8 Sep 2011

The Theology of Rat Traps

When I was asked by Jackie if I would like to write something for the ACWB website my initial reaction was Cool swiftly followed by the realisation (and panic) that I might actually have to write something sensible for a change.

You will be relieved to hear that I decided against it...

The other day I put my finger in a rat trap. Not a small one but a proper industrial trap designed to catch rats in such a way that you would never have to catch the same one twice.

I did this for a simple reason. It was because I am a man and I wanted to know if it would hurt.

It did.

As a man I have a need to seek validation of the thoughts and opinions that I have formed through observation of my environment combined with theoretical knowledge and directed by past experience. I need to do this in order to prove to myself that my reasoning abilities are superior to anyone else's and that my judgements on the world are sound and based on logic and not guesswork.

Or to put that another way: I think that would hurt if I prod it with my finger... [pause - SNAP] ouch [pause] it did hurt. I was right - go me!

This probably tells you quite a lot about me. I couldn't actually type for a couple of days (in case you were wondering) but I was right and that is all that matters.

This approach also extends to my spiritual life, not to my faith - which is nice and sound - but to those niggling little questions on the periphery of it such as would Jesus have worn traditional rabbi clothing such as the prayer shawl etc (see the Malachi prophesy and the women in Matthew 9 who touches his clothing) and if he did would he have left it on or taken it off in the Garden of Gethsemane? I want to know this so when I am meditating on it I can picture the scene right.


Did Peter and the disciples ever swear (as fishermen etc you would think they might have had a... expanded vocabulary) and if they did then did they do so after Pentecost? or did the Holy Spirit's coming grant them the grace to avoid such things? I just want to know this because I am nosey.

Now neither of these things are especially earth shattering and they don't make a difference to my day to day faith but I'd love to know. In the same way as I had that rat trap for some hours before finally deciding to poke it I find myself considering things like this every so often and just prodding away at them in my mind wondering what the answer is.

Now I don't have any formal theology qualifications but I used to run a group for 20's and 30's and was also (for my sins which must have been many) a youth worker for a time. I can discuss for hours the Hebrew scriptures, the early church, the reformation and the application of scripture today. My problem is putting what I know into practice.

My mother on the other hand doesn't have that problem. She does have theology qualifications - An honours degree with a specialism in Judaism - and whilst she enjoys debating for hours with me she also has something very important - A simple faith.

Now before anyone gets upset I don't mean that she is simple, nor that she isn't capable of intellectual thought (she is after all a graduate) but simply that she doesn't need to think about everything before she acts and she doesn't need to waste time considering things that don't matter. She is a devout Catholic. She knows the teachings of the church and accepts them and (here is the important bit) she gets on with living them out in her life.

She lives a life of prayer and charity instinctively.

I tend to think most nuns must be like this - which may be why they are so good at getting things done.(My sponsor for confirmation was Sister Michael a lovely old, grey haired lady with whom one would never argue - not twice anyway)

Where I may see something happen on the news and think about it before deciding that I really ought to pray for those involved I can guarantee that she has already prayed for them and is praying for the next item.

She is also intensely practical about her faith - I have a suspicion that all mothers are. After all changing nappies for a few years followed by leading a toddler round shops whilst trying to get on with her shopping followed by the 'years of teenage angst' has formed her into a no nonsense type of person who sees her faith as something to live out daily rather than something to live up to occasionally

This is why - when we were talking the other night - we decided that, in time, I may become a better theologian than she is but I suspect that she will always be a better Christian than I am.



  1. Being a proud Aunt to five of the world's most wonderful boys, I laughed at your description of how a man's mind works in matters of rat traps or scriptural details.

    Simplicity is definitely to be admired and aspired to. While we're charged with being able to give reason for our faith (I hear you, St. Paul!) Christ did not say "Let the temple scholars come to me". The quality of our faith isn't measured by how much we know, but how well we love. Moms are excellent teachers when it comes to love.

    Nice first post, LF; welcome to ACWB

  2. What a fantastic post!
    If that's not sensible, I don't know what is :)
    Autumn x

  3. Thank you for the kind words.

    Whenever I am getting too full of myself I think of my mother and that brings me back down to earth.



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