Cardinals, McLaren and the charge of hypocrisy…

Cardinal O'Brian

No one could have missed the story of Cardinal O’Brian and the scandal engulfing the Catholic Church at the moment, but just in case you have, it goes something like this;

Cardinal O’Brian, the only British Cardinal, starts off (20 years ago) as a moderate within the church, upsetting conservative Catholics with his liberal views on contraception, homosexuality and whether priests should marry. Over time however, as the Vatican became increasingly hard line, he seemed to swing towards the right, becoming a strident and belligerent voice proclaiming the need to Christian morality, family values and for Conservative Catholicism. There was even talk of him being the next Pope.

Last year he made a splash because of his rather bizarre comment comparing Gay Marriage to slavery. I wrote about it at the time, here. 

Then, totally out of the blue, in the wake of the shocking resignation of the Pope, just as Cardinal O’Brian is about to go to Rome to take part in the election of the next Pope, 4 men- three priests and one ex-priest, let it be known that he used his power and authority to impose sexual acts on them whilst they were young men.

He initially denies it. The Church starts to close ranks. Then he admits it and resigns his office.

I have avoided discussing this matter up until now on this blog- partly because I did not want anything I wrote to seem triumphalist. I have ‘come out’ as a Christian who has a very different position on  the (unfortunately) totemic issue of homosexuality to that espoused by the Cardinal (and many other good people, including close friends.)

I was also staggered by the scale of the fall of this man- for whom I feel great sympathy. I know what it is like to be trapped in an unyielding and inflexible hermaneutic- to resort to compartmentalism to cope with the cognitive dissonance. Many people describe O’Brian as a good man, a kind man who has the capacity for so much good. None of us are just one thing, we are all many- and those who attack him should beware throwing the first stone.

Finally, I feel a collective shame for the Church. Scandals like this confirm the worst of prejudice about what the Church has become- it tells the world that we are that most despicable thing- we are hypocrites. This story proves our guilt- and the guilt is collective. As soon as we (the Church) begin to stand on moral high ground, we will always be in danger of the crumbling cliff edge.

That is NOT to say that we should have no moral voice. Our job is to be a people who present a radical alternative. We are to be an irritant  and conscience of those in power, not because we are better than others, but because we are prepared to try this thing called love. All morality is captured by this simple word- love. As soon as love is subordinate to morality, then morality becomes the worst form of religion.

So in this sense, Cardinal O’Brian is both perpetrator and victim of a system of faith that makes individual salvation from private sin the most important issue. It IS an important issue- but we all have logs in our own eyes. And there are other issues…

Which were brought to me again when listening to clip in my previous post.

brian-mclaren

Brian McLaren, speaking in St Paul’s Cathedral mentioned that he had a son who was gay. I have read and listened to a lot of his stuff, but did not know this. It seems that he performed a marriage ceremony for his son and partner last year, which predictably got him in to a lot of trouble. A case in point is this entry on his blog, in response to a man who had publicly ‘broken rank’ with him as a result of his stance on homosexuality, and his decision to participate in his sons marriage ceremony. Some of his response is as follows;

My view on human sexuality has indeed changed over a period of thirty years, and actually, the views of most conservative Christians have also been changing over that period. It wasn’t too long ago that the only conservative position was, “It’s a choice and an abomination.” When that position became untenable due to increasing data, the conservative position evolved to “it’s a changeable disposition, and we know how to change it.” When fewer and fewer people who claimed to have been reoriented were able to sustain the reorientation, the position shifted to “it’s a hard-to-change disposition, but it can be done with great difficulty.” More recently, I hear conservatives say “the disposition may be unchangeable but the behavior is a choice, so people may choose to live a celibate life or a heterosexual life, even against their orientation.” All that’s to say that it would be unfair of me to break fellowship with people who are themselves on a journey, just because they aren’t where I am at this point…

In my case, I inherited a theology that told me exactly what you said: homosexuality is a sin, so although we should not condemn (i.e. stone them), we must tell people to “go and sin no more.” Believe me, for many years as a pastor I tried to faithfully uphold this position, and sadly, I now feel that I unintentionally damaged many people in doing so. Thankfully, I had a long succession of friends who were gay. And then I had a long succession of parishioners come out to me. They endured my pronouncements. They listened and responded patiently as I brought up the famous six or seven Bible passages again and again. They didn’t break ranks with me and in fact showed amazing grace and patience to me when I was showing something much less to them.

