Some random things that I believe – and don’t believe…

I believe that the Book of Jonah is one of the most profound books in the Bible. Not the whole ‘swallowed by a fish’ bit, so much as the fact that God sent him as a missionary to the deadly enemies of Israel. No wonder he ducked and ran…

Oh, and it’s also one of the funniest books in the Bible. Especially in the last chapter, when Jonah accuses God of being a habitual wuss, and then follows the entire ‘gourd’ story (see Jonah 4).

I believe that no political party has a monopoly on lying, stupidity, empire-building and self-interest. In fact, for the most part, I think it’s pretty evenly distributed.

Mind you, ‘trust the markets’ is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. The price of gas goes up in increments of about 6 to 7 cents a litre. But it comes down at a much slower rate. Oil company executives tell me this is because of ‘forces beyond our control’. I don’t believe that.

I believe that Jesus was a pacifist, but I definitely do not believe that he was a passivist.

Until this past weekend, I sincerely believed that a bishop’s mitre was one of the most ridiculous looking pieces of headgear ever invented. But on Sunday one of my Anglo-Catholic colleagues described the Canterbury Cap for me. I now believe it’s a toss-up.

I do not believe it is possible to write a folk song. A song becomes a ‘folk’ song when it is sung by folk – passed around, adapted, set in new situations, etc. etc. It follows that (1) songs that can only be convincingly sung by the author (being inextricably related to his or her life situation alone) can never be folk songs, and (2) copyright is the enemy of the folk process.

Oh, and I also believe that most of the music sung at folk festivals is not folk music.

I believe that Jesus has sent his followers out into the world to share his message and to invite people to turn from their previous allegiances and follow him. I believe that he is the unique Son of God, sent into the world by God to live, die, and rise again to save us. I do not, however, believe that this means I can make exact predictions as to who will or will not fry in the lake of fire (thank you, Allan Hunsperger). The parable of the sheep and the goats leads me to believe that I might get a few surprises.

I believe that there is a very important difference between the words “I do” and “I will”.

I believe that a lot of people confuse worship with entertainment. By the way, this includes connoisseurs of cathedral Evensongs every bit as much as those who like their worship bands served with big screens and lattes.

I do not believe that everyone who says “We are truly sorry and we humbly repent’ has actually repented. This includes me. In fact, I wonder if I should be saying the words “I repent” at all. Perhaps I should concentrate on really repenting (i.e. doing things differently) and then let God judge whether I’m truly repenting or not.

I believe it is possible to be too opinionated. I believe I may have crossed that line a long time ago.

4 thoughts on “Some random things that I believe – and don’t believe…

  1. Andrew H.

    How true! I will limit my comment to agreeing about Folk Songs, and your apt description that if it can only be convincingly sung by its author, it is not a folk song – and the enmity between folk music and copyright laws. One could argue that in our modern world folk music is no longer a living tradition – except that people have always, everywhere, found a way to make their own music, no matter what the obstacles.

    An enlightening example for me is the transition among African-Americans between the old Spirituals, with their roots in 19th c. rural culture (especially slavery and then sharecropping in the Deep South) into Gospel Song, which is essentially urban. The people came north to Detroit, Chicago, etc. to get jobs, found a very different (and perhaps no better) way of life in the city, and their music changed.

    I said I would limit my comment, but I must also agree about people coming to Choral Evensong (and Choral Eucharist, for that matter) for entertainment. When our choirs sang “Worthy is the Lamb” a few weeks ago, people applauded when we were done, right in the middle of the liturgy. I am sure they meant well, but my thought was “We have failed; they don’t get it. This music is not about us.”

  2. Tim Chesterton

    Thank you, Andrew – it’s always a pleasure to read your comments. I’m doing my darndest to make sure that folk music stays a living tradition, but it’s an uphill struggle.

    I’ll tell you what i think about the problem of worship and entertainment. We bring modern people into a building where they sit in rows facing the front. Up front, on a raised platform, people in costumes are doing something – reading, singing, enacting a ritual. The modern mind immediately thinks in terms of a performance – play, concert, etc. – and can’t help treating the event in that light.

    I think if we want modern people to understand that worship is not a performance, we might like to give serious thought to our traditional church architecture.

    Thanks for starting me on this line of thought, Andrew – I might have to write another blog post about it!

  3. Leslie

    Wow, I never thought about the architecture. That makes sense. I also think it’s getting to be more and more foreign for people to participate in music…singing together in the pubs or on the porches used to be common place and now the general population is more conditioned to listen to professionals so their only connection to music is entertainment. In that sense the uphill struggle keeping folk music alive seems kind of connected to the worship/entertainment issue.

  4. Tim Chesterton

    Yes, I think that’s exactly right, Leslie. The only two places where people sing together nowadays are in church or at English soccer games!

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