Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

Hello all, here I am with a new post, it has been what? A few weeks? I was waiting for something I don’t know-important, real, right?

So look, this has been another week of ups and downs, moments of strong and mercyful faith, moments of sin, confusion and distraction as ever. But then here is the part that may end up most challenging or interesting in some ways. The day before yesterday a couple of my work colleagues seemed to have learned or guessed that I am Christian.

So look, I have never really hidden this, but I suppose I have not always shouted it from the rooftops-some reasons for this are linked to not working Sundays, and a previous manager not wanting me to encourage other staff to do the same.

So yes, these are both two younger guys I can mostly view as friends I would say-especially the one who just suddenly, but in a friendly way looked at me and said-

‘Are you a Christian?’ (He did say it with a curious smile, not in a vindictive way)

I was not at all expecting this, just going about with the usual tasks in work. So I possibly hesitated for a short couple of seconds-what is the right way to confirm this, in 2015?-I said, with a smile…

‘Well, yes I am, in my own strange way’ (or something very close to this, it was a rushed, surprise moment so some of it s lost to me)

So then began a casual but unexpected conversation in a friendly manner about my faith, my view of what/who God is or might be, what I think about Jesus, my friend’s own beliefs, childhood religious upbringing. The other guy there just quietly said he was probably atheist while the one talking a lot I think decided that he was possibly agnostic these days. He had been put through a religious school period with nuns, that Catholic kind of thing I think.

At first, he expressed just how shock he was in some ways-

‘But you like Lamb of God and listen to metal!?’ he said.

‘Well, I don’t love Lamb of God, but yeah I like metal and rock music…so?’

So I expressed my current personal views-briefly, I mean, were at work, and this just suddenly happened. Well, at present he is still my friend, and had the view of ‘to each their own, fair enough’. One of the others guys I saw at work yesterday and was not too sure if he was really wanting to still know me now. But it seemed that he was okay still like he always has been, I think. I think it probably helps that they have known me for a good while previously, so they’re not suddenly meeting a ‘Christian’. They know me, how I am, what I like, my interests. I told them ‘look, I’l be first to tell you church music sucks, that’s why I listen to a good few christian metal and rock bands’. I have previously lost some friends when they have found that I that I have this particular kind of faith, and just hope that these guys still want to know me and that we can continue to work well together as we usually do.

Here I am, around a day now since I returned from my first trip to the UK festival GREENBELT for the first time in possibly three or four years.

If you have never heard about it, GREENBELT is a UK annual faith-based (Christian) festival featuring many kinds of talks, art, crafts, music and more. It celebrated 40 years a year or more ago now, which was a major achievement and say a lot about the reputation it has and why people keep returning after decades.

My wife introduced me to it many years ago, she a friend had taken her years before that. I was looking for a festival to go to among the UK Christian ones, and this one is less intimidating and almost seems just like some of the other big major music and arts festivals.

It is also to some believers viewed as the suspicious, and controversial Christian event-too liberal, too open and questioning. It is a place where people can question their faith, the Bible, consider different views, interpretations, faiths, cultures, how faith connects to music, art, words and more.

So my wife and I packed up and got in the car, travelling to the new location for GREENBELT 2015 (we also had not been camping for around 2 years, and so we made a few funny mistakes along the way.)

We did arrive a little late due to overrunning work/life stuff and so pitched the tent, got set up and went for an events programme. They had run out and some printing problem had happened. So Friday night was about just simply looking around the festival, finding something unexpected and relaxing.

We got some good noodles, watched a mainstage musical piece which connnected with some significant and very old industrial photographs. Interesting stuff. Later we came upon some good music in one of the smaller tent venues-a bit indie folk rock sort of thing.

Saturday was the first time we got out and saw the festival in full day light-and it all looks great. We had a very different location to look around and explore. The event now takes place on the large country grounds of a well known country manor house. There is a beautiful wide lake and shaped small river alongside it, and around the paths many full and tall trees. These were all lit up in blues, greens and orange light at night reflecting the theme of ‘The Bright Field’ this year.