Over time, I could not square their stories and experiences with the theology I had inherited. So I re-opened the issue, read a lot of books, re-studied the Scriptures, and eventually came to believe that just as the Western church had been wrong on slavery, wrong on colonialism, wrong on environmental plunder, wrong on subordinating women, wrong on segregation and apartheid (all of which it justified biblically) … we had been wrong on this issue. In this process, I did not reject the Bible. In fact, my love and reverence for the Bible increased when I became more aware of the hermeneutical assumptions on which many now-discredited traditional interpretations were based and defended. I was able to distinguish “what the Bible says” from “what this school of interpretation says the Bible says,” and that helped me in many ways.

So – many years before I learned I had members of my own close family who were gay – my view changed. As you can imagine, when this issue suddenly became a live issue in my own family, I was relieved that I was already in a place where I would not harm them as (I’m ashamed to say this) I had harmed some gay people (other people’s sons and daughters) earlier in my ministry…

This post hints at what must have been great personal pain through all this, but also a great strength- the sort that feels (to me at least) right. McLaren ends his post like this;

I want to add one more brief comment. You ask, if we change our way of interpreting the Bible on this issue (my words, not yours) “- what else will happen next?” Here’s what I hope will happen. After acknowledging the full humanity and human rights of gay people, I hope we will tackle the elephant in the room, so to speak – the big subject of poverty. If homosexuality directly and indirectly affects 6 – 30% of the population, poverty indirectly and directly affects 60 – 100%. What would happen if we acknowledged the full humanity and full human rights of poor people? And then people with physical disabilities and mental illnesses and impairments? And then, what after that? What would happen if we acknowledged the spiritual, theological, moral value – far beyond monetary or corporate value – of the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, of seas and mountains and valleys and ecosystems? To me, Jesus’ proclamation of the reign or commonwealth of God requires us to keep pressing forward, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, proclaiming God’s amazing grace to all creation.

What he is able to do here is lift our eyes from a  grubby obsession with what goes on in people private bedroom space to the call of the Kingdom of God.

This is the greater charge of hypocrisy that I feel myself constantly to be under. How all the distractions and comforts of my life and lifestyle prevent me from living as a full agent of  the commonwealth of God as spelled out above.

In this, as with the Cardinal, I am reliant on Grace, and the hope that I may yet become what I aspire to be…

Falling into the arms of the Empire…

genesis

For years now we have had a more or less regular ‘housegroup’, which meets (as decreed somewhere in the Bible) on Tuesday evenings. A few months ago we moved out of the living room into a pub- it was time to change things around a bit. We have been using the shape of some of Brian McLaren’s writing to aid our discussion- from ‘A new kind of Christianity’. It is a great book, and has started to put some firmness into parts of my faith that had been decidedly muddied by all of the Emerging Church discussions and debates. (Not that I regret a single question mark!)

Last week we continued a discussion about how we might understand the storyline of the Bible. McLaren (or Bazzer as we decided to call him) suggested that many of us had become used to reading the whole of the Bible backwards through all those towering figures of our theological landscape, back through the Reformation, into the middle ages, then the dark ages, and in particular, the days of the Holy Roman Empire, which Bazzer considers the real cusp of the matter. At this point the new religion (Christianity) became mixed up not only with Empire, but also with Greco-Roman philosophy. The end result it that it is really hard to see backwards because of all the edifices that we have built along the way.

Read the book for more detail on all this, but we tried to chew a little on the Polarity of Greco-Roman thought- giving us the polar opposites of Platonic perfection and the fallen state of mankind. We did this by looking again at those early stories in Genesis- of Adam and Eve with their troubled offspring, the subsistence hunter-gatherers who became farmers, then city builders, and fanally Empire makers- the rise/fall of man.

Here, the Roman Zeus- living in a removed, perfect state, setting impossible goals for his ephemeral people to reach towards, and seeking to rescue a few only be the skin of their teeth (eventually through a legalistic confidence trick with his son Jesus) starts to come unraveled. Zeus is replaced by Elohim.

Looking backwards, we read the early stories of Genesis in the Greco-Roman philosophical polarity- perfection/fallen. The garden was perfect, and as we mucked it all up, we were cast out, imperfect, therefore God could not be around us- Plato again.

