Monthly Archives: March 2012

Some Interesting things elsewhere II


every witty quote might offend someone...

Welcome in the second issue of ‘Some interesting things elsewhere':

Eugene Cho on ‘a lifestyle of enough‘ on Godspace. Shane Claiborne on the theology of enough, I think the rediscovery of ‘enough’ instead of more more more is very important, and one of the ways in which Christianity has to be countercultural in a world where growth for the sake of growth (the ideology of the cancer cell) is the norm in economics.

There is a promise in Scripture that there is enough: that God did not mess up and make too many people or not enough stuff.

Another criticism to a core value of contemporary neoliberal ideologies that are very pervasive even in Christian thought is addressed by Matt Stone in his blog post ‘do what thou wilt shalt be the law of the psychopath’, which invokes the infamous  occultist Aleister Crowley! More from the occult department in this very entertaining article by our anti-capitalist friend Tripp York, who finds neo-druids too capitalist, and points out how Satanists are plagued by the same problems as Christians are…

Totally unrelated is this cool technique of moss graffiti, something I want to try one day!

Sometimes the world seems like getting crazier and crazier. This story is quite enraging, and together with this one scatters my last hope that there is any ‘land of the free’ left in the illustrious US of A…: “Health department raids community picnic and destroys all food with bleach” This weird story about a homeless mother sent to jail because letting her children go to school in the wrong place is equally scary though…And the mess the Americans left in Iraq includes this story about teenagers being stoned to death for their emo look. And if we’re talking about the middle-east, this blogger from Bethlehem is worth following, and these ‘writings on the wall’ by persecuted Palestinian Christians are impressing!

At the same moment the state the planet is in isn’t much better: the acidifying of the oceans, a problem most people never heard about, might become one of the serious threats to earthlings in the future, and one we are responsible for! And if the ocean level rises due to global warming, this guy will be a president without a country… And there should be no patents on genes that are found inside of living organisms!

Some things are just weird. The anonymous declaration of cyberspace independence, which can be read here, looks like it’s from a sci-fi movie, but it’s from the real world we’re living in apparently…

did you read anything interesting?

shalom

Bram

The lost psalters interview (from August ’11, Kortrijk)


Last August the psalters, one of the most remarkable, unique and impressing band of the planet, were in Belgium to play their amazing music, and they did a show in Kortrijk. I was happy to be the opening act, with just a crappy guitar as a substitute backing band, but I actually hardly remember anything of that, since the psalters concert itself that came after my set was much, much more impressing. (one bootlegged song of my own set, called ‘Ellulian glasses’ can be found here)

As was their new CD ‘carry the bones’, which was for me the best CD of 2011! You can mail order it through their site now btw. Do it, you won’t regret it! The real CD has a very cool package and does sound lots and lots better than mp3’s of it at 128 bpm.

I also did a very interesting interview that night for a Flemish website with the mysterious ‘Captain Napkins’, as the CD booklets call him), one of the two leading forces behind the band. Browsing through my old files I found the English version again today, and I found it way too interesting to not share it with the world. Sharing is what makes us humans…

So here it is (drum roll on oil barrel), the psalters interview from Kortrijk, Belgium on 8/23/2011, done by myself (Bram), originally for cultuurshock.net (read the shorter Dutch version here!)

Bram: So this is your second time in Belgium. please tell us about the first time you were here:

Captain Napkins: Well, the fist time here in Belgium we got to play in Antwerp. We were invited by some cool folks to stay in a squat-house, that used to be a customs building on the bay. It was an amazing experience to stay in there, and then on top of that we played a show in a squat bar (the Scheld’apen) The interesting thing was that Antwerp had just kicked a lot of gypsies out of the city and given them some land right next to the bar to camp out, so when we were there was a couple of acres full of gypsies and then there was anarchists, punks and different folks all together. It just made for an amazing night.

There was a big tree-house right behind the bar, a huge tree-house even, like a real house in a tree, And there was lots of good beer. It was one of our favorite shows that we have ever done, very intense, The place was packed. Yes, we loved it! We absolutely loved Belgium!

Bram: What’s the difference between playing your music in Europe and playing it in america?

