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Monday, July 28, 2014

theologians who say "I don't know"

When faced with puzzling information,
 one of the most important statements a
 scientist can make is 
                  "I don't know." 
Similarly, one of the most important statements a
 theologian can make is
                  "I don't know."

--In the Eye of the Storm: The Autobiograthy of Sir John Houghton By John Houghton, p 85

unscripted Salvation Army church


Tina Turner..hurt by church as a girl..sings Amazing Grace

Tina Turner Sings ‘Amazing Grace’ By Chaplain Jim Linzey (Ret.)Special to ASSIST News ServiceSAN DIEGO, CA (ANS) -- Take little Anna Mae Bullock as an example of a marvelous creation of God who was badly hurt by a small rural local church when she was a young girl. As depicted in the feature film “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, Anna Mae was the only little girl in the church choir, consisting of older teens and adults in an African-American church.

Reared in the broken home of “party girls” with the exception of her grandmother who was truly a righteous woman of God, the only music Anna Mae understood in the home was bar ...continued here

church as a nonhectic, episodic event which fractures time

William Stringfellow:
..The Kingdom is, I believe, temporal as much as spatial...the event of the church constantly, repeatedly fractures time. This is to say, the church as an institution or nation is, first of all, an event of the moment, gathered here or there, but that does not predetermine whether or how the church will appear again. The church is episodic in history; the church lives in imminence so that the church has no permanent locale or organization which predicates its authenticity as the church. This may seem a hectic doctrine of the church to the Constantinian mentality. It is. But it is so because it suggests the necessity of breaking away from Constantinian indoctrination in order to affirm the poise of the church awaiting the second advent of Jesus Christ. .. William Stringfellow, Conscience and Obedience: The Politics of Romans 13 and Revelation 13 in Light of the Second Coming. (ht, Richard Beck)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn Lyrics Part 16-Nothing But a Burning Light

by Don Berg
Evolution of Bruce Cockburn (Part 16):
Nothing But a Burning Light (1991)

My first Bruce Cockburn concert came with the release of this album. We had been trying to get to one for years, but the stars never could align. Finally he was coming to a city within driving distance (4 hrs) on a weekday. I took a personal day and we drove there and back on the same day. Took in the concert with Colin Linden and the full band. Slept an hour or two, got up and taught the next day, and it was awesome! The band led off with a song that Bruce did not write, but it set a very spiritual tone for the evening and for the new album. It was this version of “Soul of a Man,” except that he may have modified it slightly for national television. In our concert the song began with the drummer alone on stage playing a giant bass drum and each musician came out and joined the song one at a time.

At this concert the band played the song “Mighty Trucks of Midnight.” During this song, something happened that confirmed in my mind that Cockburn’s fans listen to the lyrics and “get” what he means. After Bruce finished the last line in this next quote, a cheer went up from about half of the crowd. Being a progressive Christian can seem lonely at times. I realized in that moment that I was surrounded by a crowd of similar faith.

Mighty Trucks of Midnight

Wave a flag, wave the bible, wave your sex or your business degree
Whatever you want -- but don't wave that thing at me
The tide of love can leave your prizes scattered
But when you get to the bottom it's the only thing that matters

Mighty trucks of midnight
Moving on
Moving on

I believe it's a sin to try and make things last forever
Everything that exists in time runs out of time some day
Got to let go of the things that keep you tethered
Take your place with grace and then be on your way

Letting go of the things that keep you tethered; perhaps the prizes that the mighty trucks have scattered. Cockburn seems to be finally able to let go of the anger and pain and accept the love and grace of God. In “Great Big Love” Bruce refers to Mathew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden,” indicating that while Christians are reflecting this love and grace, it is too hard to find. Nonetheless he has found it and is back to singing a song of praise.

