The recurrence of whitewash

An American football coach, a deceased British DJ and an American cyclist. What do they have in common? Well for one they are in the news. The stuff they have done pretty horrific.

Jerry Sandusky was recently sentenced for abusing countless numbers of boys. Jimmy Savile, a veritable British institution turns out to be the ultimate nightmare by abusing countless numbers young people. Finally, Lance Armstrong seems to have won all his titles and fame by cheating.

Now, what’s been done is terrible enough but something that binds these three people is the culture of cover up that protected them for so long. All of their acts were known in their circles for years. Yet a culture of silence followed it. The same with the abuse of children in the church. It doesn’t matter what institution or grouping of people it is, those who wield power are able to bend justice into injustice and drag those close to them into that injustice. So Sandusky’s employers knew but didn’t report anything. Savile’s associates and employers knew but didn’t do anything. Armstrong’s teammates definitely knew but didn’t do anything. No they actually did something. They colluded and reinforced the injustice that was occuring.

This is scary. Because it could happen to anybody. Have we ever been part of a group that suddenly turned on an individual an bullied them? I have. I’m ashamed of that. This is the spirit of people coming together that I want to avoid. How we see an injustice and yet can’t see it.

I follow formula 1 a lot and here’s what two of the better drivers in terms of personality and driving have to say.

For Alonso, Lance Armstrong is always a legend even if he cheated. This is something that a lot of Armstrong’s fans are saying. ‘He cheated. So did everyone else. He was the best of the cheats.’ Why do we choose to be blind?

When Roman Polanski was under threat of being extradited Whoopi Goldberg along with other hollywood personalities leapt to Roman’s defence.

Why do we do this? Why do we defend the indefensible? Why do we cover up uncomfortable and unjust happenings within the groups we are in? Is it because the image of what we believe, is more important than the reality that presents itself later? Questions, questions. I just hope that I’m brave enough not to be part of whitewashes though I fear I’m already part of some. Lord have mercy.

Worship Futures

Three bits of news have hardened my suspicions that guitar music is going to be increasingly niche. One is Paul Gambaccini’s last rites on rock. The second is that Guitar Hero has been discontinued. And the third is that Beyonce could be headlining Glastonbury. I think this shows that the guitar has definitely moved away from the centre stage in society’s music consciousness.

This has interesting implications for worship music. A good proportion of contemporary worship leaders lead from the guitar. A huge number of worship songs today are written around the guitar. I’ll go out on a limb and say that there are more guitar worship churches than organ worship churches. So, if the guitar is moving away from the centre of secular music but is the centre of church worship music, should we be concerned?

Concerned in a positive way I would hope. It does warrant thinking and discussion. We are products of our culture and God’s kingdom advances through some of the features of the culture we inhabit. Our worship will always reflect some part of our culture. So we should experiment with new ways of doing music away from the guitar.

How about an ipad/ipod orchestra? Or a more ethereal laptop orchestra?

Sounds alien? Impossible? Impractical? or exciting? Perhaps all of them? Imagine how alien we would sound to Christians a century ago. We have so much more technology than they did. Whether technology is out of control or too much in our lives is open for debate but technology has played an integral role in the way music in the church has evolved. Here’s an interesting quote from the book ‘Electronic Music.’

“baroque music cannot be imagined without the advances of 16th and 17th century luthiers, rock could not exist without the electric guitar, and jazz or hiphop without redefinitions of the saxophone and the turntable.” p89

So as technology changes new kinds of music can appear, not by a wholesale dumping of the past but as natural inheritors to a tradition. ‘(T)he pipe organ was the most complex man-made device,[5] a distinction it retained until it was displaced by the telephone exchange in the late 19th century’ (Wikipedia). Using software is a natural progression from the pipe organ which under pinned church music for centuries. From the same book :

Good new instruments should learn from their traditional ancestors and not impose their music on the performer.

This is where the challenge really lies. It’s easy to make music sound from the computer. You just press play on whatever music player you have. The challenge lies in actually making music with the computer.

Laptops are a common sight in worship but they seem to be used mostly as a screen for words or for projection. Are there any worship leaders who use a computer as their leading instrument? In my limited experience I haven’t heard or seen any. Within the band context I have seen computers used musically but mostly as a sound bank for the keyboard or as a loop machine.

Loops sound good but they barely scratch the surface of computer music. Live sampling would be the next step. This could be of the singing and we could even sample the congregation’s singing to maybe pray over or recite a liturgy over. Generating sounds from the computer could take things further. It could give us a real sense of the otherness and the unpredictability of God. The next crazy step could be where there could be a network server in our worship space where people with their smartphones could all connect to the server and participate and contribute to the music with the various apps in our worship. Wild.

The possibilities are endless. Everything’s possible but not everything will be useful, Paul reminds us. But surely we have to start trying it out? So over to you.

What could worship sound (and look) like if we used the full range of the computer’s potential in worship?

