I was told something very interesting yesterday. When pastors are under stress, they lose things in the following order: 1st Their wider reading; 2nd Their prayer life; 3rd Their sense of humour; 4th Their humanity.
I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that the cultural expectations on ministers need to be put through the blender. I think often of One Salient Oversight’s comment about teaching being the essential part of ministry (for the truth is pastoral), and also of some of my hassles.
The old is dying and the new cannot yet be born. In the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear. (Gramsci)
Quite what this means for where I am I do not yet know. I’m pretty sure I am where God wants me though.
This is by way of a more personal follow-through to that last post. Ranter describes a situation where he has genuine need of an SUV; Looney, in comments, wonders “have you done anything” in this respect.
Truth be told, my lifestyle has changed very little. My research hasn’t yet got to the stage of forcing major changes in behaviour (tho’ I think it will – I just do things very s – l – o – w – l – y). I’ve done some easy things (eg shifting to renewable electricity, beginning the process of planting vegetables) but the major stuff – if anything, I’m moving in the wrong direction. Two major ways in particular: we are sending our children to a private school, which will result in a major increase in our driving and petrol consumption; and child number three is now on the way. Why this decision, in a context where it is the population explosion driving all the problems? Various reasons.
I might be wrong about Peak Oil.
The crunch (for the West) probably won’t really hit for another ten years or so – and we have to do the best for our children today.
I don’t believe the crash is in our power to prevent (tho’ God’s grace may); the crash will cause a huge reduction in population; the problems faced in that situation will be very different to those faced now. In particular I think the environment for my children will be much more hazardous, violent and fraught, and Psalm 127 is never far from my mind.
In the end, though, there is a more or less explicit thread of nihilism in the die-off mind-set, and I cannot accept that. Whilst I can accept that Jerusalem will be destroyed, yet will the exiles return.
The Alasdair MacIntyre quotation (the conclusion of ‘After Virtue’) that has haunted me since I first read it in 1990:
“What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St Benedict.”
Peak Oil is what has crystallised a number of strands in my thinking about these issues. I am moving more and more to the view that the core Christian task in these times may not be to prevent the catastrophe from coming – I do think we should do what we can, I just don’t believe we have the capacity to control the process, or prevent a significant reduction in worldwide human population – but to ensure that the events are witnessed and chronicled, in order that whatever remains of our civilisation in the coming centuries can move to a more human future – doubtless never a perfect future, but one more step beyond where we are now.
What we will need to cultivate are our memories and our virtues. Perhaps a new monasticism, one which both embraces scientific processes (to preserve technology) and places that scientific capacity within the larger moral and human framework which enables our flourishing.
Those of you with pretensions to genuine musical taste should look away now.
Don’t say you weren’t warned….
Ranter tagged me with the musical meme: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 6 other people to see what they’re listening to..
1. I like it, Narcotic Thrust 2. Crazy, Gnarls Barkley 3. Personal Jesus, Johnny Cash (sometimes the Depeche Mode original, dependent on mood) 4. Clocks, Coldplay 5. Porcelain, Moby 6. Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own, U2 (could have been one of half a dozen U2; this one just coz I’m thinking about my father a fair bit at the moment) 7. The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash
I’m not sure I have the nerve to tag someone on this….