The Steampunk Vicar

A Presbyterian Pastor on Neo-Victoriana and American Faith

Tag: religion

Narrativus Tertius, or the Third Story

I’ve been thinking a great Deal, this Week, about Narrative. My natural Bent for Storytelling has reared again its Head, and the Tales we tell to One Another, and to our Selves, has been heavy on my Mind. Much of this, to be sure, was influenced by the Obsequies for Dr. Lorraine Stanfield, and the Throughline of Narrative that dominated that Service. Then, too, there are Stories being told, and telling Themselves, even now, as I write this.

For much of the last Year, I have been initiated into the Eastern Mysteries of Yogic Practice, and some of the more spiritual Dimensions of that Work have centered on Narrative, and on those Frames around Events that are central to human Experience. The experienced Yogi would tell you that these Stories are worse than useless, and are, indeed, a Distraction from our mindful Presence to those Occurrences. God, the Yogi would say, is not angry with you because you lost your Keys – you simply lost your Keys, which are, Themselves, a burdensome Abstraction, and One that you could dispense with profitably. Shed Attachment, especially Attachment to Narrative, and your Mind and Soul will clear.

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In contrast, a fair Percentage of my Rearing was conducted in the more lightly evangelical Branches of the American Protestant Christian Tree, the Sorts of Folks who will speak earnestly of God’s visible Work in the World, of God’s illimitable Call, and of Spiritual Forces which dominate this mortal Vale. For these, no Happenstance is to small to lack God’s guiding Hand. In its extremest Forms, this thinking yields Hurricanes and the Deaths of Soldiers as God’s smiting Wrath, and walks inevitably to that false Gospel (I have no Hesitation in claiming it as false, and no very little Qualm about the nominative “Gospel”) of Prosperity. The Wealthy are Rewarded and the Improvident are punished – could it ever be otherwise?

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I find it not at all surprising then, that when bad Things happen, we turn to these Tools to help us interpret our World. The Yogi says that our Narratives harm us; the Preacher says that God is their Author. One advises us to seek no Thread of Meaning; the other swears that God weaves a Tapestry with such Threads.

And when I scan the Æthernet in the Morning and find more of my countrymen Dead without Purpose, I cannot help but be dissatisfied with either Solution. If God is so terrible as to wrack a hapless Isle and move a Man to murder scores, then God deserves a fouler Name. If All is Naught and Naught is All and our Presence here is charmless Accident, the siren Song of Oblivion beckons us all, and Nothing is so sweet as to bind us here.

Some Months ago, a Friend was injured, just as another Comrade received a hideous Diagnosis. This, too, as Politics went Mad and Nations raged and Death stalked those near and dear to my Kindred. Once again, I stared at a World upheaving, and sought Sense in either closing my Eyes to Meaning, or closing my Eyes to Sense. My Compatriot, her Ankle splinted, reported to me the Comment of another Parishioner.

“If the Devil is trying to get us this bad, we must be doing Something right.”

I am not, in general, a Diabolist, but I was so much struck the good Sense of the Remark, and it has guided me. I refuse to countenance an Epic of God’s Punishment, and I will by no means relinquish the Precious Stories of my beloved Friends and Neighbors. To give up either is to surrender the Ship. But render unto me an Enemy – a hater of Life, and Love, and Light, and Hope, and Grace, no Human Tyrant but an Immortal Foe, and I will tell you a Tale that might open your Eyes…one that neither detaches nor rationalizes, but, instead, seeks to heal and transform. Mr. Enten of FiveThirtyEight quoted today the wise Rev. Rogers, who deserves more Upvotes than I can alone render:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

These are the ones with their Eyes opened – let those with Eyes to see and Ears to hear receive Understanding.

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Many wonderful Helpers can be found – some of my Favorites work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

 

De Morte Magnorum, or On the Death of the Great

The List for the Year of our Lord MMXVI is tiresomely long. So long that I shall not endeavour to link to all the notable Deaths of this annum. CBS News has a depressingly long Show of Slides to fill that void. Some have, of course, hit me harder than Others. I was not a Devotee of Many of the Musicians or Personalities – a Few were integral to my Maturation. Linking to Articles confirming their Deaths is proving too sad for me to attempt. And, in addition to the Passings, there were some other Events.

I was asked, however, just now, whether I have a Need to grieve for All of this. I found within a surprising Answer, perhaps belied by my Unwillingness to read yet further Confirmation of this Year’s many noteworthy Departures. Even so, I say – I need not grieve these Passings – I must, instead, turn them to good Account. So many Voids are left in our Culture, our Politics, our Society, our Music, our Art. Indeed, we must mourn and weep and lament…and then we must busily engage ourselves upon filling those Gaps.