Now you see, there is always so much to see, do, watch, listen at GREENBELT- you just can’t take it all in. The many talks featuring guest speakers ranging from well-known newspaper journalists, writers/authors of many kinds, comedians, tv/radio presenters and more (many not Christian), are soon available to buy of CD’s or downloads after the event.

We went along to see author and newspaper writer Cole Moreton lead a casual newspaper daily review/discussion- Saturday featured Giles Fraser and Madeleine Bunting and some acoustic tunes halfway and after. Moreton is a funny, friendly chap, leading a discussion intended to be respectful, honest, and challenging on the news from the day’s papers. While he joked that the tent was probably mostly full of Leftie liberals who did not read the Daily Mail, he hoped someone might and we could listen and consider their view of things with respect. It was funny, engaging, and great to hear an unscripted mix of opinions and views being voiced and considered.

We had a mid-afternoon camping emergency and returned to campsite later to catch some chilled folk-indie  sounds with added electro elements from The New Portals in the Canopy tent out among the trees. We missed a few things-I may haved liked to have seen Simon Mayo the radio presenter discuss his new Y.A. book. This was a festival for relaxing and spiritual thoughts besides music and camping and some of the weekend just had to be random and hit-and-miss.

To be honest, I spend most of Saturday thinking about the Goth Eucharist which was due around 10:30 at night. We had gone along this at a previous GREENBELT and I am a big rock fan, so this to me is a very interesting and engaging alternative form of worship.

As the night came, we had some food outside our tent, walked to the festival village again, and caught some brief bits of music and talks around while we waited. We found the Treehouse venue later and sat down among a crowd to wait for the Goth Eucharist. Like last time, it was started later than planned. This time however the venue was outside-just a tent with now walls. Last time, if I remember rightly, Goth Eucharist was more like a gothic rock nightclub event, with familiar rock/goth/industrial tunes all with similar themes of faith, God, and spiritual thoughts connecting them. Rockers and goths danced, some with glow sticks and between songs, hymns and scripture was up on wall ovehead projection.

This time, the event was more stuctured like a regular communion at church except the vicars involved all wore black, some with black dreaded hair, purple hair, goatee beards. The service began, and the music was actually very dark, heavy celtic worship. There was a choir/band involved at the front which included the four or five dark gothic vicars and a group called N-Chant. Some of the words were like ancient Celtic or some other kind mixed with regular worship parts.

There was bass, guitar, bongo style drums, and a huge black harp with the female player singing and leading the music at the same time. The service reflected on the dark times in our lives, what the dark of night can be and offer and how God is there and will take us from it. Very different, but very cool.

Sunday morning was as usual, when almost everybody at the festival made their way to sit under and around the main big top Glade stage/tent for morning worship/communion. There was bishop Libby Lane from Stockport, Manchester and Pushpa Lalitha from South India involved as we prayed and broke the bread and drink the wine in huge numbers on the field. It closed with the Lord’s prayer, an Indian blessing from Bishop Pushpa and then some Japanese folk music as we all seperated to the morning events.

My wife and I had a relaxed gap of time until the afternoon and so looked around the festival at the various stalls, market shops, a small exhibition about Irish political wall murals. Lunch and then we watched a reading from very well respected and acclaimed author A.L. Kennedy, who read from her recent Dr.Who book and current more adult literary manuscript. Funny and interesting, as I write myself. We split up during this and my wife listened to a talk called ‘Is the right to offend Sacred?’ which I just caught the end.

We later got a bit lost, seperated, saw more different music until catching the end of a talk called ‘Angels and Cyborgs’ which looked at robots, robotics, technology today and robots in films and television. Again, very interesting-might have to get the audio recording of that one.

After that we watch a performance piece called ‘Gender Outlaws in the Bible’ This was from a gay American guy, exploring and considering possible gay.bi and trans characters previously ignored or left hidden until now. Very interesting, funny but could have been uncomfortable for some people. Greenbelt is a place where you will see or meet gay, lesbian, bi and other kinds of Christians who may not be able to be so open and comfortable in their own churches or communities but can feel relaxed and happy to express themselves and their way of faith and life around others at this festival.

