Monday, April 30, 2007

Longing for atonement?

Following on from my little discovery regarding the Linkin Park track Numb (see previous post) I think there's probably more to mention about this band. They're a really intriguing phenomenon. Some of their early stuff felt a bit like manufactured angryness and the videos and dress code also seemed a trifle 'attention-seeking'. But they've always had something special which now seems to be really coming to the fore. Take for instance their new single What I've Done, it's the latest in a long line of releases that revolve around the expression of a deep need to find a peace beyond the human condition. There are a lot of so-called Christian bands out there in secular space who would be scared stiff of writing a song expresing such overt spiritual angst - which may be why they never really get anywhere (the Christian bands that is, not Linkin Park!).

What do you make of it?
Read the lyrics here >>>

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Leper Colony

Every now and again you come across a life that is so bright and well defined that it makes your own life seem dim and shapeless. That's how I'm feeling reading Shane Claiborne's biography-of-sorts The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. As a student Shane found his faltering faith awakened in the company of a group of homeless families taking refuge in a derelict cathedral in Philadelphia. Before long his journey had taken him to work alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta and later to the war-torn streets of Bhagdad. Shane's gracious voice of provocation and challenge is especially poignant in his reflections on his time amidst the lepers of Ghandiji Prem Nevas:
"I learned from the lepers that leprosy is a disease of numbness. The contagion numbs the skin, and the nerves can no longer feel as the body wastes away. In fact, the way it was detected was by rubbing a feather across the skin and if the person could not feel it, they were diagnosed with the illness. To treat it, we would dig out or dissect the scarred tissue until the person could feel again. As I left Calcutta, it occurred to me that I was returning to a land of lepers, a land of people who had forgotten how to feel, to laugh, to cry, a land haunted by numbness. Could we learn to feel again?"
I can relate to that. To me it sounds like a metaphor for the church - a place where those riddled with the leprosy of selfishness find a community in which they can start to feel again. After all, how anyone be a true Christian without the ability to feel?

UPDATE: I was just watching the video to Numb by Linkin Park and noticed for the first time that it's shot in what appears to be a derelict church. Are they on to something? Are they in cahoots with Claiborne!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Through the eyes of Pan and Pi

I'm not a big movie buff, nor am I a great reader of fiction, but whenever a new work appears to great applause and acclaim I tend to do what I can to find out what the fuss is all about. That's the way I came across both Pan's Labyrinth (2006) and The Life of Pi (2002).
What's powerful about these two great works of imagination, and the reason I link them together here, is that they invite the viewer/reader into a new (or ancient) way of seeing, interpreting and understanding the world. They both use the perspective of a child to achieve this, to spellbinding effect. In each case the children, who are experiencing great danger and uncertainty, contend with their circumstances by drawing on the latent power of stories.
What I found most provocative about the film and the book is that whilst the children's realities are at odds with the realities of the adults in whose worlds they coexist they possess a compelling depth of insight. Indeed at the deeper metaphysical level of conveying meaning their 'truth' is unsurpassed. At the end of the film and at the end of the book I was left with exactly the same residual feeling: I must keep the child in me alive.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Strength vs Weakness


I found myself engaged in a conversation last week with a few people that revolved around the subject of whether God wants us to be strong or weak. My initial stance was that this is of course yet another of those profound 'tensions of truth' we live with as Christians - it's a both/and scenario rather than an either/or. However, my holy kop-out didn't seem to cut much mustard, people wanted to assert postitions one way or the other. Many times I've used the maxim "God loves you as you are but loves you too much to leave you as you are" and I've never really had anyone challenge me to the contrary. However it did seem that one of the people in the conversation felt quite strongly that God's plan did not involve any sort of transformation of personality or behaviour, rather, his grace would simply flow and flow perpetually covering all her mortal flaws. I stressed that the scales of biblical evidence, both direct teaching and the witness of divine influence on characters from Genesis to Revelation are weighted heavily towards human transformation. At this point a fairly new Christian spoke up and said, "But I've been changed! God has done it for me. I'm not the same as I used to be. I'm not perfect but there are so many things God's helped me deal with. I am stronger!" It's always difficult to argue with testimony isn't it ;-)

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