Even as I wrote, the Scripture came to me, a favorite Pericope of mine from the Second Book of the Kings, the Ninth Chapter, the Fourth through the Eighteenth Verses. Listen for God’s Word to you.

Again Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee: for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. But he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.

And the children of the Prophets that were at Jericho, came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou, that the Lord will take thy master from thine head this day? And he said, Yea, I know it: hold ye your peace.

Moreover Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here: for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. But he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went both together.

And fifty men of the sons of the Prophets went and stood on the other side a far off, and they two stood by Jordan.

Then Elijah took his cloak, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and they twain went over on the dry land.

Now when they were passed over, Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let thy Spirit be double upon me.

10 And he said, Thou hast asked an hard thing: yet if thou see me when I am taken from thee, thou shalt have it so: and if not, it shall not be.

11 And as they went walking and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and did separate them twain. So Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof: and he saw him no more: and he took his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

13 He took up also the cloak of Elijah, that fell from him, and returned, and stood by the bank of Jordan.

14 After, he took the cloak of Elijah, that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And so he also, after he had stricken the waters, so that they were divided this way and that way, went over, even Elisha.

15 And when the children of the Prophets, which were at Jericho, saw him on the other side, they said, The Spirit of Elijah doeth rest on Elisha: and they came to meet him, and fell to the ground before him,

16 And said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men: let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master, if so be the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. But he said, Ye shall not send.

17 Yet they were instant upon him, till he was ashamed: wherefore he said, Send. So they sent fifty men, which sought three days, but found him not.

18 Therefore they returned to him, (for he tarried at Jericho) and he said unto them, Did not I say unto you, Go not?

The Word of the Lord.

What, then, should we say, as we read these Words and consider the Dead among the Great and the Good of our World? I have grown weary of the quoted Lyric and the clever Photoshop. What instead shall we say of this Year, its Bounty of Death, and the Singers and Writers and Actors and Leaders who have breathed their last upon this Earth? Shall we go, like the Company of Prophets, and seek them out in the Mountains and the Valleys? Yes, we shall rend our clothes and weep. But what then? 

The Man of God, Inheritor of twice the Spirit of the One who came before, Luke Skywalker to the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Elijah, has here the right of it. He knew, as even the Company of Prophets knew, that his Master would be taken from him. He knew that he had the chance to claim the Inspiration of Elijah. And he knew that, once taken, his Master would be fone from his Side, forever.

Mourn and lament and weep we shall, but Fisher and Wilder will never again grace the Silver Screen. We shall never hear anew of Bowie’s Voice, or Cohen’s Words. We shall never see another Punch from Ali, or watch Glenn float among the Stars. The Wisdom and Leadership, whatever you may think of the Content, of Peres, Scalia, Castro, Boutros-Ghali, and Reno is gone from the Face of the Earth. We may seek on the Hilltops, but we shall not find them – we may search the low Places, but they are gone – they and so many more.

With what then, are we left…except that which they leave behind? Their Films, and Words, and Songs, and Deeds remain among us – and so do we. We are yet here, we yet endure, we who remember and were transformed. Transformed we were – and we bear the Responsibility of that Transformation.

Let Bowie and Michael remind us to judge not, and that our Brothers and Sisters remain more like us than different. Let Fisher and Wilder remind us of Wonder, and of Laughter, and of Strength. Let Peres, Scalia, Castro, Boutros-Ghali and Reno and many more remind us of Humility, and that we have work yet to do in our World to bring about Reconciliation. Let Glenn and Ali remind us of Courage, in the Face of the Adversity of the Children of Earth and the Dangers of the Frontiers. Let us be reminded of Grace and Curiousity and Music and Joy as we think on those we have lost.

For it is up to us, now. This year has drained the Bench of so much Talent and Thought and Experience and Peace, that we cannot help but shoulder the Burden. It lies on our Backs, now, the Duty to improve, and enlighten, and inspire, and lead. We cannot rely on our Forebears to do it for us, for they are now Dust. We yet live – and we yet have a World to serve.

This, then, is my Prayer – that having watched these honored Dead be taken up, we shall inherit a double Portion of their Spirit, and that we, too, shall have the Power to change a Mind, even as our Minds were changed.

Requiescat in pace, Sorores Fratresque. We shall carry on.

PS – I am full aware that I have left so many Names off of this Listing – Rickman and Glass especially weigh upon me. My Point yet stands, but feel not weary if I have missed your most impactful Death – there were, I fear, too many to include them all.

