The (dis)armed man…

Michaela and I went to see The Armed Man last night- a mass for peace written by Karl Jenkins, performed by the Cowal Choral Society, along with the Glasgow Concert Orchestra, with powerful moving images of war and suffering projected throughout. It made me think deeply about violence- something that spreads like bird flu- received then given, and just as you think it is over, it breaks out again.

It was a deeply moving end to a lovely weekend.

We had some guests in our annex, and ended up playing instruments and singing into the small hours on Saturday, as they were a musical bunch- Yvonne, and her lovely friends Alison and Raine.

My fingers get very sore after playing guitar these days as they have softened with lack of use- it reminded me that I should play more often, or lose something that is precious to me.

Which will unfortunately have to wait- I was playing cricket yesterday and was hit by a ball on the tip of finger, which despite my batting gloves is now swollen to slightly resemble that of ET. It was a great game though- we lost again, but both Will and I made contributions to a decent effort (15no and 20 respectively with a wicket apiece.) Our star batsman of the day had to retire when his hamstring twanged as he smashed 50 odd then tried a quick single.

All weekends should be like this. Here is a bit of Yvonne’s music to point us to the week ahead;

A musical time machine makes me ponder…

I watched some of one of those late night music compilation programmes last night- hits of the 80’s. Rather than flicking past as I would normally have done, I found myself back in Preston, as a student. Or slow dancing to Tears For Fears at parties in my earlier teens. Music does this to you- even music that may not have been a personal preference- it somehow becomes a powerful cue for memory.

One of the tracks that surprised me in this way last night was The Communards ‘Don’t leave me this way’- suddenly I was in the Student Union again, with my house mates Mark and Steve- and the electronic pulse of this track, combined with Jimmy Sommerville’s astonishing falsetto singing was carrying us along.

I was never really a fan of The Communards- I did not own any of their music. Partly this was because I was never into dance music, but also (to be honest) there was this sexuality thing, that made me uncomfortable. The band were openly gay- at the forefront of the campaign against homophobia. This was the time of AIDS- seen as a ‘Gay plague’ and ‘section 28’.

Listening to this song yesterday was more than just a nostalgia trip- it made me think again about how far my thinking- and that of wider society- has come since the 80’s in relation to homosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, I was never openly homophobic. I lived in a house with two other lads- one who was gay. I was a very left leaning student of sociology and social science.

But I was also from a Christian background- and always there was this conflict in me- because there were hard lines drawn here- homosexuality was sin. End of discussion. Sure, people like Tony Campolo proposed a path of grace in which we should accept that people were born gay (rather than the prevailing view that it was a debauched ‘lifestyle choice’, or perhaps the product of some kind of childhood damage or weakness of character.) Campolo’s view was that the way to resolve the issue was to accept people as gay, but to expect celibacy. This was not an argument that went well with my gay friends at the time- most of whom longed for companionship after desperately lonely and stigmatised early lives.

Watching The Communards yesterday made me feel ashamed of my rejection of their music on the basis of their sexuality. I have written before how I have come to believe that the Church will look back on it’s teaching on homosexuality in the same way that it does now on its previous teaching on other culturally based rights issues- on the basis of race, or gender for example. Another example is the change (over the last 30 years) in relation to divorce/remarriage in most of the Protestant church at least. The meat of this issue always comes back to how we understand the nature of Scripture of course- but I will not re-rehearse these arguments here.

I also discovered something about the other member of the band- Richard Coles– a classically trained musician who played most of the instruments. He has since presented programmes on Radio 4 and BBC 2, but the surprising thing about him is that he is now a Church of England vicar.

Coles talks about coming to faith after attending the funeral of a friend who died of AIDs. Which reminded me of this song- which I offer here as a lament for all of this faith based homophobia…

“The long failure of the enlightenment project”

One of my heroes was interviewed on radio 4 this morning- Bishop Tom Wright. You can listen again in this link-

Tom Wright on Enlightenment

He was asking questions about the nature of society, in what he described as an ‘increasingly religious age’- where the poor and rich are more divided than ever.

And particularly, what might be the place of the Church. And he said- do not look at the Church- Look at Jesus.

More of him on the radio please…

 

New Year, 2011

The year turns

And so will I Lord…

Happy New Year all- may this one be a great one.

We have had a great few days- a house FULL of people (23 people per meal!) lots of music, food and a nice swim in the Clyde on New Years Day.

The latter being a deliberate attempt to put the events of February firmly behind me… I made the paper again recently as part of their ‘review of the year’- dangling below a helicopter for all to see.

Here are a few pics- click to enlarge…

Some music on Monday 2- Insane Clown Posse…

(In total contrast to my previous post!)

Did any of you read this story in the weekend Guardian a couple of weeks ago? Bizarre was the first word to come to mind…

It concerns the recent decision by the Insane Clown Posse to come out as ‘Christians’-

Foul mouthed, misogynist, violent and aggressive Christians perhaps- but apparently this image was really all an act to get on the wavelength of their audience, so they can hit them with the ‘message’.

If you are not familiar with ICP (and I confess they are not on my MP3 player) here is a sample of their new Christian output-

(Warning! Sweary words abound…)

The Guardian article reveals the two members of ICP as somewhat troubled and confused, so I am not going to have a go. I hope they find something of meaning in spite of all the baggage they seem to be carrying with them.

What is interesting is the clash of cultural world views.

On the one hand, you have gangsta rap, celebrating the stabbing of whores, violent threats and the carrying of weapons.

On the other hand you have conservative Christianity, with it’s distrust of science, and it’s desire to find evidence for God in nature.

All wrapped up in a shallow manipulative image- behind which real people have lost themselves.

 

Ahhhh good food, good friendship and good music…

Just back form a lovely evening with our friends Susan and Steven.

A night of laughing, eating, drinking wine and sharing life

Oh- and singing.

The guitars came out, and we exchanged songs.

Susan has a lovely voice and sang this song- which I had not heard before. Here it is, in thanks. (I love Cara Dillon’s singing, but I think Susan did it even better!)

Regina Spektor- laughing with God…

So, Glastonbury Festival is here again. Summer must descend into torrential rain…

And I will discover new music via the wonders of the BBC multi screen player, competing with my daughter for the remote control, lest she force me to endure any more Lady Ga Ga or Evanescence.

I enjoyed Regina Spektor this evening- interesting, creative and edgy, with a great voice. One song that caught my attention was this one-

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

*Chorus*
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very
poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

One minute guitar lessons…

Music kinds of ebbs and flows in my life. It is always there in the background, but at times, it moves centre stage.

For a long time, doing music (even doing bad music!) was one of the engines for life in me. I played whenever I could. I played worship music, I played in pubs, in studios, and in various collections of fellow musicians that I hesitate to call ‘bands’. Music and spirituality were intertwined- playing and singing was the way i worshiped, and the primary way I set myself to encounter the Living God.

But then something would happen to make me think that music was over for me. It may have been a constant awareness of my own limitations as a musician. Or when I moved away to Scotland. Or when I began to find ‘worship leading’ restrictive and one dimensional.

Each time, however, I found that music was not done with me.

The guitars would come out at a party and we would find something beautiful amongst all the mess of missed chords and background noise.

Or to my surprise, I would be invited to participate in other peoples events- leading to trips to the USA and Europe.

Or the loose collective of musicians that are part of ‘aoradh‘ will have another outing…

But it has been a while now.

So, time to makes some music.

Anyone else up for it?

By way of inspiration, I found these clips of some Canadian guitar players… enjoy!