Tuesday 7 May 2019

Romantic Christianity is micro-macro knowledge

Romantic Christianity can be seen as in terms of a micro- and macro- level of experiencing reality.

Romantic refers to the micro, moment to moment, daily experiencing of our own personal life. The great impulse towards romanticism is alienation - that experience of life as shallow, mundane, impersonal, meaningless, uninvolving, irrelevant...

Stuff like bureaucracy, the mass media, the world of organisations and corporations; the bleak oppression of modern cities, modernist art and architecture. Feeling dead inside, cut-off from life.

We seek a Romantic cure for alienation. We seek involvement, participation - we want to be in-life, involved-by life, part-of life.

And this is a micro business; we are Not talking about big schemes and general plans - we crave this as soon as we wake up, here-and-now and whenever we think about it, and all kinds of situations.

By contrast, normal, mainstream, classical Christianity typically references the macro-scale, the Big Picture - it is about the overall nature and organisation of reality; creation, orders of being. The nature and relations of God, Christ, angels and men.

Christianity is about meaning and purpose; how things cohere and where they are going - and how we each fit-into the evolving pattern.

Without Romanticism, macro-Christianity is too remote, abstract and generalised to satisfy our micro-needs - it is analogous to politics without psychology; material without mind.

And without Christianity, Romanticism is disconnected from that which makes it really-real - it becomes just a matter of momentary and subjective 'states of mind'; with no conception of where these states of mind are going, or why states of mind have any value.

Conversely; Christians are prone to suppose that the Big Picture is all that really matters - that following Jesus is wholly about salvation, and not-at-all about theosis (i.e. aiming to become more divine during mortal life).

But the Fourth Gospel shows us that the Big Picture is only of value when personally and actively loved, affiliated-to, trusted, had-faith-in. The specific and unique individual - his experience, learning, choices; is an indispensable component of the Christian scheme - a part of The Universe.

Of course, ultimately the division into micro and macro, and the distinction between Romanticism and Christianity is artificial - since both are perspectives, ways of knowing the same indivisible one-ness.

However, I have often observed a tendency for rejection of one or the other - for the Romantic to reject the need-for and reality-of the Big Picture (to regard Christianity as getting-in-the-way, blocking enlightenment); for Christians to regard a Romantic yearning for 'participation' as merely a snare and a sin (better done-without).

But I am convinced that both are not only beneficial but necessary; and that any attempt to grasp one without the other will fail. Romantic Christianity is not just desirable, but necessary.


Francis Berger said...

This post provides a good explanation for my own personal experience. I grew up a cultural Catholic. Then in my twenties and early-thirties I was mostly driven by romantic notions without any solid grounding in Christianity. After my son was born, I abandoned my romantic inclinations and dove back hard into Catholicism, but I couldn't sustain that for a variety of reasons, some of which you mention here. In summary, I oscillated between micro and macro. I was either one or the other and bounced back and forth between the two.

It's only in the past four or five years that I have begun to approach life from a Romantic Christian perspective(micro/macro) - though I did not think about it as Romantic Christianity per se until quite recently (thanks to your writing on this blog).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Francis - Very interesting trajectory!

I went through various attempts in the relatively short time since I became a Christian. Early on, I hoped that I could look-forward to the macro encompassing the micro. This has happened at a few points in history - perhaps the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire was the most suatined example, when there was a total lived form of Christian life.

But in this was only possible by the individual immersing and dissolving himself in the social, a total identification with social role, which I don't don't reagrd as A Good Thing. Anyway, this is not nowadays happening anywhere in the world, and is almost certainly irrecoverable.

We must try to move forwards to something unprecedented; and must do so each as an active, questing individual.