Sunday, March 9
Pray earnestly for the prince of Peace to prevail, for words not guns, for an end to this silliness and for a fair and just settlement.
- heavy metal music
- things with Spanish subtitles.
I have to say it was delightful. Their music hits all the right notes for me - the perfect combination of a wall of solid sound but with subtle nuances in rhythm and melody and riff, the perfect image, the perfect content, etc. I know this is not everyone's cup of tea, but it just blows my mind. Amon Amarth seem to epitomise up everything that I love about heavy metal. except the growling vocals - I prefer the higher vocals of Iron Maiden. But the growl does work well for Amon Amarth. OK, You get the picture - I love the music.
So we get to the Spanish subtitles. These were great (although wildly inaccurate in places). The growl means its hard to pick out the words, so he subtitles helped me to know what was being sung.
Now I have always known that the group is Viking-themed, and most of the songs are about heroic sagas and tales of the Norse gods. No problem there. It starts to get close to the knuckle in The Victorious March, which tells of five victorious warriors returning form battle. Its all going in fine style until it emerges that they have been fighting Christians, with the line "No Christian woman was left un-raped" (that's my translation of the Spanish subtitle). This starts to be a little anti Christian, as well as the more general evil of endorsing rape (especially as an act of war which is now agreed to be a war crime). But a more worrying song is "Thousand years of oppression". This tells two themes, one of the thousand years of oppression, which if I have the song right is intended to mean a thousand years of Christian oppression of believers in the Norse gods, and the other is the story of Odin. In Norse legend the god Odin hangs himself on the world-tree and pierces himself with his own spear in order to obtain the runes so that (in the Amon Amarthsong) mankind can live by them. This has clear parallels to the Christian story of Jesus, and so can be seen as either confirmation of that story or a blasphemous parody, depending on your perspective. Now it has to be admitted that the treatment of pagans by Christians has been substantially less than ideal. But the song repeatedly states (and again this is my translation of the Spanish subtitle), "Let the world hear these words once more: 'From the fury of the Norsemen, Lord, save us'", which of course was part of the medieval liturgy during the times of Viking raids.
Now this phrase could be interpreted as an incitement to religious hatred - illegal in the UK.
So how do I, as a Christian, respond to this?
The whole song seems to be a Norse equivalent of a Christian praise song. If you swapped the Jesus story for the Odin one, and reversed that line I quoted and took at as a metaphorical reference to future judgement by God rather than a call for violence now, then we could probably sing it in some of our more modern churches. But it is a song dedicated to a pagan God. So is it equivalent to Baal worship in the Old testament? This would make it something that we should steer well clear of. On the other hand, in the New Testament, Paul allows the eating of food sacrificed to idols because the idol is nothing. Likewise, Odin is nothing, just the imaginings of ancient Swedish story tellers. And so the equivalent of eating food sacrificed to idols is to listen to Amon Amarth taking deep, deep pleasure in the music and ignoring at the lyrics.
Other paths might be to treat the Odin story as a re-telling of the Jesus story, and enjoy the song on that level, and take the more violent threats as just part of the artistic style. I do have leanings in this direction, but CS Lewis in 'The Last battle' warns against the blurring together of true and false gods. Alternatively, we can take the song as a lesson to understand the wrongs wrought by the church in the past against pagans, and take our opportunity to apologise and rebuild relationships, and so open the door to more effective communication of the Christian gospel. I think this is valid, alongside either of the proposals in my previous paragraph.
I've done the rejection of all my pagan music in the past. I threw away all of my Rush cassettes, because Rush believes in self-determination and preaches that we should not dance on the strings of powers we cannot perceive. I now listen to Rush happily, enjoying the music and just feeling sad that they don't know the Lord. So I lean mostly towards continuing to listen to Amon Amarth. The music is truly outstanding (though if you are not a heavy metal fan you will say all their songs sound the same - like Status Quo), but I do continue to find these anti-Christian lyrics distasteful to say the least.
There really is a shortage of top quality Christian music in heavy metal and other styles.
Saturday, March 8
Friday, March 7
So my wife is at her nadir, as expressed in my previous post. Her situation makes me angry (she turned me away from ideas of burning the church down), but even though I feel very sad for her it has not been a tearful sadness.
Yet just now as part of my work I have to read someones doctorate thesis about a design for a sewer drop. Tears ran freely!
Why do I not cry about my wife, but do cry about a thesis about sewers?
These are actually tears of joy. Yet even this is a bit bizarre. It is a very technical subject, and relates to sewage. Not the normal subject for joy.
Even more, I hadn't even got into the meat of it, I was just reading her acknowledgments.
But this is the key. I was reading about relationships: someone giving thanks to friends for encouragement and support. And somehow the energy of all that love, all of those conversations and shared moments, joys and tears, was all packed and stored in the words on the page, much as electricity is stored in a capacitor or water in a reservoir. As I read the words it discharged the capacitor straight into the part of me that responds to relationship. As I read the words the floodgate of the dam was opened and I was overwhelmed in the flow.
