Friday, October 30, 2015

Sexualised religion? Maybe misleading!

Jonathan Freedland - a practising Jew - writes for the Guardian about the state of play for religion today. Either he or his sub-editor has supplied the headline:

Religion is like sex – it can seem absurd, but it works


Nothing gets readers reading like making sure 'sex' is in the headline. But in this case the article really is about religion and not about sex. I hope Guardian readers do not feel disappointed :)

You, of course, can be the judge about what he writes.

My judgement is that he makes a small and valuable point: religion has its consolations and comforts; it even motivates compassion.

According to Freedland this is particularly so for Anglicans!
"For increasing numbers of Anglicans, it works that way too. Singing hymns in church is a comfort, reminding them of their childhood or their parents, and leaving them with a glow of warmth towards neighbours they might otherwise never meet."
I suggest all readers here would be united on a rejoinder: that is insipid Anglicanism. True Anglicanism is about changing the world with the gospel of Christ.

The great weakness of Freedland's argument is that he refuses to examine the truth of religious claims. Instead, all that matters are the pragmatic benefits.

Oh, and some Anglicans think neither sex nor religion is absurd :)


6 comments:

Suem said...

It certainly isn't a new idea at all. The link between religious ecstasy and sexual ecstasy has a long history and can be seen in the works of the early mystics, particularly female writers. Particularly striking is St Teresa of Avila's vision of an angel who thrust a spear repeatedly into her causing "intense sweetness" which made her moan! There are other writings though, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe and I read of a monk in an Irish monastery who wrote of his love to meet with God, his joy to hear the bell for prayer, and how much better this was than a "tryst with a foolish woman." So the devotion and intensity of religious love, joy and passion has long been expressed in religious terms- and I don't think that is a prurient matter, more that it is perhaps a way to convey the intensity and even purity of the emotion of love for the divine and our ability to get intensely caught up in what can be a really rapturous experience. We might think here of some of the language we do use to describe religious events- the passion/ the rapture for example."https://aras.org/selection_ecstasy.aspx

camostar said...

Maybe not absurd but I do remember the possibly Anglican Rowan Williams saying something along the lines of "Nothing will stop sex being tragic and comic."

Father Ron Smith said...

I gues that the author of the article, being Jewish, would be more than familiar with the text of the biblical 'Song of Songs' - which is included in most of today's version of 'The Bible', too. And God does understand the connection between 'religion and sex'. After all, they were'are part of God's marvellous human creation. "How wonderful are thy works, O Lord".

Bryden Black said...

I thought for a moment you might be promoting Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age by Jonathan Grant, Auckland, with James Smith writing the Foreword.

MichaelA said...

"The great weakness of Freedland's argument is that he refuses to examine the truth of religious claims. Instead, all that matters are the pragmatic benefits."

I agree Peter. I think many Jewish people would also.

I do think he makes a good point when he writes: "For increasing numbers of Anglicans, it works that way too. Singing hymns in church is a comfort, reminding them of their childhood or their parents, and leaving them with a glow of warmth towards neighbours they might otherwise never meet."

For Freedland, this comfort is an end in itself, but I notice that sensitive and empathic churches can leverage it to lead into truth. Judging by the friends of my children and grandchildren, many unchurched or agnostic Australians are willing to come to a church service or function where there are things that they regard as "traditional", particularly in music. Things like Christmas Day and Good Friday are seen as part of our heritage even for those who do not have a Christian upbringing. Sometimes this leads into an exploration of the truth that underlies Christianity.

Jean said...


The title does seem to have little relevance to the context, a media attention grab then change the topic trick.

For certain Christianity as one faith is absurb, that God would go to such lengths for so long to reconcile himself to a people who continually turn away from Him, and to do so through His son becoming incarnate as a human and loving them while they still rejected Him. Absurb indeed. Would any mortal consider such love to be rational.

As for the article. What has puzzled me is more why people practice a faith and yet neither believe it or alternative make no effort to understand what is is they are actually following, where is the logic there? There is a somewhat narrow picture of the 'fairytales' (why is this suddenly the 'in' word for describing beliefs - new age pixies having an impact??) to which adherents of some faiths subscribe too. Perhaps a little insight into the differing beliefs of particular religions would needsay provide a more real perspective.

And ancient faiths, outdated? And scientists would have thought such things to have passed away by now.... Scientist say like Newton and Pascal? And can one in good conscience generically brand Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Theresa's primary source of strength and motivation now ancient and outdated? Was it not relevant to their age and in many cases, depending on your age, therefore to ours...

My faith in the guardian continues to be diminished..... : )