iBlog: April 2006


Tomorrow's blog today

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Faith-on-a-Plate and the Dreadded Stage Four

(an encore in the moan about church series)

I was in SPCK with a friend the other day just browsing around and in browsing through all the useless parafinalia and God spoke to me saying `you don't need this stuff` and long story short, saying that a person with a need will find a remedy (for example in a a Christian bookshop), but an invention of man doens't find its necessity in retail. More specifically, a praying woman who's lost her husband may find a Christian bookshop of some use for literature with regard to coping and seeking God there, however, eighteen year old Ben's who don't *need* a rubber with `Smile Jesus loves you` printed on it in some sweatshop in China is wasting his time and money on such indulgent frivolities.

I'm not saying that all the pointless supephelous objects have no place whatsoever: any reminder of God's love lying around the desk at work or on the fridge cannot hurt, but I think, naive spoilt Chrsitians can get lost in the `things`.

I had a friend who went to String Harvest a few years back and came home and didn't say anything about the movement of God - but boasted her new sweater and T-Shirt with the current in Chrsitian slogan slapped on it.
In a similar vein, I've seen people at youth group in the past who have come in sporting bags, badges and all he bracelts proclaiming their devotion to Christ, but in worship just stand around texting their mates.
It's a difficult thing to ponder - there's a dangeroulsy narrow margin between judgement and blind-acceptence, but I think the scenario can be summised in the word `indulgence`.

The paradigm that has been so obvious to me in the four or five years of being a Christian is the pretty little Christian family who've bought their children to church from an early age, and have, as such, grown up almost immune to sanctity of the presence of God. The parents (dutiful faithful servants they are) indulge their children with all the hoodies, all the Soul Survivour tickets, drive them to all the youth groups and always offer for them to say grace at the perfectly prepeared dinner... (always pray for their health and welbeing before bed) - however, in this situation, there's the prevailing theme of indulgence: whether it be in love, the atmosphere of church, the blessings of life etc.

Now - that's all brilliant and on paper, probably what God wants for us (in the main)! But I think back to when I became a Christian in high school* and I looked at a lot of the people my age who fitted the pattern I described above and in hindsight, I confess myself jelous. I remember having to fight for my blessings. I (for example) wressled against an alcoholic father and living the wrong side of Norfolk from most of my best Christian friends. I remember when my main source of Spiritual fulfilment (fridays) was changed from fortnightly to monthly and still seeing these people who had no difficulties in life and their *plastic* walk with God - and my heart burned part in envy of their faith-on-a-plate lifestyle and part ... welll ... coveting of their faith-on-a-plate lifestyle.

But in hindsight, I praise God for my upbringing as a Chrsitian. I praise God that I know my relationship with Him was borne of a deep longing and journey to find Him instead of being called Christian from birth. Of course it is good that people are bought up with God in their lives, and I intend to raise my children in the same thread- however, I'd like my children to have to struggle with God like Jacob (Gen 32) because although many people call themselves Chrsitians because they chose to be born again - the other not so often mentioned question is would you choose to be a Christian in spite of everything life has to through at you? Job kept his faith because his choice was between God and loss of everything. However, the question evangelists pose today is `will you follow Christ?` without mention of the possible loss of anything except that magazine under your mattress.

I often think that to the dangerously passive prole in life - being a Christian must be the easiest thing in the world...

1- Be sinner

2i- Go to preacher seminar
2ii- Be convicted
2iii- Be Born again
2iv- Raise hands

3i- Join church
3ii- Shake hands, raise hands (at appropriate places)
3iii- Serve Tea

5- Join house group

6- Share testimony/sermonette

7- Join worship band

8- Join deaconate

And to the non-thinking in society, that's a pretty good set up. With all the Christian literature and `Smile Jesus loves you` rubbers makeing sure you pray everyday, that approach can only work wonders. But that's just another example of faith-on-a-plate... this is the TV model of evangelism (IMO) and doesn't involve step four:

