Friday, 30 November 2012

The Arab Awakening

Like most people, I guess, I've been following the news from the Middle East over the past two years - the non-violent rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt, the civil wars in Libya and Syria, the protests and bloody repression in Bahrain, Yemen and many other countries, the decades-long conflict in Palestine.  I understand what's happening on the surface, but my knowledge is skin deep, because I know so little about the societies in which they are taking place.

Not so Tariq Ramadan.  His maternal grandfather was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and his father a prominent Brotherhood figure who was exiled under President Nasser.  He grew up in Switzerland, becoming one of the Western world's leading Islamic scholars.  If anyone is qualified to interpret what's going on for Western readers, it's Tariq Ramadan.

Not that he's unbiased.  He has at times been persona non grata in the US for his outspoken criticism of American and Israeli policy.  He is not necessarily a friend of the European powers despite having lived there all his life.  Yet he is also viewed with suspicion in much of the Middle East.  Certainly it would be hard to accuse him of not being independent.

The Arab Awakening was written in early 2012, as events were still unfolding in much of the Middle East.  Mubarak had fallen but Morsi was still to be elected.  Ghaddafi had been killed but the rebellion in Syria was only just beginning to descend into full-scale civil war.  Events have moved on since he wrote, and perhaps if he was writing now he would say some different things.  (Indeed, you can read some of his more recent thoughts on his blog). Nevertheless, he shines a bright light on some aspects of these stories that lurk in the background of the mainstream Western news coverage.

For a start, he provides an often critical analysis of the role of the US and European powers.  He highlights the fact that while the rebellions across the Middle East were spontaneous in their immediate causes, the groundwork for non-violent protest had been laid through training provided to young activitists by the leaders of the 1998 Serbian uprising that removed Slobodan Milosevic.  These training sessions, funded by US agencies and non-profits, taught about the principles of non-violent protest and the use of social media to galvanise demonstrators.  Armed with these tools, participants became the leaders of the subsequent protest movements. 

The US motivation for this training is not always clear.  Why train protestors to overthrow regimes like Mubarak's in Egypt or Ben Ali's in Tunisia which protected US interests?  Ramadan concludes that the US knew these regimes were shaky as their long-term leaders aged, and wanted to have a hand in the succession.  Yet he doesn't leave it there.  Why did the US and Europe support the protestors in Egypt and Tunisia, while remaining aloof as protests in Bahrain and the other petro-monarchies were mercilessly crushed?  Why did NATO provide military support for the Libyan rebels (led by figures who had only recently defected from the Ghaddafi regime) but stay hands-off in Syria?  His conclusion is that, unsurprisingly, US rhetoric promotes freedom and democracy but its actions promote its own economic and strategic interests.

All this is just the prelude to his main question: what kind of societies will emerge from these rebellions?  For him, it is not enough for the protestors to have some tools and methods, or for the new political leaders to hammer out new clauses in a constitution.  They need to be able to build a political culture and approach which will fit for their own societies - a distinctive Islamic polity for predominantly Islamic societies.

In our mainstream media this question is usually portrayed as a contest between Islamists and secularists, but for Ramadan it is more complex than that.  For a start, secularism doesn't mean the same thing in the Middle East and North Africa as it does for us.  In European countries and their colonies it meant the seperation of church and state and the removal of church power from government.  In the Middle East, starting with Ataturk's Turkey, it meant the subjugation of religion to the State and government supervision of religious teaching.  Hence, it became an aspect of oppression.

Nor is Islamism the monolithic demon we perceive it to be.  Ramadan points out that there are 30 different schools of legal interpretation in Islam.  Commentators in the West and in Israel frequently claim that Islam is inherently violent and extreme.  Here is part of Ramadan's reponse.

Early on, two interpretations of religious practice sprang up: that which applied teachings to the letter without taking either context or easing into account and that which considered not only these factors but also the need for flexibility in the social context of the day, not to mention instances of need and/or necessity.  The overwhelming majority of scholars and of Muslims around the world (whether Sunni or Shiite, irrespective of legal school) have promoted and followed the path of moderation and flexibility in the practice of their religion.

