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I feel like I should write about talking to Father Andrew. And I… - Sally's Journal
November 3rd, 2005
01:34 pm

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I feel like I should write about talking to Father Andrew. And I feel like I don't want to. It was all so horribly inconclusive. But then, my thoughts are horribly inconclusive. As all good psychiatrists know, the key is to listen, rather than to give answers. I'm not sure what I expected. But it would have been much easier if he'd said "ah, welcome home to Jesus, sinner!", gabbled at me in tongues, and enrolled me on a rigorous program of where to be when to end up taking communion, so the momentum of the whole thing could have kept me going without the need to think further. Of course, easy is not the same as right or good.

And he kept accusing me of giving "head" reasons, "mind" ideas of intellect, and kept trying to get me to go on about my heart... and that doesn't help, or make sense, because it's easy in my heart, feelings and the patterns of life will lead me back to the christian church no matter what I do, and I will feel love and forgiveness and community and other things that I file under Go(o)d there. That's the *easy* bit. He got rather excited about that, and talked about what a beautiful thing it was I could say that, and went on about Grace. But feelings are easy. You feel what you feel when things happen. The only important or difficult bit is working out what that is, and why, and that will always be a "mind" thing. It doesn't matter what I feel in church, if I don't know if it's organ pipes, or mass hysteria, or cannibis in the incense, or something that will come from any group of loving people, that is in us, not from an external being, or some God who has nothing to do with some 2000 years dead carpenter but who happens to be floating around longing for us to be happy. And beyond that, it doesn't matter if Jesus is God, if in my heart I feel parts of his commandments are bad, then I won't follow them.

I don't know what the right things to say are! I don't know what will make Father Andrew understand me, or believe me, or come to the conclusion I want him to about what's best for me. Or even *any* conclusion about what's best for me. Honesty is, after all, the best policy, but talking round in circles gets me nowhere. I half feel I want to lie to jump through hoops, present him with the right formula of $traumatic-event-in-the-past that God has found me in the darkness of... if I could say the things he wants to hear I could get on with the me-and-God stuff without him being in the way. I feel so on the defensive, so judged. And if I want communion I feel I should go up there and take it, and God will know who I am and what I believe in, and Father Andrew should just...

Gah. Feel stupid. Feel angry, and upset, and that I'm being unfair to Father Andrew, who is doing his job, and protecting both me and his church.

Feel there should be more, that I'm not trying hard enough, or thinking hard enough, but I can only believe what I believe, there isn't any way to force it, and if it's not good enough for God, or Father Andrew, then I don't care. Except I do care.

{And there's another thing that really annoys me, when Jesus shows himself to Thomas and says "Pah, but you needed proof, that's a bit crap, the people who will believe in me without any proof are so much better". Well, I don't agree, I think the people who leap on bandwagons of ideas they don't understand, without looking where they're going or realising what it's going to cost them are stupid, not holy. Sigh, atreic in being fundamentally at odds with the Christian faith shock}

Gah. Must Do Stuff

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From:the_lady_lily
Date:November 3rd, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC)
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Nothing wrong with feeling inconclusive about a conversation with a member of the clergy.

I have to say that the Head/Heart division makes me think of the_alchemist, who may or may not have something to say on the subject. Perhaps this would be something to discuss on your long plane fight to India?

But anyway. Would a - well, semi-helpful thing be to just jot down how much you think it's helped to get you forward, or what didn't change that you wanted to, or whatever other yardsticks seem helpful? Just be a bit more brain-analytic about it and see what happens, if that helps pierce the anger/upset, and whether you find out you suddenly have more questions which you didn't have before?

Alternatively, if you would like to try an alternative member of the clergy, there is a marvellous woman at St Marks who would be more than willing just to meet up for a chat. She did me an awful lot of good. A second perspective might mean you can come back to Father Andrew with a clearer head. I only offer.
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From:mr_ricarno
Date:November 3rd, 2005 01:44 pm (UTC)
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{And there's another thing that really annoys me, when Jesus shows himself to Thomas and says "Pah, but you needed proof, that's a bit crap, the people who will believe in me without any proof are so much better". Well, I don't agree, I think the people who leap on bandwagons of ideas they don't understand, without looking where they're going or realising what it's going to cost them are stupid, not holy. Sigh, [info]atreic in being fundamentally at odds with the Christian faith shock}

Fair point! I know what you mean. But I don't think Jesus' words there necessarily imply a criticism of Thomas - it could be just looking forward to the generation of believers who've never seen him in the flesh and still choose to believe in him.

I struggle with the same question about the disconnect between 'feeling' and 'knowing'. Not sure what the answer is, except that I try not to rely on my feelings too much and focus instead on things I know to be true. Which might not be of great use to you in your situation...