Captain Napkins: Sometimes it overlaps, you know: There are places in America that we’ve played that remind me a lot of some places that we’ve played in Europe. But I guess as a generalization, I would say more consistently people in Europe take what we’re doing much more seriously, like they think of us more a like we’re trying to be ourselves: as an organization, as a community, as a movement of combining worshop and justice, and ehm, fighting the empires that we humans create. In America, I think a lot of venues and places see all of that as just a gimmick, and at the end of the day we’re just a band…. So I think in Europe people have been taking us more seriously, which has been great. Plus the shows in Europe, it seems like people take music more seriously, not just us, but in general. The venues seem to take sound more seriously, like they’re very apologetic if they don’t have exactly what we need.

Bram: I heard the same from an interview with Dave Edwards (frontman of woven hand and 16 horsepower) once. Who said that Belgium was the most receptive country for just listening to the music, and taking it very seriously, even in the details.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, but I would say lot of the countries we’ve been to in Europe. The venues seem to take the music and the show a little more seriously, you know they put more work in it. but Belgium is one of our favorite places, for sure.

Bram: Okay, let’s switch to another subject: you guys are known to be both Christians and anarchists, how do you combine that?

Captain Napkins: It’s not at all a matter of combining, for me, for us… Well, anarchy… (pauses) We’re Christians, In a way I’m a Christian and I’m just a Christian, but I like to articulate ourselves as anarchists because the concept of anarchy helps people to understand better what we’re talking about: that there’s no system of man that works. All systems of man end up oppressing other people and elevating some people at the expense of others, and for us end up in the way of God, the One who created this world, so, yeah.

Bram: I understand that, but some people might not: I’ve just heard that there is a group of anarchists here in Kortrijk that refused to go come to your show tonight just because you’re Christians. How would you react to that?

Captain Napkins: I understand that. There’s a lot of Christians that have been very judgemental and hurtful to a lot of people. You know been jerks basically, so I totally understand that. There’s also been times for that we’ve been invited to play in a place and we found out that they were Christian and we didn’t want to play, you know.

Bram: Well, I heard that about Christians too, when hearing that you were anarchists, didn’t want to hear your music…

Captain Napkins: yeah, same thing

Bram: I remember when I let someone hear the song ‘come now and join the feast, right here in the belly of the beast’, they thought you were satanists. So how do the common Christians in America react to your music and your message?

Captain Napkins: yeah we’ve been shut down sometimes. We’ve played some shows.We’re very anti, we’re very unpatriotic, you know, like I love, I love the people of my country, I love the l…

Bram: (interrupting quite impulsively) Belgians are the most unpatriotic people of the world.

Captain Napkins: Okay

Bram: We actually just don’t care, we still don’t have a government now for I one year and a half and we don’t even care.

Captain Napkins: That’s maybe similar… that’s how we feel. I’m sure Belgians love each other, and they love the land. That’s how I feel, you know, I love the land from where I come. I love the people, but I don’t care about the government, I don’t care about those people more than other people. so in all those ways I’m not patriotic at all. and that offends of some Christians, and so we’ve kinda shut down

Bram: In America?

Captain Napkins: some of them are very conservative people and we’re not….

Bram: So, conservatives in America are really patriotic?

Captain Napkins: yeah the conservatives in America are patriotic and they tend to be violent.

Bram: recognize this T-shirt? (show T-shirt of the ordinary radicals)

Captain Napkins: yeah

Bram: I guess you know the ‘litany of resistance’, where Shane Claiborne says something like ‘I pledge allegiance to the transnational church that transcends all borders’ or something like that. (losing my words) So, when you’re thinking of Christianity and being part of a country, part of a nation, whatever, Being a Christian and being part of a people, part of a nation, what’s the connection?

Captain Napkins: for me, I don’t consider myself a part of the nation. I just am a part of the

(We arrive at the bar, looking for a good Belgian Beer, and decide to get a Hopus, a rather strong one)

Bram (to bartender): He’s from America, he’ll really appreciate it, he’s the leader of the band who played.

Bartender: yeah, I know man, it was so nice.

Bram: He deserves a hopus, really!

Bartender: yeah man, of course, of course, of course!

Captain Napkins: yeah, we have a lot of Belgian beers in Philly, in Philadelphia, my city where I’m from they love Belgian beers.

Bartender: Belgian beers are the best.

Bram: So, let’s get back to the interview: one of the guy frsom the squat-house where you stayed last time couldn’t be here tonight but he really likes your sound. He said you were the most tight band heever heard. Like one voice playing together, like there’s no ego in the band. How do you do that?

