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Category Archives: Christian
The question you ask yourself when you see headlines like this is “Why?” And perhaps also, ‘Why France?’ According to an article from Le Monde published this February, of 22 known terrorists in France, 15 have been of French nationality and 13 have been French-born. To understand more than the English-speaking mass media can tell you about why this is happening, you need to be there, speak the language, read policy documents, listen to how people talk, and ‘get’ the inferences, the politics and the jokes. And you probably need to come from outside France. I am a protestant Christian from Britain, and having lived and worked in France for nearly 2 years, I see reason to believe that radical Islam’s beef with France is not random.
There’s little you can do on the internet that has the potential to get your tender emotions more badly hurt, than publishing a blog post that is bound up in deeply personal desires, beliefs, insecurities and raw wounds, and will be viewed as being on the wrong side of public opinion. But here it is. Please try to be gentle.
Come sit by the waters of our land of captivity;
Defy its profiteering smile police: weep for Zion.
Turn your tear-stained face from this crass entertainment empire
Lest placated you forget how truth and freedom feel:
Lest you let them make a circus of our Christ-song.
If I should forget thee, O true Kingdom of my God,
Then let my freedom song cease altogether.
Grieve by the waters for the real and the right:
Don’t let them numb the pain with their ephemera.
Come brother, hang your harp on the willow tree with me,
The Lord’s song to them is just a curio.
Don’t let them win a submissive grin lest the winds should change
And you forsake your home, your God, your heart.
Don’t let the culture-colonizers quench our sorrow.
Is Islamic Extremism Really Representative of Proper Islam, Or Is the Religion Just a Pretext? Transcription of an extract from an interview on BBC Radio Oxford with former Muslim Dr Nabeel Qureshi
Having talked about the difficulties Nabeel had with his family after becoming a Christian, I wondered how he felt when he heard some of the terrible news stories that we get now about Isis and other extremist groups – so many of them claiming to act in the name of Islam.
Islam is a very complex entity, and it really depends on how you come at it. Isis, for example, is taking a stance that is very, very reflective of the original traditions in Islam. If you read the Hadith, which are the traditions of Mohammed, if you read the commentaries of [Tafsir?] on the Qur’an, you will see why Isis does what it does. And in fact, they put out a magazine every month called Dabak, which explains why they do what they do – [it] is rooted in Islamic tradition. But the Islam I grew up with is a pacifist Islam, and the motto of our sect is “Love for all, hatred for none”, and so it’s not reflective of what all Muslims believe.
This is so difficult, isn’t it? Because as you explained there, there is somewhere in the writings a justification for what [Isis and other extremist groups] do, and yet you don’t have to go very far at all to find a voice of moderate, modern Islam to say “No, no, this isn’t us at all!” Is there a fixed truth somewhere, or is the problem that it’s all down to interpretation and just which bit you choose?
That’s a great question, and the issue of truth – a lot of people will just assume that there just is none and that it’s a matter of preference. I take the position that Islam is as Muhammad intended it to be. Given that there is a prophet named Muhammad who started the religion of Islam, I think that the real Islam would be what he intended it to be, not what it has become over time. And that is where the real disagreement lies. Those progressive Muslims – some of whom I studied under while I was in university – they will say that Islam develops over time and that the accreted tradition is part of the religion, and they can justifiably say that Islam is a religion of peace. But those who, like Isis, who revert back to the reformists, who revert back to the original form of Islam, they end up being very literal in their reading of the Qur’an and the Hadith, and that ends up looking the way it does today.
Of course it’s fair to point out that if you restrict your biblical readings to the Old Testament, some of it’s pretty brutal too.
That’s true, if we just focus on certain components of the Bible then it can look pretty violent in certain cases. But the difference between Islam and Christianity is that the Christian message – the culmination of the Christian message – is Jesus’ grace on the Cross; his command to love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you; if your enemy is hungry give him something to eat, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. That’s the culmination of the Christian message. Whereas if you look at historical Islam, the last major chapter of the Qur’an to be revealed according to Islamic tradition is chapter 9, and that’s the chapter which says “Slay the infidels wherever you find them. Lay siege to them and take them captive,” or, “Fight the Jews and Christians until they pay the Jizya.” So the chapter that appears the most violent on the surface is the culmination of the Qur’anic revelation.
