Ways and memes

October 3, 2013

Like R. E. Rawles (Letters, 26 September), I was somewhat startled by Gerald J. Pillay’s reference to memes as “wildly imaginative” (in his review of Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith, Books, 12 September). I suspect the key issue here is that folk in confessional traditions emerging from the medieval and early modern eras typically tended to have little difficulty in embracing models of “incarnational” aspects of faith. However, today they may be a little afraid to explore contemporary models that use concepts such as memes in attempts to formalise incarnational aspects of spreading the good news. Perhaps the central principle for those of us who are (even conservative) believers in the contemporary post-liberal outlook is that God undoubtedly does use memes (to show where He’s been?) and their existence does not mean He doesn’t exist.

As an academic “mystery worshipper”, I routinely identify the existence and passage of memes in the socio-theological grammar of many types of religious “text and talk”. A cogent example I reported last month at an ecclesiology and ethnography conference at Durham University is that in more than 20 years of broad-based mystery worship (it comes under the heading “sensitive research”), I have only been insulted by one Methodist – a meme from the Wesleys and indeed the first century AD if ever there was one.

Noel Heather
Egham, Surrey

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