Archives For February 2017

Red Halo: Assisi In Chains

February 25, 2017 — 4 Comments

Red Halo RL2017In his biography of St. Francis of Assisi, G.K.Chesterton refers to something he calls a ”Red Halo”. He does this twice in the book. (Link)

Each time the phrase is found in reference to Francis of Assisi. The first occurrence is when some town folk rush to put out a fire where Assisi was praying with Clare of Assisi, only to find, not a fire, but him collapsed and a Red Halo surrounding them. The second is when the younger Assisi is held captive in a dungeon after gearing up as a citizen soldier to fight in a skirmish with a warring neighbour. Evidently, their squad was captured.

‘Something very vast and universal was already present in that narrow dungeon; and such a seer might have seen in its darkness that red halo of caritas caritatum which marks one saint among saints as well as among men.’ [i]

The once-an-atheist, Chesterton wasn’t to my knowledge, and wide reading of his work, into, nor was he an advocate of mysticism. So it’s fair to say that “Red Halo’’ is for intent and purposes a metaphor used to emphasise what he sees as being a strange alien quality to Assisi; something to suggest that Assisi was grasped by something, or rather, someone not of this world.

This week’s instrumental is inspired by that phrase.

‘If a man may well doubt whether he is worthy to write a word about St. Francis, he will certainly want words better than his own to speak of the friendship of St. Francis and St.Clare. I have often remarked that the mysteries of this story are best expressed symbolically in certain silent attitudes and actions. And I know no better symbol than that found by the felicity of popular legend, which says that one night the people of Assisi thought the trees and the holy house were on fire, and rushed up to extinguish the conflagration. But they found all quiet within, where St. Francis broke bread with St. Clare at one of their rare meetings, and talked of the love of God. It would be hard to find a more imaginative image, for some sort of utterly pure and disembodied passion, than that red halo round the unconscious figures on the hill; a flame feeding on nothing and setting the very air on fire.’ [ii]

As for the creative process, my primary goal was to use a riff I had come up with on a tablet. That didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped and as a result, the tune changed into what you hear in the YouTube video. The focus of the melody is the piano. The lead guitar was down in two parts. My idea here was to use it as a filler. The bass is both guitar and keys running through an FX. I also had not intended on the harmony in the background. When I fiddled with the second lot of keys in the effects on audacity the second set turned out as it is in the recording. Slightly eerie, but intensely cool, given the subject matter. As with all things I’m doing here, I’m learning a lot each time and having fun doing it.

As with all of my music, because I am only using free mixing software at the moment, all are best heard through decent speakers or headphones. I’ve found that some headphones cut out the base and others swing the sound to mono.

Pax Christi!


Notes:

[i] Chesterton, G.K. 1923 Saint Francis of Assisi, Henderickson Classics

[ii] ibid, 1923

Music & Art are my own.

(©RL2017)

john-martin-joshua-commanding-the-sun-to-stand-still

.

.

The familial drone of mechanical applause,

.      remotely drowned out by familial abuse;

.                   leaves my captive audience speechless.

.                   Their absent encouragement now rests in

.                                      silent graves.

Black and white memories,

litter cardboard boxes; faces without names.

There is a remnant; This. Them. Us. We, the clattering sound of survivors,

.                clinging to

.                a work of God’s Grace,

The scattered number,

.                given ashes instead of land;

.                building on charity in order just to stand;

The grumble of dismissive spectators rumbles,

.                “surely there’s something?”

.                 “it can’t be all that bad?”

Then in a gutted reprisal they’re told

.               “for the little that we now have, we’re glad.
.                But those that should have, didn’t
.                those that could have, wouldn’t;
.                and as the story goes,
.                the little that was done,
.                was only done for show.”

If it wasn’t for the inner workings of God’s Grace,

.                    where we’d be now,

.                    only heaven knows.

.


(©RL2017)

Artwork: John Martin, 1816
Joshua Commanding The Sun To Stand Still‘ – (Oil on canvas.)

dmitry-ratushny-67024If you’re close enough to me and my interactions on the internet, you’d know that I regard the internet as a place for conversation, not genuine community.