My reflections on this, from the point of view of one who identifies as Christian…
It can be seen, here, that the source of violence in the name of Islam is in many cases the religion itself (although I’m not entirely convinced that none of the violence in the UK is committed by angry young people who feel betrayed by their country and government and are using the religion as a pretext). Where it is down to the religion, this leaves us to draw our preliminary conclusions. What is the problem here? What do we need to eradicate to safeguard our society from it? A lot of people will point the finger at any form of conservative religion that doesn’t diverge from its roots into a form of liberal progressivism. But I don’t think it’s possible to make a blanket case against conservativism – or even extremism – and Nabeel Qureshi has further convinced me of this.
From a Christian perspective, by being more ‘purist’ in your commitment to the original teachings of Jesus – the ‘Real McCoy’ stuff that you read straight out of the New Testament, not the stuff that people said about it afterwards (if the culmination of Jesus’ teaching is, as Qureshi said, ‘love your enemies’ and the main pedagogical example is the one he sets by dying on the Cross as an act of grace to pay off the debts of infidels and let them live), then you end up with something very different. As a logical extension of this description, Christian extremism would lead to people radically loving their enemies, and extreme devotions to its leader and founder would lead to copycat acts of costly self-sacrifice, rescue and mercy for the undeserving. These things, as I say, were not the things that were written into the Christian religion afterwards by theologians of humanistic or liberal persuasions, but were at the core of the original first century teachings of Jesus: if you read Jesus ‘by himself’, this is largely what you get.
Where the oppression and violence of the Church has exploited the powerless and laid communities low (as all institutions of centralized power tend to do as a natural consequence of the social make-up of the human creature unless this tendency is checked by the Holy Ghost or by human safeguards and interventions or a mixture of the three), I would wager that this was not because the Church was too radical or too extremist about Jesus. It was not because of an extremist approach to Jesus that the Church was an oppressive and destructive power in the world. Rather, I would like to posit that it was for the opposite reason: it was because the Church was not radical or extreme enough about the way it handled Jesus’ original teachings and example. It was that the Church did not allow for an extreme commitment to Jesus to inoculate it against the natural forces of the human condition by which it was otherwise bound to become an oppressive power. Although the New Testament variously depicts Jesus denouncing the religious leaders of his day for arrogantly flouncing around in their fine clerical robes whilst bleeding the poor dry, the Church for centuries seemed to have forgotten to check itself in the mirror. As far as I can gather according to what I’ve read, it was too busy hating its enemies. I would say that in those instances where the Church did not apply Jesus’ teachings back on itself, it was being too extremist about itself at the expense of its own ostensible object – an object that could have prevented it from becoming the tyrant that it was if only it had listened to him.
Humbling yourself under the authority and reign of a self-crucifying and self-emasculating God-man, making such a God-man the model and ruler of your life and the dictator of your conduct in the knowledge that he expects your conduct to imitate his; ascribing total glory, honour and power to such a God, and standing up for his cause through the insults, derision and persecution of the world around you which you have a duty to respond to with love at the expense of your dignity – it takes a self-crucifixion in kind to even be able to worship a self-crucifying God. There can be no room in this extreme sort of worship for the tyrannical behaviour that critics of the Church wheel out as ad hominem attacks against the person, work and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is this game-stopping imitatio of self-crucifixion – a divinely modelled drama of death to self and death to ego – that Islam lacks, because, it seems from conversations I’ve had with individual Muslim apologists, the notion of God becoming man and crucifying himself is aberrant to what the Islamic idea of God is about. They do not believe that God did become a man, because that would mean that he would have to humble himself to the level of his creation and become as weak as a man and this would dishonour him; and they do not accept that he was crucified for the sake of the world, because they perceive crucifixion to be too great a dishonour for even a prophet, let alone a god. It is essential that their god’s honour not be compromised; it is essential that he remains in heaven, untouchable, and at a remove from sinful human beings. And yet for Christians, the willingness of God to become weak, to condescend to the level of his own creation and live among it, to be dishonoured by it, to be killed by it, and to die and rise from the dead that it might live again – is precisely his glory, because condescending to come down from his heavenly throne and get his hands dirty for the sake of the world and bleed and die for it tells of the intimate, interested and passionate kind of love that he has for it. I may be wrong in my assertions about Islam, but self-sacrifice seems contrary to all that I have heard of the Islamic notion of what a loving god is like, whereas to the Christian notion it is central. The Church, unlike the Islamic faith, had no excuse not to imitate this kind of love. Insomuch as the Church is self-seeking, greedy, violent, deceptive and oppressive, it is not merely at fault for being these things, but it betrays its own object of worship, the very heart of its foundation.
