Conversion and conversions will be themes of this blog for the next couple of weeks. This series on Chrysalis is about Alan Jamieson’s book Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Today’s comes from Andrew.
Alan Jamieson?s Chrysalis
The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith
Grateful to Scott McKnight for an opportunity to share thoughts about Jamieson?s Chrysalis, I?m one, now seventy years old, who has experienced a good bit of transformation in the journey. I have for years appreciated James Fowler?s Stages of Faith, built upon the contributions of thoughtful developmental psychologists such as Piaget, Erickson, and Kohlberg. Thinking that perhaps I could understand the turnings of my life somewhat more perceptively, I read Chrysalis with considerable interest.
In the end, however, I found it disappointing. For all its allusions and descriptions of ?the dark night of the soul,? Jamieson?s rehearsal of the ?cacooning? stage is far too domesticated for those of us whose faith journey was seriously interrupted so as to be profoundly exilic, a devastating wilderness trek, radically separated from anything resembling the Church?s life. Without getting unwisely too confessional here (although I now highly prize the Sacrament of Confession and Absolution; see The Augsburg Confession, Article XXV), Jamieson?s use of the pupal stage of a butterfly as a supposedly apt metaphor to describe ?a period of hyper-critical faith? (96) hardly describes the harsh realities that many Christians experience in their transformation from pre- to post-critical faith. To be swaddled, wrapped, and enveloped in the hard-shelled pupa of a butterfly (no matter how life-changing the hibernation) is simply too insipid a metaphor for an often protracted and public middle stage migration many Christians experience.
My own experience and that of several other Christians whom I know requires that whatever happened between pre- and post- was certainly not pupal in nature. Yes, at times Jamieson comes close to what can only be described as an absolute middle-stage rejection of all things Christian, but he never quite gets there. For example, he says that ?it is journey from an effortful faith to a doubtful faith and on to a restful and thoughtful faith? (97, Jamieson?s italics). My middle stage was not ?doubtful?; it was no faith. Everything went, it was kaput, gone, absent. And by the way more than one of my friends describes his and her experiences, they too say that they were completely out of the loop.
A few lines of Henry Vaughn?s ?The Retreate? from Silex Scintellans come to mind. In ?The Retreate? Vaughn describes his ?first? life; it was a time
Before I taught my tongue to wound
My conscience with a sinfull sound,
Or had the black art to dispence
A sev?rall sinne to ev?ry sence.
Within the middle stage that I and others experienced, we too defied conscience and (to say things as delicately as possible) learned a good many of the black (well, at least very dark ?grey?) arts that made appeal to ?ev?ry sence.? For such missteps and wanderings, the aptness the Bible?s description of Israel?s exilic sinning surely seems more accurate than some quiet (at least by connotation) pupal life. In some instances we were ?deported??and deported ourselves–from the Church and became expatriates.
Although the stories of our returnings are varied, the one constant is that God managed to intervene so strongly that after a while we had no other option than to come home, albeit in bodies that harbor spirits fundamentally different from early moorings. For me that homecoming arose from a son?s death, an introduction to the desert fathers and mothers by a Cistercian abbot, a wife?s and children?s forgiveness, the gift of an adopted child, and the renewed friendship of two seminary buddies, one of whom walked in my shoes.
All of this is not to say that Chrysalis will not be helpful to many whose journeys, like that of Phillip Yancey have been from pre-critical to post-critical faith?yet inward and hidden. Others, however, may perhaps find it helpful to envision themselves like seeds that fell on hard ground and were gobbled up by a bird. In that bird?s gizzard they stewed around for a good while until that raucous bird shat the seeds out, and they dropped on good fertile soil. In the end they discovered that the Sower, that Crazy Farmer, was quite aware that some of his seeds would now and then return to earth to be nourished by the warm, odorous manure of the Church. They have since grown up, to switch parables, to be old fig trees, whose fruit is ready for plucking, ready for the making of fig preserves. Some of my preserves are now being shelved at www.prayingdaily.blogspot.com and www.peacefulchristians.blogspot.com.