*hugs* Don't give up on the journey - that's the important bit.
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From:pm215
Date:November 3rd, 2005 02:17 pm (UTC)
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I don't think Jesus' words there necessarily imply a criticism of Thomas - it could be just looking forward to the generation of believers who've never seen him in the flesh and still choose to believe in him

It's still implicitly throwing away the big chunk of humanity who are like Thomas and who do prefer the evidence of their own eyes. "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed", but tough luck if you happen to be a bit more sceptical, eh?

From:ex_robhu
Date:November 3rd, 2005 01:46 pm (UTC)
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There is a clear incompatability with your head and your heart here, as I think most people find with religion. Perhaps you just need to decide which one is to have the upper hand?
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:November 3rd, 2005 01:56 pm (UTC)
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I remember a quote from a pleasing but innacurate King Arthur film.

Arthur: Gewn, you love me with your head, but you love Lancelot with your heart.
Gwen: Then you have the better deal, for my head is obviously stronger.

Perhaps you just need to decide which one is to have the upper hand?

I wouldn't have said that at all. For instance, the desire not to lie and the desire to be accepted in the church both come from the heart? But the understanding of the conflict from the head...
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:November 3rd, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
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I half feel I want to lie to jump through hoops, present him with the right formula of $traumatic-event-in-the-past that God has found me in the darkness of... if I could say the things he wants to hear I could get on with the me-and-God stuff without him being in the way. I feel so on the defensive, so judged.

*hug* I think this is definitely wrong, and you have everyone's support in resisting it.

And if I want communion I feel I should go up there and take it, and God will know who I am and what I believe in, and Father Andrew should just...

Well, I would agree with that. Obviously subject to having established an understanding with the church.
From:yrieithydd
Date:November 3rd, 2005 02:24 pm (UTC)
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And he kept accusing me of giving "head" reasons, "mind" ideas of intellect, and kept trying to get me to go on about my heart... and that doesn't help, or make sense, because it's easy in my heart, feelings and the patterns of life will lead me back to the christian church no matter what I do, and I will feel love and forgiveness and community and other things that I file under Go(o)d there. That's the *easy* bit.

Aaagh this sentence broke my brain. I read the first bit and identified with it and then you turned it upside down!

I keep on giving head reasons for things because they're the easy bit! It's knowing what I feel that I struggle with and that's where I thought the sentence was going!

I'm not sure therefore whether I can say anything of help.
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From:atreic
Date:November 3rd, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC)
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Oh dear. Maybe we should have kids, they'd find it all really easy ;-)
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From:mair_aw
Date:November 3rd, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC)
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apologies to those who are bored

I'm bored, that's why I clicked on it :-)
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From:arnhem
Date:November 3rd, 2005 02:39 pm (UTC)
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Anyone who wishes to discourage you from thinking about things with your head should be regarded with some caution; one should at the least wonder why they don't wish to see you apply rational discourse to a problem, and in whose interests such avoidance might be.

Among the groups of people who do this are con-artists, time-share salespeople, advertising executives ...

And, with rather better motives, doctors.
From:yrieithydd
Date:November 3rd, 2005 03:13 pm (UTC)
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Anyone who wishes to discourage you from thinking about things with your head should be regarded with some caution;

Whilst I agree with this statement in principle I'm not sure that that is quite what was going on here. I think that perhaps Fr Andrew misinterpreted atreic's reasons for giving head reasons only. I think that LSM perhaps has an unusually high proportion of people who are thinkers not feelers by instinct and so who need to be encouraged to allow themselves to feel. Faith needs both head and heart to be working together. Actually, I think life does really. Often people stick with the one they find easier which is why if only one is appearing in a conversation asking about the other seems fair; not so much discouraging you from thinking, but encouraging you to feel. In atreic's case, she confused this by doing the one she found harder first!
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From:pm215
Date:November 3rd, 2005 02:40 pm (UTC)
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Disclaimer: I'm squarely in the 'modern agnostic rationalist woolly liberal' camp, so if you read a certain degree of "what's the problem here?" in my remarks then (a) you're probably reading them correctly and (b) I hope you won't take it personally... (On rereading what I've written, it seems to be more "this is what I would do" rather than advice. Oh well.)

it doesn't matter if Jesus is God, if in my heart I feel parts of his commandments are bad, then I won't follow them

I think this is Right. Morality is independent of religion and we should be able to measure our deities against the same moral yardstick we use for judging anybody else's behaviour.

get on with the me-and-God stuff without him being in the way

Wasn't that one of the major things about the Reformation? (he says, revealing his utter lack of knowledge about the history of the church)

Anyway, I tend to think that it would be better for you to continue to believe what you believe, rather than bend or break it to fit other peoples' preexisting religious moulds. (But of course my personal set of beliefs says this probably won't have any harmful effects after you die, so I would say that :-))

if I want communion I feel I should go up there and take it

This on the other hand seems to me a bad idea, because it's not very respectful of other peoples' religious beliefs. On the other hand, if you treat the whole thing as a matter between you and God then the priest and the church are irrelevant and you could just eat your next bar of chocolate in an appropriate frame of mind, surely?

