Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gentle Rage Against the HospitalMachines

From fear of death, Man sows death; as a result of feeling a slave, he desires to dominate. Domination is always constrained to kill. The state is always subject to fear and therefore it is constrained to kill. It has no desire to wrestle against death. Men in authority are very much like gangsters.
-Berdyaev, "Freedom and The Spirit," p251

Anyone familiar with Pink Floyd knows they are hardly The Archies.

So no surprise that "Welcome to the Machine" is sad, sarcastic, bitter, hopeless;
that is, classic Pink Floyd.

But why is it also so.... fun... even prayerfully cathartic... to enter into?

The song, most

obviously about the manipulative, heartless"machine" of the record industry (peruse some suggested interpretations here)
also speaks prophetically to all things

  • "system,"
  • "institutionalolatry,"
  • "matrix"
  • "it"

It is actually freeing to psalmically admit out loud (in a song, on paper, in a sermon or prophetic act) that

Machine doesn't care;
that the system is never the solution,
that the inevitable corporate systemic evil that becomes embedded
(and no one is at fault..that is the catch) in any principality
is all about spreading the gospel of death.
All structures are partly fallen, and largely lean towards death and hell.

They'd like to take us with them.

No need to be overly Luddite;
no need to drain your Ipod with the bathwater..
just a need for awareness that systems in and of themselves cannot care..
and cannot not kill you.

Even as you are free to dance in reckless abandon, and pray with wild hope,  to all that they project or soundtrack. '
Even though medium is message, the Message is far more sovereign.

I am not all that familiar with the group Rage Against the Machine (except that their brilliant guitarist was the God-haunted Tom Morello, who along with other former Rage members now are the core of the God-haunted group Audioslave along with the God-haunted Chris Cornell) or all that they may mean by that title. But it sounds like something we..of all people.. are called to do.

All this to tie into "Hospitals (and Those In Them) Need the Word of God," Chris Erdman's amazing chapter 14 in "Countdown to Sunday,"  four pages that for me are as chillingly accurate,
and practically pastoral,  as anything in the massive "pastoral help" library.

As a pastor still wet behind my ears, I truly felt intimidated by the bravado of hospital technology and shrank before it. I didn't know then that the hospital itself, as much as the patients I went to visit, also needed to hear the Word of God in order to be what God intended it to be--an agent of divine grace, occupying its place as servant, not master...

I might not always carry a Bible [on hospital visits], but I always carry a text in mind that I speak among all the bleeps and blips and pokes. Hosting the text there among the gods of steel and electricity and drugs and know-how is vital work. The technology no longer intimidates me...

..So today, as I enter hospital doors and walk those hallways and sit beside beds and in waiting rooms and open those texts of ours. I don't stand and shout the Word--it's a power that doesn't need my strength or my energy. As I do, I not only see the persons who need this Word leaning in, but I sense the walls themselves bending near...The real weapons that bring wholeness and peace are not machines but words, as small and feeble as they may seem. And all we have to do is mutter them.
Chris Erdman, "Countdown to Sunday," pp 71-73.

Reading this in the very real context and contour of a week of hospital visits to the sweetest saint imaginable; surrounded helplessly but not hopelessly by those bleeps and pokes and machines has brought tears to my eyes and whole images from Chris's chapter to bear on the situation.
I have never been one for wanting to look very pastorly/religious on hospital calls. I don't even park in the clergy parking!

And like a good stealth pastor, I keep my small pocket Bible tucked away.

But I can now pull it out to pay a pastoral (and prophetic) call on the relentless beeping heart monitor. Gently, I rage against the machine; I do not welcome myself to it or its domain.
Instead, I Word it back to its creative and redemptive purpose. And I have seen, like Chris, "medical people who know firsthand the limits of these gods and who themselves long to hear the Bible read in this place that often intimidates them too--they've seen the soft underbelly of the beast that demands their homage."

Today, on the way to the hospital,
to bolster my faith,
and lose my professional preacher facade that I accidentally (?) picked up as a System-Citizen,
I will read Chris's book (at the stoplight, OK, Mom?)


listen not to Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine,"
but to one or more of it's more biblically-balanced cousins:

Even though on the surface, “Vertigo” is a “a nice little ditty that makes you want to kill yourself,” Bono laughed; in the context and clothing of the disc and book, “Vertigo” is actually a hearty “hello”, amen and allegiance to the song/dance of life; which when sung, counters and counteracts; defuses and dismantles the “goodbye, goodbye” death-song that dominates these days. link

Of course, the whole point and mission of that U2 CD/book might be nothing less than to “dismantle the lie that death and destruction hold the cards.” (Beth Maynard).

"Resistance is the protest of those who hope,"
as Jürgen Moltmann has it ( "The Power of the Powerless").

On to the hospital.
Armed with gentle violence.

And to utter a mere, raging and healing word to, and against, the machines.

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