4i- Drive home
4ii- Hit tree while rumaging in glove box for newest Rebecca St James CD so you have something to talk about at the next cream tea morning
4iii- Loose both legs, husband and put youngest child on life support for a three month coma with a sorry end 4iv- Realise husband was main source of income and had no life assurance. Haven't been at church long enough for material help from the fellowship and loose house so live with sister in crack-town.
4v- Suddenly time is too preoccupied with grief to pray
4vi- Pastor's wife comes to visit and finds you after your second back2back ten hour shift at the chemical factory and you suddenly remember that people once wore floral dresses before the accident.
4vii- Pastor's wife asks if you wnat to pray but you're not ready to open that door again.

Okay maybe that's a stupidly exadurated example, but in the first instance, there's no strugglisng to find God - or to keep Him. I respect my mother, she fits in to the scenario well. She's bordering on stage eight at the moment, but doens't preach properly quite yet, but she's doing well seeing as she's been a Christian about seven years (then she's another blindly passive one!) but she had the same stage four as me, and truth be told, I recon she had a harder time of it than me. I battled my father's alcoholism with blocking tactics and diversion, whereas she tackled it with love (only eventually being successful)... But I know that both of our faiths are strengthened by the stage four.

PR Church borders on this**, only by things like When the Music Fades and about keeping your faith firm on the rock - but the sermons I've heard all talk about the blessings of God and assume a perfect textbook faith-on-a-plate audience. Perhaps the stage four is a blot on the PR that church likes to bring, but as a Chrsitian, I think it's a very useful self analysis to ask

Where would I be without Jesus?
What's the biggest thing I've chosen Jesus over?
what's the biggest thing Jesus has chosen me over?

Charles Wesley writes:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

I think we could all do to be aware of the place from which we've been saved............

* I have no intention at all to extol myself - I was/am an idiot of a Christian in my early days and probably just as materialistic as the people i accused.

** PR Church - like plastic Church. The image a church likes to portray where everything's nice and happy and accepting Jesus is the end of all your troubles and you join a church where everyone's young and pretty and people are enticed by shallow aesthetics *cough* awesome generation *cough*

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ponderings on Proclaimers and the Revolution

Part two of the `bee in ben's bonnet`

Oceana's first, final and ultimate defence from collapse was its inward indoctrination of the party members and the proletariat into hyper-patriotism of the party. Part three of the novel, if you need reminding, has O'Brien explaining to Winston that Oceana is an inpenetrable, indestructable institution because the proletariat will never revolt while they're in a constant state of subsistence as a result of the ongoing war. Not only does the war give the proletariat a common motivation - whether that be to listen to talks or ralleigh together, but also forces a mass of people into a common entity against a common enemy in much the same way as the inhabitanat of a city is pushed into supporting the football team it boasts. While the people are in one accord and the state is [deliberately] kept devoid of an abundant enough central resource for the same proletariat to be educated enough to realise its own exploitation, they will never revolt, and will follow like sheep.

``knowledge and human power are synonymous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect`` - Sir Francis Bacon

The church of old has been attributed to one regrettable truth: the oppression of the free thinkers. Whether that be 16th century mathematician Johannes Keplar; reformer monk Martin Luther or outspoken Scottish revolutionary John Knox, these people all lay claim to the fact that the conventional church of the time oppresed them and their wild thoughts - even until death until they were vindicated by history some years later at the expense of the credibility of the church itself.

Today, we wonder why the church would bother to expend so much as a second glance at such non-inflamatory isssues, but considering the power and influence of the church of our past, it's clear to see the link between Oceana's desire to control and the church's by means of the oppression of the masses by the monopoly of their education and culture.