Hence for Ramadan, Islamism needs to find a way to build on this tradition of moderation.  He rejects the path of Osama Bin Laden, who he says was always a marginal political figure in the Middle East, and of the Iranian Islamic Republic which has disappointed the hopes of Islamists by becoming just another corrupt dictatorship and attributing infallibility to certain religious leaders in violation of Islam.  If he has a model for Islamic government then the closest visible manifestation of it is Turkey, where Islamic principles are held side by side with democracy, pluralism and engagement with the wider world. 

Hence we find him, at the end of the book, advocating policies which address education, empowerment of women, pluralism, respect for minority religions and communities, and engagement with the wider world.  He also calls for a deepening of Islamic spirituality beyond mere legalism and repetition of formulae.  Western liberalism, he says, is in crisis, unable to solve the pressing problems of our globalised world.  It would be a huge mistake for Islamic societies to blindly replicate a model that is failing.  By reaching into their own Islamic roots they have the potential to make a unique and positive contribution to solving these problems.

No doubt some of my readers will be unable to hear Ramadan's message.  Anything Islamic is automatically suspect.  Islam frightens us, and we want to either run or fight.  Anyone who criticizes Israel must be silenced or shouted down.  Yet if we fail to listen to voices like Ramadan's, we may in the end be forced to listen much harsher, angrier and less thoughtful ones.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Cultures of Abuse

Obviously I was a bit fired up when I wrote a few days ago about George Pell's response to the announcement of the Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse.  One of the things I was trying to say, though, is that cultures of abuse are widespread and not at all confined to the church. 

One example I cited was the recent and still ongoing Peter Slipper/James Ashby affair.  For those who haven't heard, Peter Slipper resigned from the Liberal Party to take on the job of Speaker in Australia's hung parliament, and was subsequently accused of sexual harassment by a member of his staff, James Ashby.

The accusation was a hot political issue because Slipper's defection shored up Labor's thin majority.  It's quite possible that Ashby's accusations are malicious and he certainly didn't help himself by conferring with senior Liberal Party figures before going public. 

Nonetheless, the way the Labor Party turned on him and set out to discredit him was quite disturbing, because what if he is telling the truth?  What if he, a junior employee, has in fact been harassed by his boss, a powerful political figure?  The risk he has been victimised for making a genuine complaint is quite high, and if so our Labor politicians will be shown to be no better than the Catholic heirarchy which has protected its abusive priests at the expense of their vulnerable victims.


The reason this sticks in my mind is that I know very well that Australian political culture is highly tolerant of abuse, particularly verbal abuse.  I experienced this quite regularly in my 12 years in local government, and I know from employees in various local and state governments that it is widespread and if not openly then at least tacitly condoned.  It is not confined to a single political party or a particular level of government, it's everywhere.  The more senior the political figure, the more acceptable it is seen to be.

I was quite shocked the first time I saw it happen.  I hadn't been in the organisation long and had to front up to a senior councillor along with some colleagues and provide progress reports on our work.  The person we were reporting to sat impatiently through part of the presentation, then seized on something one of my colleagues said and started quizzing him about it.  The answers didn't satisfy, and the councillor tore strips off the staff member about the quality of his work.  My colleagues told me this usually happened in those meetings.  We all dreaded them, but had no choice. 

As time went on, I was often on the receiving end of such behaviour - not from all councillors and not all the time, but frequently enough to add an edge of stress to any working week.  Senior officers reassured me it was not personal and that it was just part of life in  the council.  Over time I got used to it - I still found it stressful but I learnt how to deal with it, how to stick to my guns when I needed to, screen out the verbal aggression and respond to the content of what they were saying, and leave it behind me when I left the room.  I even came to like some of the senior figures who were prone to this behaviour because I also saw their good sides.  Like others, I came to see it as normal.

But then, I am a fairly resilient person.  I've had a good education and a secure family life, by the time I joined that organisation I was an experienced professional and I generally knew more about the subject at hand than anyone else in the room.  I'd also worked for three years in child protection, where you cop a lot worse.  So I didn't really take much damage from the whole experience.

