Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Marcus Brigstocke for ABC
On hols I read various books. I have had a pile by my bed for some time and I decided to leave the ones from the diocesan reading list (which so far have been rather dull) and read some that I actually wanted to read. One of these is 'God Collar' by comedian Marcus Brigstocke. The title got my attention and it seemed interesting in an atheist kind of way..
The book is a personal account of Brigstocke exploring his 'God-shaped hole'. It is an honest, unbiased view of various religions, but mostly Christianity. As a Christian looking on it seems so obvious that what he is seeking, God can give him, but perhaps he isn't ready to accept that yet. And I really don't mean that to sound patronising at all, just that, as someone who has experienced a massive life change after accepting God into my life, I can see that he is in a very similar place to where I was.
Whilst pretty much every line in the book seems to end in either irony or an amusing anecdote, which can become a tad irritating even if he is a comedian, there are also some absolutely side-splitting moments. Such as the description of him eating too much biltong while on safari in South Africa and the consequences, so funny that I was unable to re-read it to my husband because all I could emit was high pitched squeaks. Then there is the notion of the highly blasphemous: what would happen if the communion wafers were replaced with berocca (an efferescent vitamin). I know I should not laugh at this, I should be appallled and angry, but I'm ashamed to say it was another squeaking moment...
And this made me laugh too:
I dont think Gods in the big cathedral, and even if he is, thats not where I want to meet Him. It's too quiet and too removed from the life I lead. If I met God I'd want to be excited by it and do some shouting. Wow! It wouldn't do at all to meet God, to stand face to face before the Lord and before you could begin to express your excitement at this defining event, to be shushed into silence by a lady with a cats bottom where her mouth should be...
I'm not sure I agree that God isnt in the cathedrals but yes, reverence can go too far. The Daily Mail reading, radio 4 listeners can get too hung up with their own importance. We should be joyous not judgemental! I visited Canterbury cathedral a while back and it was so quiet one of things I was desperate to do, was run down the aisle shouting at the top of my voice. Childish I know and thankfully I managed to restrain myself...Anyway what I found really interesting about his book is that here is an intelligent guy, actively seeking an encounter with a divine force. He talks of visiting various churches and yet his experiences were not all that great. After talking positively about an evangelical church he then says this:
I want in... until you talk to the individuals involved. Once the singing subsides and the red palms of hands clapped in reverence and celebration have turned back to pink, you will find these places where bigotry most vile is as alive and vibrant as the services themselves. Great music thrives in many Christian churches but so does illogical, unchallengable hate, fear and selected ignorance.
That just makes me want to weep, because sadly I know it is true of so many churches. There are lots of Marcus's out there, seeking answers. Seeking so much that they are willing to try church, to come along of their own volition, not because they are being dragged. And what do they see? A model of Jesus in the 21st century? No, they see exactly what he describes - bigotry, ignorance, intolerance and fear.
The World is changing fast. The only thing that can be truly described as consistent is that the pace of change is accelerating. The major faiths have a series of well-sontructed anchors set deep into the bedrock of the past and the solid chains that keep them from moving forwards look as sturdy as they ever did. When one chain seems unlikely to resist the strain put upon it by the fast flowing river of progress, another is ready to be relied upon.....
Marcus Brigstocke should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. (and I'm only slightly joking...) He is exactly the kind of person that the church is trying to reach. Someone who is looking for spiritual answers and yet despite an exhaustive search is not finding them. The church needs someone like him to tell it where it is going wrong. It's all very well theorising from within and coming up with new notions and courses, but we need to listen to those outside. So if you're in minsitry, read his book. It will make you laugh, but it will also open your eyes to where we are all going wrong.