Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Story of The Songs of Peter Grey

  What's the deal with this book?  Is it a kid's story book?  Not really.  Why did I write it?  Because of stuff that happens to so many of us.  I wrote about what happened to and around me, because that's a sort of story that's really never told, in my experience, unless I do.  Because you're supposed to be quiet about and take it.  And I know that far worse things happened to far better people.  Perhaps some explanation is in order:
  First, obviously, I lived it.  I was raised in a particularly paranoid, strict, isolationist, fundamentalist branch of a Christian group called the Plymouth Brethren, which was almost like being Quaker or Mennonite.
  I went to school with regular kids, not able to connect with them or discuss pop music or television or movies with them in a normal way, because I wasn't allowed those things.  (I was enjoying these things vicariously through the other kids, and asking a lot of stupid questions.)
  I went to church five times each week, and our homelife was mostly about my Dad's anxiety about church gossip, our fragile church reputations, the direction teaching in our church was taking (it concerned him if it got sloppy, if it got modern, and especially, if it got pretend, and people weren't teaching the bible at all, but just burbling on to fill the time).
  I dreamed a number of vivid nightmares.
  I lived through my father getting ostracized and socially punished ("silenced") by the church for rocking the boat, and through his ensuing depression and social anxiety.  I lived through high school, with the usual bullying and so on, and with my own depression.  I lived through sleepwalking through university without really making any human connections there at all.
  I lived to meet other Plymouth Brethren people who questioned, who doubted, who read the bible and didn't merely rebel, but actually test-drove, recalibrated, rethought and reworked the teaching we'd been given.  I lived to see the dire predictions that they'd leave the church and make a mess of their lives become self-fulfilling, and in many cases, be made to happen.
  Like every one of my friends, I was kicked out of my church rather than helped by it.  I lived my twenties and thirties, on into middle age, picking up the pieces left by a Plymouth Brethren culture which was cutting its kids and its problems loose, rather than helping.  I lived to see the Internet start reconnecting some of us together, and to see people like me, long reckoned dead/bitter, able to share our stories.
  One thing that happened throughout all of this is I wrote songs.  And in my early twenties, I assembled some representative songs together in an order that told a story (this story isn't told anywhere, to my knowledge, at all), and made bridging narrative and songs which filled in some of the gaps, and felt I'd written a concept album.  I wrote any number of silly, comedy, satire things, but didn't include them.  It was all influenced by Pink Floyd's The Wall, and would be about as easy to make.
  I worked away at versions of these songs over the years, first with cassette tape four-track machines, then in a recording studio, and then with computer-based gear.  I hung out in music clubs, meeting other musicians and recording them and getting them to do bits and pieces of stuff on my music.
  And the album was never getting finished.  I was never satisfied with it no matter what I did.  And I found increasingly that I had far too much to say to use song to do it.  Song is a great way to briefly pull people into a moment or a mood, to showcase a thought or two, a situation.  But I kept feeling like I had more to say than that and would have to explain it out, at length, in order for people to get it.  Also, connecting to people with plain words is one thing, but music is such a matter of style that it means possibly making your points unpalatable to anyone who simply doesn't like the sound or style of your music, or even your voice.
  So last December, I just broke down and wrote it as a memoir.  A fictionalized memoir, in the sense that I compressed time, or simplified people or situations (to a surprisingly little degree), and changed the names and places around a bit to make it a story that could be understood and felt, without needing to a trilogy or something.  As I wrote it, the ending involved things that were actually currently happening, and people I was still currently dealing with.  This made it hard to end it.  Some negotiation was necessary.  Eventually, I got it together, and published it online.  It can be purchased here.

Some selected bits from the book:

Peter’s grandfather sometimes said words like “damn” and “hell” and “piss.” Peter’s father did not so indulge. Normally Peter’s father said fake swear words instead, the whole time, whenever he was working.
  “Lovely Ginger!” he would say in amazement.
  “Son of a FACE!” he would shout in a high, anguished voice when he blackened his thumbnail with a hammer.
  “Puke! This thing is as useless as you-know-whats on a bull! (And it looks like heck),” he would declare to another man.
  “Heck! This is as useless as tits on a salmonloaf! (And it looks like puke),” he would say when he didn’t think anyone was listening.
  “For crying out loud! What the Sam Hill are you doing?” he would demand of Peter.
  “Oh my soul!” he would moan.
  “Oh my stars!” he would gasp.
  “Wait just one cottonpickin’ minute!” he would call after Peter. “What in the name of heck are you doing? For pete’s sake!” (He didn’t mean St. Peter. That would have been irreverent.) “For the love of Mike!” he’d say. (Ditto Michael the archangel.)
  Instead of “mistake,” he said “boner.” This always made Peter snicker. “Oh look! I made a real boner here! I forgot to tighten this nut!”
  He used to call people “dingleberries” until Peter told him what those were. This made Peter’s father angry, because now he had to stop saying the word entirely. He also angrily shot down Peter’s suggestion that perhaps “cottonpickin’” wasn’t terribly appropriate for use if there were black folks around. When he got really mad, sometimes Peter’s father would very quietly mutter truly obscene things like “prickdamnfart” to himself.