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From:robert_jones
Date:November 3rd, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC)
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Morality is independent of religion and we should be able to measure our deities against the same moral yardstick we use for judging anybody else's behaviour.

I can see the attraction in this proposition, but it seems to be problematic. If we use our moral yardstick to measure God, where has the moral yardstick come from? How can we calibrate it?
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From:claroscuro
Date:November 3rd, 2005 03:06 pm (UTC)
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You and Carys both work differently from me, but you seem closer. (I did read the first one, y'know, but 81 comments in, there seemed little I could say...)

I couldn't believe until my head could. Er. That sentence makes little sense, but never mind. Um. I guess I would say I couldn't believe in God until my head could assent; my head was the real sticking point. It took people willing to talk through all the theology rigorously for me to be able to believe. Ick, that sounds dumb.

But then, I don't do talking to people about how I feel about God-stuff if I can avoid it.

It's odd - I never really read the Thomas thing that way. I read it as - it's understandable that you need to see and touch, but in the future, people won't be able to, go them if they believe anyway. As a Thomas at hart, I rather took hope from that idea. I also feel I ought to say that I don't think those who believe without seeeing are necessarily just leaping on bandwagons - in some cases, I suspect they have thought long and hard, and stuff.

*hugs* have a good trip...
From:yrieithydd
Date:November 3rd, 2005 03:21 pm (UTC)
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I couldn't believe until my head could. Er. That sentence makes little sense,

It makes sense to me. Both bits are necessary. I for reasons of personality and experience have the head knowledge but struggle with feeling, others because of their different personalities/experiences struggle with other parts.
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From:aiwendel
Date:November 3rd, 2005 03:51 pm (UTC)

making an assumption...

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why do you want to be a christian?
xxxxx
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From:robert_jones
Date:November 3rd, 2005 04:10 pm (UTC)
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it doesn't matter if Jesus is God, if in my heart I feel parts of his commandments are bad, then I won't follow them

Isn't this just what Fr Andrew was getting at?

You asked me earlier how I reconciled my faith in Jesus with my distaste for bringing woe down on the prosperous. I think there is something of interest here. There are all sorts of things which I don't reconcile about my faith. I agree with you about Thomas for instance. There are all sorts of bits of Christianity which are difficult, and noone can resolve them all. We just have to keep these things in tension. Sometimes it can even be a constructive tension. Certainly you stand no chance of answering all these questions before being confirmed. That's why it's an act of faith. I'm afraid that cannot be avoided.

For me, when I was asking these questions, the thought occurred that all world-views contain things hard to resolve. But it's impossible practically to live without holding some world-view. So it makes no sense to think, "I'm not going to become a Christian unless I can resolve all these issues."

Also I would suggest that all knowledge is fundamentally experiential rather than rational. I know that you exist because I've met you, not because I produce a logical argument which concludes atreic exists. Therefore it seems reasonable to approach knowledge of God on the same basis. I think that may be what Fr Andrew means. Because it seems to me that if you go to LSM and experience a sensation of God, then the obvious conclusion is that God exists and that what happens at LSM is at least one possible way of approaching Him. Just as, if I go to Honey Hill Mews and experience a sensation of atreic, the obvious conclusion is that atreic exists and is present at Honey Hill Mews, although it's logically possible that there is another explanation for my experience.
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From:arnhem
Date:November 3rd, 2005 04:26 pm (UTC)
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Because it seems to me that if you go to LSM and experience a sensation of God, then the obvious conclusion is that God exists

The problem is that you experience a sensation, and have no useful way of determining if it's God, the deeper organ pipes, the incense, the pleasing look of the sunlight through the right-hand windows, mass hysteria, the ergot-contaminated wheat you've consumed, or low blood sugar.

I can of course auto-trepan and tell myself I've felt the hand of God. I'm not convinced this is in any useful sense comparable to meeting atreic.

It seems to me that in order to say "I experienced a sensation of God", you will have to make a decision to attribute a certain class of experiences to God (rather than the organ pipes, or your blood sugar levels); and that this in itself makes the process rather suspect.
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From:meirion
Date:November 3rd, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what will make Father Andrew understand me, or believe me, or come to the conclusion I want him to about what's best for me.

[...]