So finally Monday arrived, as usual, just as we get used to camping and the way of festival life again. I never really know when to leave exactly at this point. I think Greenbelt seems to last longer than in the past, as it still went on until Monday night, but many people already did leave or were packing things up. We went to the main big top tent/stage to listen to Steve Chalke talk about life as a narrative, combining Aristotle, Kierkergaad philosophy with his own thoughts on the Bible and jesus and our way of living and life. We then caught the last morning newspaper discussion with Cole Morton which also included Steve Chalke, a female vicar from tv reality show and young female lesbian political folk singer. This again was a very challenging, engaging but also funny event.

By this time, the rain had been lashing down through the night, mud was getting thicker and gloopier all over, and we started to pack the tent and belongings back into our car. We drove home half covered in mud but taking home some great experiences and memories as we hoped we would.

Okay the thought came into my mind either today or late yesterday. It was a bit different, not as serious perhaps and scripture focused for this blog as usual but I think it is worth exploring…

It is the end of the week too, so maybe I had this lighter thought in mind as I relax slightly near the weekend.

Here it is-What would Jesus laugh at?

Okay, that might not have been the first burst of the idea, but that is what frames it. It mostly goes around myself as a christian, and other Christians today…what do you find funny, what do you think you CAN find funny? What do you think you are NOT allowed to find funny, being a Christian? Why is that?

Myself, I am a fairly relaxed person, pretty mainstream, almost secular if not for the faith part. I’m ‘Born-Again’ (urrgh, awkward term but…whatever) and so I’ve got a regular British, western pop cultural background.

I am not ashamed to say that I have for many years since my teens years been a big fan of Blackadder, The Young Ones, the Naked Gun movies, Austin Powers films, the Bottom tv show, Harry Enfield shows, Monty Python…(yes, all of Monty Python…) Red Dwarf and much, much more varied kinds of great comedy in tv, film, radio and more places.

Yes, I did mention Monty Python. Over here in the UK, they are almost universally seen as a modern classic comedy institution, legends who have influenced modern comedy shows, films, and actors worldwide. But they made that film didn’t they…? The one about Jesus…

Okay, so Life of Brian if you have not really ever seen it or heard about it, did create quite a big controversial fuss in the late 70’s with a number of Brit politicians and tv presenters and journalists harrassing the members of Python, and asking why make such an apparently ‘Blasphemous’ film?

The film actuall focuses on a baby born in a stable, named Brian, who grows up, wanders around, experiences some strange event, then says somethings that many people take as inspirational and special but he just wants a quiet life, to be left alone but the crowds beleive him to be the chosen one, sent to them. He is not the Messiah. He is Brian.

It is a very funny film, it does put forward some very important questions about faith, religions, institutions in society. They Python comedians were not trying to be offensive, but just putting forward these questions in the form of comedy as they always did. It is a kind of comedy satire in film form.

I am aware of a few Christian comedians around the UK, and they have some different views on how they can or should do their work. Some will never swear in their act, some will not makes jokes about stereotypes, women, minorities-well, regular comedians should not do those kind of jokes but then….Ricky Gervais…

What can we laugh at as Christians without feeling guilty or bad about ourselves? What is alright to laugh at? Right now in 2015, we are sort of almost post-politically correct in pop culture-or are we? It can get so very confusing.

I laugh at slapstick comedy, a like comedy shows or films with scenes where the characters make uncomfortable social mistakes, or dig a big hole for themselves. Sometimes it is just wordplay, puns, that kind of thing.

The Bible can seem so serious, and we as Christians can often seem to others to have no sense of humour whatsoever. Is that okay? Are we okay with that? Should we be? Do we even know?

Can’t we enjoy a simple good joke like anyone else? Well, we will see things in life different possibly. There are many different kinds of people, cultures, walks of life. Everyone sees some things in life different to some other people-that is part of life.

So what is funny? What might Jesus laugh at? Do I have that answer? Is this really taboo?

One day you might laugh at something, another day a similar thing might not be so funny. Things change.