Apologia, pt. 0 – Introduction to Apology

In a much bally-hooed and now discredited scientific Study, Researchers claimed to have discovered that brief Conversations had significant Impact in altering the Opinions of Participants with regard to Same Sex Marriage. In short, actually talking to People, personally, could, indeed, cause them to shift their Stances of the great Issues of the Day.

As noted above, this Paper was retracted for poor Data. It is a Difficulty for me, however, as there is Something about the Conclusion that speaks, deeply, to my Experience. Perhaps it is merely a Desire of mine and of those like me, perhaps an eternal Truth, but I feel it in my Bones, that Persuasion starts – and ends! – in Community with a Neighbour.

I worry, from Time to Time, that in the Echo-Chamber of the Aethernet, where it is laughably easy to expose oneself only to those with whom one agrees, that now, having so divided our Society, it will become only easier for no one to change their Mind. From there it is but a little Leap to believe that I, too, might begin to fear any Disruption of either my Facts or my Beliefs.

As I remarked to an Interlocutor recently, one who was also forged in the Fire of Knowledgebowl (or Academic Decathlon, or Quizbowl, select for yourself your Flavour), good Facts matter. I strive always to project a Humility in Disagreement over Facts, because I would ever rather learn good Facts. If I am mistaken, I desire Correction, for, in Knowledgebowl (and, I submit, in Life), the Path to Victory is paved with correct Information. Persons who become defensive when disproved only serve to shut down Dialogue, and deprive themselves of Victory by means of willful Ignorance.

Of Opinions and Beliefs however, having distinguished them from Facts, I aim for a Flexibility that acknowledges the Road I took to get to them. I believe a Thing now, and can tell you how I arrived at that Belief. Tomorrow I may be presented with new Data, may be forced to change my Mind, and will need the Cartograph of that new Route.

For any Belief to which I can currently Point, there was just such a Road – an Onramp or Origin which brought me to my present Site. There were Turns or Bends or Dips in the Way, and each of these brought be closer to the Waystation – and, I pray, to the Truth, distinguished as well from Opinion, Belief, or Fact, each one.

Combining these two Points – the Instinct declaring that in personal Discourse we have the greatest Chance to bring Others to our Way of thinking, and that each of my Beliefs has its own Highway, it occurred to me that many – perhaps most – of you do not know my Story, the Route that brought me to my current Encampment. I write this Series to give myself the Opportunity to Change your Mind, if even by the smallest Degree, in hearing where the Man you know Today came from. Whether your Acquaintance with me harks from Secondary School, or University, or Seminary, or beyond, or you know me only as “that mad Bloke what writes like a Gentry-Cove of merrye ol’ England on the ‘Net,” I hope that this Apology* will be fruitful for you. I feel sure that it will be for me.

 

* The word “apology” comes to us from the Greek apologia, a Word back, or in Reply. I use it here in both the Modern and the Classical Senses, for this Document will contain not only an Argument and Narrative, but also my sincere Regrets, Griefs, and Shames. At some Points it will, perforce, resemble a Confession – and an undirected Request for Forgiveness. For this, in Advance, I apologize.

Novus Locus!

As some of the cleverer among you may have discovered, the Site has Moved! Welcome to the new Unified Reticulated Locus for the Steampunk Vicar, http://www.steampunkvicar.com! This Site is now available for all your Neo-Victorian Clerical Needs.

More Updates are forthcoming, but for the Nonce, enjoy the fewer Key Strokes required to reach me!

You may also now contact me at the new Electronic Post Address, vicar@steampunkvicar.com. It is in all functional Ways indistinguishable from my previous Address, save that it is more in Theme!

Thank you, dear and supportive Friends! And to the Rest of you, may Science fail you!

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Why would you say that? That’s horrible!

The Steampunk Vicar

Greetings, travelers and wanderers, adventurers and exoticists, rationalists, spiritualists, moralists all! Welcome to a catalogue, a travelogue, a weblogue, a counterlogue – an essay into the world of the fantastic, the Romantic, the Gothic, the entropic, the myopic. Welcome to this religious, prestigious, prodigious endeavour – the articles and histories of the Steampunk Vicar.

Who, I hear you ask, is this amazing man – this Romantic Renaissance man, this insightful and inciteful man, this erudite and recondite man? Is he fully depraved? Fully, are you quite sure? Is he entirely saved? Most entirely? Who is he, I hear you ask, and, so I echo: who am I?

Consider me an alter-ego, who says what must not be said, who knows the God but dare not speak His Name, who inquires and replies. My other parts may remain shrouded in mystery, but all that you must now, o best beloved, is that I am a man of many parts, of history, lost in time but not in Grace, and that my times and inquiries are most germane to the lives you lead.

For I am the Steampunk Vicar, and I am most glad to make your acquaintance.