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I crawled down Darkroom Alley
To see what I could steal
Built a bridge across the gap
Somewhere I could kneel
Goodbye, night. Goodnight.
Goodbye, night. Goodnight.
Blew a hole in the wall
Where the light shone through
Soaked up sunlight skipped and danced
Moving in the groove
After black hours circling
Solar brightened cell
Drawing from the well
Vivid flashing vibrance
Resplendent in my view
Blazing white with lucent light
Replacing my blue shoes
Sharpened senses cutting through
Balancing with flair
Seasoned quickened spirit
Whitening all my cares
Sparkling essence zest and zing
Bubbling through my soul
Responsive fire with warmth of breath
Creating graceful whole
Night was crumbling, falling down
Night was falling down
Night was crumbling, falling down
Night was falling down
VS //: Em / Am9://
CH G / D / C / Em
From Robin Skinner & John Cleese "LIFE ...and how to survive it" - (Methuen; London:1993)
John: ... In fact you could claim that most values in the West are derived from Christianity, and you don't find anything more inclusive than the words of Jesus Christ. ...
Robin: ... people interpret each myth according to their level of mental health....
John: So let me get this right: a less healthy person will take a healthy idea and turn it into something less healthy?
Robin: Absolutely! And vice versa too. ... Each person will bring their own family attitudes and feelings to their interpretation of myths about loyalty. So if hey come from a very unhealthy family, they'll feel that the group should all hold practically identical views, and that anyone who questions these views is a 'trouble-maker' who is being 'disloyal'; they'll feel hostility towards outside groups, and a disregard for the rights of such 'outsiders'; and they'll feel intense and demanding dependence on all the other members of the group. ...loyalty to unhealthy people is simply paranoia dressed up and re-labelled. p. 253 -255
John: So the healthy behaviour is to look at the thinking behind regulations; the less healthy behaviour is to take a literal and inflexible interpretation of the letter of the law. It sounds to me a general principle of mental health. p. 261
John: Well, I'll attempt a rough summing-up so far. We've been looking at the idea that each person interprets the world according to his or her level of mental health. And it seems to me that the unhealthier we are, the more literal minded we are in the interpretations of the letter of the law, as it were; and the healthier we are, the more influenced we are by the broader idea that lies behind the formulation of the myth that we are interpreting. p. 266
John: ... we poor teenagers were hearing sermons every Sunday so breathtakingly half-witted that the only valid response was reading, sleeping, or invading the pulpit.... Any God, I felt, who would seriously approve of what was going on in that church would be out of his infinite mind. p. 268
John: So a religious idea will be interpreted by a person in a way that fits in best with their existing psychology?
Robin: Yes, and it can therefore support them in functioning at the best level they're capable of, given their limitations. ... Well, take people functioning at the least healthy level first. They'll understand religion as a collection of rules, of rewards and punishments, of threats and promises, all enforced by a powerful and frightening God.
John: The extreme black-and-white thinking found in young children?
Robin: That's exactly what it is. The thinking of such people has got stuck at that level, and though it's normal in a very young child, it's obviously unhealthy in an adult. ...
John: And how is God experienced?
Robin: He's seen as a terrifying, domineering, bad-tempered dictator, who wants everyone to spend heir time admiring him and telling him how marvellous he is. ... So naturally people holding this view feel they have to do lots of things to keep Him sweet, so that He won't get into a bad mood and blast them with thunderbolts, or boils, or rivers of blood.
John: A little bit like the church congregation in "The Meaning of Life", who, when invited to praise God, all chant 'Ooooh, you are so big', and 'You're so tough and strong, you could beat anyone up, even the Devil', and 'We're really impressed don here' before singing Hymn 42 'Oh Lord, please don't burn us'. I can remember as a nione-year-old, thinking that God couldn't be so stupid that he wouldn't se through such blatant buttering up. p. 270 - 271
John: So the way I can explain our position now is to say this: there are different ways of following Christ - which correspond to different levels of mental health - and therefore it's quite legitimate to make fun of the less healthy ways, not least because they actually conflict with His teaching! The Inquisition was not an example of 'Blessed are the meek'. p. 275 - 276
Robin: ... I'll start at the bottom level again. As we said just now, for the least healthy, religion is based on the kind of thinking typical of very young children. And young children have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, wishes from deeds. So at this level, religion is valued as magic - as a means of making wishes come true, without acknowledging scientific laws and relationships of cause and effect.
John: You mean at this level we believe that we only have to repeat a prayer of incantation, or perform some other prescribed routine, in order to make the world do what we want.
