Friday, 18 March 2011

The Tyranny of "Positivity"

  Many years ago I wrote a stupid little song expressing my dissatisfaction with churches. Each one seemed to be saying that, really, only their church was really worth attending, and in my experience, exactly the same obnoxious stuff was going on (and identical real-life stuff not going on) at any church you could care to pick. And people were denying this clear reality.  So it was a case of "Yes, our church has some fairly serious problems we're not willing to discuss with someone considering throwing his lot in with us.  C'mon.  You have to go to a church, and although all the churches seem to have problems and don't seem to work for you, you won't find a perfect one anywhere, so you might as well come to ours."
   Well, the refusal to discuss the problems, and the characteristic acceptance of the problems as things they weren't REALLY going to bestir themselves to fix, really ground my gears.  Just saying "You're looking for The Perfect Church and you won't find it" didn't entirely obfuscate the clear fact that they were accepting their own lack of reality, lack of integrity and surplus of various bad things. 
  There is a legend that a guy named Canada Bill (seen here) was playing cards and it soon became clear that the game was fixed by the house so a player simply couldn't win. Bill kept playing. When asked why on earth he'd keep putting his money down on a game that he couldn't possibly win, he allegedly replied "It's the only game in town."
   That's what I was thinking as to why people feel they need to join and attend some dodgy church or other, simply to deal with God and Christians, and I was also spoofing the cheesy use of card or dice metaphor in so many songs by tossing in random, mismatched bits of other game and sports terminology and equipment.  So I called the song The Only Game In Town.
   This recording is from back in the day, so it is sloppy in the extreme. In particular, the computer made just enough random rhythm problems in playback and recording, that it makes each part slightly wander in and out of time with every other part. My new system doesn't do that so noticeably.

After I'd written this, someone on Facebook put a "our churches sure are different, aren't they?" kind of post up.  People posted "Yes!  Awesome!" responses.  I put what attempted to be a more balanced approach one, saying essentially "they can be very good and very bad, yes." Suddenly, because I'd said some could be very bad, a chain of events I realized I'd seen many times before immediately unfolded:

-I was dismissed as being negative.  Pointing out "they can be very good and very bad" isn't negative.  It's balanced," made no difference.   I was being negative.
-I was dismissed as being "bitter" and had verses about bitterness quoted at me.
-It was pointed out that I had been guilty of being negative and bitter before.

In other words, a facefull of ad hominem.  I realized that this was an attempt to (in impugning me) dismiss the "and very bad" half of my sentence as either not being real or not being important.  It was a clear attempt to sidestep the discussion that was begging to start, as to what kind of bad was seen in the churches in which we grew up.  They felt that talking about the various kinds of good was balanced, but even raising the topic of the kinds of bad was unbalanced and dastardly.  You see, we are supposed to "just know better" than to do that.

So, I raised the topic of what was real.  The good?  The bad?  Only one or the other?  Both?  I said that only allowing the discussion to deal with the nice things didn't make it very real.   I was accused of only talking about the bad things and had my sentence parroted back at me, in true "No, YOU smell bad!" playground fashion. "You're only talking about bad things, and THAT'S not real!"

So, I  asked if the respondents trusted me to get the "bad" information straight.  Did they trust me to give an accurate and balanced account of problems that characterized the movement, and to have some sense of proportion as to how widespread they were?  They said they didn't know me well enough to trust me or not.  Didn't even know if I was really a Christian or not.  (and goodness knows, someone who isn't a CHRISTIAN certainly couldn't be accurate about things that are wrong with church groups, could s/he?)  My behaviour certainly didn't seem Christian.  (Christ-like, sure, but Christian?  Verses about "grace" were quoted.  Things Jeremiah doesn't seemed to have worried himself overmuch about)

I said that I trusted them to get the nice, good, fun stuff straight.  I asked again if they trusted me to get the problems straight and know how widespread they were or weren't, and if they were important or not.  They wouldn't answer at first, and then tossed me the Dr. Phil: "How's describing the experience and the movement only in bad terms working out for ya?"  I had to point out that they were still claiming to be the balanced ones, while I was only saying negative things, while actually they were mentioning no negative (unpleasant) things at all, while I was mentioning both sides of the coin to a greater degree.

Ultimately, if you shoot down, ignore, forbid, shame and punish any attempt to discuss problems in any open way, you are giving up hope of anything changing for the better, as you are clearly not ready to repent of ANYthing that might be a bad idea.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

little to report

Lately I've been doing work, getting my classes off to a characteristic start.  Wrote stuff.  Edited video.  And have found a tiny open stage I can get up and sing a few songs at to keep in practice.  More mixing work with my brother-in-law and friends' band.  They're entering a contest.  Why is everything creative a contest nowadays?  Money. The contest is even called "The Big Money Shot."  Told them it sounds like they're applying to work in porn.  "Money," was their response.  Money.

I have enough money to have purchased more musical stuff than I need.  In my twenties I did amazing things considering having almost nothing.  Now I have amazing stuff and record nothing of my own with it.  At the open stage I had a lovely argument with a guy I know who'd had some beer and was gesticulating wildly and trying to disabuse me of some of my religious beliefs.  He's taking courses in religion, you see, so of course now he knows all kinds of things and wants me to believe him and not stuff I believe.  He is unable to see any good in any ideas outside of what he's been thinking, and unable to acknowledge other paradigms of any worth exist.  He was trying to test me to catch me being intolerant or closed-minded as to religious beliefs systems, and he quickly lost that race, by being intolerant and closed to anything I think.

He has this theory that the "golden rule" (which he expands to be about empathy) is central to all world religions.  I am not the expert many are, but to my knowledge, Jesus of Nazareth made certain inroads in the area of dealing with other people in ways that showed empathy, and I don't think empathy has quite the place in Judaism, Islam or the others that it does in Christianity.  Need to check it out, but I don't think all world religions are equally about love being the answer to everything.