appearances and ascension. But then as now, the infinite, unconditional, intimate energy of love fully present in Jesus is always fully present, fully flowing and immersed in creation and in us, our hearts and bodies, minds and souls. There is no before and after with God but infinite, unconditional, universal presence. It’s we who are asleep to the truth and, if we are blessed and graced, wake up to the truth.
This morning, my mind then did a leap, to the Symington book about religious faith and psychoanalysis. My mind concluded that Christianity as a global enterprise is at the moment in a regressive phase. Christian life and discourse is regressing to an infantile, bad religion, more primitive (in Symington’s terms), model. Is it a phase, I wondered, or is it something intrinsic to a religion which is founded on a book and is addicted to images?
There is much good to be found in the life of Christian churches around the world. People form deep attachments, are cared for pastorally, are energised and enthused to engage with life. But there is a deep shadow that accompanies church life. The currently evolving model, in Africa, Asia, Australasia, North America and Europe, is addicted to unhealthy, primitive attachments, false gods, comfort blankets, pseudo-real images and ideas of Jesus and God.
Highly intelligent, often faithfully prayerful, spiritual, literate adults (I’m thinking, but not exclusively of archbishops and bishops) are trapped in a system and allow themselves to be trapped in a system in which they regress and become co-dependent, fearful of their identity and sexuality, reluctant to be transparent and speak truthfully from their core awareness.
It is deeply and systemically unhealthy. It enables a Synod member to write an untruthful, compromised letter about the General Synod displays. It prevents the church from distinguishing between healthy, mature adulthood and addictions to unhealthy, damaging therapies such as the practice of conversion therapy being advocated at today’s conference in Westminster.
One effect of the unhealthy, regressive, primitive religion characterising the belief structure of the Church of England at the moment is that those who are drawn to a profoundly challenging and truthful encounter with the holiness of God, on the path which is contemplative, relational, evolutionary – these people can struggle to survive the negative energies, gasping for air, and wondering whether it is we ourselves who verge on the insane or the institution that too often seems insane, worshiping false idols.