Robin: Yes, and when you're thinking like this, whether or not your wishes come true seems to depend only on how strongly you believe in the procedure! p. 277
Robin: ... to the extent that you face and accept your own psychology, including all your weaknesses and faults ... to THAT degree will you be able to accept and love others. And conversely: to the extent that you love others, to that degree you will be able to love yourself. p. 282
John: Well, everything that you've been saying implies that [Fundamentalism] is a manifestation of a fairly low level of mental health, doesn't it? For a start, Fundamentalists call for a literal interpretation of scripture, and as we saw when we were discussing secular values, focusing in on the letter of the law is a characteristic of the less healthy. In addition, wise people tend not to exhibit literal mindedness, so it seems singularly inappropriate to assume that this is the vein in which great spiritual teahers are speaking. Then again, whether we're talking about Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Hinduism, the values of Fundamentalists seem aimed at making themselves feel better by placing all negative and destructive emotions in people with different beliefs, and enjoying the golden glow of self-justification that results. ... You know that simile: 'As rare as a Fundamentalist who loves his enemy.' ... the Inquisition did largely miss the point of 'Love Thy Neighbour', didn't they? Wasn't burning heretics 'worse' than being tolerant towards them? ... p. 287
John: In other words, the aim is integration?
Robin: Yes. It's even there in the language. The words 'whole', 'healthy' and 'holy' all have the same root. They're all expressions of the same idea. p. 308
From Samantha Trenoweth "The Future of God" (Millenium Books 1995)
"One of the unique aspects of Judaism," he says, "is that it believes that everything God created is potentially holy. It does not draw a sharp distinction between the sacred and the secular, between the religious and the worldly." p. 138
A variety of human religions, he believes, will always be required by the variety of human experiences. p. 139
"Why do bad things happen to good people? Why has illness struck my innocent child? If there is a God who is good and just, how has this God come to create a world which is so generously endowed with injustice and pain?" There is no more universal theological question yet, in Western religions, there are few satisfying answers. p. 140
"This is the crucial religious question," he explained earlier this evening. "When it is left unanswered, it festers the soul, it corrupts faith, it causes people to leave faith. When it is answered badly, it breeds cynicism and mistrust. When it works, when people are able to find consolation and solace in the teachings of their religion, at a time when they need it the most, then that religion will be a source of sustenance for the rest of their lives. How shall we understand the sufferings of good people? There is no more important question we can ask." p. 141
"... when we ask this question, we discover that most of the answers we're given simply do not work. ... They would say to me, 'God is putting your family to this test because you're so strong in your faith and you can handle it. You'll be an inspiration to others.' All I could think of was, I wish i was less religious. Let God test somebody else and give us a healthy child.' People said, 'God is doinmg this to you so you become a more sensitive person and write this book which will help thousands of people afterwards.' I imagined the response if a defence attorney for a human murder was to get up in court and say , 'Look at all the good my client has accomplished by killing that child. All over the country, people are much more vigilant about where their children go when they leave the house and all over this continent, people are grateful that their child is alive and well because my client hasn't got his hands on them.' "They would never be taken seriously in a court of law. Why do we say the same thing about God? We say that God would torture and kill an innocent person so that other people will grow spiritually as a result. I have never accepted the idea that God allows retarded children to be born so that the woman next door will realise how lucky she is that her kids are normal. Why does God strike somebody blind or crippled? So we can have the opportunity to drop a coin in their tin cup as they beg? I cannot take seriously a God who would choose such things. ... I realized why all the conventional religious answers didn't comfort me. You know why? Because they weren't supposed to. They were not intended to make me feel better. They were intended to defend and justify God." pp. 142 -143
... there were three ideas which each of the characters in the book [Job] wanted to believe. First, they wanted to believe that God was all-powerful, the creator, the prime mover, indisputably in control. Next, Job and his friends wanted to believe that God was absolutely good, compassionate and just. Finally, they wanted to believe that Job was a righteous man. ... as soon as job's world began to rock, it became impossible to assert more than two similtaneously. The problem for Job and his friends - and for Rabbi Kushner - was which of the three they should jettison. p. 144
"Job's friends are doing what we have learned to call blaming the victim. ..." p. 145
"It's not that God's ways are too wondrous for us mortals. The question is, will God permit himself to do things which he has told us are wrong?" p. 146
"The conclusion I came to ... was to challenge number one, that everything that happens in this world, God wants to happen." ... Harold Kushner jettisoned his belief in an all-powerful God." pp 146 -147