Others weren't so lucky.  Staff would often emerge in tears from such meetings.  We all knew presentations to Councillors and especially groups of them were stressful events, and tended to encourage before and check in after to see if it went OK.  For some it was worse.  One councillor went through advisers at a great rate.  Another had a long-term administrative staff member redeployed after she complained about his behaviour - she was given another job, but nothing happened to the councillor concerned despite a long record of abusive behaviour.  My predecessor left the organisation after six months because she was not prepared to put up with it.

Of course all this is at the low end of abuse compared to the issues the Royal Commission will investigate.  Yet there is a fair bit in common with more serious kinds of abuse.  The abusers were powerful people, their victims were not.  The abusers were not intrinsically bad or malicious but they were immersed in this culture and acted according to its rules.  The victims were not allowed to fight back or deliver abuse in kind, and were told by their superiors that they just had to live with it.  If people didn't like it or refused to put up with it they just had to leave. 

In other words, this was a culture of abuse.  Such cultures exist in most, if not all, of our elected governments.  Public servants are treated like this every day.  Our politicians and many senior public servants think that's OK.  I'm sorry, but I don't.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse

So, after years of discussion we are to have not merely a Royal Commission into the Catholic Church's response to sexual abuse in its ranks, but into abuse in all institutions.  Poor Nicola Roxon gets the unenviable task of designing a set of terms of reference for this behemoth. An Irish judicial inquiry into the same issue took 9 years.  We can expect a lot more on this story before it is over and a lot more people will end up with red faces.


I don't envy Roxon her task.  Our society includes a lot of institutions.  The Catholic Church has been in the news a lot recently and there are many harrowing tales of abuse by priests.  Still the government is right, this is not only a Catholic problem.  Only a few years ago, claims of abuse in the Anglican church in Brisbane revealed similar horror stories, and similar lack of comprehension by senior church leaders.  Former Archbishop Peter Hollingworth lost his job as Governor-General as a result of his astonishingly insensitive public comments on the subject. 

Nor should we forget the risks in non-religious institutions.  In 2000 Queensland Labor MP Bill Darcy was convicted of child sexual assaults committed while he was a teacher in a rural state school.  And in 1993 former Queensland opposition leader Keith Wright was jailed for child sex offences committed while he was in parliament.  I'm assuming that parliaments will also be among the list of institutions to be examined, especially since the recent James Ashby/Peter Slipper debacle (albeit Ashby is not a child) shows that our politicians, like our church leaders, are just as likely to turn on the victims as the perpetrators when one of their own is threatened.  However, it might be too much of a stretch to include our families among the list of institutions, despite the fact that this is where some 90% of child sexual abuse takes place.

Which brings me to what I think is at the heart of the problem.  Child sexual abuse is the clearest example we could possibly have of the powerful exploiting the powerless.  Whether it is parents exploiting their children, teachers exploiting their students, priests exploiting their parishioners, or parliamentarians exploiting their constituents or staff, it involves a person with authority harming those they should be suporting and protecting.  Such abuse is a breach of trust on a grand scale.  And sexual abuse is just one example of this type of misuse of power.

Why, then, are abusers so routinely protected by their institutions?  Why are the heads of these institutions so prone to blaming the victims and accusing them of lying or of somehow sharing responsibility for the abuse?  It is because the abusers are able to exert their power to protect themselves, while the victims are powerless and don't assert their need for protection.  They often don't even know they can.  By the time they are old enough to do so, the opportunity has passed and their veracity is questioned.  The impact of the abuse on their mental health is used against them and they are painted as unreliable witnesses.  They find themselves snookered at every turn.  Many say it is like being abused all over again.

Because the perpetrators are able to speak the language and use the processes of their institutions, they are able to convince even leaders who would have no truck with abuse themselves.  And these leaders want to be convinced, because the exposure of its powerful members - priests, teachers, parliamentarians - brings the institution itself into question.  The abusers are often their friends and almost always their colleagues.  It feels disloyal to accept accusations against them.  It is as if the leaders themselves are being accused.

For me as a Christian the repeated failure of the churches cuts the most deeply.  This is not only because it is "my" institution, although it is partly that.  It is because it should be different.  Jesus' willingness to be crucified is as strong an identification with the victims, and against those with power, as could be imagined.  If we take his name with any sort of seriousness we should be prepared to do the same - even if it brings about the death of our institution.  After all, what use is the church if it switches sides and no longer follows Jesus?

