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Hungry for the Word! Starvation as Sacrifice Among Scottish Christian Fishermen

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In Gamrie, a small fishing in northeast Aberdeenshire – home to 700 people and six churches – Christianity was often described as both a life of worship and a life of sacrifice. But what does a life of sacrifice look like and how is it related to worship? ‘Unsaved’ persons were said to be entirely guided by the sinful ‘lusts’ of the flesh, whereas Christians (the saved) were guided by the righteous yearnings of the ‘spirit’. The activity of sermonising reflected this divide. Sermons that catered to the saved were referred to as ‘Bible teaching’ whereas sermons directed towards the unsaved were referred to as ‘gospel preaching’. This differentiation between preaching to the unsaved and teaching the saved was made sense of with reference to the consumption of different foods. Preaching was likened to ‘milk’ – the food of unweaned babies –whereas the saved, being more mature, ‘hungered for’ the ‘meat’ of Bible teaching. In discussing these four pairs of concepts – ‘unsaved’ and ‘saved’; ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’; ‘preaching’ and ‘teaching’, ‘meat’ and ‘milk’ – I draw on the work of Robertson-Smith and (1889) [1972] and Hubert and Mauss (1898) [1968] to argue that sermonising can be understood as a type of sacrificial meal. Intriguingly, such a feast also represents a kind of starvation – not one that involves eating meat through the mouth, but rather one that involves eating words through the ear.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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