Scare Quotes

You say you want me to invite you in, that you are put off by my use of the title "Our Lord" when talking about the way in which medieval Christians saw Jesus of Nazareth. But I have invited you in and you say you don't want to come. "Imagine," I asked you, "what it would be like to pray." You say, "No! I'm an atheist, I don't want to learn to pray. You need to accommodate me if you want me to listen." Then I say, "Perhaps there is something that only those who have had this experience can understand." And you say that I have shut you out.

Are you angry because I invited you in or because I have suggested that you can't know everything from your outsider's perspective? Would it have been enough to put "Our Lord" in scare quotes so that you could comfort yourself with the thought that I wasn't serious about the invitation--that it was just an academic exercise, never intended to have anything but a make-believe effect? Yes, I wish that you would try my experiment. But, no, I don't expect you to convert any more than I hope that you expect me to abandon my belief that it is worthwhile to try to get inside experiences others have said that they have had.

It's academic in any case. You refused my invitation first.


  1. I just finished Mortimer's bio of Henry IV. Like most Plantagenet kings he was a man of great faith and that is one of the most difficult things for me to imagine at a detailed level. (How did he think; what was his daily life like?) It also seems to me to be something about medieval life you're uniquely qualified to explore and convey, and not just to people of faith.

  2. I don't know this biography, but, yes, one of the things that I am hoping to do in my research is to help those who do not participate in this prayer tradition understand why others might. That was the gist of the seminar to which I am alluding here. But I am frustrated (still!) at how badly it went and I'm not entirely sure why. Needs thinking about more!


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