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Review of ‘Questions Are The Answer’ by David Hayward (@nakedpastor)

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‘Graffiti artist on the walls of religion. Dinner guest & conversationalist at The Lasting Supper. Cartoonist, Thinker, Painter, Blogger. Join the Journey!’

I urge everyone to read this book, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the church mouse . You will find it stimulating and a page-turner. If you are comfortable in your Church and your church, you may see them in a new light which will illumine your path. And if you are unhappy, David offers you a possible way out of the labyrinth that is organised Christendom.

Right. End of review. Or at least, that is where David hints he would like me to stop: “I …still know what it means to put my work out there and have it and me analyzed as a result. I draw something I think is true, and others analyze my art with interest and concern and draw conclusions about me. There exists within me this tension between not wanting to draw attention to myself but doing the things that accomplish exactly that” (p.2). But the publishers might feel a little short-changed, and I would feel frustrated. So, with apologies in advance to David, I am going to attempt to analyse him and his book, and even draw a few tentative conclusions….

On the face of it, ‘Questions Are the Answer’ is David Hayward’s testimony, an autobiographical account of his relationship with the Church and the Body of Christ. This is a notoriously difficult thing to communicate.

  “We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves…By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves.” Aldous Huxley in ‘Heaven and Hell’ (1954).

David is helped in communicating his experiences through the accompanying drawings, liberally scattered throughout the text. These do much more than simply illustrate what he is saying: as Sir Kenneth Clark said in Civilisation ” ‘What is too silly to be said may be sung’ — well, yes; but what is too subtle to be said, or too deeply felt, or too revealing or too mysterious — these things can also be sung and can only be sung”. In ‘Questions Are The Answer’, the author draws what is too subtle, too deeply felt, too revealing or too mysterious to be expressed in words. The word ‘cartoon‘ conveys something more frivolous than ‘the naked pastor’s, which can be as penetrating and uncomfortable as those of Ralph Steadman, but they may also make you smile at our human foolishness.

David does not spare us the pain that he has suffered in response to the challenge to take up his cross. He uses the simplest language to convey this, which is all the more effective as a result. But he also says at the end that he is one of the happiest people he knows, and that he has achieved theological peace (p.122). He attributes this in part to having been released from the cage, not of Christianity itself, but the barnacles (my metaphor, not his), the accretions which have covered the hull of the ship in which all worshipping Christians sail. And – as the title says – one of the purposes of this book is to encourage the asking of questions. And when the answers prompt further questions, as they usually do, to continue to ask questions.

For the testimony is only the first layer of the onion, the answer to the first question. Those prepared to take him at his word, and peel off layer by layer, will find they are taking a journey, first into Christendom, and then deep into themselves:

The third kind of questions is open questions. The answer to these questions is that there isn’t an answer. Oh, there may be an answer, but we don’t know what it is, we don’t pretend that there is, and we remain open in order to discern it when or if it should arrive. I would characterize this period as a time of contentment. (p.15)

David is extraordinarily approachable for someone in his league of celebrity – he has nearly ten thousand followers on twitter and five thousand followers on Facebook. He has considerable charm, and I find his ‘company’ curiously compelling. Watching this hangout from ‘The Lasting Supper’ potluck feels rather like looking at the Rublev icon, being drawn into the dance, as if there is a place waiting just for you to join. And this is a beguiling offer in the 21st century.

But David Hayward has become a pastor to many of these people. I must ask him why he is ‘naked’, but I presume it is because he has no baggage in the way of a church building or diocesan officials breathing down his neck.

He also travels light – at one stage he was bankrupt and, although I hope he is now solvent, he could never be confused with a proponent of the prosperity gospel.

David ends his book:

I compare our journeys to taking a canoe trip down a river…

I like to have my own canoe, but I like to meet up with other canoeists with their own canoes when I want. This is how I integrate my intoverted and extroverted self. Of course, I am aware that sometimes I have no choice in the matter. Sometimes I just find myself very alone. At other times I suddenly find myself surrounded by other canoes…

I feel like we are all in our own canoes making our own trips, but that we have the privilege of meeting up with others who are on the same kind of river. Before, I often felt like I was the only living soul on the whole river. I now now there are many others on the same river and they are my companions. ..

I’m not going nowhere. The river is taking me somewhere. While for me the river is the destination, it is also a way. I’m taking in every minute of it now, but I also feel, deep down, that I’m being taken to a more wonderful place somehow and that I’m going to be a better person for it.

1 comment on this post:

nakedpastor said...

Thanks for this. I like reviews that go beneath the surface and inquire about its meaning.

10 August 2015 18:25

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