Great Big Love

Seen a lot of things in the world outside
Some bad but some good stuff too
Felt the touch of love in the works of God
And now and then in what people do
Never had a lot of faith in human beings
But sometimes we manage to shine
Like a light on a hill beaming out to space
From somewhere hard to find

Great big love
Sweeping across the sky

Cockburn’s next album would turn out to be a Christmas album. He foreshadows that with the song “Cry of a Tiny Babe.” It tells the Advent story, but with enough of a modern translation to emphasize the transformational story that it is. In it Bruce also refers back to an image from his more Evangelical days, that of a stone landing in a river, the ripples expanding outward. He sings: “Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe.” I need to explain this next link a bit. Bruce used to host a radio show for Columbia records. (He also hosted a Christmas special each year on CBC television in Canada) One one show, he performed this song with Lou Reed and Roseanne Cash (Johnny’s daughter). When I first heard this version, I thought that Lou Reed had just ruined a beautify performance, and I am a fan of Lou Reed. Now I feel that Lou only brings more realism to the story, so listen at your own risk.

Cry of a Tiny Babe

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph gets upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says God did this and your part of his scheme

Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says, forgive me, I thought you'd been with some other man
She says what if I had been, but I wasn't anyway
And guess what, I felt the baby kick today

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything

Cause the governing body of the Holy land,
Is that of Herod a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born, King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two

But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and getaway clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe

And there are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepards and street people, hookers and bums

And the message is clear if you have ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fears
It's a Christmas gift that you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eye

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe
Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever,
Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe

He concludes his album with this autobiographical declaration:

Child of the Wind

Little round planet
In a big universe
Sometimes it looks blessed
Sometimes it looks cursed
Depends on what you look at obviously
But even more it depends on the way that you see
Hear the wind moan
In the bright diamond sky
These mountains are waiting
Brown-green and dry
I'm too old for the term
But I'll use it anyway
I'll be a child of the wind
Till the end of my days

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics Part 15: Big Circumstance

Evolution of Bruce Cockburn (Part 15):
Big Circumstance (1988)

In the song “Shipwrecked at the Stable Door” Bruce acknowledges that Big Circumstance (Divine Providence) has taken him on this life voyage. While he states that he would rather be home, being shipwrecked at the Bethlehem stable, living on the road for Jesus is probably the better thing.

Shipwrecked at the Stable Door

Big Circumstance has brought me here -
Wish it would send me home
Never was clear where home is
But it's nothing you can own
It can't be bought with cigarettes
Or nylons or perfume
And all the highest bidder gets
Is a voucher for a tomb

He concludes the song with a reworking of the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matt. 5):

Blessed are the poor in spirit -
Blessed are the meek
For theirs shall be the kingdom
That the power mongers seek
Blessed are the dead for love
And those who cry for peace
And those who love the gift of earth -
May their gene pool increase

Left like a shadow on the step
Where the body was before -
Shipwrecked at the stable door

Cockburn is still troubled by the visible face of Christianity active in the political world of that time. From the context of his travels in Central America, it is clear to him which side of American policy falls grace. Not from the “Gospel of Bondage”, but falling from above upon the people “Down Where the Death Squad Lives.”

Gospel of Bondage

You read the Bible in your special ways
You're fond of quoting certain things it says -
Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
But when do we hear about forgiveness and love?

Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
But if God stays silent, what else can you do
Except listen to the silence? if you ever did you'd surely see
That God won't be reduced to an ideology
Such as the gospel of bondage...

 Where the Death Squad Lives

Where the Death Squad Lives
Like some kind of never-ending Easter passion,
From every agony a hero's fashioned.
Around every evil there gathers love --
Bombs aren't the only things that fall from above
Down where the dead squad lives
down where the dead squad lives

Sometimes I feel like there's a padlock on my soul.
If you opened up my heart you'd find a big black hole
But when the feeling comes through, it comes through strong --
If you think there's no difference between right and wrong
Just go down where the death squad lives

This world can be better than it is today
You can say I'm a dreamer but that's okay
Without the could-be and the might-have-been
All you've got left is your fragile skin
And that ain't worth much down where the death squad lives

Throughout all of these songs runs the common theme that greed is the cause of the evils of our day. An essential step toward salvation is the letting go of possession. Like the Old Testament prophets, Bruce cries out for Creation, which groans under the curse of human greed. Are we deaf?