I should now like to look away from the Church and towards the global situation – the bombings, the atrocities of the present day. I don’t think the problem, ultimately, is extremism itself. I think that there are good extremes and bad extremes, and that the goodness or badness depends on the object of that extremism, not the fact that it is extreme. Nourishing and caring for your enemy is extreme. Giving up your life for the sake of someone who doesn’t deserve it is extreme. It takes something extreme to counteract the raw will to power of the natural human self. If the world’s social ills are ever resolved, which I believe they will be one day, it will be a result of something regarded as extreme, radical and different; not because of something comfortable, mediocre and much like what we have now. In ousting extremism itself, I feel, we throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think that where there is a problem with extremism, the problem lies in the nature of the thing that people are being extreme about.
“Church, do not hide your scriptures, your sacraments, your worship, your preaching, your service, your call to repentance, you’re lament, your urgency, or your joy in Jesus.
“But what if non-Christians don’t like us?” I hear. If someone doesn’t like us, then that’s no reason to change who you are. Now, if you’re a jerk, then, by all means, stop being a jerk. But, don’t stop being the church. Those who don’t like us must not dictate who we are. That’s like allowing a blind man to lead a seeing man through the gauntlet.”
O blood that rests on fruitless heads
And sets and pays its price for souls as sin-slaves born,
And sows and glows and grows the wandering dead,
And clothes them, live, with scarlet for sin’s frosty morn,
O blood of Jesus, blood of life,
Blood that bears me home to God;
Come save me from my sin-ridden plight,
That I may go out gospel-shod.
What American sitcoms and 18th century French novels have in common: thoughts on Carl Trueman, ‘A Comedy of Moral Errors’ in First Things
Gay marriage has not become normalized through the presentation of arguments (though that is not to deny that many of its proponents have made arguments). It has become normalized through the Will and Grace factor: The impact of comfortable, sentimentalized, middle-class sitcoms, soap operas and their like in which no-one is ever seriously hurt, no action ever has wider social ramifications, and niceness triumphs every time.
Comedy of the American sitcom kind has proved the unexpected silver bullet for changing moral perceptions. The genre is well established as a means of projecting the values and aspirations of middle America. Characters are generally harmless and likable, even sympathetic. The villains are not sinister but typically buffoons or idiots, with the result that any opinions they spout lack all plausibility. The good guys and gals are all clean, comfy, witty, and ultimately reasonable—the kind of people who would generally make good neighbors. The very bland predictability of the genre, combines with the subversive morality of the plots to prove a powerful force in reshaping public opinion.
The crux of Trueman’s article is as follows. Philosophically airtight, solid arguments are worth little in the eyes of most people if the object of them is sentimentally or morally unappealing. Hollywood, and ‘Hollywood-ised media’ by extension, is the prime moral influencer of the masses, and the morality it champions is liberal. Its arsenal of artistic weapons is trained, in the case of the American sitcom at least, to bypass the head and go straight for the heart. It does this by representing liberal political perspectives as ‘likeable’ characters or figures, and playing them off against embodiments of ‘traditional’ perspectives dramaticised as ‘unlikeable’ characters or figures – the latter perspectives usually being a product of America’s Christian heritage in one way or another. Christians who hold to things like the conservative Biblical definition of marriage and sexual ethics are at a disadvantage to those who argue for the liberal perspective no matter how sound their arguments are, because most people take their cues from the sources that cast Christianity as the ‘unlikeable’ cause. Those with conservative Biblical views simply do not have a hold on the cultural power house that drives the moral sentiment of the masses, and they do not have anything like it at their disposal to use instead. Moreover, they are the object of that powerhouse’s scorn, which is expressed by repeatedly casting those with ‘traditional’ views as the bigoted old fools and the liberal-minded who oppose them as the young, intelligent, attractive, tidy, upstanding, mild-mannered, sensible individuals. Of course in the American sitcom there are no baddies or villains, just characters that inspire a vague, fuzzy-edged feeling of disgust, dislike, ridicule or patronizing endearment. But the effect is the same. My thought is that on an artistic level, it achieves a similar impression (albeit softer) as the old films did by repeatedly painting villains as semitic figures.