This is why Cardinal George Pell's response is so gut-wrenchingly awful.  His graceless acceptance of the Royal Commission, couched as it is in his expectation that it will show the claims are exaggerated and his suggestion that the church is being victimised, shows how fearful he is for his own institution and how little he empathises with the victims.  Not to mention how little he learned from the downfall of his former Anglican colleague. 

Anthony and Chrissie Foster, whose daughters were abused by a Catholic priest, say in their interview with the ABC that their approach to the church once their daughters disclosed the abuse was frustrating and disheartening, with Cardinal Pell saying that "it's all just gossip until it's proved in court".  Pell's public view that the problem is exaggerated, and that the church is doing a good job of dealing with the issue, must be further disheartening.

What can we do?  Well, I hope the Royal Commission will give us some guidance, but in the meantime I have a suggestion.  We should repent.  Not just say "we're sorry" and then go on as before.  Not find a way to make it go away.  Really repent.  Acknowledge, in sackcloth and ashes if necessary, that our institutions are fundamentally flawed and need to change.  Acknowledge that our addiction to power and our appeasement of the powerful is itself abusive and that abuse (not only sexual, but physical, psychological, financial and social) is the inevitable result of these powers, not just occasional incidents of their misuse.  Place our insititutions in the hands of the victims and invite them to do as they will.

Of course this means it will not be enough to just repent once.  We will need to do so constantly, because our fallen state ensures the problem will not go away.  We will need to learn to conduct ourselves with humility and put the powerless first at every turn.  We will fail again and again, but sometimes we will also succeed, and if we don't eliminate abuse we will at least reduce it.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

On Being a Good Public Servant

I'm reading Josephus' The Jewish War, as you do.  I love the bizarre intrigues of the Herod family and the hugely inflated numbers of people involved in everything, although the battles and the long list of forgettable names kind of lose me.  Most of all I love this story, about a Roman general called Petronius who has just become my hero of the week.

In 37 AD the Roman Emperor Tiberius died and was succeeded by his adopted grandson, Gaius Caligula.  Not much good could be said of Tiberius but at least he was not completely crackers.  Caligula on the other hand was as mad as a cut snake and poor Petronius, as the chief imperial administrator in the Middle East, was now required to do whatever this madman said. 

Josephus takes up the story.

Gaius Caesar's accession to power so completely turned his head that he wished to be thought of and addressed as a god, stripped his country of its noblest men, and proceeded to lay sacrilegious hands on Judaea.  He ordered Petronius to march with an army to Jerusalem and erect his statues in the temple: if the Jews refused them, he was to execute the objectors and enslave all the rest of the population.

What will Petronius do?  Will he obey, and bring about the pointless deaths of thousands of Jews who will give their lives to prevent this sacrilege?  Or will he disobey, and add his name to the long list of high-ranking Romans Caligula has summarily executed?  He reluctantly sets out with his army and the offending statues, but when it comes down to it he has no stomach for the slaughter of innocent people.

The Jews with their wives and children massed on the plain near the city, and appealed to Petronious first for their ancestral laws, and then for themselves.  He yielded to the demands of such a formidable crowd, and left the army and the statues in Ptolemais.

Faced with an impossible situation, Petronius does what any good public servant would do - he calls a meeting.  Here he explains the threats that Caligula has made and mounts the argument that everyone else has statues of the Emperor in their temple, so why not the Jews?  It looks positively disloyal.

In reply the Jewish leaders plead their laws and ancient traditions.  Petronius responds:

"Quite so; but I too am bound to keep the law of my sovereign lord: if I break it and spare you, I shall perish as I deserve.  It will be the Emperor himself who will make war on you, not I.  I am subject to authority just as you are."....The Jews replied that for Caesar and the people of Rome they sacrificed twice a day.  But if he wished to set up the images in their midst, he must sacrifice the whole Jewish race: they were ready to offer themselves as victims with their wives and children.

Many of the sorry parade of cruel, corrupt Roman officials who appear in Josephus' account would have been all too ready to accept their offer, push on regardless, win the favour of Caesar and get their hands on the wealth of those they killed.  Petronius was different.

