Rowan Williams on the touch of God

Rowan Williams on the riskiness of revelation

The touch of God is dangerous, in that it can be a light too sharp to be borne without hurt or breakage; and when the perception is skewed and redirected, it may run close to the destructive and the hellish. Jonathan Smith, the great anthropologist of religion at Chicago, remarked about the horrific mass suicide of the sectarians who followed the prophet Jim Jones that at least it reminded people that religion wasn’t automatically “nice.” For God to come near us is for God to risk God’s own integrity, in the sense that God puts himself into our hands to be appallingly misunderstood, to become the justifier of our hatred and fears, our madness. And it is to put us at risk, since the disorientation we thus experience can unleash some very dark things in us. Revelation itself, as the church’s history shows, is bound up with tragic possibilities.

from A Ray of Darkness, 3rd Ed., (Cowley, 1995), 96.

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