Captain Napkins: Well it’s interesting. I haven’t really, eh

Bram: You’re just tight together without ego’s, like one band with one vision, musically.

Captain Napkins: (thoughtful) Well, if that’s true, well I mean I haven’t head that a lot, it’s a new thing to me actually. But if it’s true, then what makes it happen is that there is a theology to what we’re doing, there is a vision and a mission that.

Bram: A theology?

Captain Napkins: I mean it’s built on a whole thesis, you know.

Bram: I’ve read a short version of it on your website and I’m still waiting for the whole version to be released.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, I need to write it out… that’s what I want to do when I get back from Europe. some more writing. I wrote it long time ago when I was in college. it’s for college, so it’s not, you know, there is a lot that needs to be changed.

Bram: What would you change?

Captain Napkins: Well, not even so much change as I would just add a lot, there is a lot that needs to be added and kinda updated maybe. I still agree with pretty much everything that’s in there, just a lot of things need to be updated…

Bram: Okay, on to something else, and maybe very strange question: what’s the gospel for you as a Christian anarchist? That’s the most important question for a Christian: What exactly is the good news?

Captain Napkins: Well, for me it’s about… (pauses) Eh… This might sound a little bit vague, but it’s important to me. When you ask that question I think of how God is love and loved us all into existence. He loves creation into existence and because of that our faith is about being in relationship with God, with each other and with creation. And that’s where anarchy comes in, and that’s where radical justice comes in: because the world fights against creation, the world fights against the Creator, the world fights against relationships. But for me it starts with the idea that God is love, God loved us into existence and God wants us to be in a a relationship with Him, with each other, and with his creation.

Bram: Makes a lot of sense to me. When I hear this I’m reminded of the controversy of Rob Bell’s ‘love wins’ book, so maybe let’s just ask one of the hardest questions of our faith: what do you think about hell?

Captain Napkins: (pauses) Wow, about hell? I actually was just talking to somebody last night about that and, eh, I do think that there is a hell. I don’t really know, but Jesus talks about it a lot, and our scriptures talk about it a lot, and eh… I’m uncomfortable, but at the same time I think that, eh, you know, I don’t know what it is and I don’t know who goes there, but I think that God is all-powerful (pauses) There is this woman, Julian of Norwich, who’s the first woman ever published in English. She is way back in the 12th century and she wrote something like she had a vision of hell, and she wrote something about like “and all is well and all will be well and all matter of things shall be well”. And it was just this, like it sounds redundant, but it was just her saying that God is kinda makes it work. And God makes it right, and God bring the healing but it’s tough how, I don’t know man, I mean it’s too tough.

I’m not one of those people that thinks that people who don’t confess Jesus automatically go there and stuff. I mean, I don’t know who goes there. I’m not one to decide who goes to hell and who doesn’t, you know, I do believe. I don’t even want to say that people definitely go to hell for eternity and all I think maybe that’s something that’s out of our understanding I’m also one to not say that hell does not exist, I think that hell does exist. And I think there is this suffering. there’s this horrible mess that’s out there and I think that there is such a thing as justice. I think that when injustice happens there is a need for retribution.

Bram: Would you say that there is retribution in justice, or just only putting things right and cleaning up evil without taking revenge?

Captain Napkins: yeah, I don’t necessarily believe in revenge, but I think when something evil happens I think that something needs to be made right, and it isn’t simply forgiven. It’s not a matter of like this horrible thing happens and well, it’s just okay now. No, I believe that like, when people, when a whole village is slaughtered by another group of people, that evil isn’t simply forgiven by God, there is a payment for it, there is a suffering that makes it right again.

Bram: And Jesus took that on him to give us forgiveness. (looks at watch) Looks like it’s getting late, so it’s time to end the interview. So I’ll have one last question: If I’d ask what you’d say to Christian people in Belgium, just regular Christian people, what would you say? What would you challenge them to?