Most people gain their understanding of selfhood not from reading Thomas Aquinas but from watching The Bold and the Beautiful and following the antics of the Kardashians. We who advocate for traditional marriage and sexuality are at a huge disadvantage in the public square because we simply do not have the access to the kinds of tools exemplified by Will and Grace and Transparent. As we try to argue for our position, our opponents have simply narrated theirs, identifying their revolutionary positions with the reasonable and the normal by using the most apparently harmless and familiar of cultural idioms.
A further problem that I can see, from the perspective of the art of sitcom-writing itself, is that there are so many of these stories that make liberal perspectives look appealing and conservative Biblical ones look unappealing that what has been created is not just the stories themselves, but unwritten rules formed out of the deep groove of artistic precedent that come to define the genre, determining how these stories should be configured if they are to ‘feel right’ and be thought of as ‘good’ stories. A major reason why so few of these stories are sympathetic to the cause of the conservative Biblicists is because the precedent for the conservative Biblicists to be stereotyped as emotionally unattractive, dim-witted, bigoted, mentally impaired, or ‘old fashioned’ characters is so strong that the unwritten rules of the genre won’t allow them to look like anything else.
This isn’t anything new. In the world of art, the American sitcom, in doing what it does in the way it does it, in spite of being thought of as morally progressive, is not far from the 18th century French ‘sensibilité’ novel as an art from, which also largely viewed itself as progressive in its day. If the unwritten rules of the American sitcom genre are restrictive, then the sensibilité novel subgenre became so conventionalized that it came to be parodied. Both art forms thrive on their appeal to public moral sentiment and they simultaneously strive to shape it by introducing a morally subversive element, which they strive to justify and normalize in subtle ways. The main character of the 18th century sensibilité novel, although implicated in the morally subversive element, is presented as a paragon of desirability, likeableness and good taste (or bienséance, in the French), according to the moral sympathies of the majoritarian viewer/readership culture. The sympathetic presentation of the ‘goodie’ is at the expense of those around them who cannot attain their heights of ‘goodie-ness’; the latter are cast in the role of ‘baddie’. It is important to note however that sensibilité and the American sitcom often shy away from painting outright ‘baddies’ or ‘villains’ unless these are faceless, undeveloped, scapegoated characters, and seem to prefer to point to an institution or to ‘society’ as the culprit (i.e. a constructed perception of the prevailing culture that is hostile towards the ‘goodie’). Nonetheless, characters that are not sympathetic towards the goodie character are always presented as undesirable, and this ‘undesirable character’ slot is filled by the would-be baddie and is manipulated in similar ways. Both kinds of work often provide an intrigue or sub-plot that subtly presents the ‘goodie’ as being treated unfairly by those who do not sympathise with them; the sitcom, relying on humour rather than indignation as the main vehicle of sentiment, tends to cast the non-sympathiser as a stooge. To this effect, plot events are carefully framed, characterization is carefully orchestrated and literary tropes and cultural idioms are deliberately employed in ways that will make the ‘goodie’ cause look supremely tasteful (bienséant), as well as pleasant and likeable. As a result of all of this, the entire work is drowned in such an impression of ‘harmless niceness’ that the morally subversive aspect, constituting perhaps a ‘tragic flaw’ and as the object of the ‘goodie’s’ misfortune at the hands of the undesirable characters, starts to become assimilated into the niceness as ‘excusable’, and then as ‘normal’ by the time of the subgenre’s widespread reception by the viewer/readership culture. Whereas today’s big moral subversion is gay marriage, one big moral subversion of the 18th century French novel was adultery (think Manon Lescaut). Whatever the time-bound specifics, my point is that that kind of art is orchestrated strategically to interact with the public moral tastes in such a way as to shape perceptions without the audience realising that those perceptions are being shaped. And the trajectory of these perceptions, whether the art is contemporary and American or 18th century and French, has never been towards either conservative Biblical principles or the Christian gospel itself; only away from them.
