Archive for June, 2006
I stumbled across Kyle via Sven and as soon as I saw he had posts entitled “Jesus Christ Does Not Want to Come Into Your Heart and Live” and “Jesus Christ is Not My Personal Lord and Savior. Or Yours.” I knew I was going to like him. I mean, he’s not perfect or anything – he claims not to be postmodern, but I think he’s probably just kidding himself there – and he’s really far too nice and generous about his past (point 2 on that link). But generally he seems an alright kind of guy and so he gets a place on the linkbar there.
He also turned up and left a comment on my post about heaven below after I added him to my link bar but without me leaving a comment on his blog or anything, which is nice, if a little spooky.
I’ve just come across this article and I think I’m going off him a little now.
Channeling the spirit of fellow Yankees They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton is a singer/songwriter who is trying to make a living from music whilst being totally independent and giving his songs away under the Creative Commons license. Whilst I’m sure this is a guaranteed recipe for total failure and abject poverty, his music is really very good indeed.
Highlights include “RE: Your Brains” (about being a zombie), “Mandlebrot Set” (a tribute to the famous fractal) and “Tom Cruise Crazy” (which is, frankly, just asking for a lawsuit).
Given that I’m thinking about buying some of his music now, maybe he’s actually on to something here.
The conventional Protestant/Evangelical view of Heaven is a place of eternal joy and happiness and love for everyone and everything and especially God. Whether you actually spend all day, every day praising God (or, indeed, whether time periods such as days exist or are even relevant) are potential points of contention, but the basic ideas of joy and love and all that are pretty much common to all the pictures of heaven I’ve ever been presented with.
So, what’s the problem? Well, the thing is, I’m not so sure if I like that idea.
No, hold on a moment. Stick with me, here: think about the song that has affected you most – the song that has made you feel most strongly, the most vital, the most human even. I’m willing to bet that it’s not a happy song, or at the very least that it’s not a song that was written or speaks of a happy, joyous time. But I’m also willing to bet that when you describe that song you use words like “beauty” and “passion” and “feeling”, right? My point is: out of the sorrow and the suffering and the pain can come beauty and glory and wonder and this is not a bad thing.
I’m not saying that it’s not possible to produce great art or works of great emotion without suffering – although a great many artists over human history have been deeply tortured souls – but the thing is that works produced and the feelings experienced in times of suffering are a hugely important part of what it means to be human. Suffering and loss are part of who we are and act as an inpsiration towards the creation of much beauty. And if heaven is supposed to be a place where suffering and loss no longer exist, then we lose a major part of what it means to be human – is this what God would intend for us?
My idea of heaven, then, is not a dreamy-white cloudy place of everlasting joy and exuberant praise; it is a place where I can be fully human, be myself fully – in all the experiences and feelings and emotion that entails – but also, through the work of Christ and the grace of God, I can experience a relationship with my Creator to the full as well in a way that I have only glimpsed a tiny part of in my life today.
Normally, when you are given a pencil and a piece of paper on the way into a church service, it means you’re going to have to write down why you love God, or what you’ve been thankful for this week, or a short psalm; or sometimes you have to write down the absolute worst sin you’ve ever committed – the one that you can’t possibly believe you can ever be forgiven for (and it’d better not be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit) – and then screw it up and throw it away or set fire to it or something. What you certainly don’t expect to be asked to do is to write down the thing that makes you most angry with God, scrumpled it up and then throw it at a picture of Jesus. But then Sanctus 1 is not a normal church, and this is not a normal service, even by alt.worship standards.
I was in two minds about going, if I’m honest: on the one hand, Sanctus 1 describes itself as an emerging church, and the blurb on their website is very encouraging in the way it speaks of “a journey of creative exploration into faith, worship, spirituality, friendship and lifestyle” – but equally, the phrase “alternative worship” is something I’ve been bitten by in the past: all my experiences of it have either been ordinary Evangelicalism set to ambient music and PowerPoint, or so vague and handwavey as to be almost indistinguishable as Christian.
Thankfully, tonight’s service on the issue of anger was neither of these things: whilst the Bible was used (perhaps more even than in a modern Evangelical service?) we were never preached at; whilst we were given space to think and feel and respond for ourselves, we were never encouraged into vague sentiment. There was a refreshing feeling of raw honesty – Min shared a story about being angry with God because the church told her that when her grandfather died without knowing God, he didn’t go to heaven. The sort of issues that are maybe sidestepped and brushed under the carpet at a normal service were faced head on, and whilst conclusions weren’t necessarily reached – these are hard subjects – the acknowledgement that these issues exist and deserve to be given space was far more important than presenting a simplistic proof-text quick-fix solution.
I don’t know if I could deal with this as my main style of worship, week-in, week-out – yes, there was ambient music and powerpoint, so I guess some parts of alt.worship are here to stay – but it was definitely a useful and enjoyable experience, and, perhaps more importantly, the fact that it exists and that people are exploring new ways to approach God and explore their relationship with Him is massively encouraging to me. I’ll certainly be going back.
The divine Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – could also be known as Mother, Child and Womb or Rock, Redeemer, Friend at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church’s national assembly.
I’m sorry, what? I mean, hell, I’m no fundamentalist and I’m all in favour of finding new ways to express, explain and experience God, but this smells suspiciously like hand-wringing political correctness rather than serious theological debate to me.
Opera 9 is out. You should download it. It’s faster and less crashy than Firefox, and more secure than IE7. Plus, it’s got a built-in RSS reader that doesn’t totally suck ass.
(yes, the website is a bit “lifestyle” and I feel vaguely like I should be an ambiguously gendered ubertrendy Scandinavian if I use Opera, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a great web browser).