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.


Jesus Gets Left Behind

Is Christianity just getting a tickert to heaven in the Jesus express? Has the modern American version of "a personal relationship with Christ" become too one sided--Jesus gives out salvation free of charge, no obligation--all that's need is a nod of the head, an intellectual assent to the statement that Jesus is Lord? All the uncomfortable stuff, loving your neighbor and your enemies, being forgiving and merciful and all of his other teaching can get left behind.

That's the point that Sacha Zimmerman makes in her critique of Glorious Appearing, the new Left Behind Book.

I'd not seen the Pulps feature at the New Republic online -- but after reading this week's review of the Glorious Appearing, I'm hooked.

Zimmerman says she approached the book with "liberal assumptions" that it would " further alienate me from Christianity."

Instead, she said, it was so repulsive, it made her "want to defend Christianity vigorously."

Zimmer says:
Did I "see the light," or find Jesus, or otherwise metamorphose as a result of this book? Of course not. It's just that Glorious Appearing is such an ugly expression of Christianity that I could not help but think of all the beauty of Christianity that is missing from it.

What's missing from the Christianity - and from the Christ of Glorious Appearing? Any hint of the Jesus of the New Testament who preached love of neighbor and enemy and who forgave even those who killed him.

aside from being much more powerful than Satan, there isn't a whole lot of difference between the Jesus of this novel and the prince of darkness. Christ is not compassionate any longer, he has lost his patience with forgiveness, and he is happy to slaughter anyone who doesn't bow down before him, call him "Lord," and mean it. Meanwhile, all the believing heroes of the novel look on, practically cheering, "I told you so!" as millions are disemboweled, burned alive, or trampled to death. They banally regard millions of people as they are being butchered around them.

Their notion of compassion in the midst of this sacred genocide is to wonder if perhaps they should shield their children's eyes.

There it is--sacred genocide. In the Glorious Appearing, Jesus is a mass murderer who kills without remorse and whose followers feel no compassion for those Left Behind.

Zimmerman ends with a critique of Evangelicalism as a whole:

But we are not exactly a thinking nation, and good versus evil is just a whole lot easier than the kind of thought that really goes into a consideration of the genuine complexity of Scripture. And so a lowest-common-denominator Evangelicalism is the fastest-growing religious movement in the United States right now, and Glorious Appearing tops the charts.

"I kept wondering whether somebody will finally defy Christ by speaking for Jesus," writes Zimmerman.

I don't agree with the entire piece--but when Zimmerman says that Jesus gets left behind in Glorious Appearing, she's speaking the gospel truth.


Powered by Blogger