This reply filled Petronius with wonder and pity for the unparalleled religious fervour of these brave men and the courage that made them so ready to die.  So for the time being they were dismissed with nothing settled.

Poor Petronius!  He is walking a tightrope, trying to save his own skin and the skins of his subjects at the same time.  He has not managed to negotiate his way through the impasse, and he is not prepared to achieve the goal through mass slaughter.  His next strategy is to delay.  He sends them away, does nothing, then brings them back for more talks.  Over what sounds like a long series of meetings he cajoles, reasons and threatens, all to no avail.  But although he threatens, at no point does he use his military might to force the issue.

Another of his qualities as a skilled administrator is that he doesn't lose sight of the bigger picture.

Nothing he could think of had any effect, and he saw that the land was in danger of remaining unsown; for it was the seedtime, and the crowds had wasted seven weeks in idleness.  So at last he got them together and said: "it is better for me to take the risk.  With God's help I shall convince Caesar and we can all breathe again: if he is exasperated, I will gladly give my life for so many."  Then he dismissed the throng, who offered many prayers on his behalf.

Like our best public servants, he has compassion.  He neither wants to slaughter his people, nor allow them to starve.  In the end, he does that most difficult thing for a public servant to do - he takes a risk.  He tries to change his boss's mind.  He will need every one of the prayers of that throng because his boss is a raving homicidal lunatic, but he would rather take the risk than watch innocent people die.  He knows that at least he has bought some more time - it is a long way from Antioch to Rome when all you have is horse- or wind-power.

The story has a happy ending, though it is a close thing.

Gaius replied in no gentle terms, threatening Petronius with death for his slowness in carrying out his orders.  But as it happened the messengers who carried this reply were held up for three months by storms at sea, while others who brought news of Gaius' death had a good voyage....

Gaius Caligula was replaced as emperor by the eminently sane Claudius, and the madcap scheme was quietly dropped.  Petronius got to go back to doing his job, no doubt aided by the ongoing prayers and respect of the subjects he had saved from slaughter.

Our public servants are fortunate enough to not risk execution for failing to carry out their masters' often silly and occasionally disastrous commands.  They can be sacked, though, and replaced with more compliant servants.  Still, they have the same resources Petronius used to navigate this situation.  They can consult and negotiate before they act.  They can delay and buy themselves time.  When all else fails, they can risk their own necks in an attempt to make their bosses see reason in preference to carrying out policies that will cause real harm. 

If they are skillful enough, better times may come around before the fatal commmand has to finally be obeyed.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that Caligula's reign lasted just on three years....

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Jesus is My Boyfriend

It is fashionable in certain Christian circles to talk disparagingly about what are called "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs.  These are songs which express a love for Jesus without a lot of theological content.  If you swap "Jesus" for the name of your latest flame, the song will work just as well.

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I've reached the conclusion that there is a lot to be said for the "Jesus is my boyfriend" song.  Certainly a lot more than could be said for the "blood and gore" song.  I suspect that our desire to explain and defend our theology every time we open our mouths shows we are not all that secure about it.  This leads us to overemphasise it and in the process neglect other important aspects of our spirituality.  So here is my defence of the "Jesus is my boyfriend" song.

The origin of this type of song can be found in the Jewish and Christian tradition of reading the Song of Songs allegorically, as a portrayal of God's love for his people.  In this type of reading the woman in the song may represent Israel, the church or the individual believer, and the man represents God.

It is a moot point whether this is the way the original author intended the song to be read.  It is possible, for instance, that the monastic interpreters of the middle ages were embarassed by the frank eroticism of some of its verses.

How beautiful you are and how pleasing,
my love, with your delights!
Your stature is like that of the palm,
and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree;
I will take hold of its fruit.”

In my youth various Protestant commentators were busy reclaiming and resanctifying this eroticism, showing that far from regarding sex as sinful God delighted in it and wanted us to enjoy it.  I'm thankful for that, but it would be a shame if in the process we lost this other way of reading.  The allegorical interpretation of this book opens up for us a way of understanding our relationship with God far more visceral and immersive than our doctrinal formulae.  Think about this, for instance, as a spiritual allegory.

