So, last night I sang at a midnight mass together with St Jacobs Chamber Choir. The darkest night in the quiet week. Right in the plot, the longest dark, where our heroes seems doomed, with evil on all sides and no way out. And it struck me, forcefully, how self-centered and, here comes an ugly word indeed, whiny the religious angst is often portrayed, especially during passover.
(And with failed metaphors all around. How about this: the congregation gathered outside the church, in the graveyard, around a fire. After a few quiet words a large candle was lit, and carried at the head of a procession into the church. So far so good, eh? But what happens to the metaphor when the candle is blown out halfway? Hmmm?)
The theme of the night was of course angst and darkness. And so it has been for a while now. It’s like a big hammer swung by the church to keep the peasants in line. “You’re wretched creatures, you have no purpose in life except in Christ, you have no meaning in life except through Christ.” And so on. I remember, 17 years ago when I too really believed, that it had an impact. According to me at the time, people had existential angst all the time. (I loved Jean-Paul Sartre.) And they, the nameless sheep, rightly had angst because they were too far from god. Obvious isn’t it? And hang on, we shouldn’t be so fast slapping each others backs even if we’re Christians, we have angst too, we sit in the dark corners shuddering and only the light of Christ can save us. When the priests said things like, and this is an example from yesterday, “where do you go, what do you do, when the café latte have turned cold in your hands?”, I thought it true and manifestly profound.
But in reality, its only empty posturing.
Yesterday, for every metaphor and every story weaknesses popped out of the bare walls of the place. Is your latte cold? Well mate, let that be the most of your worries. Personally I’d go to the nearest microwave oven and heat it. And what of the terrible story you told us last night, including bloody details, of “we can call her Tanni” who is now being refused permanent citizenship in Sweden and is being sent back to the country where she was repeatedly tortured? The story of is “we can call her Tanni” is horrible, and we should be rightly ashamed that it happends on our watch, but did you offer anything concrete, anything tangible we can do to make it better? No. Did you offer any plausible explanation on why she’s being refused? No. Did you in fact, use her misery only to depress us, swing her story like a so gory hammer on our heads, forcing home you message of darkness, depression and angst? Yes. And damn disgusting it is mate. You see, you can keep you blood and damnation, here’s my suggestion to you: instead of gathering the sheep in a cold dark church to no readily discernible purpose at all, you could have stayed home and made love with your wife, you could have held each other warm against the darkness tapping your window. And then, afterwards, you could have sent 100SEK, a small sum indeed for 99.9% of anyone who was in church last night in Sweden, to charity. A tiny token of your love and gratitude for all you have been given. Imagine how much money it would be if everyone had done that, instead of rolling in you mass-produced misery, like so many Stockholm-syndrome sufferers with fat wallets? How many “we can call her Tanni” could we have actually helped with such a small gesture?
Every time a child is saved by the doctors, from an accident that only 20 years ago would have been lethal, we should celebrate. For every “we can call her Tanni” that is given a new chance, a chance that 100 years ago would not have existed, we should celebrate. Every time we solve a conflict at the diplomacy table instead of the battle field, we should celebrate. Every time the sun shines on our, frankly rather privileged, faces, we should celebrate. In fact, we should celebrate and then go out and do something practical, something with our hands or our words, to help those less privileged.
You can keep you bleak, angst-ridden narcissism for yourself.