She said to him, "Pastor, if one more person tells me it was God's will, I'm going to scream. Why are they teaching me to hate God?" ... "We teach people either to hate themselves for deserving it or to hate God for doing it to them when they don't deserve it." .... "I would rather affirm God's goodness," he says, "while compromising his power. I would rather believe in a God who sees things happening that he does not want to happen but cannot stop them. I think goodness is of more religious value than power." Around this central tenet, he rebuilt his faith. According to Rabbi Kushner, the primary reason why bad things happen to good people is that laws of nature do not differentiate between a good person and a bad one. p. 147
... a passage in the Talmud that he paraphrases as follows: "If a man steals seeds from his neighbour and plants them, justice would require that those seeds do not germinate. Why should that man profit from his theft? However, nature is not just and stolen seeds grow." Life is full of such instances. Nature is amoral, he insists, and God does not interfere with laws of nature. ... the ability to know the difference between right and wrong. Human beings have that ability. Falling rocks and viruses don't. ... That's the first source of suffering and unfairness that God cannot prevent." ... Dorothy Soell ... German Lutheran theologian ... "Where was God at Auschwitz?" Her answer is that God was at the side of the victims, suffering and grieving with them, not on the side of the murderers. p. 148
"... Instead of raising our hands to heaven and saying, 'God, why do you let these things happen" we applied our God-given intelligence to the problem, until we solved it, just as we will one day solve the problem of cancer and AIDS and heart disease." p. 150
" ... a nineteenth century Hassidic rabbi: 'Human beings are God's language.' p. 151
" ... the person who says, 'Why me?' doesn't want explanation, she wants consolation." p. 152
"Why do good people suffer in God's world?" he asks again. "The answer is, I don't know why and if I knew why, I wouldn't tell you because, if I told you , I'd be making the same mistake that all those people made with me so many years ago - taking something that fundamentally doesn't make sense and trying to make sense of it. ..." p. 155'
"MacLeish [in the play J.B.] responded to that ending [in the book of Job] the way I suspect many off us do.: 'Who wants a God like that? Who wants a God who plays these sadistic games with his most dedicated worshiper to see if he can make him lose his faith?' So McLeish changes the ending. Instead of God rewarding Job, Job forgives God. ... " p.156
We don't explain our suffering, we survive it, we respond to it, we choose to go on. p.156
In other words, the pain, the suffering, the tragedy we experience has no hidden meaning. It is not directed towards us by a vengeful God, nor is it, most often, the consequence of our own evil doing. The suffering we endure has no meaning until we impose one on it and then, we are free to choose the nature of that meaning. p. 157
"... Jews don't actually pray for, Jews pray to. Prayer does not mean asking God to do something. Prayer, in Judaism, means asking God to be with you. .." p. 158
"... Ultimately the question is not, 'Why does God permit this?' ... The real question is, 'From where does my help come? How will I manage to get through this?' The psalmist's answer, it seems to me, must be our answer as well: 'My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.'" p. 159
From Paul Tournier "The Person Reborn" (SCM:1967)
"Life is short," wrote Hippocrates. "and the art long; the occasion fleeting; experience fallacious, and judgement difficult." p.93
... each of us deduces from his personal experience a system of thought, which he sets up as the truth against all other systems of thought. ... I have the liveliest sense of the immeasurable greatness of God, in comparison with which all our mumblings are of no significance. ... The orthodox violate the law of love which their orthodoxy enjoins upon them, in persecuting any who do not share their dogmas. p.98
The spirit of dogmatism ossifies thought and sterilizes life. The person who is satisfied with one experience loses the dissatisfaction which could be the source of fresh experiences. p.101
He who claims never to have doubted does not know what faith is, for faith is forged through doubt. ... To set up one system or doctrine against another impoverishes the mind by freezing it in a partisan attitude which obstructs the evolution of its life. How many upholders of orthodoxy seem to have fossilized minds, through having lost that unquenchable disquiet and curiosity which are the precondition of every advance in the spiritual life! As soon as one believes on possesses the truth, and encases it in a system, one shuts out other horizons. p.106
The spirit of dogmatism simplifies, opposes and systemizes. The philosophical spirit has a sense of the endless complexity of things. p. 107
A mate had a poster of this as a teenager. I still think it's what Jesus would do in most churches.
HOW TO ATTEND CHURCH
Enter into the Church Assembly Line:
- church bulletin shoved in hands
- hymnbook shoved in hands
- ushered to "pew" to await brainwashing
Begin brainwashing by singing Jesus Jingles over and over and over and over and over again ad nauseum while participating in the Jesus Jingle Leader's "Simon Says" ("Put your hands in the air!" "Close your eyes!" "Think about Jesus!" etc)
Praise Jesus by mentioning "praise" as many times as possible - as if you were going for the Guinness Book Of Records title for the most times anyone has said "praise".
Repeat last two items ad nauseum to sermoan.
Torture Break 1 - collection of tithes, offerings, love gifts, building fund donation, money, money, money, etc. Pray to Jesus.
Sermoan - three doubtful points with associated proof texts dumbed down to the lowest possible level.
Repeat Jesus Jingles ad nauseum after sermoan.
Torture Break 2 - Pray to Jesus.
