jump to navigation

Gull’s Eye-View (that’s Gulliver, Lemuel Gulliver…) 17 January 2011

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Letters, Ponderings.

It’s that time of the month again in The Vicarage  (no, not that time), when another letter for the Parish Magazine needs to be produced. So here, free, gratis and for nothing, without even needing to fork out all of 60p for a copy of the whole thing, a letter, if not from Liliput.

Dear friends,

So here we are 2011, and if it’s not too late I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year! It’s only about a twelfth gone, but a twelfth is a significant amount, at least in one book; a book that’s so well known that even those who haven’t read it think they know the full story. On this occasion I’m not talking about the Bible, but Gulliver’s Travels. It’s a book I don’t remember reading, but when I watched the latest film adaptation at the cinema recently all the bits that “everyone knows” were there, such as the warring states of Liliput and Blufuscu, peopled by diminutive natives, even if the cause of their wars doesn’t feature in the film, the earth-shakingly important matter as to which end a boiled egg should be opened!

Of course, Jonathan Swift’s original story is a much longer piece of satire, in which he picks up upon the controversies of his day. Like other satire it highlights the ridiculous and pokes fun at pomposity and preciousness. I can’t help wondering whether Jesus would have found a place for satire too, or whether our familiarity with the Gospels, coupled with our unfamiliarity with their original context, has hidden it from our eyes.

After all, Jesus certainly did know how to make an impression. He so infuriated the religious leaders of the day by telling them that they’d got their priorities all wrong, and “lost the plot”, so to speak. Like Lemuel Gulliver, Jesus saw things from a different perspective, and that better enabled him to speak with authority and make a difference.

A new year too can provide an opportunity to see and do things differently – after all, why else would we bother with New Year’s Resolutions? (Even if they do tend so often to be the same each  year!) This month, this year, do we have the courage not to repeat the same old resolutions or promises, but to look a little wider?

As I write we are preparing for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an annual opportunity to remember that our faith is bigger than our church or our denominations, and that there are other equally valid ways of doing things with faith and integrity.

What would a Gulliver say to us? What, in fact, would Jesus say to us? I wonder how many of our dearly-held interpretations of doctrine or practice, have, like those of the Pharisees and Sadducees, “lost the plot.” I strongly suspect that we would be told, that at least on some matters, that we’ve all got it wrong, irrespective of denomination or theological persuasion.

They, whatever ‘they’ are, might be of great importance to us, but yet at the same time be totally trivial in God’s greater plan. We might cherish them, find tremendous comfort in them, even have taken them on board as defining what we are.

A Gulliver could not help but see, for example, an historic, beautiful yet expensive to maintain church within a mile or so of a newer, flexible, church complex and ask why the duplication was necessary. So I suspect, would Jesus. Or why in some churches women are allowed to wear clerical collars, and not in others? Or even to dare to question what function clerical collars and ornate robes actually serve. Shocking? No less than Jesus’ observations on his times, I think.

The reasons we use to justify ourselves and the ways we do things might well make intellectual sense, but may serve little practical purpose overall. In Gulliver’s Travels the hero had to escape from Liliput because he refused to be used as a ‘terror weapon’ against the citizens of Blufuscu and force them into submission. Jesus, in claiming that the religious leaders were actually stopping God from working, and that the Temple was obsolete with his coming, went to the Cross, and beyond.

Asking awkward questions, and finding awkward answers, is never easy. But this year, and every year, we are called to the imitation of Christ, and maybe, like the child of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, discover that actually the Emperor has no clothes…

May God open our eyes this year, to his ways and plans, and give us the grace and wisdom to live with those, rather than our own pet, and often rather petty, preoccupations. And, of course, I speak to myself too.

With every blessing,


Comments are, as always, welcome (and moderated!)





1. Gulliver’s Travels (2010) | watyusiiswatyuget - 21 January 2011

[…] Gull’s Eye-View (that’s Gulliver, Lemuel Gulliver…) (drmoose.wordpress.com) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: