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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, September 12, 2002
    Lawrence Revisited
     
    Frank our Area Dean has returned from a summer 'sabbatical', or in the managerial-speak we now have to use in the church (for tax purposes), 'study leave'. Today he shared what he'd learned. At the eleventh hour he opted not to spend three months doing Celtic spirituality but instead to take the opportunity to focus on a topic on the face of it not at all 'religious' - D.H. Lawrence.

    Not at all popular, Lawrence, either. Not popular with staid religious folk who remember him as the author of Lady Chatterley's Lover, scandalous when written, unpublished until 1961 because of its sexual content. Not popular with the literary establishment of his day (or now, perhaps?) because of his working-class origins - the Bloomsbury set sniffed at him because he was self-educated. Not popular in the mining community of Eastwood, Notts, where the folks felt he misrepresented them. And not especially popular today, Frank reckons maybe because in his colourful prose he uses the language of the scriptures a great deal, which post-postmodern people just don't relate to.

    All of the above, of course, make Lawrence fascinating material for study. Especially as the criticism about his sexual expressiveness failed to engage his concern to explore the reality of relationships in all their complexity, beauty and pain. Especially for faith-seekers still holding to a feeling that the scriptures in all their complexity, still have a language for today. Especially for those who (like many of us in the Toxteth and Wavertree deanery, which Frank looks after) have a concern with doing theology from what may have once been called 'working-class' experience, from outside power, with liberation perspectives.

    Frank's buzzing with the insights he gained from his studying, especially in how Lawrence perceived the tyranny of capitalism, what we would now discuss in terms of the numbing effects consumerism / consumption have on our society, in his deep insights into marital reltionships, into how a religious outsider, described by T.S. Eliot as a 'pornographer', has so much of use to say to us spiritual pilgrims today. My sabbatical's a long way away yet. But meanwhile I may dust off Sons and Lovers because I'm sure as an undergraduate it didn't hold the riches for me which it seems it could do now.