Captain Napkins: Well, eh… People respect authority too much. People respect the Powers that Be too much. Because maybe the governments here are better than our government and so it’s easy…

Bram: Well, we kinda do have healthcare…

Captain Napkins: Yeah, yeah so there’s a lot of good things, and, ehm, it’s easy to not respect the American government but maybe it’s harder for Europeans to not respect theirs. But still I think that any government,and any system still falls short to the Kingdom of God. I think we always have to question them, and that we first have to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, and not citizens of a human government or a King. Maybe I’d say something like that…

Bram: Thank you very much! One more beer?

musical interlude: She = like meeting Jesus (Zita Swoon)


This musical interlude is a nineties oldie from one of the more weird Belgian bands, the good special bands like Antwerp used to have in the good old days… Zita Swoon, currently renamed as ‘Zita Swoon group’, and at moments mostly a project of Stef Kamil Carlens, had some minor hits in over the years, and a big fanbase in more alternative corners. This song is the first song of the ‘I paint pictures on a wedding dress’ album (1998). In spite of the reference to Jesus in the title, it is not a Christian band at all, but I like the spiritual content of the bridge and the last verse in this song.

Maybe some people find the music quite weird, and indeed I can’t deny that some songs on the album (including this one) are overproduced in a not very commercial way… But there are some really strong songs on this album. (The biggest hit was ‘my bond with you and your planet: disco‘, but my favorite song is ‘our daily reminders‘, one of my favorite Belgian rocksongs from the nineties, which was good decade for rock in Antwerp…

She = like meeting Jesus (Zita Swoon)

Once I was mistaken for a different fool
And I could never tell If they were wrong or true
Until now
I see the light shining in my home
A better man in me is born
I know now that I can cope the storm

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

The jailman says I am caught
Between the lies & the races
But the key to the cell he guards
Is in the hand of my saviour

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

Oh my lord I must admit
I do not know how to live my life
I am trapped inside its mystery
I am tangled up in its delight
The warnings you´ve given
And the choices that you did provide
Make complicated situations
How can we tell what´s wrong or right?
Can´t you offer some assistance?
Can´t you clue on what to do?
I lost my lust for life
And now I am slowly loosing faith in you

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

The lord says listen boy
Come see the lines on my faces
You are thinking I am too old
To see what is going on
But I know your story

She walks /  My room in
I am on my own / We are greeting
She talks / I am heeding
What she´s shown / Is truth

enjoy

Bram

On beggars and followers of Jesus


The next quote comes from the very informative book ‘living on hope while living in Babylon‘, a book on Christian anarchism in the 20th century by Tripp York. The chapter is about Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day of the catholic worker movement, and it was quite an eye-opener about something which I’ve been trying  to figure out when studying Francis of Assisi.

Peter imagined that a recovery of the Christian vocation of voluntary poverty, accompanied by begging, was necessary for Christians to be able to see the God of the poor. Voluntary poverty has a rich history in the church and has mostly been associated with the religious (e.g., monks, nuns or priests). The giving away of all goods in an effort to follow Jesus in ones concern for the “least of these” has carried with it high esteem from the church hierarchy even though it s rarely practiced. What attracted both Peter and Dorothy to Francis was his ability to locate Christian virtue within the act of begging. Begging strips the beggar of the pride that accompanies self-sufficiency. Today one of our greatest concerns is that we will become a burden on our family, so we place our parents and our handicapped in homes in order to free us from their claims and to free l hem from having to claim us. Francis could not have imagined a greater sin. The longing for complete autonomy, from freedom of dependency, is contrary to the very image of which we are created. Being created in the image of the triune God requires that we participate in the sociality of our created natures. For Francis, begging reminds us how intertwined and interdependent we are on one another. But it does more than this. It becomes part of the story of salvation because it not only rescues us from pride, but affords others the opportunity to care one another. Begging is a form of gift-exchange that turns our eyes and our bodies back to the gift given by Jesus. As Jesus emptied himself for the sake of the world, we too empty ourselves. We become completely dispossessed so that we may become possessed by only God. Though we may not all be called to begging, we are called to gift-giving, and the witness of a Francis of Assisi or a Peter Maurin demands that we call into question our initial reactions to beggars.

I don’t know what to add, because this is very powerful stuff that I need to meditate on more, since it goes completely against the ways of our society. But it indeed is true that we are all interconnected, and that every ‘self-made-man’ relies on others… Hypermodern neoliberal individualism is just an illusion, we cannot live without each other, and we should not pretend that we make our own world.

Begging is something that is looked down upon, while stock market speculating and similar ways of making money out of money without doing anything constructive for others isn’t. For us as followers of Christ the inverse should be true!

I’ll close with the words of Jesus in Luke 6, that should be the very core of our Christian ethics, but most of the time they aren’t:

6:27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 6:29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 6:30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 6:31 Treat others101 in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 6:33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 6:34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High,because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

what do you people think?

shalom

Bram