Feel angry, and upset, and that I'm being unfair to Father Andrew, who is doing his job, and protecting both me and his church.

i don't think that you are being unfair to fr andrew here, you know. i had very similar feelings when i was going through communion preparation classes – that he didn't believe that my conversion was real, that he thought i was just jumping on some bandwagon for lack of anything else in my life etc. etc. i found him a very discouraging person to talk all this kind of stuff over with for a very long time; it's only now (almost 2 years after i started going to LSM) that i feel vaguely relaxed in his presence (even, say, chatting over drinks after evensong was somewhat stressful for a very long time).

i've come to see that he wants one to realise what one has to do in own's one time. fr groves is rather like that as well, although even more introverted at times. this isn't what i really want from a priest if i've felt the need to talk to them – i want them to tell me what to do! and while that's working well for me at the moment (with fr rigney), i suspect that there will come a time (hopefully) when i'm healed enough that fr andrew's and fr groves' approach is more useful ....

-m-
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From:inner_muppet
Date:November 3rd, 2005 06:30 pm (UTC)
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I just want you to know I find these posts very heartening. It is nice to see other people work through similar things to those that crowd my head from time to time. If ever you want to talk about things and don't think someone else's uncertainties would prove pernicious, then let me know.

No words of wisdom spring to mind, so I'll leave it at that. All the best on your travels.
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From:filecoreinuse
Date:November 3rd, 2005 06:36 pm (UTC)
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You could just accept there is no way for 'mind' and religion to mesh nicely and accept it is just the fluffy emotional bit of your mind that wants it. Then all you have to do is decide which bitof your mind you want to lead you.
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From:catyak
Date:November 3rd, 2005 09:50 pm (UTC)
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This one won't make me popular, but have you considered that your doubts are fuelled by the fact that you are an independent person who wants to take responsibility for your own actions? If you do well then it's your hard work, not the blessing of some supreme being, and if you fail then it's because you weren't good enough, not because said supreme being decided it wasn't your turn.

D
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From:meirion
Date:November 4th, 2005 09:15 am (UTC)
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if you don't think it's true you don't think it's true and that's all there is to it.

i don't accept that. it took ten years of my wanting to believe, and not thinking it was true, and then suddenly i did. it's not necessarily of a case of "that's all there is to it, forever and ever, amen". the situation may need revisiting at some point (and not necessarily one of one's own choosing; i certainly wouldn't have chosen to begin to believe and go to LSM when i did: looking back on it, it was probably almost exactly the worst time in my whole life for it to have happened!)

as a side issue, i doubt Fr A "accused" atreic of anything; that's not his way (although it can feel rather like that's what he's doing, i think this has more to do with the fact that his facial features are such that if he's thinking things over he looks to be in a state of perpetual disappointment ... it took me a long time to realise that, though!)

-m-
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From:ptc24
Date:November 4th, 2005 09:19 am (UTC)
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[Hmph. The tone of this comment is all wrong. I never was much good at gravitas. Apologies to those who are rubbed up the wrong way by it.]

You talk about 'head' reasons for not signing up, but isn't there more to it than that?

I mean, why not let yourself get swept away by it all? Reasoning is difficult, after all - not just due to the limitations of the human intellect, and the fact the same intellect that drives reasoning is also the one that drives rationalisation, but also due to big theoretical problems such as induction giving the wrong answers from time to time. I mean, we live our whole lives surrounded by hidden assumptions and approximations anyway, what harm is there to adding one[1] more to the list, especially one that lets us do away with quite a few of the other ones?

Now the consquences of letting youself get swept away aren't nearly as important[2] as they used to be. You're unlikely to end up as lion food these days, and you're unlikely to think it a good idea to head off to the Levant to kill the infidels. And there's a nice long list of reasons why signing up might be really rather nice.[3] So, once again, why not?

if in my heart I feel parts of his commandments are bad, then I won't follow them.

There's one example why. If you're anything like me (and more importantly, if I've read your various posts on the matter correctly), actually your heart's giving you as much grief over this as your head is. Parts of the message don't stir you like they should (ISTR you not finding the gospel death-and-resurrection story as moving as it's claimed to be), and others stir you in entirely the wrong way (e.g. the whole homosexuality thing). Now people have come up with reasons why those things aren't a part of the message, or if they are, they're OK after all, but those reasons aren't necessarily right.

So your heart doesn't just need your head to surrender, it (the heart) needs it (the head) to do the important work of working out what to do with the things it's (the heart)[4] choking on, whether to swallow them whole, or to spit the nasty bits out, or to get rid of the whole lot. It's a tough choice, and there are days when I wonder whether I made the right choice myself, and whether my choice is made once and for all or whether there is the possibility that things might change in the future. And some days it scares me that I've got it wrong, so horribly wrong, but that's what listening too much, too closely, too openly to CiCCU will do to you.

Of course, I may have completely misunderstood you, so apologies if that's the case.

[1] ObPedant: One? or many, disguised as one?
[2] Assuming that the whole Christianity is the only (good) way to heaven thing is false.
[3] That said, in this modern day and age you aren't faced with the tough choice between letting yourself get swept away, becoming a really good liar or being persecuted for not being a Christian.
[4] Anaphora resolution. Don't you just love it?
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