Multicultural mud

Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time caused my heart to sink. No not because of Griffin. I saw only the 6 min highlights and I felt sorry for him. Everyone picked on him and he tried to be coherent and ended up even more befuddled. But he is right in one thing. It was a lynch mob. It started off with Dimbleby instigating the whole fight. That is bullying and bullying is exactly what the BNP is accused off. Different bullies, different victims.

Didn’t the media czars for one moment think that an underdog is always sympathized with no matter how horrible the underdog is? The audience were there mostly to boo him and on TV if someone is booed he becomes popular as evidenced by the various gameshows we’ve seen over the years. In the end the whole episode has shown that the whole area of multiculturalism needs new life and a fairly substantial reboot.

One of the most popular phrases now in self-justification is ‘I’m not a racist but….’. There are actually not that many racists now. Which I think is the fruit of various moves of multiculturalism. However racial prejudice stays on and on. We talk of integration but it is necessarily a difficult and long process. Yet honestly as a family I would rather stay in England than in India where in my personal experience the prejudices are stronger.

So if everyone takes as a starting point that we all have our prejudices we will have started at a point of truth. Another worrying point is that this is quite often a prejudice of colour. The majority of immigrants into this country are actually from Europe who are mostly white. Yet they are not the targets of this talk. It’s simply that the more alien the immigrant looks and behaves the more insecure we all are in relating to each other. From my wife’s experience the Portuguese community are fairly insular but since they look kind of similar and also behave in a similar fashion they are more accepted.

Thankfully Kiarna is fairly international looking so I’m not worried too much about her other than her passion for dosa and idli. My guess is that I should expect some sort racial comments at some point. It happened back in Northwood where I was shouted at to go back to my country. Well at the time I was. Haha. But now my nationality has changed. Oh and I was asked which tribe I was from. By a great standing member of All Souls Langham Place. So I shall accept that it will happen. Even from within the church.

My response will have to be that I am as prejudiced as those and swallow my fear and shyness and get to know them. Only Christ can open our eyes and continue to break the walls that divide us.

District 9

I shouldn’t have read the reviews before hand. That was probably the only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. I was mistakenly led to believe that it was about apartheid or rather that apartheid was the primary metaphor that the movie was alluding to. It seems to be more about immigration and at a deeper level how we view… um… aliens; the movie sorts and the other more close to home beggars in the street, software engineers in our companies, labourers etc. etc.

I’m not too much into alien movies and I did find their appearance a quite yuk in a sufficiently hollywood kind of way but the genius of the movie for me was

I shouldn’t have read the reviews before hand. That was probably the only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. I was mistakenly led to believe that it was about apartheid or rather that apartheid was the primary metaphor that the movie was alluding to. It seems to be more about immigration and at a deeper level how we view… um… aliens; the movie sorts and the other more close to home beggars in the street, software engineers in our companies, labourers etc. etc.

I’m not too much into alien movies and I did find their appearance a quite yuk in a sufficiently hollywood kind of way but the genius of the movie for me was how I really warmed to the aliens Christopher Johnson and his son. From being faintly repulsed to sympathy and pity, I moved towards identifying with them. Now if only prejudice at all levels could be moved so easily.

But it is true that only by in some sense giving yourself up (in Van der Merve the main character’s case, not very willingly) and seeing the world from the other side that’s when the world stretches and changes into something you haven’t been in before.

The film leaves me wondering whether it’s only a drastic accident like what Van der Merve goes through that’s going to push us towards giving ourselves up for the sake of knowing/loving the other. The frustration for me as a Christian is that despite Jesus’ death which has broken the dividing walls and freed us from our tribalism we still have a lot of prejudicial divisions in church . I don’t know. Maybe Christopher Johnson will come back in District 10 with a clearer answer.

Perverts we love you

Roman Polanski‘s arrest has been protested by various celebrities and in the media. It was very interesting that it took a few days before the reality started dawning and people really started reflecting on what happened. But it is a typical case of the rich and the famous protecting one of their own. Yes there were issues in the way the justice system was acting but still there has to be a public acknowledgment that he did something heinous. These articles give some perspective on the issue.

The fact is an adult manipulated a young 13 year girl used her body in every way possible. In an age of sexual consumption and increasing sexualising of younger and younger girls it almost seems ok. This is the smokescreen that’s clouding all of Roman Polanski’s would be saviours. One can’t help but romanticize a fugitive and that too a talented one.

But this ‘fight’ is really about whether everyone should be under the same law or whether the genius should be given his own universe to play with. This again is the dangerous taste of unreality that each of us longs for but there is actually a more brilliant world out there. My prayers for that 13 year old girl forced to be what she was never meant to be

‘…dangerous taste for unreality’

This is what the good Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in a very interesting programme which marked the first anniversary of the collapse of the Lehmann brothers. He said some very good things actually using unpopular terms like Continue reading “‘…dangerous taste for unreality’”

News

Most news organisations gives us so called 'news'. But face it. It's ''same old' isn't it? Death destruction greed and so on. Essentially pure gossip. So where's the news? Well actually I do read the real ''news'. But not enough. I'm too addicted to ''same old'.