We the broken are far too easily ignored. We the abused are far too easily used. We are sold hope and guided by hands quick to speak of solidarity. We fall for blurred distinctions and ignore the price.
We are sold an empty comfort from mouths that speak words of sympathy, but are absent of any real connectivity. They may promise salvation and deliverance from the deep sadness and pain we want so much to rip or be ripped out of us, but they cannot deliver what they promise. Sadly, some choose to keep us dwelling on that pain and sadness, in order to squeeze a dollar or two out of it.
In a way that pain and sadness become commodities.
In the church and world, if among the broken we are picked out as ‘charismatic, gifted, beautiful or anointed’ we are seized upon and raised up by the collective and individual alike.
Either to promote a cause or financial gain. Paraded on stage, our testimony is “validated”, our pain and healing seemingly put to good use. However, when the doors close and the next ‘big’ thing is promoted we realise that our pain and healing was paraded in order to hype up the masses or sell politics, an opinion, idea or distorted theology. Here the veil falls and we see that interest in the One who saves, saved and will save was pushed to the background as we were adorned with adoration, idolised and syphoned for hope.
The essence of our contact with world, relationship and institution is easily manipulated. We the broken, guarded and sensitive to those things which have hurt us so successfully, are ironically attracted by those things that will hurt us. Buying into the false promises that control us as they promise remedy.
Sometimes, therefore, the broken become the prey of the fortunate. Then, sometimes the affected are thrown away like chaff by the disaffected.
This could be because the voices of the experienced are disruptive. Disputing certainty, and intellectual anxiety about meaning and purpose. Disrupting those firmly held inside a web of ideological conformity.
Our continuing survival discomforts their faith in empirical impassabilities. It challenges the surety of presuppositions that imprison the impossible to ignorance and the absurd. It challenges their claim to power. Examples here include the historical, Martin Luther and The Reformation, or the fictitious Katniss Everdeen and her role in ‘The Hunger Games.’
Those with higher opinions based solely on higher education or their association with certain institutions may comment, but it is clear that most are selective and set only on pursuing a particular narrative – often the one that will keep them popular.
Faith uninformed by reason ends in delusion; superstition. Worse still is reason detached completely from the necessary dualism of faith and reason – scientism. As proven by the 20th Century, is the grounding of gross inhumanity.
An evolutionary ethic demands the strong must resource their strength from the weak until the weak are no longer useful. The “elite” have no problem assuming, then, that the broken are ruined beyond repair. That we cannot think for ourselves or see through the shattered lens that pales in comparison to their presumed-to-be superior, unscarred monocles.
So, we are sold illusions and sadly, we buy into them. We are even convinced enough to vote for them.
Niceties and platitudes of human tolerance end in hypocrisy. Resulting in acts of kindness being abandoned and the real importance being place solely on the appearance of giving it.
Additionally, the beauty of an orthodox theological understanding of Christian love is deconstructed, then subsumed into an “absolute ethic of niceness.[i]” God’s mercy is, thus, distorted without any acknowledgement let alone recognition of His right and freedom to act in just judgement. [ii]
With all the brokenness and abandonment around me at the time. Growing up as a teen in the 1990’s. I found it easy to fall into the trap of self-medication. Weekends spent young, drunk (and/or stoned); finding my identity in the closest people or things that I thought were identifying with me.
Looking back on that time, it wasn’t because I was being drawn to those people or things because they identified with me, but because I leaned towards whatever I could identify, understand or nullify my pain with.
We hear packaged in phrases that ‘such and such, really identifies with their audience‘. Terms of endorsement often found in movie and music reviews alike.
The important distinction not to be missed here, though, is that artists don’t generally identify with their audience. Rather their audience (the customer) identifies with them. It’s not reciprocal, even if the understanding is mutual.
The truth is that those people and things only identified with my money and my blind, happy applause.
Case in point is the band Guns n’ Roses.
I remember reaching for everything I could find or learn about them, to be them. Even up to the point of copying almost every riff and niche Marshal Amp sound I could squeeze out of my $150 second-hand electric guitar, which had a cracked head and the embarrassing habit of going out of tune after each strum, pick or bend.
I was more than a fan. I was a disciple flirting with a generalised, but similar inner darkness that they seemed to be wrestling with. Questing for the transcendent; looking to ascend the hole of despair that my existence had boxed me into.
This was poetry with guts.
Emotion and truth screaming through mic, five string, bass and drum. In short: a form of worship. Throwing up; ’emotional vomit’ (as Lacey Sturm from ‘Flyleaf’ brilliantly described it); a numbness screaming out for feeling. This was a reach for rescue-through-revolt. A desire to be heard and acknowledged; a potential revolution powered by real-anger, angst, amp and an “appetite” for definition.
The reality is that the men of Gn’R didn’t identify with me. They couldn’t. They didn’t know me. Yet, there is no blame that I can justly attach to them. What I was being sold hung on a blurred distinction.*
I identified with them, their craft, skills and lyrical aptitude. I related to what people were selling through them and bought-into it every time. It wasn’t and couldn’t ever be reciprocated.
Any healthy personal connection where I felt cared for or understood was an illusion; an estrangement caused by a blurred distinction.
Although tempted, I wouldn’t simply relegate this as ‘idol worship‘ hoping to avoid over-analysing things, but as something more complex propagated by the absence of key relationships in my life.
What I have learnt through all of this is that my identity must rest in and under Jesus Christ, not any man, woman or ideology. He is the one in whom God chooses not only to identify with us, but to free us, in order to be for us and with us. So that we can be free for Him; free from, in order to be for, each other**:
‘…when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons [and daughters]. And because you are sons [and daughters], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but sons [and daughters], and if so, then an heir through God.’
– (Galatians, 4:3-7; see also Romans 8:15)
[i] Elshtain, J. 1993 Just War Against Terror
[ii] (see Karl Barth C.D II:1 ‘Dues non est in genere’: God is not a species that can be categorised by us, outside that which and who He has chosen to reveal Himself to us).
*So that I am not misinterpreted, “Gunners” as-they-were, still are, in my opinion, musical giants. Lyrically, rhythmically and melodically they hit on truths with criticisms of society that no one else dared to speak in and from that kind of arena.
** Karl Barth, paraphrased.