People like Carl and Laura and others are getting into this growing revival about emerging church who's elect could be described as those who take their teachnig about church culture and worship from the Bible and their own relationship with Christ, and (arguably dangerously) moderate their personal thinking by reducing the imperative from the words spoken from the pulpit or the dogma of the church generations (there's more to emergentism than that though!). It could be said that a new generation of Chrstian is dawnig governed by the postmodernstic attitudes which are infiltrating our society. A new type of Christian who transposes the role of church on their life, a new type of Christian who asks the questions that cripples the bourgeois of the church on the grounds that the church shouldn't police its own role in society and its role in the wider Church [of Christ].

So herein lie to starkly opposing paradigms.
One: A relic of the past which leads by control and telling people what's best for them, whether that's as a result of church docterine or `church leaders` who try and pastor certain people on a personal level (even to the extreme I know of where they tell people their dietry needs)... A secure model of church and modern in its thinking.
Two: A model of church which begins with the learned and experienced Christian and the confidence that their relationship with God grants them a clear enough path to truth, and the tolerence of other Christian's beliefs (while not quite the wrong side of pluralistic). A model where the emphasis on church is a vehicle towards outreach and truth, rather than a self informed absolute to be followed.

Alas, the internecine nature of these two dicta antagonise one another by their mere nature... Tom Sharp once wrote ``if a little knowledge is dangerous , then alot is lethal``.

Without digressing any further, I've been thinking today as to which of these models Proclaimers fits. On the one hand, the loud music, strobe lighting, and not letting anyone over thirty or who isn't a pastor on stage seem quite post modern, even seeker-sensative, but aside from these asthetics and slogans promoting `Church without the boring bits`: my experiences, and those of those close to me seem to unveil a heirachial controling absolutist structure. Beneath the pomp and distraction of being urged to worship loudly and the resurection of those high school popularity/fitting-in instincts, the unorthadoxy of the outliar is quashed like a renaissance astronomer in the vatican!

My personal experiences involve being disparaged by Tom Rawls to my friends (behind my back about me being a sinner); having my views deleted from a public web forum after Tom Rawls took exception to them being announced; and after I asked the same man to explain something further after an evening at Proclaimers four months later, my questions were not answered (or considered!), but the issue of my forum post thinking bought me into interrogation (and then again by other `leaders`).

I think what's sad about Proclaimers is the way in which, like Oceana, it is so inwardly involved and supported. As Oceana keeps at war - so does the church in its war against what Procla imers would call `the world`. In the same way that Oceana don't educate its people with enough to see their state as it is, so does Proclaimers shield its people (by the active disparagement of not only `the world`, but specifically other churches as I have seen when they harass the innocent public on Gentleman's Walk). At the end of the day, the thought police are rife in the church. Not jumping at the appropriate times is looked on with what I felt as contempt; not being psyched at certain campaigns also has the same effect, even those as farcical as `rage against beige`. And most of all, the signs of possible thought crime are met with a strong talking to from Tom Rawls himself. The church culture paints a very narrow line to walk. Even the awesome website has essays to the effect. Subtle things like the tone of the welcome team or the choice of sermon or caliber of preacher or current campaigns (eg, rage against beige - the battle against a normal carriage in life) all point towards a very modern imposing monster of a church... Which, as i said, pertends to a far too inwardly involved church, self supportive: a hunter whos primary weapon is its seeker sensative nature, and it's kill the unquestionable dictum. All the time, idolising itself.

This is another curious trait of any church but predominant to the megachurches - their own idolisation. The media of Hillsong or the imposure of the state by the church in America by moral-religious blackmail. Take for example how many times proclaimers mentions the name `Tom Rawls` in a service, or how many songs they perform which aren't either their own or Hillsong. One experience I had was when Tom and the inner party went to Hillsong-London and they came back and said words such as ``you should have seen the way they treated Tom... shaking his hang and talking to him with such respect``... that's not only idolatory of their hosts but also of their pastor. Other times have seen Awesome talk about how far its come and congratulating itself on such a journey on how a handful of committed talented people have grown into the people they are now.