But Elohim never mentions perfection- he talks of things being ‘good’, or even ‘very good’. In these stories, the journey from the garden is not one of lost perfection, but rather lost innocence. Rather than going from a perfect state casting us out into the darkness, Elohim makes clothing, avoids issuing the death penalty as promised to those who eat the fruit of the tree, and so on and so on. Elohim constantly engages, constantly circles back into the rise/fall of mankind. Even when they start empire building.

As we talked about this, I saw Michaela becoming frustrated. Eventually she spoke up- “So why did Jesus have to die? What was his mission if not to rescue, to save?”

I have been thinking about this question and the discussion we had the other night. Unsurprisingly, it leaves me with more questions;

If there has been a ‘fall’ of man, is it really the kind of fall I grew up talking about- one of individual sin, inherited by each subsequent generation as part of our human DNA? This kind of ‘fall’ keeps us trapped in the old Platonic polarity. It allowed Evangelical Christianity to focus on private morality to the exclusion of almost all else and  the purpose of the death of Jesus in this understanding is to give a chosen few backdoor perfection– undeserved, but gloriously exclusive.

But there is this other version of the fall of man(kind) encountered in Genesis. It is a fall upwards- away from our root and branch engagement in the soil of the world that we live in- towards enclosure and management of the land first for storage of food, then for personal profit. The more we have the more we want and our ambitions grow to the sky like the tower of Babel. Then there is this word again- Empire. If there is a polar opposite to the Shalom of Elohim it is Empire. Power used and abused. Richness accumulated at the point of sword and on the backs of the slavery of others. From Genesis to Revelation this the Bible is shadowed by Empire. This fall is not an individual one, it is collective.

But Elohim does not retreat even from Empire. He is there in and through it all. Hating some of it, raging against it sometimes- particularly when his people accommodated with it- even became the enslavers themselves.

Back to Michaela’s question- Jesus death, in relation to this collective fall can be understood clearly in his own use of the words of Isaiah, spoken from exile, in slavery to empire;

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61

Here it is- the kernel of the nut. The Shalom of Elohim; the New Kingdom. A totally different kind of empire. One based on love of one another, on the joy of life and the refusal of the power of Empire.

The first kind of fall- the individualistic perfect/fallen polarity seems to have allowed for Christianity to exist within empire with hardly a ripple. It allows us to set aside the revolutionary stuff and focus on saving the few for the really important stuff, not the Aristotelian stuff of boring reality, but the Platonic promise of eternal perfection.

But the New Kingdom can not exist in the other kind of fallen world without challenging empire. We can not live alongside poverty, injustice disease, broken lives, etc without wishing, praying, working upon it the Shalom of Elohim.

Or can we? The forces of empire are strong after all…

Michaela told a story right at the end of a place she had worked- a job that was supposed to be all about community building- encouraging participation and engagement with marginalised people and groups. A new manager came in who knew all the language, but seemed driven only towards establishing and using power; she was building an empire. The rules of the organisation had changed overnight. Suddenly success was measured by a business model- by conquests won over other ‘competing’ community groups. It tore Michaela apart.

And there you have it; the shalom of God opened wide, but the Empire rises again. But Elohim is waiting…

Is God violent?

It is a question I was discussing with a friend last week. She, like me, comes from a background in which the stories of the Bible were regarded as unquestioned absolute fact. The problem is that as you start to take a look at some of these stories, you start to hope that they are not.

But if they are not, then the absolutes that faith has been built from start to come unravelled- if you pull at these bricks the whole wall will fall in.

I wrote a series here called ‘Bible Nasties’ in which I tried to explore some of the issues that arose from my own theological meanderings. You can catch the first one here, and the others via the links in the comments.

However, Brian McLaren does it much better in this article here. Here are a couple of quotes;

Let’s define violence simply: force with the intent of inflicting injury, damage, or death. I think believers in God have four primary responses to the question of God’s violence defined in this way:

1. God is violent, and since we human beings are made in God’s image, we’re free to use violence as one valid form of political communication (to borrow a famous phrase from Carl von Clausewitz), and in fact we are commanded to use it in some cases.

2. God is violent, but in a holy way that sinful humans are incapable of. That’s why violence is generally prohibited for humans except in certain limited cases. In those cases, only those designated as God’s chosen/elect/ordained, acting under God’s explicit direction, are justified in using violence.