Although I concede that there are select examples where this is not the case, most of social media and the “online community” involve transactional relationships.  Ideas are bought and sold through a currency of likes, shares, comments, followers or “friends”.

Click bait articles con us with various controversial headlines. We are enticed to react and feed into the hype created by its authors. We are consistently bombarded with the next ‘’shock and awe’’ post, that will snatch our attention and rile us all up. Our tears of rage or sympathy are gold in this environment; cash in the bank for those mining for them. Fake news sells.

A large part of the internet is about smart marketing. It can bolster, foster and ignite community, but it cannot be community. From promoting Trump to benefiting from the capitalist system in order to ironically undermine it for Socialism, if it’s effective, every post and every link will involve a polished sales pitch.

Anything deemed ugly, ersatz or imperfect; any article that exceeds three paragraphs and doesn’t pump out catchy ear pleasing half-truths; anything that doesn’t catch our attention, or agree with a political agenda, gets pushed to the bottom of the pile; easily overlooked and dismissed.

Social media, as it currently exists, can be nothing more than an ongoing conversation with conversation partners. It fosters community, it isn’t one.

In Koine Greek, Community or ‘plethos’ is defined as being a large number; a [physical] gathering of people [i]. In ecology, it’s considered to be: a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region, and interacting with each other.

Mirriam-Webster notes that it is a ‘a body of persons or nations; social activity – fellowship’

Where social media fails to accurately represent the physical community because it’s become what many are calling an echo chamber, it no longer facilitates community.

Where a large portion of people fail to be heard because they don’t have the means to compete; or are too scared to speak and make a contribution, social media fails to facilitate community. Social media, instead, becomes toxic to it.

To illustrate this, two weeks ago I made the decision to remove myself from an ongoing conversation. It had become clear to me that my contributions were no longer all that welcome.

Before doing so, I placed this decision before God and prayerfully took the time to consider the right response.

I wanted to make certain that my internal receptors were not just blinking because of something that “triggered” me or because I found disagreement or offense with the politics being exchanged.

To be clear, I in fact agreed with, although was, at the same time, cautious about some conclusions being drawn by those involved in most of the discussions. The overall exchange was as healthy as most communication online can be.

Our interaction was sporadic, but consistent enough to build rapport. When we did engage in conversation, it was mutually beneficial and my well-educated interlocutor reciprocated with respect.

However, over the past few months this seemed to change. It was easy enough to see that my contribution was no longer all that welcome, even if it did bring balance to the conversation.

My own posts and comments appeared to become something of an irritation. While not openly hostile, each exchange had deteriorated. I was starting to get the impression that my position on some issues embarrassed my friend in front of his intended audience.

So, I chose to graciously remove myself from the conversation. A few weeks later I received a message asking me why I had “unfriended” him on Facebook.

In a 200 word scripted response I explained my reasons. Stating that I felt as though our sporadic communications had dissolved to the point where we banging our heads against each other; frustrating one another.

Opening up the opportunity for my “friend” to correct me, I took a humble approach and apologised if I had misinterpreted the tone of our exchanges.  Instead, his response confirmed that my chosen course of action was the right one.

He largely ignored what I’d written, then proceeded to try to get to me to confirm that my decision was as an attack on his politics. All based on the assumption that I’d “unfriended” him because he was not ‘’conservative’’ enough. Something I denied and continue to do so.

Paul, to the Galatian Church, in his famous pericope on what it means to ‘live in freedom under the grace of Jesus Christ’ [ii], wrote:

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” [iii]

Adhering to this will sometimes include removing ourselves from the conversation for the sake of peace, and peace of mind.

It certainly includes redefining abusive relationships through the implementation of boundaries, which also applies to the internet, synthetic community and especially, social media.


Notes:

[i] Goodrick, E & Kohlenberger III J. 1990 NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Zondervan

[ii] Romans 6, English Standard Version

[ii] Galatians 5, English Standard Version

Photo credit, Dmitry Ratushny

christless-christianityChristless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church outlines what its author, Michael Horton, believes to be a fundamental shift in American Christianity.

Pinpointing cause, consequence and remedy, Horton tackles both Pelagian and Gnostic tendencies within American Christianity and culture. For Horton, America is pulling away from Christocentricity in its social activism and its proclamation of The Gospel.

