Sunday, 1 March 2009

Truth in context

After a couple of weeks of a gentler-than-usual teaching schedule I found today tiring. It didn't help that I ran over every single lesson, so though I had planned, agreed-upon teaching amounting to five and a half hours I actually taught for nearly seven hours today.. and of course lesson that run over slightly are usually the ones that are mentally and emotionally draining, and all the travel (Tube and cycling) leaves me pretty physically tired, too. I don't mind the unpaid work, but I need to pace myself better. I'm exhausted.

I still made it to Evensong at Church on the Hill. The choir outnumbered the congregation again, unless you count the choir as part of the congregation... I do. Church on the Hill is running a Lenten series of sermons on the seven deadly sins, and the curate who was preaching this evening drew the short straw and got to talk about lust.

I think he spoke well, trying to clarify the difference between the sin of lust and the gift from God that is sexual desire. He proposed that sinful lust can be identified two ways. One is by its being acquisitive, when we want someone for ourselves and in so doing turn them into objects. Another is by its being the stuff of selfish fantasies, in which we arrogantly cast ourselves in the starring role and the world revolves around us.

I can see how fantasy can be dishonest to a point, can be an escape or turning away from God-given reality where we can experience pain but also love. But I also think the human imagination is a gift from God, and wonder how this earnest young curate would identify the stories we tell ourselves and others in order to understand reality better rather than turn away from it. I suppose that, like the distinction between sinful lust and loving sexual desire, depends on context.

Perhaps there are some absolute truths, some absolute rules for right and wrong somewhere, and other situations or actions that really are context-sensitive. Maybe one of the areas where people disagree is in assigning any specific action to one category or another. Maybe one of the things we're trying to do in religious is to figure out what the absolute truths are, and make sense of how those affect the context-sensitive stuff.

If you had to choose one thing, one idea, and say you think it is an absolute truth (or perhaps an absolute command), what would it be?

The curate also mentioned in his sermon that Jesus is reported to have said very little about lust, though the link between the quote he did provide and the way he discussed the subject seemed a little tenuous.

That's seven Sundays in a row I've been to church. This seems to be getting to be something of a habit.

Further to my previous post I'd like to open up discussion here regarding some of the issues I touched on over at The Exegesis Fairy's blog. But I'm very tired, and I have yet to hunt library books tonight (to avoid fines tomorrow), so I think it will wait.

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