Bonnie the Brave

As a preemptive warning to my regular readers (am I’m sure you both know who you are), I am off today for a stint in my old haunt of Scotland. Before you get out your congratulations, be advised that this trip is for work. The Society of Biblical Literature, in addition to the big meeting about which I sometimes post, holds an international meeting every year. Since my employers frequently want me out of the office, I am being sent to the fair city of St Andrews in the kingdom of Fife for a week. Although I studied across the Firth of Forth in the wondrous town of Edinburgh, I ventured to St Andrews a time or two during my postgraduate days. By that time anyone in tune with popular culture had seen Chariots of Fire, and it was almost a requirement of credibility to visit the famous beach on the North Sea where the actors iconically ran as the movie began. And as in Chariots of Fire, I’m not sure that wifi access will be readily available. Should I find access, I shall gladly update my blog with my customary observations. If I fall silent, you’ll know why.

Scotland had a tremendous draw for me as I was contemplating where to complete my studies of religion (as if one ever can). Not that I was Presbyterian, and not that I have Scottish ancestry (although Celtic is represented in the Irish stowaway on my father’s side a few generations back)—it was the antiquity that drew me. One of the mysteries, to me, of new religious movements, is how people can believe in a religion that recently began. Should there be a supernatural, I’ve always supposed, and should that supernatural be concerned that humans have the truth, why wait so late in the story to start? It was such thinking that drew me from Methodism to its estranged parent, the Episcopal Church. Among the Episcopalians are many who argue for a continuity with the Catholic tradition, separated, literally, only by a matter of divorce. And Catholics go back to Jesus himself, a member of a religion so old that even the Romans grudgingly respected it (Judaism). I guess I’m guilty of old-school bias.

Kim Traynor's Edinburgh, from Wikicommons

Kim Traynor’s Edinburgh, from Wikicommons

So it was that I came to spend some years among the Presbyterians at Edinburgh University. The Ph.D. that I earned there translated to an unfortunately brief career doing what I’m best at—teaching. My tenure at Nashotah House never offered the opportunity to travel back to Scotland, or even England with its Anglicans. And as I prepare to board a plane across the Atlantic, although strictly for work, I can’t help but to reflect on those years of intensive learning, hoping to do my Scottish alma mater proud. And returning to the States to have my career shipwrecked on the rocks of unforgiving religious dogma. It may be that once I’m back among the heather and thistles, I may cast my laptop aside and try to claim religious asylum in a past that I can only see through rose-coloured glasses.

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