In its place is what American sociologist, Christian Smith identifies as, ‘Moral Therapeutic Deism’. The basic message of which ‘is that God is nice and we are nice, so we should all be nice.’ (p.42).

Christless Christianity is a critique of both liberal Protestant, emerging and Conservative (American Evangelical) Christianity. (Think of the latter as the body corporate and the former two as the body collective.) Even though the body collective still considers itself beyond institutional Christianity, both are institutional and both have a hand in promoting ‘moral therapeutic deism’.

In Horton’s view, both corporate and collective have downgraded the Christian faith and what it means to be Christian. His criticism begins with a lengthy discourse on Joel Osteen, which then takes on the ‘therapeutic narcissism’ (p.72) of “God is a genie” consumerism (p.68), the “seeker sensitive” mega church phenomenon and the “personal Jesus” of American Evangelicalism. His second criticism flows into a less aggressive admonishment of liberal Protestants, Brian McLaren and the emerging church.

‘‘For many Americans reared on the “Christian America’’ hype of the religious right, “emerging church” movements may seem like a major shift, but [it’s just a change in Parties]’ (p.116) For all of the Emergent Church movement’s incisive critiques of the megachurch model, the emphasis still falls on measuring the level of our zeal and activity rather than on immersing people in the greatest story ever told’ (p.119)

According to Horton, the body corporate is guilty of replacing the proclamation of the Good News with just good advice. Positive psychology is king.Consequently, the understanding of what it means to follow Christ is diminished into slogans and ‘works-righteousness’ (p.123). It has taken the place of good exegesis, deed (sacrament) and the correct teaching of The Word (preaching).

Whereas the body collective, in its rejection of both Pentecostal and American Evangelical consumerist institutionalism, progressive “Christian” (liberal protestant) and Emerging churches, aren’t free of guilt. In many ways they’ve replaced Jesus as the Gospel with the social gospel. Theology is surrendered into the service of an ideology.

 ‘In many ways mirroring the Religious Right’s confusion of Christ’s kingdom of grace with his coming kingdom in glory and the latter with a political agenda already defined by a political party, the Religious Left seems just as prone to enlist Jesus as a mascot for programs of national and global redemption.’ (p.114)

As Horton states,

 ‘Loving and serving our neighbour is the law, it’s not the Gospel (p.123) […]‘There exists today a false distinction between law and love, whereas the biblical distinction is between law and grace – the law tells us what God expects of us; the Gospel tells us what God has done for us (p.125).’

In today’s terms, this is equal to the theological statement, “God is love” being replaced with the term “love is love”; Good, grace, holiness and righteousness are interchangeably used with niceness and tolerance. “Love is all you need” and being nice become seen as the prerequisites that an individual can use to buy into God’s good graces. Jesus as free gift and His embodiment as ‘grace in the flesh’[ii] is ejected.

 “Just love God and people” is not the Gospel; it is precisely that holy demand of the law that we have grievously failed to keep. Our love toward God and neighbour is the essence of the law; God’s love toward us in Jesus Christ is the essence of the Gospel; 1 Jn.4:10’ (p.136)

Horton’s description of the basic message of Moral Therapeutic Deism, shares similarities with late feminist and political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain who in her book of the same year, ‘War On Terror (Just War Theory)’ warned of the dangers attached to reducing the depth of Christianity to an “ethic of universal niceness” (source). From which we don’t see Christian doctrine, but instead a Machiavellian politick, where appearances become more important than substance.

‘’Seeker friendly” filters tune out that which is deemed non-offensive and tune into whatever wins popular applause. As a result, the Gospel and the mission of the Church are obscured. The uniqueness of Christ is undermined. The Christological centricity, along with the centripetal and centrifugal nature of Christianity-as-mission is then effectively negated.

‘To the extent that churches in America today feel compelled to accommodate their message and methods to these dominant forms of spirituality they lend credence to the thesis that Christianity is not news based on historical events just another form of therapy’ (p.180)

Horton labels this as the takeover of Christian doctrine by self-salvation, Pelagians and special inner revelation; self-deification, Gnostics. Christians are encouraged to ‘feed themselves’; to rest their faith in an inner ‘voice (p.59); to buy into any spiritual’ (p.179) experience where they can attain ‘self-salvation’ (p.42).

