Monday, 8 June 2009

Last Week of Radcliffe

The final two chapters! Or at least one chapter and a conclusion.

This week it is about the need for Sabbath - but as usual Radcliffe wanders a little wider than the chapter heading.

His first suggestion is that we see Sabbath as a gift, not an imposition (if indeed we don't already see it that way). Using the analogy of attending our mother's birthday party! This perhaps leads into his thoughts on the changing nature of work. The Greek and Latin words for work are literally "not leisure" which suggests a turnaround in emphasis - we perhaps see leisure as what we do when we are not working! He also writes of the difficulty of work as identity now that jobs for life are almost extinct. Finally he talks about work as a branch of entertainment.

He moves on to talk about religion as consumption, choosing which church we go to on the basis of the "services" on offer. Joan Chittister has something to say on the risks of this: "They know how to shop for a parish but they do little to build one. They live off a community but they are never available when the work of maintaining it is necessary. They are committed to morality in the curriculum of grade schools but completely unmoved by the lack of morality in government ethics."

Finally in the last chapter he suggests that with today's entertainment we become passive spectators - not participants. He also suggests that we should live as a community where we "let ourselves be seen in our complexity and our contradictions". I for one see a contradiction here - how can we manage that if we do not participate?

In the conclusion he encourages us to live as a community of "love, freedom and hope" - including everyone, not just the like minded. Some challenge if you are currently a community of the like minded - how do you start the process of change? He also suggests that we should speak out and not be afraid - seeing the church as a place where it should be safe to discuss ideas. And yet so many would disagree - at confirmation groups I have seen regular churchgoers afraid to say what they think until the know what the vicar thinks - whereas those from outside the church are very happy to do so. What is it that they have learnt in the church that stops them?

And finally! He encourages us to accept the goodness of corporeal existence and to accept our own bodies whatever shape or condition they are in. I think I have already done corporeal existence in the chapter which covered it - but how many would believe that of he church - not many I suspect.

Overall this has been a wonderful book. The highlight for me was the chapter on hope, and comparing hope and optimism, but there were so many good bits - including sharing it with a great bunch of people!

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