I find I am sensitised to this kind of thing. I can cry watching a group of friends (strangers to me) walking to a formal match. I cry watching other parents enjoy their kids ballet or drama show. I always cry when a baby is born, nothing unusual there. But crying over the credits in a doctorate thesis is, I think, unusual.
I believe that this is a divine gift. I believe that God has opened my eyes to the joy that He gains from the world: an almost physical joy, a nourishing joy, almost as if this voyeuristic enjoyment of other people's pleasure is like God-food, if that is not a blasphemous thought. And just as his joy is infinite, I feel a small but overwhelming fragment of that divine joy.
So when I have dried my eyes and checked no one saw me, I thank Gods and worship.
Thursday, March 6
The DDO said no to her.
This wrong on many levels, but primarily because it depends heavily on a reference from the candidates vicar, and he doesn't like her. We had hoped that he would rise above personal feelings and write a professionally impartial reference, but instead he has taken the opportunity to knock the final nail into the coffin of her life.
It is impossible to explain in a short post the extent to which he has totally destroyed her. For ten years he has psychologically bullied her, even when we have taken steps to achieve forgiveness and reconciliation. Sadly it has been a one way street. He has abused his power to crush her and to turn others against her.
My beautiful wife is now an emotional wreck. She has no reason to get out of bed each day. There is no point in her going to our church. There is no point in her going to any other church. The family will again be divided as we go to different churches on sunday.
Like I say, this post can not explain the situation and readers may wonder why she cant just move on. But I assure you, it is bad. A genius injustice has been done. If he had thumped her or raped her he would go to prison, but because the criminal deliberate bullying he has perpetrated over the years is hard to prove, he will go on to thrive while my wife dwindles into a broken shell of her former self.
Some of you will say "come on Saintsimon, only a few months ago you were on the brink of divorce - how come you have changed your tune?" Well even at the darkest and most bitter hour of our marriage I would still have endorsed her call to ordination. But our vicar, a supposed man of God, had not had the grace to write a fair reference.
Sadly for him we must all give an account of our actions when we meet our creator.
Monday, March 3
Yes, another misleading post title.
What I mean is that as a christian, I find myself in a difficult political (small p) position. Confidentiality requires me to act as if nothing is going on and deal normally with someone in a position of authority over me when on the one hand I have developed a strong dislike for him and would gladly thump him, and on the other I feel vaguely sorry for him because I know what storm is brewing for him. I am a fairly transparent person, but if I let the secret slip I will be in breach of all kinds of requirements and a whole different group of people will be upset with me. So I would like to just walk away, but that in itself would send a signal, and so I have to continue to engage, perhaps for months, in what seems like a most unchristian subterfuge though it is mandated by christians for the greater good.
"Aqui no pasa nada"
Saturday, March 1
I booked a rental van to fetch my late mothers furniture from her flat, which has been sold.
All went well at the hire company and they were just about to give me the keys when their computer blocked the deal because my license has an AC20 in the least 5 years on it. (Failure to give details after an injury accident .... you may remember that the cyclist got up, told me he was fine, declined my details, and went away - he later ended up in hospital with damaged ligaments and I got prosecuted as described). They said no company would rent me a van with an AC20.
Unless I could arrange my own insurance.
My car insurance covers me to drive other vehicles, but only in emergencies. They told me to try tempcover.com, but they don't cover hire vehicles and told me to google 'short term insurance'. They don't cover hire either. So I had to give up on hiring the van this weekend.
But I phoned another rental company.
"Can I hire a van if I have an AC20?"
"Yes sir that's no problem"
"Are you sure? I have an AC20."
"I'll check with the branch .... yeah that's no problem. I'll book it for you now"
Unfortunately they don't have one available today, but I've got it for another weekend.
Today we shall have to cram as much into our own Zafira as we can.
And write a strongly worded letter to the first company.
Thursday, February 27
A prayer room has mysteriously appeared at my workplace.
To find it you have to go to the forgotten end of the unused corridor in the building's nethers. We only found it by accident in a notice on a rarely used part of the corporate intranet.
The room is small, about 2m by 2m. It is painted pure white, with no decorations or furniture. It's only contents are some muslim prayer mats folded neatly in the corner.
So, its existence must have ben arranged by the muslims. This means that they have a right to some sense of ownership of it. But of course the company cannot declare it to be a muslim prayer room, they have to be impartial. Which means that we as a long-standing prayer group that welcomes all comers have a right to use it. (yes we welcome all comers but the prayers we offer are Christian prayers in the name of Jesus)
So how do we go about using the room in a way that is appropriately assertive without it being unnecessarily antagonistic?
Colleagues have suggested placing Bibles, hassocks, pictures, or even a fountain in there. A more sensible suggestion is a couple of folding chairs.
But perhaps all we should do is go in there and pray, when it is not in use by others.
Wednesday, February 26
... I can't say all for confidentiality reasons but there will be political fallout and unforeseeable repurcussions from recent events and a new email from my wife to a senior clergyman this morning. There will be a storm. Mrs and I will be at the centre of it and be held to blame by many. mrs will be able to take shelter, but I won't. Not looking forward to it one bit. Please pray.