Again, without any further digression: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have to be the masters of the revolution, and their famous words were:

``let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. they have a world to win...`` - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Perhaps what makes Church different to politics is that chuch has the ultimate scapegoat - the buck doens't stop with them but with God. This higher get-out-of-jail-free card grants licence to impose, be the absolute and to govern the people as intently as the Bible itself can be read. And as such, Proclaimers and the mega-church have to be more powerful than Oceana. The only flaw Oceana ever had was that it was its own absolute, O'Brien said ``... come on, Winston, why do you REALLY think we go to such pains?... Power, pure power``, also, the principles of Ingsoc are only as malleable as the party say it is, and are only concrete because the party says they are as such. However, church has the licence to off load these issues of power and absolutism while retaining the perks of thoughtcrime and policing its people as vehemently as is tolerable within the paper confinds of the modern church - picking and choosing between the old and new testament churches... eg, insisting on the tythe of the old testament but ignoring the parts of the old testament it finds awkward. or saying when a person is a sinner and telling them to stop sinning.

Decisions, decisions....

So I've been fired from Norwich Union... they generally don't like the whole dyslexia thing in an admin department and that's the short of a long story, oh, that and my contract runs out on tuesday coming.

So I've been job hunting without any success since november.

I went for an open day with these door to door salesman people yesterday which was an.... experience and I'm in two minds as to whether to take that job. It's only charity stuff, but if i get five contracts a day, I have the capability to more than double my salary at NU (which means Laura could theoretically retire), however, I'd need to work unil about ten and the job is really hard work. Prayer would be welcome I guess as I still don't know what to do. ta.

in a more lighthearted note, as part of my leaving NU, I was told a month or less ago that i could have my last month's notice still living at home and not going into the office, but as i was still part of NU, i wasn't to work anywhere else...... last night we knocked on the door of my manager... the most awkward thing that could have happened, so i shoudl probably ring him soon.

anyway, please let me know if you have any thoughts

love benvolio, x

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Point Eight

So I thought I'd write to the Oxford English Dictionary people :)

Am awaiting a reply.

Here's the letter

love benvolio, x

Can't get the staff: (Sp?)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

My things to do before I'm thirty list and the missing number ten. Please help

Okay, so I'm nearly eighteen years, ten months and twentytwo days old right now, and as such, it seems befitting it should concoct a list of:


but I'm stuck on point ten, so please please help me!

Here's so far on the list:


1) Get Blood out of a stone and write a book about it (Bonus if forward by J.Lo afterthought: will settle for P.Diddy).

2) Have sex while playing Goldeneye.

3) Hypnotise the mayor of Norwich.

4) Invent a cerial that makes the eater invisible (Bonus if it's proper healthy).

5) Work out the difference between a green and white Parliamentory paper.

6) Understand how the electricity bill is calculated.

7) Use the words `Testosterone`, `Accrostick` and `Porcelain` in the same sentence (conversationally) without using conjenctions.

8) Have the term `thank you` made into one word.

9) Get married to La and don't piss her off so much she leaves.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Thouhgtcrime; Ownlife and The Awesome Generation

... Okay so its been a long time, but i miss looking at Proclaimers and deciding whether my annoyances are founded or not, so here's another adventure in my nosy round the `Church of my dreams`.

News on the home page is there's another wallpaper to download... Apparently the guy with the sunglasses isn't cool anymore. link:
...And Tom is back in fashion. link:

... ahhhhhhhh, that's better. I mean awesome!

Other news from the homepage is Proclaimers is `Church without the boring bits`... So it's good to see the Church in Norwich caters for the kingdom of Heaven in both conventional, effective and `non boring` ways. After due consideration, I've decided what I want out of church, is `not boring`, and lo and behold... !

mission statement
``Our mission is to reach people for Christ, and influence culture by building a large church in Norwich - to disciple and empower people in every area of life and shape the future of our city and beyond``.

Let's discover how they go about doing this... From my experiences with Proclaimers and being part of the Awesome Generation (hmm, that phrase makes being a Christian all tingly - but more on that later) - Loud music, loud speakers, loud spotlight colours, loud PA systems (with the `love` offerings to pay for them) and most of all, loud oppressions of `the world` culture that threatens the dominion of the church all converge to a brilliant piece of showmanship and theatre on a sunday evening.

