Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Holy Unblack Metal and Hillsong: The Mystical and the Homogenised

In the last few weeks, I have begun to explore the world of Christian Death Metal, Unblack Metal and so forth.

A friend commented that it must be something like tofu compared to a steak. A fair point, and one that shows the work that needs to be done in informing the secular world of the spirituality, power, and dread that accompanies the Christian faith.

In my earlier non-Christian days, I was a huge death metal fan: Morbid Angel, Obituary, Death, Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, and so on. I left the scene once the whole "black metal" thing started, although I did like the first Emperor album. Much, if not all, of this stuff was satanic, or at least occult. Some was anti-Christian. In those days, this was not a problem. In fact
Demons attack with hate
Satan in the fires of hell awaits
Death against you all
God hear my death call

"Chapel of Ghouls" Morbid Angel Altars of Madness (1989)
was as good as it got for 18 year old me. The more satan was referenced with a death growl, the more I dug it.

Hankering for some heavy riffage recently sent me lurking back to these old gems. I still liked the music, but the lyrics And dumb.

A search began for Christian Death Metal. I found many great bands: Crimson Thorn, Mortification, Holy Blood.....

The great thing is, no heaviness or darkness is spared with the Christian message. Satan is mentioned in a death growl, but in terms of his destruction. Also, "Christ Jesus" sounds spectacular screamed. Many of the lyrics deal with the darker parts of Jesus life: the Passion, the Agony in the Garden. Mortification's "Envision Evangeline" is an eighteen minute epic that deals with the last hours of Jesus' life, told from the perspective of the evangelists.

Holy Unblack Metal is a new thing for me. Crimson Moonlight, Antestor, Horde. This stuff is insane: fast, brutal and incredibly Christian. Quite remarkable, considering Black Metal's full on satanism. In many ways, this stuff is even more subversive than the satanic bands. Brilliant.

What all this has led me to is that there is a longing within many young people to experience God, Jesus and the faith, but don't want it bland, secularized, homogenized or McDonaldsized. There is a real desire to experience something real
and supernatural. Hillsong is not going to offer that, neither are fake healings and arena style evangelism.

What the church has neglected in the past twenty or so years is the intense
spirituality and mysticism inherent with the Gospel message. It is not an accident that many of these bands reference the Eucharist. What this music, and the current interest in Christian mysticism are showing us is that there is genuine hunger for an experience of God; one that is real, unsanitised and wholly spiritual; not an overly sentimental cornfest that makes the Faith out to be the equivalent of, not tofu, but multi-national fast food.

Compare Horde with Hillsong, and you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A St Teresa for our times

Each time of communion beg some gift of God,
by the compassion wherewith He has entered thy poor soul.
Maxim 64, St Teresa of Avila

I am once again enthralled by Teresa of Avila. I find myself drawn to her regularly, at times when it makes not much sense: then, of course, it does.

On October 15th, we celebrate St Teresa, and on this occasion I will be preaching.

About what exactly?

It seems to me, at my early stages of researching that Teresa combined two wonderful qualities. She was a mystic, and a reformer. It is about these issues and their relevance today that I will speak of.

When I was interviewed by the Bishop, and again at selection conference, I spoke of my earnest belief that the future of the church lie in teachings and promotion of the mystic ideals. In many ways, the future of the church lies in it's past.

Instead of racing toward a plasma screen in every Chancel, or a cafe chat instead of liturgy; the church would be far better off delving back to the spirit of the mystics, none moreso than Teresa.

During the Spanish counter-reformation of the late 1500's, Teresa reformed the Carmelites in terms of Medieval ideas: a return to asceticism, prayer and poverty. Silence and solitude were among her ideals of life.

I believe that many Christians, and some who aren't as yet, are hunting for a stronger sense of the spiritual in their lives: it is a shame that many don't expect this from their church. Non Christians don't think they will find it within Christianity.

Teresa and the msytics are the key for the next generation of Christians. All want to experience God, but I don't think it will happen with the current batch of "new" ideas that the church is throwing up. Each new form (or formlessness) strikes me as a secularisation, reaching people where they are and so forth. There is nothing wrong with that, but once they are reached, what are you giving them?

Enter Teresa......

Call to mind continually throughout the day the matter of the morning meditation:
be very careful herein,
for it will do thee much good.
Maxim 31, St Teresa of Avila