Hosea 4:1-3

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing,[a] lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.

Isaiah 24:4-6
4 The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth.5 The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws,violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.6 Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.
If a Tree Falls

Through thinning ozone,
Waves fall on wrinkled earth -
Gravity, light, ancient refuse of stars,
Speak of a drowning -
But this, this is something other.
Busy monster eats dark holes in the spirit world
Where wild things have to go
To disappear

If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
Anybody hear the forest fall?

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics - part 14

Evolution of Bruce Cockburn (Part 14):
World of Wonders (1983)

This was the first newly released Bruce Cockburn album that I had purchased, and at this point of my life I was a diehard Cockburn fan and loved the newer political content of his songs. Unlike many of his more recent fans, I was also a huge fan of the deep spiritual content of his earlier work that touched me “deep down where I lived.” Can this spirituality still be found in World of Wonders, if had Bruce become a secular Canadian music star. Lest one think that Bruce is little known, when this album was released, his picture was plastered across every inch of the window to the record store across from the University of Winnipeg, where I was attending.
During this time, Bruce had a problem. That is, if he identified himself as a Christian artist, he would be associating himself with the Moral Majority, who were supporting policies in Central America that were subsidizing the horrors that he had witnessed while there. He would not condone oppression wrapped up in an angelic shroud.

Call It Democracy

Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament -
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
Idolatry of ideology

Bruce is beginning to find his hope though. It is in the faces and the faith of those who are living under these appalling conditions. Shining out from behind the bad stuff is some good stuff too. “Dancing In Paradise” describes an oppressive vignette in each stanza, but concludes each with “and there’s dancing in paradise,” indicating that the people find a way to live on.

Dancing In Paradise

Biggy Dread gunned down by police at Big Bridge March 16
Riding a mule cart to Sav-la-Mar pulled out a cutlass and they had to shoot
That's what they say
Something tells me they like to shoot
Something in the eyes of the ones at the road block
Where they searched the car and tried to get us to confess to whatever...
There's truncheons and gas down in Harbour St.
Typical response where life isn't so sweet
And somebody gets desperate enough to say so
Price of fish price of flour
Going up up up almost by the hour
And they throw away money on spectacular shows
To show the world the right likes the right music
And the Prime Minister sucks ice cream in the company of a happy band of children
While a naked man, sores on his neck,
Lies for days in Washington Blvd. gnawing chicken bones
And the Chamber of Commerce thinks there's too much crime
And there's a kung fu movie in every town
And there's Dancing in Paradise...

World of Wonders

There's a rainbow shining in a bead of spittle
Falling diamonds in rattling rain
Light flexed on moving muscle
I stand here dazzled with my heart in flames (at this...)
World of wonders...

Moment of peace like brief arctic bloom
Red/gold ripple of the sun going down
Line of black hills makes my bed
Sky full of love pulled over my head
World of wonders...

Grace abounds in these songs. This is was Bruce has said about it: “Grace lives in the dirt you know?...If you’ve got to wait until you’re sitting out on a mountaintop somewhere to experience grace, you’re probably going to miss it. It’s not really grace then. You’ve constructed an atmosphere for yourself to get in touch with an aspect of yourself. But it’s that gleam in a ‘bead of spittle.’ That’s where the grace is. It’s all over the place.”

The imagery of “Down Here Tonight” conveys a prayer to the “Lord of the starfields” that thanks to the fire and the light, we are doing ok down here tonight even in this hour of darkness.

Down Here Tonight

Pans gonna play and the fire burn bright
Talking drums say everything's all right
Beating of the sea sends a message
To the far starlight
"We're doing okay down here tonight"

The end of the road's still far away
But the travelling's better by the light of day
This hour of darkness is the time to dance
Lay down your burdens -- give the beat a chance