  As he approaches the church, he starts to be overcome by a growing sense of dread.  Wonderful.  He doesn't want to see what the church looks like or what is happening there so late at night, but he is lost and badly needs to get home.  There is school the next day. 
   Also, the child slowly becomes aware that he is dreaming, and as the terror he is feeling at approaching the church at night grows, he resolves to try to wake himself.    He tries to thrash around in the bed but this only makes his dream avatar thrash around a bit, while still wending its way closer and closer to the church building with him trapped inside.  It is hilarious.  He is along for this ride and he can't turn his head or close the eyes of his dreaming self, but he can twitch a bit as he walks inexorably forward.  Such a treat to witness.
  They round the corner and see the church.  It is lit up like there's a service going on.  He doesn't want to go in, but they do go in.  They open the door, start up the familiar carpeted stairs and stop.  Dead. 
The room is full of Things, which are having their own dark service.  He sees their pretty faces as they turn to stare.  The flesh of their faces and hands, if it can be called that, has melted partly off them, like dark, moldering candle wax.  Their eyes glint metallic and red, deep in their musty sockets.  Their teeth gnash at him in confusion.  The room is full of them, and when he stops at the top of the stairs, every single Dead Thing That Moves, clearly interrupted in its long accustomed worship activities, stops, sitting and staring directly at him. He realizes if he wants to fit in, he has to be dead and rotting inside too.  Otherwise, they will eat him. It is what they are gathered together to do.  To devour life and make everything dead. 

Peter’s father said he’d seen Boy to Man (1962) at a staff meeting in case he ever taught health class. He said that so long as boys and girls weren’t taught in the same room, and so long as Peter remembered that despite what the film had said, masturbation was NOT normal, and so long as Peter referred to the class as “Family Health,” and not You-know-what Ed., that Peter could remain in the room while it was taught.
  Peter hadn’t really understood the film properly. For one thing, he’d confused “masturbation” with “menstruation” and had asked his father awkward questions about exactly how boys could even indulge in this unnatural body function at all. It sure didn’t sound very normal for boys to menstruate, Peter was forced to agree. But how did they even do it? Could it happen to him by accident if he “wasn’t careful?” Did Mr. Periwinkle menstruate?
  After that, Peter’s father, mortified to have to explain any of this, had asked Peter to just go sit in the library while his class took Family Health. Peter did this and got many books read. And all the kids in his class believed he had no idea exactly what happened when a man liked a lady very much and lumpy things happened in his pants. But Peter read books, so of course he did.


Of course some of us have been privileged to witness the new nature active and able to stalemate for a time that pervasive, wicked old nature, in the lives of those older ones who have now gone on to be forever with the Lord and sing his praises eternally.  Many of them could have been great men or women, gifted as they were, in the flesh, by birth.  But how wonderful that they were instead, through the leading of the scriptures, able to give all of that up to humbly, uncomplainingly follow the precious Word of GOD!
Let us, in any difficulty or misunderstanding that may arise among us, never seek to mold the minds of other Christians through our own personality or presence among them.  Self must not be allowed to act.  At the first sign of Self raising its wicked head, it must be judged immediately.
  And so we see that the Christian’s lot is to be divided.  To war daily against Self.  To seek to repress the unceasingly self-pleasuring efforts of that old nature, always remembering how active, deceitful, and above all things ALIVE that old nature is. 
The scripture teaches us that we were crucified with Christ, and this is true, in a sense at least.  But surely none of us can claim that our old nature is DEAD?  Ridiculous!  Far be the thought from us!  We fight that old nature every waking moment of every waking day.  What is the only thing that can rob a true Christian of his happiness?  Thoughts of Self.  Seeking to please and follow and be one’s Self.  This is something we must give up, if we are to ever please our Heavenly Father above.  How solemn if we try to, like Jonah of old, run off into this World, with its leeks and garlics, its apes and peacocks, to follow a path of self will!  There must always be cleavage.  We must needs cleave to Him lest we walk unworthy of the vocation in which we were called.
God has boundless wrath toward our Self, and so we MUST NOT be our Selves.  The personality we were born with, which came to us with our mother’s milk, clearly must go.   Can anyone ponder what has been laid out faithfully here in this little booklet, and these clear directives from the precious Word of God and still complain of “depression”?  How sad, when the Word of...See More
 -from George Shovel’s “Sin, Self, This World and The Old Nature” (1923) Wasp Tent Publishers.  Print.


