Archive for September 19th, 2008

Friends,

This will be the first in a series of posts here at CRN.info designed with one purpose in mind: to learn to listen to others. I realize that the nature of this post is fraught with all sorts of dangers, so I will offer a few ‘rules’ before I begin. First, we (whoever contributes to the series) will be using the music, poetry, art, and more from the so-called secular world. I have discussed this with the other writers here and we agree that this can be perceived the wrong way and we are prepared for such an eventualities and criticisms that may come along with such a series of posts. We want to take a chance here that perhaps there is someone in the blog world who may be crying out the same things. We want, in part, to be a voice in the wilderness.

Second, the purpose of this conversation is NOT, under any circumstances, to discuss the salvation one way or another of the author of the work in question. The work we discuss is necessarily ’secular’ and many times the authors of the work have made decisive decisions against Christ, although not entirely closing the proverbial door. The purpose here, however, is to listen to what they are saying and to discuss what they are saying. This means you will have to read the lyrics (or stare at the art or whatever) and watch the video to get the full effect of their words.

Third, a serious aspect of this series of posts is to, hopefully, develop some evangelistic ’strategies.’ I know it’s not nearly that simple, and perhaps it is a bit naive to assume that simply by listening we can learn about how to approach the lost. But the series was prompted by a post at imonk where the monkish one asked:

Is there really a God-shaped void as Augustine described? What if we listened to what atheists said about themselves? Could we still evangelize, or must they buy our assumptions first?

This is a serious series of posts. I am not being smart, sarcastic, cliche, biased, trivial or anything else like that. I want to listen–to the artist, to you, to those who might be unbelievers who visit. What are they saying about their reasons for rejecting Christ? How can we, by listening, pray properly, witness compassionately and graciously, and work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit? We are not necessarily endorsing these lyrics, or these points of view. We are listening. I read just yesterday a blog, in the comments section the author wrote:  “Maybe you could be more equipped to help your friends if you stopped sympathizing with them and started giving them God’s truth”; as if one is in complete opposition to the other! Isn’t God’s truth the very essence of compassion? But if we never come along side those who suffer, how will they ever know there is hope? Will they listen to me expound Romans 1 if they have not first seen me demonstrate John 13? Will they care if I love God if I haven’t first demonstrated that I love them?

Fourth, while the monk uses the word ‘atheists’ to describe a general group of people, I am not. As was pointed out to me in preliminary conversations, not all those who are not-Christians happen to be hard-core Richard Dawkins type atheists. Many actually believe in God and say as much through their art. What I am hoping we can do is listen to their cry–and a cry it is.

Here’s how the posts will be set up: 1. A video or art selection will be posted. 2. Lyrics will follow. 3. A few brief questions or observations or history will follow to spur on conversation. 4. Conversation. Feel free to comment on the lyrics or help interpret the piece in question. Then let’s discuss what is happening. The only thing we ask is that you please stay on topic.

One of the best things, relatively speaking, to happen in recent years was the so-called ‘grunge’ movement that had its origins in Seattle, Washington with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. The first installment of this series of posts features Alice in Chains and a song titled “Down in a Hole.”  Here’s how Layne Staley’s life ended:  ”After a decade battling drug addiction, Layne Staley was found dead in his condominium on April 19, 2002. An autopsy revealed Staley died from a mixture of heroin and cocaine 14 days previously. In his last interview, which was given months before his death, Staley admitted, “I know I’m near death, I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way.”

From MTV’s Unplugged series, this version of the song features Layne and Jerry Cantrell (guitar) singing the song. The latter, which has since, evidently, become unavailable at youtube (you may still be able to view it at youtube) is the MTV version of the song. At the end of the MTV version (not shown) you can see the following words flash across the screen: “This facility Cannot Accept Dirt.” Remember that.