A person slips on a banana skin-funny? Someone breaks wind, no one around admits-funny?

Someone makes a very serious point about justice and politics…but they have tomatoe sauce up the side of their cheek saying it and don’t know-funny?

Life can make us laugh, I think God knows this. It can be a gift, it can help us through hard and very difficult times. So laughter and laughing is special, it is important in life. Jesus would laugh I think. I think God might laugh at Monty Python.

Life is funny.

This is one of those days where suddenly it just shows me again how I struggle with my place in faith and my place and view of modern UK society.

If you might be in America reading this, you may think ‘what’s the problem?’ (We tend to often percieve Americans as being less obsessed with class and the class system over there). Yes again, I find where I am, what I am, and how I am a problem. Should I?

I should be who I think I am, who I feel I should be right? The difficult problems is often that I have family and friends who live life a certain way, or do not feel so strongly about certain issues but these things are in me. My own mind and thoughts do regularly think about how and why we have so many shops which sell so many things that we just do not need, such rediculously expensive things. There is a limit to what we need, what we use and we seem to gladly go way far past that limit without much thought about the ethics of what we are purchasing and why.

I am not against material posessions, but extreme gratuitous consumerism does make me almost feel actually sick inside. When I just happen to be aware of the many countries globably and even towns and cities in this country which struggle to just eat, keep a roof over heat, find clean water, electricity-the basics-I feel then very sad and frustrated.

This does relate to my attempt at Christian faith in 2015. Just how many churches are run by and filled with mostly middle-class members? This is not me having a go at the middle-class specifically, but just look at how few working class even consider stepping anywhere near a church today. Why is that do you think?

I have a sort of middle-class education but remain mostly working class at this point. I will not get too specific with politics here, that is not my focus. I simply believe that Jesus would not have been too happy with this endless rampant materialism, almost material worship of products, lifestyles, social status and relentless consumerism.

The problem then is that I sense that the majority of people I meet in some of the churches I visit at times, do not begin to  consider any of this or just are middle-class and simply accept the consumerism and materialism where it is at as a ‘good balance of the economy’. Hmmm, kind of don’t think that makes much sense…

Is it the generation that I come from? How many from the last couple of decades seeking faith have been working class, recieving middle-class eductaion and then come to this social and spiritual conundrum? Not enough it seems.

Alright, I do often write up film reviews on my other site and blog, but I will try to keep things even more relaxed and casual here.

So last weekend I went along to see EXODUS  with my wife and a friend, and it had not been seriously planned. I was aware of the film when it came out around Boxing Day time at Christmas, and I am a serious film freak so usually keep track of things like any new Ridley Scott films on the way.

I think that at first, I decided not to really get too exicted about it because the last few Scott films did not really amaze me (apart from Prometheus, yes I did like it-probably one of about five people) and his epic historical movies just don’t really grab me or seem to do what they should. Plus this time, EXODUS featured Christian Bale…

Hold on there, I don’t hate Bale, but after three films of his over the top super-gruff uber-macho Batman voice, I really find it hard to give him much time. He had sort of acted himself into a corner recently. But I agreed to go along and see this film anyway.

I was expecting huge epic visuals, continually grand visions on screen-this is what I got. It was good, it was exciting and largely very entertaining all the way. There have of course been so many film adaptations of the Old Testament tales over the decades, and from the begining of this film, it does not immediately seem much different from some of those. The scale of the images of Egypt and the middle eastern lands around on screen are much more detailed and evocative than they ever have been in a religious movie I think.

I will admit that the tale of Moses leading up to his eventual final events and the commandments were a little vague with me, being a while since I have looked over the Old Testament. Honestly, the acting and dialogue may be a little basic and simple but then, this is a biblical film and it is going to stick to most of the actual known modern international bible text. What makes the film move along and pull the viewer in is the soundtrack, the cinematography, and direction. We all know most of the story, and at least toward the very end of the film we will probably know how to expect the film to end. No real surprises…well actually there were some…

Like one or two of his other historical movies, Ridley Scott here added in a level of authentic related culture in the clothes that the characters wear, how they speak with elements of arabic and other minor middle eastern traits. This makes the film more interesting, engaging and authentic to some degree, or to a modern audience.