People would often ask Mr. Shovel questions like “Why can’t Christians go to movies?” Or “Why can’t Christians dance?”
  Mr. Shovel always said something like:
 H ow could you (how could I, the very children of God) go into such a place as that, and take our entertainment, and feel comfortable there, in the very sinful world itself, the world that crucified my (in the dark, sad world that crucified your) precious saviour, the bless-éd, perfect, sinless Son of God? How could we do that? I could not do that. Could you do that? Surely we could not do that. Could you do that and feel right before the Lord who shed His precious blood for us? I think not. I think not.
  Mr. Shovel answered all questions with rhetorical questions and a great number of italics. His high, carrying voice would go up and down and pause dramatically. It sounded half Captain Kirk and half Kermit the Frog. And then he would smile sadly and pat the person on the shoulder. Didn’t they get it? Movies and dancing were fun. What else needed to be said? We were here to say no to fun. The Lord Jesus had died to set us free from sin, and we wanted to go around having fun? Really?


On Star Trek, everyone would be standing around laughing about something, and Mr. Spock would not understand because he was from a different culture and would miss the references. Everyone would enjoy something, but Mr. Spock would not be allowed by his culture to enjoy it. Or Mr. Spock would make a joke, but it would be so subtle that no one would laugh. (Maybe Captain Kirk would say “Spock, I…SEE what you…didthere,” but that was about it. Of course Peter didn’t know that Captain Kirk TALKED…likethaaaat because Peter had only read the books and had never heard the voices of any of the actors.)
  Everyone else on the show could do whatever they wanted, but not Mr. Spock, because he was a Vulcan, and they didn’t believe in fun and emotions and were very religious. So Mr. Spock just watched and knew everything, or annoyed people by mentioning things that were terribly obvious but which you weren’t supposed to talk about for social reasons. Or he went to his quarters and prayed.  Like Peter was supposed to do. Vulcans did not swear, sing, dance or drink alcohol. They meditated in silence. Being a church kid was a lot like being a Vulcan.


Other people called Peter’s church “Plymouth Brethren,” due to its history. This didn’t remove the confusion much, because each generation every “Plymouth Brethren” worldwide group was likely to have some kind of acrimonious spat, inevitably involving learned Christian men on two sides fighting and having what George Carlin would have called “a great big dickwaving prickfight” over which group was demonstrating Christian unity correctly. After generations of these “divisions,” there were so many different unaffiliated branches of Plymouth Brethren groups which wouldn’t speak to each other that no Brethren person could even keep track of them all. Attempts to diagram the history of it looked like the root system of an enormous tree.


He could spell things, and didn’t generally make grammar mistakes when he spoke. He liked to draw. He laughed at things that his father didn’t think were funny. Things with words. He also liked superheroes. It got worse and worse.
  “Peter, you have to be very careful,” his father told him, getting out pen and paper. “There’s a line. See? On the one end of it are people who are very male. On the other end of it are people who are very female. Here’s the middle. You’re kind of in the middle…maybe a little to the feminine side. You know how Mr. Black’s wife at church is kinda like a man and how the Blacks have never had any children? You know how Mr. Periwinkle at church is actually a whole lot more like a woman than a man and he still lives with his mother and has never married? He’s not sure which washroom to go into, I swear. Be careful. Now I don’t want you to play with Jonathan Lerose after church, ok? Do you understand?”
  Peter did. He really did.


The enemy uses diversity. We remove it. The enemy needs his creatures to pour themselves out as an offering to him, to throw themselves without reservation into reality itself, holding nothing back. We convince them to bottle themselves up inside themselves, letting nothing of themselves out whatsoever. He requires them to commit. We foster an inability to fully commit themselves, in any way, to anything. He puts the spark of excellence into them. He lights inspiration deep within them. We teach them to shamefully, dutifully bury all that in a hole in the ground. For him.
 -from Thrallinggnaw Rendtorso’s On The Supplantation and Theoreticization of the Life Which Infests All Organic Creatures. Infernal Press (1948) Human Skin. 

