Dear Theologians, Don’t Be THAT Theologian

In pursuit of my self-schooled divinity degree, I started reading The Sacred Canopy last night which is a sociological study of religion. It’s a leftover book from a class I had on religion in pursuit of my school-schooled sociology degree. In the class, we never touched the book, but I thought it might be useful and informative to my writing here and my general, personal understanding of religion.

(It also makes me realize that if I’m going to get into this heavy theological material seriously, I am going, at some point, to have to learn academic Latin. That’s also part of being an educated future cult leader… dammit. Et tu Textbook?)

In the preface, the author talks about an appendix in which he addresses the theologian so, of course, I skipped right to that. Who needs prefaces anyway? What does the context of a book matter to me?

In the appendix, the author tries to reconcile his interpretation, which he calls “methodologically atheism” with the work of the theologian. He stresses, essentially, how a mature theologian will find ways to incorporate his theory without her faith being shaken, while a newbie might end up in a theological crisis because he asserts that all religion is a human projection or a product of social engineering.

He gives examples of the works of several theologians who have managed to reconcile the two perspectives and wow. Let’s just say it got a bit… thick.

It occurred to me then that if I am a theologian after all (“theologian” is acceptable academic and religious code for “future cult leader”), that isn’t the kind of theologian I want to be. Their work seemed only to be written for other theologians. (The jargon! For gods’ sake!) What is the point of speculating on religion–which is all a theologian actually does—when your speculations are completely inaccessible to everyone except those high up in your own field and other well-entrenched academics? What’s the point of solving the mysteries of God and the Universe if no one can understand your solutions?

It all sounds like a big circle-jerk to me. I don’t want any part of that.

Another thing that got under my skin was the notion that, in this circle-jerk, these theologians and sociologists of religion sit around and try to shake each other’s faiths all day. I don’t want any part of that either.

I truly don’t understand—way down in my soul I don’t understand—why either of those things are appealing to anyone. Why beat the hell out of each other with your brains? Quit it. That’s not what brains are for. You’ll put someone’s eye out.

Reading that appendix wasn’t all bad news though. It inspired me to sit down on my gilded lily pad and define what kind of theology blogger/theologian/future cult leader I actually want to be.

Here’s what I got:

First and foremost, I want to be accessible. I’m spending a lot of time here and all that time would be a waste to everyone if the only people who ever were able to read and understand what I wrote were my own choir, so to speak. I want to be understandable to everyone. While what I write may be challenging at times, (I do tend to wander and there was that whole Physis and the Law incident a few days ago), I never want that challenge to be insurmountable. I want it rather to be exhilarating to both the mind and the soul.

I don’t want to break or even shake your faith. I want to bolster your faith, whatever it may be. I want to help out. I want what I write sometimes to inspire you to ask questions of your god or gods and to open you up to receiving answers. I want my writing to get you to a place where every day you do a little more smoochy schmoo with your god or gods—a little more “How do I love thee?”

I don’t know if I’m there yet, but now that I know for sure where my brain and heart lie, I know I’ll get there one day.


(I have to say I’m pretty damn proud of myself that I just finished writing a theology post that included the term “circle-jerk”… twice!)

About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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