"Meal" of a thimble of grape juice and a dry bit of cracker to remember Jesus.
Repeat Jesus Jingles ad nauseum after "meal".
Hear Exit Speech from Pastor "That's all folks!"
Exit the Church Assembly Line:
- church bulletin shoved in pocket
- hymnbook removed from hands
- line up to shake Pastor's hand ( Ancient ritual to congratulate him on boring you to death with his Sermoan. Sexism intended.)
Stumble with an empty feeling to "Fellowship" - instant coffee / tea and a biscuit where one is ignored by the majority of people.
Suddenly realise that you have just attended a church service where God wasn't mentioned once - but Jesus was mentioned every second sentence.
Start to ask self "Why did I bother to come along?"
Repeat ad nauseum next Sunday.
Repeat ad nauseum every Sunday.
Repeat ad nauseum till:
1. Death when church torture mercifully ceases.
2. You wake up to the fact that it is so intensely boring that you will die of boredom if you attend another church service and you decide to stay home instead.
Don't blame me for the above. I've only visited your churches.
Veni. Vidi. Reliqui.
(Latin translation: I came. I saw. I left.)
"Sadly many churches practice the four W’s: win them, wet them, work them, waste them." - Bruce Gerencser
Once upon a time ..........
You get sold a sales pitch full of lies and offers too good to be true.
"They told me a fairy story,
'Til I believed in the Israelite." - Greg Lake "I Believe In Father Christmas"
"Just believe" all your problems will be solved. Believe us. We know Jesus personally. (How? Through reading a man-made bible, that's how.)
"Jesus is the answer." (But he never answers your questions.)
You are suckered in without using your rational faculties.
You are brainwashed with repetitive Jesus Jingles and mantras. Free mass hypnotism for the people.
You are love bombed with smiley faces. "See, we really love you ... because you're a new convert."
In evangelical / pentecostal churches the next step is adult baptism to prove that you are really serious. Nothing really changes except that you are held under water for a few seconds. It does provide a badge of honour as you are not "sprinkled" like those heathen Christians down the road (Bloody Catholics, Anglicans and Liberals!). You are a "trew kristyun" who has been dunked. You are one of us. Welcome to the club ... now obey all the rules or we'll kick you out of heaven. Attend your weekly indoctrination classes. Don't ask questions.
You get put in a "ministry". Everyone must have a ministry. Your "ministry" will be validated by the pastor who has the final say. Your ministry might begin by mowing the church lawns or cleaning the toilets. If you are a teacher ( like myself) you get a ministry of helping in children's church even though you have worked the last five days at a school and have preparation for those classes to do as well. If you are a musician (like myself) you get put in the "praise and worship ministry team" where you have to play Jesus Jingles for free though your fans pay money to see you elsewhere. You never get an explanation of the difference between praise and worship. Yours is not to question why. Yours is to do and .... Every Jesus Jingle is exactly like the previous and next ones. You never get paid for your ministry even if it is something that takes many hours. Any expertise you may have in any area is now available for free to any church member. You are doing it "for the Lord" though you are never told who the Lord is exactly.
You never get a break from this routine except over the Christmas holidays when the Lord is not so busy and there is no ministry available. Wait till February if you want ministry. You do the same thing every week for years. You get a mention in the church bulletin and a thank you from the pulpit. That's your pay. Nothing ever changes unless a better new convert comes along and then you are relegated to the sidelines. You are especially relegated to the sidelines and menial work if you are not a personal friend of the pastor. If you don't like the pastor then you are removed from "public ministry" where people can see you, perhaps back to cleaning toilets and mowing lawns. If a curvaceous young female comes into the church she is placed ahead of you as having a better ministry. One can only guess what that ministry is as she gets on so well with the pastor.
You read in your bible where slavery is advocated in both the Old and New Testaments and you begin to think that it is a viable option and a better "work for the Lord".
And they all live unhappily ever after if they remain in church.
I read Michael Ford "Wounded Prophet: A portrait of Henri Nowen"(Doubleday:1999). I found it very disappointing after all the hype I read about him.
Henri was profoundly psychologically disturbed. At the age of 8 his mother had got him a child-size altar and small vestments and had converted his attic into a chapel for him to play act being a priest. Talk about child abuse! His answers were trite and superficial basically boiling down to "Jesus is the answer". People thought that he had some special gift because he too was wounded. He doesn't seem to realise that people may be asking questions where Jesus is not the answer and something more substantial was needed.
He was a homosexual who didn't have the guts to come out of the closet for fear of losing money and readership and the disapproval of the Catholic church which paid him. It was a cowardly act. He died without letting the world know of his "secret sin" and helping many other homosexuals. I doubt whether I will bother reading anything else of his work unless it comes to me free.