Meeting Room
1102 Cliff Avenue
October 16, 1991

To the saints gathered together unto the precious Name of the Lord Jesus Christ elsewhere.

Beloved brethren,

Loving greetings in the precious Name of the Lord Jesus.

Those gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ here in Matawacka feel it necessary to write, to those gathered in like manner, in order to clarify facts regarding a letter dated Oct. 6, 1991 and an attached letter, dated Sept. 16, 1991.  Your assembly may have received this correspondence from a group of persons, who have separated themselves from this assembly and are now meeting at another location in Matawacka (Leo Smith Centre, 100 Bonvern Drive, Matawacka).

It may be known to you that on May 26 of this year the church had the solemn duty to silence Joe Edgar, who is known by many for his work in the “Silver Birch” and “Ichthys” Bible camps.

We had hoped and prayed that this milder form of discipline would only have been a temporary measure until his restoration of soul to the Lord and to his brethren.  We are grieved that this discipline was not accepted by him as from the Lord.  Instead he rebelled against it, by stopping attendance at all meetings locally, and going elsewhere, inciting the brethren.

During this time of rebelling Joe Edgar, together with his sympathizers, would worship at other assemblies (sometimes with those from his home assembly being present) while refusing to do so in their home assembly at 1102 Cliff Avenue, Matawacka.  This placed brethren in confusion and in an unscriptural position, similar to “Open Brethren”.  The allowance of evil will affect all those who are gathered on the ground of the One Body in separation from evil.  “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” I Cor. 5:6.


  If you start early, you get a creature who will, when it is about to like something, wince, expect shame (and even, in some homes, pain).  It will then panic when it is tempted to feel joy, and that tide of guilt will start flooding wonderfully in.  It will then turn that knob right down to zero with a sharp twist.  Get the creature turning that knob down to zero for almost everything until the natural joy reactions, appreciation and “like” responses cease functioning normally altogether.  Have that knob snap right off in an attempt to nullify joy, all as an attempt to avoid unspecified bad things.
  If this traditionally behaviouristic negative reinforcement strategy is implemented consistently enough, from a tender, delectable age, the subject will simply never develop a normal “like” response, and will mature into that kind of human that is lacking one and will see such a response as troubling, threatening and dangerous when seen in others.  It’s really quite something. 
If it isn’t safe to “like” things, the mature human simply won’t.  And it will “warn” others about liking things, which will further perpetuate our system.
  The third method, though perhaps not as...See More
-from Archdemon Clottmucous Throbsphinctre III’s “Upon the Care, Maintenance and Modification of Human Creatures (1953)” Shrieking Anguish Clearing House.  Entrails.


JUNE 14, 1983

[MR. PLANCK reads aloud the second half of 1 Corinthians 4]

MR. WHITE: How thrilling that we can enjoy the blessed privilege of being here this evening, going over God’s Word together! The young folks in particular are getting a sound outline of the blessed Word of God! Isn’t it wonderful?  How it should energize us!  And not just this evening, but all week long, as we go forth into this world, rubbing shoulders with those who do not love our Lord and need to bow the knee to him!
MR. BROWN: The story is told of old Mr. McDowell meeting a young brother who’d been reading the Word of God one Lord’s Day.  “What have you been enjoying in God’s Word?” Mr. McDowell asked the young man.  (Mr. McDowell was, as those who had the privilege to meet him may remember, very fond of being an encouragement to young people) “I just found something new in Romans!” the young man said.  (He’d not long been a child of God.)  “Well,” Mr. McDowell told him, “If it’s new, it isn’t true, and if it’s true, it isn’t new.”  Surely this should be an exercise for all of us!  There is much that is new, coming in among us, and we need to fight to hold fast to those old landmarks lest we end up, every one, wracked upon the dark rocks that threaten us.
Mr. Churchill: And so much more as we see the day approaching...
MR. GREY: I think we all have a lot to learn about the Word of God, though.  There are always things we can learn that we didn’t know before. Things that would be new. To us, anyway.