I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
"Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.
My head is drenched with dew,
my hair with the dampness of the night.”

I have taken off my robe—
must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet—
must I soil them again?

My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening;
my heart began to pound for him.
I arose to open for my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with flowing myrrh,
on the handles of the bolt.
I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.

God desires us, he comes searching for us like a lover in the night, but it is inconvenient for us to allow him entry so we stay in bed - then too late we run for him and find him gone.  So we go out frantically seeking him but instead we fall into the wrong hands and come to harm.

My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.
The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
They beat me, they bruised me;
they took away my cloak,
those watchmen of the walls!

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you -
if you find my beloved,
what will you tell him?
Tell him I am faint with love.

Imagine our joy when we find that God feels the same desire for us, longs for us as much as we long for him, and has never stopped seeking us.

Sixty queens there may be,
and eighty concubines,
and virgins beyond number;
but my dove, my perfect one, is unique,
the only daughter of her mother,
the favourite of the one who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
the queens and concubines praised her.

The fact that we are special, that God desires us despite having access to those who are so much better, so much purer or more beautiful, is a great message, but the sheer passion, the depth and overwhelming nature of this love, is what this song gives us and what we will never get from theology.  All this in a song that does not once mention God by name.

The apostle Paul provides us with a starting point for this kind of thinking in the New Testament.  In Ephesians 5 he first addresses wives.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Then he turns to the husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Of course Paul's immediate intent is for us to look to Jesus' example for how we should live in our marriages, being "subject to one another in love".  Yet the analogy also works the other way.  For most of us, romance is the most passionate, all-consuming emotion we will ever experience.  What else makes us think of another person day and night, feel joyful in their presence and fretful when apart from them, devise creative and elaborate ways to please them, deny them nothing that will make for their happiness?

This, surely, is the love Paul is describing when he says "Christ loved the church and gave himself for her."  It is this love we are to return when we submit to the Lord, not being obedient to a cruel and arbitrary master but returning the passion of a lover who gives everything for us.  Having Jesus as our boyfriend, our lover, our husband, is not a trivial thing.  It is the highest form of love we can imagine.

Not all "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs capture this, but let me give you two that do.  The first is from the late middle ages, John of the Cross's The Dark Night of the Soul, heard here in a beautiful performance by Loreena McKennitt.



This complex piece of mystical imagining is the opening of a larger work in which John describes the process of entering into that state of darkness and blindness in which we cannot perceive God and despair of finding him, only to have him find us.  Here that state is presented in the form of a love song in which, as in the Song of Songs, God is not mentioned by name but is present in every line.

Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart
That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come.

Oh night thou was my guide
oh night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other.

My second example, Your Love Broke Through, is more modern and much simpler, and comes from that most conservative of Protestant songwriters, Keith Green. 


This is a song of spiritual awakening which once again doesn't mention God by name.  

All my life I've been searching for that crazy missing part 
And with one touch you just rolled away the stone that held my heart 
And now I see that the answer was as easy as just asking you in 
And I'm so sure I could never doubt your gentle touch again 
It's like the power of the wind 

 Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed 
Until your love broke through 
I'd been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me 
Until your love broke through.

If you heard this song in the context of Green's work, you would have no doubt that it's a song to God.  Green was very outspoken about his beliefs.  Yet Australian-American pop singer Marcia Hines made it a Top 10 hit here in Australia in 1976 and most of her listeners, like me when I first heard it, would have had no idea it was a gospel song.  

You might say this proves the original point and that as a result the message is lost and Green has sold out.  This could only be the case, though, if you think our differences are more important than our commonalities.  Not everyone can relate to theology, but who couldn't relate to this feeling? Who wouldn't remember that love breaking through, or else long for it to be so? If you heard Marcia Hines sing this song on Countdown in 1976 it might not have led you to seek God.  Yet even there it would have given you a purer, holier vision of love than, say, Ted Mulry's Jump in My Car with which it jostled for chart position.  Perhaps in reaching for this love you might just find the "god beyond God" that Tillich speaks of. 

And if we were to allow such passion and longing into our church services, what might be the result then?