What is the conservative Christian to do about this? Well, not come up with better arguments for their points of view. Sensibilité ancient or modern is not an unstoppable force, but for the past couple of centuries I suspect that it has not been tackled in the right way. This would be understandable: tickling the media receiver’s sensibilities then gently removing the rug of moral reference out from under their feet and replacing it with your agenda while they’re too entertained to notice, is fundamentally manipulative and seems underhand. The logocentric God, the God of light and vision, who reveals himself and his will and gives commandments openly, works by elucidating, instructing, laying bare and making visible: ‘underhand’ and ‘manipulative’ just don’t characterise the way he does things. It’s therefore not inconceivable that many Christians find it hard to know how to respond to these. What many Christians don’t realise is that elaborate philosophical arguments just don’t cut the mustard when trying to engage people on life’s big questions, when they get their definition of what life is all about from the sentimental hi-jinks that television, newspapers the internet, or, indeed, novels, can make them feel. Feeling needs to be met on its own level. What is needed to get the world feeling outside of the cloying liberal straitjacket that cossets and binds mainstream media genres unawares and subtly reinforces the suffocating ideological consensus that reigns over hot potato issues (as well as the gospel itself in many cases), by shutting down rational discussion under the weight of moral sentimental rhetoric, I think, is more art. Now don’t get me wrong. The greatest need of this world is not to affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman till death doth them part. Nor is it to outlaw and prevent abortion in every country in the world. The greatest need of this world is to be reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus Christ and to start a new life with him. And that is never going to happen unless they hear the Word of God. Art will never be a substitute for that Word and sentiment will never shatter the Logos; the worst sentiment can do is dissimulate it, influence attitudes towards it or distort perceptions of it. But whether conservative Christians are occupied with preaching the gospel or safeguarding the things that God holds dear in the public square, art can lay grounds by which the blinding prejudices and misconceptions of this age can be stripped away and the Word of God can be heard for what it is. What the conservative Christian can do is create stories that their perspective and message can inhabit sympathetically, and hope that these stories will somehow occupy a positive space in the public consciousness that they can use in their interactions with people, so that there can be a cultural point of contact for the Christian to draw on that dissipates their interlocutors’ disgust rather than exacerbating it. As Professor Louis Markos puts it:
We are, in many ways, a civilization adrift on the stormy seas of relativism and existentialism. … Our compass is broken and the stars obliterated, and we are left with nothing to navigate by but a vague faith in the modern triad of progress, consumerism, and egalitarianism. They are not enough. . . . What we need, in short, are stories. (On the Shoulders of Hobbits, 10–11)
I found that in a recent DesiringGod blog post on Tolkein, incidentally. Now I’m not advocating that everyone try to out-Tolkein Tolkein. Tolkein addressed a cultural climate that was different to ours: relativism and existentialism were new, not taken for granted: the existence of stories at all was something to marvel at. But now there are so many stories, so many genres and kinds of story and so many ideological forces that hold monopolies of influence and power over them (and it seems that everyone wants a slice of Middle Earth), that it is important to be mindful of what we’re dealing with as we go about writing stories.
As far as I can see, that can be done in one of three ways. Firstly, you could fight fire with fire, exploit loopholes in what kinds of stories the genre allows and what kinds it doesn’t, and potentially leave yourself open to the wrath of the developers of the genre that you’ve just hijacked, and that of those who approached your work expecting their usual fix of sentiment and sensed that something was ‘off’. Secondly, you could write a story exposing the secular liberal empire for what it is and pass your work off as ‘postmodern’ and ‘a critique of our times’ – although this would require your approach to look secular and liberal at least superficially because if it doesn’t then you will look like that bigoted old fool from the sitcom. Thirdly, you could create a whole new kind of art that can only be described in its own terms. With the latter comes the risk that nobody will like it. But there may be some who do. And with those who do, there is greater protection from sabotage than either of the first two options.
I have travelled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy Father, You have come
And chosen me now to carry Your Son
I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now, be with me now
Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven
Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of Your plan
Help me be strong, help me be, help me
Because of this song, the figure of the Virgin Mary inspires me tonight.
She had every reason to mistrust or take fright, yet all she did was obey. That vulnerable young figure travelling to Bethlehem on a donkey, a long, wearying journey day after day and night after night, with a commission from God conceived and growing and deepening in her, ready to come to light any moment. All she had to trust in was the Word and the promise from God, and the growing load of the holy child filling her belly and transforming her body, which she could not see, understand or determine. She could not speak to her child; she could not seek succour from any church. She was alone with a unique and unprecedented commission from God of which she only had a vague outline, and which could endanger her life on multiple counts. Such was the first disciple of the incarnate Christ.
The revelation from the angel was such a solitary moment. Who could affirm the authenticity of her mission? Who witnessed his word to her? Was there any more vulnerable or lonely position as that, to bear a Calvary all her own and unlike that of any man or woman in history, to be led there, powerless before her own body, whilst being alone privy to its workings? For a time, even Joseph would have forsaken her. All she had was the Word, the promise, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing inside her to confirm that it was even real. The social and existential toll would have been crushing. Nothing else could tell her how her mission would take shape or what it would be, and nobody would stand by her in fellowship, except Joseph, Zechariah, the prophetess Anna, Elizabeth and the unborn John the Baptist, who leaped in his mother’s womb.
