Falsani Rocks

A couple weeks back I blogged about a column I'd read from Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun Times.

She's back today with this piece about a conversation she had with singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, who's just back from Bagdhad.

You can read a longer interview with Cockburn about his trip at Sojouners.com

But you get the best parts in Falsani's column. It showcases what she does best--part personal confession (a story of meeting Cockburn as a college student, feeling terribly "opressed" at the conservative school she attended--he nods and smiles) and then narrates her conversation with Cockburn, bringing it to life with punchy prose, one liners (her latest interview with him becomes a "cosmic mulligan" and just the right details to bring his trip to life. Like the visit he made to a squatters's camp--where 500 families who'd been bombed out of their homes were living.

Here's a snippet:

Cockburn's guitar went along with him. He jammed with a young Iraqi oud player, serenaded a house full of disabled women, and practiced tunes in the lobby of his hotel where most of the guests were Shiite Muslim pilgrims from Iran in town to visit holy sites around Baghdad. They had been banned from the sites under Saddam Hussein's regime.

At one point, on his way to lunch with the owner of an art gallery in downtown Baghdad, Cockburn's car got stuck in a traffic jam and he had to get out and walk. Which is how he found himself in the middle of a 100,000-strong demonstration of Shiite Muslim men.

So, did they wonder who the salt-and-ginger-haired guy with the guitar was?

''They kind of looked at us like that, but as soon as we smiled and said hello to people . . . they'd break into these wide grins and say, 'You're welcome,' which, for most people, was the extent of their English,'' he said.

Why did Cockburn go? His faith and his calling as a songwriter draggd him there.

''It's my job to tell the closest thing I can to truth in my songs, about what it is to be human in this world. Situations like what Iraq is facing are all too common in the world. It's important for me to have a sense of how it feels for people living with that.''

Cockburn faith iand his music is the polar opposite of the compassionless faith found in Left Behind (see today's other post) and the vacuos "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs that too many Christian musicians specialize in.

''My understanding of my relationship with God includes an invitation to be involved in what goes on in the world and to try to offer positive input wherever possible. And that goes with being human, beyond being an artist,'' Cockburn said told Falsani.

And then there's this five sentence, two paragraph snippet of some of the best theological diagnosis of the human condition I've ever read in a newspaper:

''I feel we're in a race,'' he said. ''We're in a race between our ability to understand our relationship to the divine in a kind of nonpartisan way, let's say, which includes a sense of interconnectedness of all things, including us.

''With the minute choices that we make, and the steps that we take in life, we're kind of in a race between that understanding and an innate urge to self destruct."

With another, less-subtle writer (like me), this piece could have come across preachy and heavy handed. But with Falsani, it becomes a plea from one pilgrim who's not perfect but who's trying to get it--trying to get what this religion-thing is all about.

That having a relationship with God means having a relationship with my neighbors and my enemies alike. If I miss that, it might just be me that's left behind.


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