3. God is not violent, so human violence is always a violation of our creation in God’s image — both for the perpetrator and the victim. If it is ever employed, it is always tragic and regrettable, never justified.

4. God is not violent, so violence in any form is absolutely forbidden, no exceptions.

McLaren goes on to describe his own struggles with this issue- how the violent version of God contrasts with the other version in the pages of the Bible- the loving, forgiving, self sacrificing one, who eventually casts himself as the victim of violence, not the originator of it. Which version is the truest one, because increasingly it becomes impossible to hold them both together.

McLaren points us to Jesus, and along the way, we again bump into how we understand attonement;

In my own grappling with this subject, a single question has brought things into focus for me: Where do you primarily find God on Good Friday?

If God is primarily identified with the Romans, torturing and killing Jesus, then, yes, the case is closed: God must be seen as violent on Good Friday. The cross is an instrument of God’s violence.

But if God is located first and foremost with the crucified one, identifying with humanity and bearing and forgiving people’s sin, then a very different picture of God and the cross emerges.

Both locations present a scandal. The former, it seems to me, subverts the entire biblical narrative. God is not then identified with the slaves seeking freedom, but with Pharoah keeping them in their place. God is not with the woman caught in adultery, but with those who want to stone her. God is not with Paul, accepting Gentiles as sisters and brothers, but with the Judaizers, upholding the Law. And God is not hanging on the cross, but stooping over it, pounding in the nail. That’s scandalous in one way.

The latter understanding subverts violence and all those who depend on it for their security, affluence, and happiness. God is with the slaves, not with the slave-drivers. God is found in the one being tortured, not the ones torturing. God is found among the displaced refugees, not those stealing their lands. And God is found in the one being spat upon, not in the one spitting. A very different scandal indeed — and a very different cross, with a very different, but no less profound, meaning.

 

Conversations on being a heretic…

There is a great video of a discussion between Brian McLaren and Scot McKnight here;

Conversations of being a heretic

McLaren is always worth listening to even if (like McKnight) you find him to have gone too far down the path of heresy. His intelligence and humanity mingled with a deep faith have been for many of us the means by which faith might live on beyond the religious straight jackets that we have gratefully shed. He has been a pioneer into new and deeper understandings, and these people are always seen by the establishment as heretics. Just read the comments under the video clip.

‘The wrath of God was satisfied’

Within churches across the western world, many of us will be singing this line today- from the modern hymn by Stuart Townend, ‘In Christ alone’. The whole verse goes something like this;

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

It is a great hymn, deeply emotional and soaring in its melody. However I increasingly find the one dimensional nature of it’s theology really difficult. It is this one line about the wrath of God. It conjures up the idea of some kind of unstoppable force of holy hate and destruction in the universe that was narrowly averted only by the torture and death of Jesus.

This is another one of those underpinning assumptions of Evangelicalism that most of us accepted as unassailable truth- Jesus died the horrible death on the cross that was rightfully ours and because of this, God was able to undertake some kind of divine conjuring trick for some of us. This was the only way to overcome the natural forces of justice in the universe. It was the only way to deal with the wrath of God.

For non theologians like me, the fact that this kind of understanding of the atonement of the cross is not the ONLY way of understanding the central drama of the Christian faith might come as a surprise. Recently of course, a number of hugely controversial books have emerged taking a new look at the issue. The authors of these books (Rob Bell, Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren) have often been subjected to the outrage of the faithful.

So, on this Good Friday, I thought that it might be worth examining some of the other understandings of atonement- the other ways that followers of Jesus have attempted to come to terms with the enormity of a God who would come to earth to die such a death.

The name given to the theory of atonement outlined above is ‘Substitutionary atonement’ or sometimes ‘Penal Substitution’. However rather than talk more about I think it would be useful to take a journey through atonement in church history.

Firstly, there is a summary of some of the ideas in this clip by Tony Jones, along with some of his own hard hitting alternatives;

There are other theories of atonement, but here is a quick summary of the dominant ones again;

Moral influence

In this view the core of Christianity is positive moral change, and the purpose of everything Jesus did was to lead humans toward that moral change. He is understood to have accomplished this variously through his teachings, example, founding of the Church, and the inspiring power of his death and resurrection.

