“My object in writing this book is to persuade all readers that the experience they must reflect on is not mine, but their own, because the only place any of us can find God at first hand is within our own experience” Gerard Hughes
I’m continuing to read Cry of Wonder and this quotation sums up its core theme. It is to know and reflect on one’s own experience. He describes his own struggles to recognise this. Whilst he is clearly based within one of the Christian traditions, he does not regard it as a well-guarded sanctuary. Indeed he believes that when the Church seeks to exert her authority in relation to this is when God can be pushed out.
“God is to be found in the ordinary, in the earthiness and messiness, the chaos and strife of everyday life”.
What he has discovered is that theology arises from biography. Or putting it another way, God is in the myths and stories that sustain our identity and purpose.
Hughes goes on to point out that placing experience before doctrine and dogma is not encouraged by the keepers of the tradition. Here he is referring to his own tussles with his Roman Catholic background. They are reported throughout the book.
He believes that in the western world self-preservation has become our God. We are led by our fear of consequences. We fear, fear. But for Hughes our fears can be our teachers. There is a wisdom which we neglect if we turn from them and choose not to look into them. But they are not to hold us captive.
We are coming into the season of Lent when we remember the period Jesus spent in the wilderness. I am wondering whether what we call the temptations of Christ during that time are not in fact his fears (Matthew 3: 1-11). Each of them is in some way about self-preservation: the fear of starvation, the fear of anonymity and the fear of being controlled.
If Hughes is right, Jesus was seeking the wisdom into his fears. They led him a deeper understanding of God and he was released from preserving them for his personal benefit.