Thankfully, I found that Christian Bale toned himself down after a while when as Moses he left his safe position in leading Egypt and walked away in shame and guilt. Soon after, when he takes a simple and humble life, finds a wife he then experiences the changes personally which take his life in a spiritual direction.

This is where there are some serious and possibly radical changes in the way the story is presented to us.

*Spoiler Alert!*

This I had heard about around the time of the release of the film in from reviews and some criticised it, or it could be seen as a compromise to modern cinema audiences and how to depict an epic biblical tale on screen in our times now. In this film, Moses has an accident and falls, hitting his head badly. He is knocked down and rests for a short time. From this point on, he begins to speak with God. He hit his head…

It can be seen in this film, one view, that it might be suggesting that Moses knocked his head or something similar and in some way was simply delusional. A madman, a crazy person, who imagined that he heard the voice of God. Was he a dangerous madman? Was he even perhaps schizophrenic, split personality? Is it even then, suggesting that same thing about many people who believe in God or have a faith which might be irrational? I do not think that Ridley Scott is specifically suggesting this, but he has put this in, and it possibly serves to allow many viewers to enjoy the film without having a faith or being reigious at all-this is just an epic Hollywood historical drama. That is if you go with that viewe of the story.

Beyond this, even bigger spoiler sorry-God is shown as a small boy. Yes, you did read that right, God is a small little boy this time. I think I can actually understand this, as a small child can be seen as innocent, loyal, sensitive. Also it is suggested by Jesus that we should be like children.

So the film continues on with Moses meet the boy in the wilderness every so often (sorry that does sound strange) while Ramesses opresses his slaves in the building and construction of pyramids and temples. Moses warned of the wrath of God, that the people should be freed, Ramesses defiantly disagrees and then we see the legendary plagues. This is where the film really gets truly epic and apocalyptic onscreen. The crocodiles rise up in the sea, blood fills the screen-this is a real sudden shock. The plagues pass very quickly, one after another, but each very intense and vividly depicted, graphic and tragic like really never seen in previous version of this tale in a movie.

Bale could very easily hade just ran off and gone full-til gonzo nutty with Moses, but somehow he keeps his acting restrain and this is probably due to Scott keeping all elements of the film tight and controlled well. The tale is edited and chopped up, which I can understand as a Hollywood film on the big screen does not need to have every little detail up there-we understand and know much of this story. Cinema is visual most of the time.

This all of course leads right up to the final cross and parting of the Red Sea. Like his relation to God, this part of the tale is shown different to how it has been seen many times before. It does actually feel a slight let down, but it does makes sense really. It all seems to come down to a quiet humble ending, and the last scenes and image of Moses is a contemplative and thoughtful one.

I was glad that I did eventually see this film, and on the big screen. It did make my faith shine brighter for a while, it did make me think about my relationship with God in a way that I may not have for a while. Go and see this film, it is a good challenging movie. A movie about identity, faith, conscience, hope.

Yes on their first full UK headline tour right now, American huge Christian rock band Skillet made it down to Wolverhampton last night. I went along myself, and after some stressed out confusion over roundabouts on the road journey, finally parked up and walked in as the support band were doing their thing loud and proud on stage. I picked up a nice tour t-shirt and walked in to see what they were like.

I had not heard of this band, and actually for a support band they had some decent songs, and seemed quite confident and tight as a band. I was looking around, and seeing the people in the venue, the crowd building up as more folks entered and walked in and around inside.

I was curious to see what kind of crowd, audience and people would be turning up at this gig-you see I am a rock music guy, a ‘metalhead’ at times. I’ve seen most of the big legenary bands such as Motorhead, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, Def Leppard-all kinds of great rock and metal music over the years. I’ve also seen the people of many kinds-usually in black or/and denim-often and usually friendly, happy, wild and joyful in these events and venues. But this time, this is a christian rock band who are massive over in America, but not really very well known of much at all in the UK.