This was the atonement theory dominant in the early church in the second and third centuries and was taught by the Church Fathers. It was also popular into the middle ages and beyond.

Ransom theory

Jesus liberates mankind from slavery to Satan and thus death by giving his own life as a ransom. Victory over Satan consists of swapping the life of the perfect (Jesus), for the lives of the imperfect (mankind).

Christus victor

Here Jesus is not used as a ransom but rather defeated Satan in a spiritual battle and thus frees enslaved mankind by defeating the captor. This theory continued to influence Christian theology for a thousand years.

Satisfaction

This theory grew from the work of the 11th century theologian Anselm.  Mankind owes a debt not to Satan, but to sovereign God himself. A sovereign may well be able to forgive an insult or an injury in his private capacity, but because he is a sovereign he cannot if the state has been dishonoured. Anselm argued that the insult given to God is so great that only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy and Jesus, being both God and man, was this perfect sacrifice. Here we see the influence of earthly politics projected onto the heavens.

Penal substitution

The Protestant reformers developed Anselm’s theory.  Instead of considering sin as an affront to God’s honour,  rather sin is regarded as the breaking of God’s moral law. Placing a particular emphasis on Romans 6:23 (the wages of sin is death), penal substitution sees sinful man as being rightfully deserving God’s wrath with the essence of Jesus’ saving work being his substitution in the sinner’s place, bearing the curse in the place of man (Galatians 3:13).

A variation that also falls within this metaphor is Hugo Grotius’ “governmental theory“, which sees Jesus receiving a punishment as a public example of the lengths to which God will go to uphold the moral order.

Some would argue that all these theories contain part of the truth, and (in the absence of certainty) I think I would agree with this.

Apart from this thing that we call ‘the wrath of God’.

I would contend that our theological projections of God are always partial, always incomplete and always emerging from our cultural perspective. So it was natural for the children of the modern enlightenment to see God as embodying a force of logical, highly technical justice. It seemed like the elevation of mankind towards democratic freedom mediated by the purity of the law was a process ordained by God, and so this must also be the character of God himself.

God the judge- stern, inflexible, bound by the fine detail of the law, but able to save a narrow few through a technicality.

But today we remember the death of a man Jesus.

The scandal of the cross.

The unreasonableness of the cross.

The injustice of the the cross.

The laying down of all power and majesty, the ultimate vulnerability of the cross.

The end of all our hopes on the cross.

The defeat of the cross.

The humanity of the cross.

And the mystery unfolds within us.

Worship music remix 4- culture…

Worship music is the cultural carrier of faith.

Or perhaps worship music is the carrier of culture into faith.

If either of these statements are true then what we sing together in churches is formational, fundamental. Our songs shape our belief, our worldview and our action in subtle and profound ways. Perhaps it is another one of those times when the medium might become the message.

What comes first, the culture or the song? Instinctively we would have to say the culture, but the idea of culture is one that demands a little more examination. I am using the term not to describe the shared tenants/creeds of the Christian faith but rather to describe something of the shared context, deep assumptions and instinctive reactions that people tend to converge upon in our collectives.

Culture is so powerful a force on how we live and think about ourselves that it can come to be indistinguishable from creed. I think I need to demonstrate this with a couple of examples.

 

I have spent some time in America, doing some worship music with a Southern Baptist Convention. There was, shall we say, a degree of cultural friction, but it was on the whole a fantastic experience. What was obvious to me as an outsider to this culture was the degree to which expressions of faith became interwoven with a whole set of wider assumptions- political, economic, commercial. These assumptions became totally self perpetuating, as many people seemed to have virtually no contact with people outside this culture. They shopped at ‘Christian’ shops, employed ‘Christian’ tradesman, listened only to ‘Christian’ voices (and only ones from a particular part of the spectrum) and voted always for ‘Christian’ politicians. God, community and country were indistinguishable.

I particularly remember a store with a whole isle selling nothing but Aslans, in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Next to another selling Bible cases decorated with the American flag.

Those who did not conform to a particular way of being were gently corrected, or would find themselves ‘outside’.

The best way of describing this culture I have heard is this one- Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. God exists as a kind of divine therapist, mediating the psychological and financial rewards of society upon those who can conform to a certain moral code. God is a personal saviour, who will guarantee self esteem and success. Those who lack these things need to repent, and get more God so that they get some kind of a chance in the next life if not in this one.