The act of grateful obedience, in response to the Divine judgement and mercy that delivers humanity from sin in Jesus Christ is jettisoned.

In sum, ‘Christless Christianity‘ takes a stand against corruption. In doing this, Horton pushes back against Pelagian and Gnostic influenced trends that see Jesus as the Gospel, replaced with the social gospel, and  the ‘preaching the Gospel replaced with preaching just good advice’ (p.202).

Horton makes no apologies for charging straight into the behemoth of Christian compromise for corporate or collective benefit. It is no secret that the left and right divide permeates the church as much as is does the state. In his critique, Horton calls out both, arguing that they are as guilty as each other in preaching an alternative Gospel. The only remedy for which is resistance and reformation.

Horton’s critique is relevant. It’s sharp and appropriate. Christ cannot be divorced from Himself, nor can He be separated from those He represents:

‘…being grafted in Christ, we are delivered from this miserable thraldom; not that we immediately cease entirely to sin, but that we become at last victorious in the contest.’ [iii]

Come the second reformation.


Notes:

[i] Horton, M. 2008 Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books Baker Book Publishing

[ii] Attributed to John Webster

[iii] Calvin, J. Commentary On Romans (Romans 6)

Disclaimer: I purchased the book and received no payment of any kind for offering this review.

More reflective/easy listening than I’m normally posting. The bass is slightly sloppy in some parts, but I’m happy with how that turned out. I did add drums to this, but I wasn’t 100% happy with the timing of the sequences.

So, I’ve stuck with the the ”no drums” version. If you think the title is odd; as in it doesn’t fit, I’d have to say I don’t fully disagree with you. Its the title of a poem in the works, hence the tag, instrumental edition, in parenthesis.

I figured the title reflected the artwork, plus the idea of flight was something that seems to fit the tune.

the-light-of-halos-in-flight

I was going to use “Trans Cendent Airlines”, but I doubled back because it’s ambiguous and I wanted something closer to the heart that put this tune together.

Enjoy your flight. 😛

Sola Deo Gloria.

 


Thanks for listening…

lnfhktqpyqs-allef-vinicius

.

Quiet thunder shifted from within the gloom

His hands, like blackened skies, slowly eased open,

Salt water is a bitter sweet rain,

.      but tears erode sighs,

.            and if he’s honest, he’ll tell you, that they sometimes still do.

This, the scarred out pouring,

.            and its solemn reminder

.            of a mended heart once utterly ripped in two.

.

He was the insignificant

The worm

A failed participant

Whose cord was tied round his neck in the womb

Born the cold colour match for the umbilical blue

Deemed an untalented fool

Beaten with words,

.          left to find value in friendless schools

The one aimless wonder

The abandoned son of a broken father

The amusement of pointless punters

Just another pawn in the clanging mix of a jester’s set of tools.

.

Words fail wherever pain grips the heart

Memories collide.

Though there’s little danger of flammable sparks.

For when Christ’s forgiveness crashes into the past,

the soldier is backed by his Captain;

who is Himself scarred;

is He Himself proven more than fit for the task.

.


(©RL2017)

Photo credit: Unsplash.com Allef Vinicius

cornelius

.

In the burning absence of intellectual sobriety,

.  this long burnt out intoxicating muse,

.  shows its weathered facade.

Tangled around triangular tears,

.  each drop speaks of

.           silent content marked for days to come.

Colour infused line follows line.

These textured engravings

.            warm each page

Worn edges tell tales of where hands once rested,

.                                  where heart, mind and soul found themselves arrested.

Whispering vapours voiced by a monologue,

.    slip between quill, wick and wall.

This dated matter sends hearts bowed soaring.

The sign of a thankful warrior kneeling before his calling.

Simul justus et peccator.[i]

.

Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life[ii]

.


[i] Martin Luther: “…at the same time, justified and sinner.”

[ii] Acts 11:18, ESV

(©RL2017)

Artwork:’Cornelius’ 1664, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (Acts 10)