Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Vikings

I have watched bits and pieces of this TV series showing in Canada on Shaw, as at one point in time I was interested in the period of transition from Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England, and latterly in the late Anglo-Saxon period.  Recently, I caught a snippet of two weddings in the series:  one pagan and Viking, the other Christian and Anglo-Saxon.  The pagan wedding must have been scripted by latter-day hippies, and the same for the Christian.  Let me explain.  The pagan wedding was a scene of joy and love in the manner it was portrayed, while the Christian wedding was filmed in a dark, stiff and joyless fashion.  I suppose that's why Christianity is now a good 2000 years old and one of the surviving rituals even among those who are only occasionally Christian is the wedding ceremony.  We humans must love to be joyless at a wedding. (This, for those who didn't catch it, is sarcasm).

Why oh why do film makers and TV producers insist on trashing Christianity?  Well, there are all sorts of possible answers, but no hard facts at this moment.  Mostly ignorance, and I fear, willful ignorance at that.  I will let others ruminate on this.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


This book and even this review alone are must reads for anyone interested in native/newcomer relationships

Procrastinating from Marking

I was thinking idly about the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism while reading a quote in an essay where the term 'Christianity' was used rather than the more accurate, 'western Christianity'. I am not talking only here about students either! Too often in writing about Christianity by western historians, the Orthodox east is forgotten. The Orthodox do share most of their theology with Catholicism, but there are important cultural differences shaped, of course, by a very different history that have produced a very different lens through which faith is viewed.

The Orthodox have bishops and priests and parishes and monks and nuns as does the Catholic church, as well as the Anglican. Orthodox parish priests are usually married, which seems a sensible practice in my view, but bishops are never so - the ranks of bishops are filled from the monasteries. This reflects the different emphasis on meditative spirituality in Orthodoxy over and against the structural legalism of the Catholic church, and indeed of most Protestant churches. For the Orthodox, theology is an end result of the process of meditation, where for Western Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, it is a process of logical and philosophical study of the Theos.

I wondered at the history that produced this divide. For the Orthodox, firstly the immediate influence of Greek practices perhaps, but more likely I think the long survival of the Roman Empire in the east (misnamed by generations of western historians as the Byzantine Empire - the 'Byzantines' called themselves 'Romans' - as did the conquering Muslim Turks, but I diverge). This long survival was followed by a 'wagons in a circle' survival mode for Orthodoxy - a Christianity which had to stress other worldliness as it floated on a Muslim sea. Well, a very large book could be written on just this, but, onward and upward...

The Western Christian church found itself in a place of chaos in respect to the former comforts of imperial order - well it was not chaotic to the Germanic tribes, but in terms of cities, roads, written laws, professional armies and money commerce, it was chaotic. The western Christian bishops had to be hard, pragmatic men and they had to fashion a public face for Christianity that openly displayed their beliefs while at the same time dazzling the Germanic animists. Eastern Christian bishops were (pardon me for this) preaching to the choir - their flocks were fully immersed in this form of Christianity after a thousand years of imperial rule. Western Christian priests, on the other hand, had to distance themselves from their half or less than half, converted flocks - they needed to stand apart as Christian shamans to make a point. Eastern Christian priests needed rather to be part of their flocks, the job of standing apart in a mystical sense could be left to monks and nuns and bishops.

Anyway, just sayin'