Hallo again to all.
You've been patient with us before when we have waxed grandiloquent about the virtues of typography in Anglicanism, and we are grateful. We hope you may extend the same kindness to us this week as we bask a little in the wake of reading one of our most delightful Christmas presents: Keith Houston's Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks.
We learned from Mr Houston's delightful book for the first extended time about the history of the interrobang, a combination of the question mark and the exclamation point. We had heard of it and seen it before, but we never knew so much about its inclusion in typewriters and digital fonts, or the occasional revivals of its use in print and prose. This mark was first designed by the American Martin K. Speckter in 1962, and it looks like this: ‽ As one can imagine, it is intended to be used at the end of sentences in which an exclamatory sense and a questioning sense are both present.
It occurred to us—and do bear with us, please—that Anglicanism may be the interrobang of Christian traditions.
It is perhaps easy to point to Christian traditions characterised easily as exclamation points. We see the admirable precision and decision of the Roman Catholic Church, for example, and the exclamatory attitudes of gospel proclamation in churches where the worship is based on preaching. We also see the precise, exclamatory mode in action when it comes to the Roman Church's skill at creating catechisms to last the test of time and place, and in the ability of some reformation traditions to do something similar in their own catechisms. Think here of Luther's Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism used by Calvinists to this day. They are the ! of religious traditions, and we are grateful for their contributions to our common life.
Think, too, of the Christian traditions in which mystery plays a primary role. There are the Eastern Orthodox Churches of Greece and Russia and everywhere in between, as well of course as in diaspora. One of their great gifts to Christianity is a firm kind of proclamation that still includes questions and ample room for the numinous qualities of Christian spirituality. Orthodox Christians will sooner say 'Why not come and see?' rather than offering one a catechism, or a series of rules to learn and memorize. On another extreme—though perhaps not really—there are free churches in the second and third generations of the European reformation who might well take the question mark as their signal sign. We think here especially of Quakers, whose very openness to the Holy Spirit in all aspects of their life can often be a virtue, even if we do not adopt their ?s wholeheartedly for ourselves.
(We will not brand any religious tradition as an ellipsis, or a semicolon, or a colon, but do feel free to allow yourselves the typographical speculation....)
Think now of Anglicanism, and where our spiritual attitudes fit in this typographical schema. We do proclaim, to be sure, and yet we always question. When we exclaim or declaim any truth of our religion, we always ask how and why. We always try to dig deeper than mere memorization or absorption, and we always try to grapple with the things arising in mystery or questioning. To some, this is our great weakness, but we feel more certain than ever that it is a strength. For just one example among many, when we proclaim
each Eastertide, and in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist inside or outside of Easter, we do so with these questions:
Another way to say this is that we have a tradition in which inculturation has a necessary dimension when it comes to our proclamation. If the interrobang helps you to understand every question that must flow from every delighted exclamation, then please use it. Our joy and our questions meet one another, intermingle, share, and may come out on opposite ends than we first intended, but they are all there together.
See you next week‽
19 January 2014
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