YouTube Preview Image

Bury me softly in this womb
I give this part of me for you
Sand rains down and here I sit
Holding rare flowers
In a tomb…in bloom

Down in a hole and I don’t know if I can be saved
See my heart I decorate it like a grave
You don’t understand who they
Thought I was supposed to be
Look at me now a man
Who wont let himself be

Down in a hole, feelin’ so small
Down in a hole, losin’ my soul
I’d like to fly,
But my wings have been so denied

Down in a hole and they’ve put all
The stones in their place
I’ve eaten the sun so my tongue
Has been burned of the taste
I have been guilty
Of kicking myself in the teeth
I will speak no more
Of my feelings beneath

Down in a hole, feelin’ so small
Down in a hole, losin’ my soul
I’d like to fly but my
Wings have been so denied

Bury me softly in this womb
Oh I want to be inside of you
I give this part of me for you
Oh I want to be inside of you
Sand rains down and here I sit
Holding rare flowers (oh I want to be inside of you)
In a tomb…in bloom
Oh I want to be inside…

Down in a hole, feelin’ so small
Down in a hole, losin’ my soul
Down in a hole, feelin’ so small
Down in a hole, outta control
Id like to fly but my
Wings have been so denied

____________________

I’ve had this on the burner for a while. I’ve been trying to find a way to post it, an appropriate time, during an appropriate breath. Let me tell you briefly, what it was that prompted me to think that now is the right time. I received an email from my mom last night. This past week another of my school-mates from my hometown committed suicide. That is two in the last two weeks, 3 in the last six months. 3 men, two still in their thirties, one just barely in his forties. A couple with children. All three someone’s son. All three men made in God’s image, men for whom Christ died, men who are now gone without any hope of recovery in this world.

My mom and dad also visited last weekend. We spent some time talking about my home congregation. Turns out that for quite some time now the church has been bleeding members. You know why? Well, it seems there is an ongoing feud between one ’side’ of the aisle that is in favor of women serving in traditionally male roles (deacons, servers, etc.; please do not bring up the role of women in the church as that is not what this post is about) and the other ’side’ that is vehemently opposed to it. Many of those who are opposed to this happening have simply, quietly left the church; likely not to return. Those in favor continue to press their point; the church is dying.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, men who are my age, men I grew up with, are killing themselves–the most recent, Scott, shot himself. Meanwhile, there are men (and I’m sure many women too) who hum along with Layne Staley: “Down in a hole…feeling so small…down in a hole…losing my soul…” because they have no other thoughts inside of them. They are people, men and women and children who truly believe they cannot be saved; that there is simply no hope. Hopelessly sad.

I have to be honest, I am sick of this. I am sick of people having no hope, not hearing or seeing compassion, feeling and believing themselves to be so unloved that their only recourse is death. Are we willing to listen to what the lost are saying? Are we willing to come alongside and suffer with them? Are we willing to be Christ incarnate to them? Or are we so thrilled with our own salvation that we have neglected the weightier things of the law?

How long do you think the church will continue to fight and argue and destroy itself while people continue to take their own lives? Are we willing to listen? Are we hearing what their are saying? I invite you into this conversation: How can we help men, women, children, who are feeling this exact same way, the way Staley sang of? Maybe the church can again become a place where trash is accepted.

3 of my friends are now dead. They are gone. Lost. 3.

jerry

PS–I realize I’m running some risk posting such thoughts, but please bear in mind that I’m asking for us to simply listen. Future posts will likely be shorter because they won’t need all the introductory rules and explanations.

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O Come All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, ye lovers come sing
A cry from the mountains, a call to come worship your coming King
Come praise Him with music and honor Him with dance
Behold He comes quickly and He carries His reward in His hands

Hallelujah, and let every creature sing hallelujah
Hallelujah

And build Him a highway on the music of your praise
For the Light of the True Morning
Pierced through the darkness His golden rays
Sound loud all you trumpets, a call to all men
To come to His temple and with solemn reverence to worship Him

Hallelujah, let every creature sing hallelujah

And go to the city and sing out the song
For the walls of the temple will be shaken
And the music will transcend the concrete and the chrome
And the minds of the children will waken

Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to men!
Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and then

You shall be led forth in peace
The trees of the field will clap their hands
To the tune that the mountain sings

Instead of the nettle will be the fir tree
Instead of a briar a myrtle will be
And this shall be as a memorial to our God
A sign everlasting that won’t be cut off

Hallelujah

O come, all ye faithful, ye lovers come sing
A cry from the mountains, and a call to come worship your coming King
Sound loud all you trumpets, a call to all men
To come to His temple and with solemn reverence to worship Him

Hallelujah, and let every creature sing hallelujah
Hallelujah

-Rich Mullins (October 21, 1955 – September 19, 1997)

 
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