Deconstructing the Creed
One day when I was ranting and raving about how much of the Nicene Creed I didn’t believe, he said ‘well, when you’re in church, just say the parts of the creed you do agree with. Be silent for the others. We’re not asking you do so something against your integrity’.Someone pointed out that Robinson's anecdote dates from many years ago. Can we be sure that this is STILL the case? Perhaps he no longer feels the same way. Fair enough - there's nothing unheard-of in having doubts and then getting over them. Many great people have done the same. So I thought I'd see if I could find some current reference to Robinson's attitude toward the Creed.
This interview is from 2005, so it's pretty up-to-date. It deals with the Creed question about as explicitly as you could ask, and starts off with the same story, in almost the exact same words:
I had an assistant chaplain there who, when I was ranting and raving about how much of the Nicene Creed I didn't believe, encouraged me to just drop out when I got to a phrase that I didn't believe. And participate in however much of it I did feel comfortable with.Well, that would seem to put him on the side of those who experience the 'dark night of the soul', but persevere and come through on the other side with their faith strengthened. But just when you think that everything's OK, he goes and ruins it by telling the truth:
“And I [thought], a religion that can be that undefensive about itself is the place for me. I gradually said more and more of the Nicene Creed until I did believe it. I found [the Episcopal Church] to be this amazing community where people were not afraid to use their minds, where people were not afraid to read and believe the scriptures, and did not seem to be forcing on anyone else its own beliefs in the way that I felt the religion that I grew up with had been doing.
“By the end of my time at Sewanee, I felt a calling to the priesthood and went on to [General Theological Seminary in New York, N.Y.] from college.”
Gunn : How much of the Nicene Creed do you believe today?There's no longer a conflict, because Robinson has hit on the happy expedient of just mentally rewriting the Creed he says every Sunday, and giving his belief to that. The words now mean something quite different from what they've meant for 1600 years - what, exactly, he doesn't say, but saying words that other people have written still has a value: he is enacting the same pantomime earlier generations have done, and that "connects" him, even though it's only the physical act of pronouncing words that's the same.
Robinson : “I believe all of it. The two things that the Episcopal Church gave me that I did not have in my former denomination were history and liturgy. One of the reasons I love all the historic creeds is that it ties me to believers who lived so many centuries ago. While I have no doubt that I might articulate the meaning of the Nicene Creed differently than would have been explained 1,000 years ago or 1,700 years ago, saying those same words connects me with this whole company of the faithful who have experienced God and believed that Jesus Christ was his very incarnation on this earth. So I love saying those ancient words because it connects me with all of those people who have been faithful throughout the years.
When I hear the words "historic creeds" my antenna goes up, because I know of another place the word "historic" is commonly used - the 39 Articles. You know, that page or two at the back of the Prayer Book that's just there as a fossilized record of what people USED to think. Useful for history buffs, but not of much relevance to life today. Now it looks as if the Nicene Creed can take its place among the trilobites as well. That people actually still say the same words today is just a quaint custom.
Robinson doesn't go into detail about what HIS rendition of the Nicene Creed means, but this guy, also writing in 2005, gives a pretty clear picture of what sort of alchemy is involved in "believing" something you don't believe.
What this is, of course, is our old friend Mr. Deconstructionism at work. One jumps on a text like a Ferengi on a garbage scow, and then rides it to galaxies unknown. As an example of how this works, I present
We start with the first line:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and EarthNow, naturally we must focus on the key word of this sentence: "in".
When we think of "in", that is, the very "in-ness" of the word itself leads us to the pure interiority of thought and concept. From "in" we look "out", which brings us to the nexus - the conflict between being In and being Out.
This seemingly irreconcilable strife between two supposed opposites produces a symbiotic living in tension, which can be summed up by the eternal struggle between the Insies and the Outsies.
As we deal forensically with these terms, we draw closer to the Ur-text which produced them, i.e., the great "bellybutton" controversy, which posits that Adam did NOT have a bellybutton. Yet a closer consideration of the original text, (known among savants as "Q") would lead us to a different conclusion: the word "bellybutton" itself is a later translation of the original term, which was "navel". Now, an examination of "navel" leads inexorably to the concept of "navel-gazing", and here we come to the crux of the argument.
"Gaze" is identical in sound to "gays". Furthermore, the technical term for such a coincidence in sound is "homonym"! Therefore, the concept of homosexuality is present in the very first words of the Creed! Proving that there has never been any conflict between Christianity and anything else.