The church of Christ was so small, so ill-defined. Bearing the person of God alone, could she have been the loneliest person in the world as what no eye had seen and no ear had heard, was implanted in her womb and grew there? Not even her own eyes could see, not even her own ears could hear, not even her own mind could understand the person of the commission she bore: the blind, dumb forces of her physiology worked animally in spite of her, as her mission unfolded and the sword that would pierce her own heart drew ever closer while she waited powerlessly for the will and the plan of God to come to pass as angel and prophet had promised. Pregnant and waiting on her uncertain commission to come to light, her fate was ruled by her biological clock, the angel’s announcement, the words of prophecy: she had no control, and no options, but was a vessel to God. Blind, isolated and paralysed, she had no agency beyond the act of consent and the willingness of faith to carry on going, for beyond that affirmation of faith, there was nothing that was within the power of her will to determine or influence. All she could do was have faith, submit, and patiently receive the scourges and afflictions of life as they came to her. She could only sit on the donkey for the sake of Joseph’s obligation, listen to the rejection of the innkeeper, lie in the stable that had been assigned to her as she awaited the pains of childbirth. She did not need to go in search of her mission: the mission came to her; the journey to Bethlehem was decided for her; the place of the birth was neither of her choosing, nor even within her power to know in advance.
In assenting to the angel’s annunciation she had signed a blank cheque with God, and in faith she let herself be carried wherever she needed to be carried, like a leaf in the wind, for all that needed to be wrought on her body and her person, to be wrought. The magi, the shepherds, the angels would come to her, the escape to Egypt would be the angel’s prerogative, as long as she clung onto that Word and that promise. Besides the Word and the promise she had no other assurance, no other grounds for faith when she was alone and helpless with an ill-defined mission that would take over her life and break her, in the face of all that surrounded her, determined her days and threatened to oppress her.
Mary was astonishingly brave. Her faithful, patient submission to the workings of God was her only recourse in her time of vulnerability. Her courage is a lesson and an encouragement not to fear the Lord’s task even if it is only partially revealed and bears on an uncertain and potentially frightening future, and to trust that the Lord will both provide, and work all things according to his will, as long as you continue to say yes in faith; to respond at every turn with ‘I am the Lord’s servant’, to feel the privilege of his favour on you, no matter how uncertain the future, how profound the solitude, or how great your own powerlessness in the face of it. Mary was not passive: endurance and submission are not passive works. It is about saying ‘yes’ in faith to your commission and letting it grow in you, bearing your Calvary, alone in the dark if you have to, whatever shape it takes, because you know and trust that God is good and that all that he has revealed and planted in you is real, and believe in what you cannot see because it is yet to be revealed.
I want to share that after an Alpha Course evening on healing, in which I received prayer for my psychological dependencies…
… I went home, tuned into one of my usual nostalgia-triggers, feeding the addiction for the illusory out of mechanical habit, and out of that draw of longing in my heart and my mind for emotional satisfaction in anything, anything but God…
… I put the music on, hoping for the wash of dopamine to come as the familiar memories and imaginations came into my mind…
But tonight, now, after receiving healing prayer at Alpha, something else happened instead. Every time my mind tried to go to those thoughts, the rhythm of that enduring bass line pounded in my head, frazzling it. Where my thoughts tried to gravitate back to the idolatrous images, that solid, pacing beat caused the front of my head to ache. I could not send my thoughts to where my psychological addiction wanted them to go, without it hurting. So I stopped trying. And I let the peace of God wash over me. And you know…? Through that song, which I had used again and again to take me away from my consciousness of God and into the illusory, imaginary world of self where I would give free reign to my psychological addictions and emotional dependencies – I actually managed to worship with a clear head. Tentatively, I saw and touched the divine through my trigger-music. I even enjoyed it more. Now I feel empowered. I feel empowered and I feel real, and I feel immersed in the present. How long will this last before I relapse? I don’t know, and I don’t want to imagine. But I’ll be getting more prayer as and when, and if. Thank you God for all that you did at Alpha tonight, and for your beautiful music, and for all that you do and continue to do. You are totally amazing.
The piece of music is below. My apologies to the wonderful pianist whose playing and ad-lib style I greatly admire. Your playing is beautiful, and I’m sorry that I misused it.