MR. ROBERTS: This chapter reminds me of how, when you raise your own children, you have to forgive them when they do things they shouldn’t.  Otherwise, they never learn about their Heavenly Father who forgives us everything we do!
MR. WHITE: So wonderful! He is a forgiving God, isn’t He?
MR. BROWN: Those who met Mr. McMurdy may remember how he always used to tell us that Satan never stops trying to fool us, though. We have to be always on our guard and seek to do the Lord’s will, rather than following our own sinful path.  Self is the enemy.  That wicked old nature.  So active in the tables of men around us.  “Go to the church of your choice.”  How against scripture!  We do not choose or build our own churches.  We simply obey the leading of the Holy Spirit and, blessedly, it has brought us here, where it would have us be! Over the
Word of God, this evening!
MR. WHITE: So true. How exciting to read about worshiping God with others of like precious faith!  Thrilling!
MR. GREY: Well, I think this part of the chapter is about praise rather than worship, though.  Worship isn’t really mentioned... Not in the chapter we’re looking at tonight.
MR. WHITE’S BROTHER MR. WHITE: We serve a God who loves us, don’t we?  “Abba father,” as that lovely little hymn puts it!  A small Hebrew child can say “abba” before it even has teeth!  The manifold wisdom of God!  Like all the colours of the rainbow.  Red, blue, green, indigo and violet!  Lovely...
MR. WHITE: Uh...what was that, Brother Barry?
MR. GREY: I was just saying that this part of the chapter seems to be about praise rather than worship.  We worship the Father for who He is, but we praise the Son for what he has done for us.  Worship and praise are different.  Paul seems to make a distinction between them.
MR. WHITE: Such a joyous privilege, though, to worship with other Christians, I’m sure you’d agree.
MR. WHITE’S BROTHER MR. WHITE: We are all sheep in his flock, who know his voice and are known by him, aren’t we? I just love that...
MR. GREY: Yes.  But this chapter doesn’t really address worship at all.  That’s coming up in chapter 6.  It isn’t really touched on here, though, at all really.  This chapter is more about the Son’s relationship to his Father, rather than our own relationship with the Father.
MR. ROBERTS: When Christians worship together, it is SO attractive for the lost to see, isn’t it?  Us, poor, wretched sinners, eternally forgiven everything we’ve ever done, and allowed to worship Him! Amazing!
MR. CHURCHILL: And so much more as we see the day approaching.  It could be tonight, He will call His dear ones home! Those of us gathered to His precious name, and also some of those who are sadly still involved in System.  Because even in those groups, there are some true believers.  And we will be with them in the air one day.  No more sadness, no more toil, no more suffering!  No more dealing with these bodies of humiliation and shame.  No more wrestling with Self and the old nature. That deceitful, wicked old nature which loves to sin!
MR. BROWN: Amen, brother J.R.  And we will know as we are known.  Mr. Dicing always used to remind us of that, didn’t he?
MR. GREY: So important to walk worthy, too. To be doers of the Word, and not hearers only. To keep separate from this world so our own tow truck doesn’t get stuck in the same ditch they’re in.  If we don’t maintain Separation from this world, we will soon become part of it.


MR. ROBERTS: This reminds me of how when a robin is building its nest, it uses straw.  Straw is something you might find in a field.  Surely we are to be out in the mission fields, spreading the good news to others, about the love of God, and how He forgives!  And then worship the Son, as Brother Barry was saying, for who he is, and the Father as well, because of what He has done for us, His children, who are so unworthy, but have had our slates wiped clean in the blood of the lamb!
MR. BROWN: And we need to speak to our Heavenly Father in a way befitting Who He is.  Not like in so many of the churches out there.  Much is said nowadays about “You” or “Your.”  Who are we to talk to the Almighty, Righteous God of Heaven with that kind of familiar, irreverent language?  We are addressing the Lord Almighty, not calling a dog.  We can see in the Word of God, as Mr. McMurdy always used to read, the blessed Son of God praying to God his Father, and saying “thee” and “thou.” In John 17, for example.  Who are we to think we know better?
MR. WHITE: Armed with our Spirit-imparted understanding of the blessed contents of God’s precious Word, and what we’ve been enjoying discussing in this little portion tonight, we can go out into this world and be shining testimonies for Him!
MR. BROWN: We trust that some of the younger ones here tonight will just really listen, and truly value this wonderful, God-given opportunity to grow up where the Lord would have them be, under the sound of solid teaching, so that when they are older, they may be kept.  Growing up under the sound of the Word is a rare privilege.  Let us not forget it!
MR. WHITE’S BROTHER MR. WHITE: Oh yes!  SUCH a privilege!
MR. BROWN: Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ plucks us from the road to eternal damnation, but it is sound doctrine which will keep us on the road to blessing...


1 comment:

Sharon said...

Thanks so much for the book Mike! It looks even better in real life than in the pictures. I'm looking forward to reading it. I hope you don't get like 5 of these comments. I keep getting the human test wrong.