All this has real strengths but it is hard to fully reconcile it all with the story of Jesus. Jesus called us to go, not stay. He seemed intent on overturning tables erected by the religious folk. He gravitated towards the outsiders, the poor, the broken. He started no political parties, nor would be joined to any. And he certainly gave no guarantees for health and wealth.

If I sound critical of the American church, then this is only because these issues were so much more obvious to me as an outsider. We can make equally critical comments about our own religious institutions. Think back towards the days of Empire and the complicity of our own churches even with genocide.

But how is this perspective reflected in our songs of worship?

When you stand back and look at the canon of songs that we have inherited over the last thirty years written both sides of the Atlantic they have some common characteristics;

  • They focus primarily on individual encounters with a personal God. Often it is as if worship is the means by which God ministers to us in some kind of Holy Spirit therapy.
  • They assume that repentance is required to allow us to be acceptable to God, and therefore to receive his blessing. However, repentance is primarily concerned with individual morality- particularly sexuality or dishonesty. We hear next to nothing about injustice, consumerism, over consumption or the workings of international capitalism.
  • There is little call to collective action, apart from parallel individual actions in line with the point above. There is little idea that repentance can be collective, or that change requires sacrifice and joint action.
  • Then there is the theological assumptions of the unassailable centrality of penal substitutionary atonement. The only way to save the world is one soul at a time- and our interest is really only in saving them from hell in the next life.

Does this sound familiar? I am of course not saying that the views above are necessarily wrong, rather that they arise from culture. They are then reinforced and communicated within our songs.  Where then are the songs of protest, of prophetic vision, of renewed or alternative perspectives? The songs of the marginalised now welcomed home, the songs that disturb and challenge? The songs that confront power in the name of the weak? Where are the songs that remember the God who liberates captives not just in the abstract, who breaks actual chains? Where are the songs for the wayside pilgrim campfire, not those that require a graphic equaliser and power amplifier?

As ever, Brian McLaren has some interesting things to say on this issue. If not songs about personal relationships with Jesus, then what? He suggested some of the following in this article which is well worth reading in full;

  1. Biblical vision of God’s future which is pulling us toward itself
  2. Not just evangelism, but mission – participating in the mission of God, the kingdom of God, which is so much bigger and grander than our little schemes of organizational self-aggrandizement) is the key element needed as we move into the postmodern world.
  3.  Re-discover historic Christian spirituality and express it in our lyrics.
  4. Songs that are simply about God … songs giving God the spotlight, so to speak, for God as God, God’s character, God’s glory, God’s beauty, God’s wonder and mystery, not just for the great job God is doing at making me feel good.
  5. Songs of lament. The Bible is full of songs that wail, the blues but even bluer, songs that feel the agonizing distance between what we hope for and what we have, what we could be and what we are, what we believe and what we see and feel. The honesty is disturbing, and the songs of lament don’t always end with a happy Hallmark-Card-Precious-Moments cliché to try to fix the pain. ( Amen Brian!)

By way of another example;

Who remembers the song ‘Heart of Worship’? I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you. If I remember rightly, this came about as a result of a song writer/worship leader coming to the realisation that the music had taken over, so they stopped singing for a while to reflect and rebalance.

Then wrote a song about it.

It is not just the irony of this that should raise an eyebrow, it is the fact that the only cultural response to such a challenge to worship culture is to do the same thing again with a bit more passion.

Perhaps it might be time to do something totally different.

One of the things about the most recent renewal movement to sweep through the church, which I will describe using the words ’emerging/missional consciousness’ has been the LACK of songs, and the lack of singing.

I think this is partly reaction formation against the things mentioned above, but also because other forms of worship have been in the ascendancy. I have taken a similar journey with my own community, Aoradh. We became much more interested in ‘Alternative worship’, borrowing more from the art gallery than the auditorium. Worship became more about encounter within a shared space, with the emphasis being about openness and creativity.

All movement however need a corrective because the pendulum will swing too far and will overbalance the clock.

And all movements also need to communicate their hopes, dreams, ideas and worship. Within the emerging church this has tended to happen over the internet- blogs, podcasts, you tube clips, twitter feeds, even the old archaic websites.

But we still need to sing. We are not just individuals with access to chatrooms, we are also flesh and vocal chord.

Sing me a song of freedom and a song of hope, and I will sing it with you.