Religious metaphors and the sacred self - Pete Ward

...So I am researching the viability of women's ministry, looking for a theological rationale for a church that claims the pain of feminisation. I am interested in statistics that go against the grain. Dr Kristen Aune, sociologist, has reason to believe that evangelical women are leaving the church at a faster rate than men. There were more of them in the first place so we do not notice that they are leaving, only that the men are still failing to arrive.

Kristen Aune supposes that women are often defining themselves against celebrity ideals or conversely learning 'what not to be' from celebrity failings.

Pete Ward now begins to uncover that 'religious metaphors as they appear in celebrity culture paint a picture of the possibilities of the sacred self,' (p.7) so what I am interested in, which is probably beyond the remits of my assignment, (but then many things are, which is partly why I blog - to waffle on about what I am really interested in and where it doesn't accrue me grades towards that Masters thingy that will hang over my horizons until the dissertation gets written some time between 2012 and 2015)...what I am really interested in, is how we turn this fascination with celeb culture and glamour back in on itself and recover the sense of the sacred self in our Christ-likeness and in the identity we come to have shaped as we share the intimacies, struggles, pains and joys of our lives in Christian community.

I am also interested in how at times we might borrow things of the world to redeem them for the Kingdom, so that as our churches begin to strive for excellence and quality and even a little glamour, we might do so to point people to the only excellence that will ever really be found - along the difficult road to discipleship and amongst the struggles and sharings of humanity, with eyes fixed on an otherness and a sense of completeness that can only be found in God.

Pete Ward describes how we judge and we adore and I wonder if when we exalt and glory in their failings, our fascination with celebrity reveals that we are articulating perhaps the meta-narrative that we have lost and need to recover. As I read Ward I spin off with my own thoughts.

It's great how he has an ability to do this, the same thing happened when I read Liquid Church as the stimulus behind my presentation on E-church for my bap (Bishops Advisory panel 'vicar interview'). He inspires me to do some of my own creative thinking on these topics, which can be dangerous sometimes as you do not know what to credit to him and what span off as your own pontifications on a topic. Whatever, he has a clever way of suggesting stuff and then getting you to think things through.

We are choosing insecure gods and creating gods out of ourselves rather than locating ourselves in a grander and much more excellent narrative. He looks at Michael Jackson in chapter one and the hysterical reactions to the death of Diana.

I have just finished some really rather scattered thinking that I never got to speak out loud in the end, (probably a good job) because I was up against the clock (seven minutes only) as I articulated an idea for what happened at the cross using Jade Goody and how in some ways she served to tell us about something else entirely.

It would have gone like this had the clock not spared my audience:

To return to our obsession with celebrity. You will remember Jade Goody who was a young woman counted as nothing, reviled. She suffered a horrible death through cervical cancer at 27 years old and let everyone see her decline, because through it being photographed, she would be able to provide financially for her children. She also attained a kind of glory in her dying, giving life to others as many young women were drawn to her and were inspired by her openness to go for tests for cervical cancer so that they might secure life and be released from death. God rebuked us and I think we felt this for our judgmental ways and our voyerism but then transformed all that sin by revealing it in Jade and bringing it to a new life.

I wondered if death could tell us something about Jesus, which some of you might find even a bit offensive, depending on whether you exalt Jesus or you exalt Jade but I assure you, crude as my analogy is, I had good intentions and blogging is where you get to test out some of your more wacky thinking. Thankfully my lecturers were spared due to the 'you have thirty seconds left,' I chose to leave my analogy out, realising its serious flaws. 

Anyway to return to Pete Ward, I am in the middle of reading him. If Aune thinks that women are locating identity in celebrity rather than Jesus, I am interested in it. I want to look at this interest we have in celeb culture and the language that we use to describe that interest, a language that about which Ward is helping make me conscious, so I might see if something can be understood by our churches so that we might respond to it positively and creatively. I have no answers but then the exploration is what I am enjoying. 

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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions