Friday, 2 March 2007

God is not an Englishman

I've been reading "Watching the English", by Kate Fox, and have been amused, informed and confused (about the supposed class divisions anyway). And it made me wonder, how much does our culture influence our view of God? We (often appropriately) speak of post-modern culture, of Western culture, of post-RC Western European culture (me, most recently). But English culture?

I do think that most English people would expect the following if they passed God in the street:

1) They'd expect God to ignore them. It's a child's hide & seek principle: I can't see you - you can't see me! On seeing an Other approaching, I avert my gaze lest I make eye contact and thereby have to embarassingly acknowledge the existence of said Other and his intrusion / influence (albeit minute) on My Private World. If we passed God in the street, politeness dictates that he would ignore us.

2) If God was so rude as to speak to them (perhaps in an unavoidable situation: if I bumped into him by accident, for example), then he would a) apologise and b) talk about the weather.

3) If they happened to be on 'acknowledging' terms with God - hung out at his place socially sometimes, for example, then they would expect one of the following exchanges:
- Alrigh'?
- Alrigh'.
or, after pleasantries / complaints about the weather,
- How are you?
- Well thank you. (Or, more frequently in some circles now, "Good, thanks.")
Politeness dictates agreement with such assessments.

I want to put up a big banner, "God is not an Englishman." He won't be ignored. He refuses our 'right' to My Private World, free from the Other. He speaks unapologetically. He doesn't go in for small talk about the weather. He won't agree 'politely' with our self-assessment of "Alright" or "Good", no matter how often we're round at 'his place'. And he just doesn't go in for a self-depreciating sense of humour. A sense of humour, yes, but self-depreciating, no. He's God. He's not an Englishman.

"God is God; you are you: try to not get the two confused."
[Relay Worker, on Jonah (who seemed to have the same problem).]

3 comments:

mama said...

I knew it! I knew it! God is an Ulsterman...

étrangère said...

Ahem,... whereas if an "Ulsterman" passed God in the street, they'd expect God to
a) be on their side
b) say, "NO!"
c) give unequivocal approval to anyone carrying a "For God & Ulster" placard.

Whereas God, in a most un-Ulster-ish manner, is not on anyone's side who isn't in Christ, keeps saying, "Yes!" in Christ, and most certainly disapproves of having 'Ulster' on the same level as himself.

Sometime I'll work out a bit of Belgian anthropology and how that might influence their thought of God...

mama said...

No no, an Ulster person wouldn't pass Him in the street in the first place. He'd give Him a friendly nod and a haze-abate-ye. After a couple of minutes' small talk about politics, religion, politics, death, politics and the price of jam, the Ulster person would bring Him home for a wee-cuppa-tay-in-yer-haun', or maybe even an Ulster fry :)