Amongst my last adventures in Awesomeland, was their last birthday. The indoctrinated culture of `Audacious`, had conspicuously become distinctly uncool, and was a bit of a 2004 drag. (However, in a decidedly more inconspicuous note that appeared a fortnight later, it happened that another youth church event up t'north had taken exception to the name `audacious` as it had been plagerised by who were soon to become, the `Awesome Generation`. )

The soon become `Awesome Generation` (or `congregation` in uncool terminology) were packed dangerously tightly into the foyer of the hotel while the finishing touches of bringing the generation's worth to God were not yet finalised. Eventually, amid a fog of stage smoke, the name `awesome` was unveiled, and from that moment, I transformed from being a `audacious Christian` to part of the `Awesome Generation`, and touch wood & copyright licencing, haven't looked back since. This new outlook on life was so decided because in taht week, we had all stopped being audacious and awesome became a more apt adjecive for this particular bride of Christ, and of course, with my new outlook on life, came the new logo and theme tune.... oh and of course, the new wallpaper.

Presently, it became apparent that part of being `awesome` meant beige became a taboo, and all things mediocre were out, bland colours were out; bland music out; and somewhere within this new culture, bland evangelism was also out. Oh, but thoughtcrime was in.
When i questioned Paster Tom Rawls on why I had to be radical to be a Christian, I was told i was against the work of the awesome generation... I received the same answer when I asked why the church needed to pay £10,000 on a pa system it already had... and I was then asked why I had raised these issues before on another Christian forum... the insecure Paster had already picked an argument with the moderator of said forum and been laughed at by many people in the process.
So Rev R spoke to me about this (as did his whippin boi' Phil) - and to my education i was content with my answers (which I was subsequently assured had been given me somwehere along the line) and sat down and shut up.

So Mission statement complete - i guess `culture`, `large church`, `disciple and empower` all points big signs towards:

`Air Strip One` church.
Whereas Oceana has only to put up with the bushy moustached Big Brother to figurehead the party, by looking on the awesome generation website, they have an array of popular, young, pretty, optimistic looking Chrsitians to represent Air Strip One Church... In fairness, that probably is indicative of the conesnsus of the awesome generation itself - studenty Christians with too much zeal and not enough common sense to draw the line at some sort of sensible display of post-modern evangelism... However, the self indulgent nature of all things awesome cannot help but hint that perhaps the church may well be slightly too inwardly focused... too intentnt on spending God's offetory on itself, too intent on videos about the leaders and nothing else, too intent on it's own fads and barely at all intent on the wider problem of the city... Oceana prides itself on being able to see teh good in everything, and doublething allows for a reduction in the chocolate allowance being an increase and a net congratulation for the party - I cannot help but feel that Awesome is doing the same - being as loud as it can in congratulating itself on the sheer numbers within church and not focused at all on the people the church is supposed to reach. Perhaps Kings of NYFC or Zion will take the rap for that.

When all said and done, ownlife (the desire to show individualism against the orthodoxy of teh party) and thoughtcrime seem to be the biggest crimes against proclaimers, and duckspeak (the blind shouts and cliche's to exhonerate one's self for the furtherence of the party) seem to be encouraged. I'm always slow to call anything a cult, but I cannot help but think that Proclaimers is nothing more than a cult as it actually tries to indoctrinate its own culture, and inwardly develop itself while feeding on the proletariot aspect of the awesome generation - a decidedly curious trait for a church considering the mission statement says `to reach people`.. with this in mind, the rest of the mission statement could be summised by replacing the first sentence with `to impose people` - or `to displace convention of society with...`

who knows, perhaps if my pals in the awesome generation get our way, we may well be outer party members to the first right wing Christian totalitarianism in society - not just in the Ramada on a sunday...