Saturday, 24 May 2014

Subtext and Rain

So last night I went to see play performed and written by some University Students entitled Subtext and Rain. I have to say as way of an introduction that I was pleasantly surprised by it. It was well put together and kept me engaged throughout.

As the title may suggest this was a show of themes. The subtext was key and as such worldviews were portrayed but rarely articulated. One of the key ideas which came across again and again was the idea of isolation. As we entered we were encouraged to write down secrets which played a part in the performance and throughout the play again and again the idea came out that no-one really knows us (and perhaps we don't even know ourselves).

This was seen as an overwhelming experience. This sense of isolation, or not being understood, was often portrayed as too much. The water (rain) is rising around us and we're struggling to stay afloat.

This was only one of many themes within the play but it got me thinking about the play as a whole and it struck me that like so much that I watch it was again a play which was willing to diagnose and highlight problems but unwilling to even venture a solution. The sense of isolation highlighted in the play was never addressed. So we identify a problem but offer no solutions. We are nervous to offer solutions because who am I to say anyway - The problem is that mere diagnosis is of limited use.

As I look at the gospel I see the problem of isolation, of loneliness regularly presented but I see a solution offered as well. We are isolated as we seek to present a different face to that we have. We are isolated as we harm other people and are harmed by others and withdraw. We are isolated but this is not the end. The work of Jesus was specifically to rebuild these broken relationships. The security offered by the gospel enable us to be open and vulnerable with people rather than mere actors working hard to portray the version of ourselves we want others to see. This is why so much of what Jesus talks about relates to how we relate to others.

The bible is clear - Isolation and loneliness are realities but the gospel offers a promise of something different/something better. Subtext and Rain could not offer this and so what you are left with is an entertaining and engaging diagnosis which leaves you aware of the problem with no idea how to address it

Saturday, 17 May 2014

True Detective Part 2 - Light and Darkness


Rusty - Tell you Marty I been up in that room looking out those windows every night here just thinking, it’s just one story. The oldest.”
Marty: “What’s that?”
Rust: “Light versus dark.”
Marty: “Well, I know we ain’t in Alaska, but it appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.”
Rust: “Yeah, you’re right about that.”
Rust: “You’re looking at it wrong, the sky thing.”
Marty: “How’s that?”
Rust: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”

This is the final scene from the scene. The case is solved. Both have survived but it's been pretty grim along the way. The question is what was it all about? What is it all about? True Detective is as much a film about how you view the world as it is about a case. The conclusion is this. It's one story. the story there has always been 'light versus dark'

This is the story of humanity - there's good and there's bad. There's light and there's dark and which is prevalent? Well that depends on your worldview and your experiences. This story of light and dark always interests me because it is one of the central stories of the Bible. Just look at a few of the key moments in the Bible.

What does God create first? Light
What does Jesus say that he is? The light of the world
How is God described? God is light and in him there is no darkness at all
What happens when Jesus dies? Darkness descends
What are Jesus' followers called to be? Light in the world
What will happen at the end? God will recreate the world but there will be no more sun because he himself will be the light.

The Bible tells this story which humanity has been telling ever since. There is darkness in the world and darkness seems to have a lot more territory. So how will the light ever prevail. Well in Jesus light comes into the world. Perfect light in the perfectly good person and he offers forgiveness to people so that they too can become light. As such his followers seek to be light in the world but never wholly succeed until that last day when light finally prevails as God comes down and makes his dwelling with people.

So the story of light and dark continues but light will prevail because light came into the world in the person of Jesus. So ultimately Jesus says rejecting him is rejecting light and choosing the darkness and accepting him is accepting the light.

It may seem like the dark has a lot more territory - but once there was only dark so you ask me and the light is winning.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

True Detective - Part 1

Over the past few weeks I have been watching the new HBO mini-series, True Detective, on Sky Atlantic and have had a few thoughts. True Detective is set in Louisiana in the states in what seem like a deeply religious area of the US. It follow two detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) who work on a 17 year long case tracking a serial killer. It is a pretty bleak watch at points but also pretty spectacular.

In one of the scenes their investigation takes them to the tent of a travelling ministry type thing (which is frankly fairly ridiculous. As he looks around McConaughey comments at the group of people he sees around him. His main point - these people are unimpressive and unintelligent. Here he simply articulates a view held by many. If you are going to believe in God etc then you must be stupid. This got me thinking and I have a few thoughts.

1. As a Christian I am unconvinced that Christians are noticeably less intelligent than those who are not

2. It is however true that numerous religious institutions throughout history have sort to exploit people, including those who are vulnerable in some way, for their own ends. This is true of not just the religious but of all different types of people. Unfortunately people exploiting other people is a perennial part of human past and present. The meeting the attend did not really seem to reflect any intelligible belief but rather did seem to be about exploitation. I would distance myself from that.

3. My main reflection was this - So what? Christianity, if true, should not and could not be a thing which requires a certain level of intellect. It is a relationship with a God who made us and loves us. Not a test we have to pass or a qualification we have to gain. Whereas the rest of our world may run around after the rich, intelligent and famous - God does not care about those distinctions.

If Jesus is fundamentally about following Jesus then in him we see the perfect example of someone who was obviously not unintelligent (he may not have split the atom but he changed history more than the man who did), who did not seek to exploit anyone for his own gain but instead willingly gave up the riches and comfort of heaven to live on this earth and eventually be crucified by the people he came for and who drew all sorts of people to himself including those rejected and despised by the society he lived in, in much the same way that McConaughey had no time for the people at that meeting.