I hoped that there would be a good turn out, I wanted to see that their great music might have been heard and drawn in a good audience, keen to see this passionate band live. That is what I saw, but more than that. I could see a good mix of some regular rock music fans and some who had possibly never really been to a real rock gig previously. I saw a good number of happy small kids and children brought along, and that was really cool, and I hope that they had a great time and that others showed them that a rock gig can be good fun and not scary or dangerous or even ‘evil’.

I just have to say that I was really super-impressed when I heard the familiar song ‘Dogman’ from one of my favorite bands KING’S X played over the venue right before the band hit the stage. That really was very cool.

So SKILLET came on, and it was stunning and more theatrical and grand than I possibly expected. They reminded me live of some bands like Within Temptation, Evanescence, with their stong and powerful lighting and two string musicians with them onstage playing along with the band.

The songs were so strong and tight, a great start and the audience seemed to be well connected with the band, clapping along, fists in the air in time to the tunes. Inbetween some songs, the singer casually chatted to the audience, seeing some who had been at the gig the previous night in Scotland, talking about growing up, nintendo, music, their tour.

It was visible that they band were clearly enjoing themselves, while playing with such fierce passion and energy. While they did play most of the big recent hits such as Monster, Sick of it, Comatose, and a few much older tunes, they probably didn’t play enough from the great new album RISE I think.

Overall though, certainly one very fantastic and great gig, a very stunning rock band who will hopefully return to the UK again not too long from now.

Well, actually pulled myself out of bed early and decided to head along to this other local church again for what would be the third time. My wife and I headed along, and what do you know, yup-it’s closed this week. Think they’re all on holiday, or well maybe a spirtual camp/festival thing.

So that was that, but now I am here on a Sunday all ready to worship for a change (yeah I know, sounds bad right?) and back at home. So it leaves me with my thoughts. Perhaps that was the point…

So I put on some ‘worship’ music that I dig…Christian rap-rock band P.O.D. (Payable on death), their most recent album-Murdered Love. A little angry but very passionate. The lyrics speak to me well.

The day that they murdered…day that they murdered…day that they murdered LOVE…

I’ve been slowly reading this book about how we see Jesus today, often we see him as a passive, relaxed, white, chilled out guy…was he really?

Wasn’t Jesus the guy who questioned social order, hypocracy, injustice all around? Should we not think of him like that? Is that just difficult, inappropriate, not right with our culture? Well, sorry but we probably really need to see that Jesus more than ever.

 

Alright, so here are a few underrated or less well known things that boost my spiritual Christian walk and faith…

The music of Johnny Cash-an amazing country music icon now sadly passed away. He had his troubles, but made so many great uplifting and inspirational songs and albums through his life, and tried to follow Jesus well.

Bands-KING’S X-Truly stunning band. The first four albums are fantastic, awesome worship songs there. very honest music. Some said a mix of The Beatles meets Metallica. In America, many Christians distanced from the band when singer Dug came out as gay mid-90’s. Were percieved as a ‘Chrisian band’ from start, but more of a spiritual band these days.

Skillet, RED, Love and Death/Brian HEAD welch (guitarist from band KORN), Stryper-yeah I know, but really if you like classic rock/metal they’re pretty cool really.

Flyleaf-Really fantastic Christian band, sadly original singer Lacey left a couple years ago, now have new singer and new album due later this year.

The Whosoevers-Members of Flyleaf, BrianHEAD Welch, P.O.D. involved in this Christian alternative worship movement in USA.

P.O.D.-Rap/metal Christian band, some great albums/tunes including ‘Alive.

Times of Grace-side project from Killswitch Engage band members.

U2-Possibly the biggest Christian band ever really.

Also love many bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Prodigy, Radiohead, Bjork…

Books-The Manga Bible-From UK comic artist Siku, it came out around four/five years ago, fantastic artwork.

Donald Miller-Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God knows what, etc. Really great, honest thoughts collected in books.

Rick Warren, Jeff Lucas, Rob Bell, Adrian Plass…

I also really like the sometimes ‘controversial’ Christian festival GREENBELT-which incorporates art, faith, music, worship, discussion of all and many kinds.