31 May 2010

Internet people become real

Of all the odd things that could have happened this weekend, I ended up going to a church in MK to see Carlos Whittaker play music. Let me explain.

Somewhere between my research and my personal interest is ragamuffinsoul.com, a blog I have been reading for (it turns out) almost four years. I tweeted a welcome to England to Los when he came, and I got a reply from the pastor of a church in MK saying that he was playing in Oldbrook, like a mile and half away from our house this morning. So I packed up the wife and kids and we went to church. I didn't really believe it until he walked out on stage and was playing a song that I recognised from his blog. Right here, in Milton Keynes.

He played and it was quite nice: not being a believer myself, it was strange that I could feel the pull of the music in the same way that I could have five years ago.  Yoko and the girls, despite being tired and coughing, also seemed to like it. After he played, there was the most pernicious sermon, full of all the things I hate about Christianity: homosexuality brought up sort of out of the blue, politics, culture war, some latent sexism... The kind of thing that you listen to and think, This person is either lying or terribly ignorant. When the sermon ended, I was expecting that Los would come out again, but he didn't and I thought, Fuck it, let's go home. Yoko told me that I should try to ask someone to let me in the back to see him, but we ended up just leaving.

Well, I got home and tweeted the pastor again (not the guy who was preaching) and he told me that he would let me know if anything was going on later. After a couple of tweets, I found myself at a bar in CMK with like 15 people from the church and Los and his wife. It's funny how the Internet is, I met him and it was like, I sort of feel like I know a lot about you. Anyway, we talked for like an hour about the church and homosexuality and Christian music and faith and why I am an agnostic/ atheist after having been in the church. It was really good: I feel like the church that he wants to make is a church that I could go to.

Doubt, although something that most pastors I talk to think is a necessary part of faith,  is really hard to actually accommodate when you have people around who really want to believe. I don't think it is possible to actually have a church or faith that accommodates doubt in any real way: at the end of the day, you either believe or you don't. I remember when I was going to a Bible study in Japan right when I turned the corner: I was trying to talk about what happens when you read the Bible (or any other old or translated text) and expect it to talk to you. People don't want to have to talk about the legtimacy of what they're reading every day. They want to believe it and use it in their lives.

One of the things we talked about was my research and how I (if I can) keep my own biases away from it. My explanation has been really bad up to about three weeks ago when I produced a model of YokeUp's talk that I felt YokeUp would say described how he saw the world. He would say that it was a description of the world as it is, rather than just being how he saw it, but I think he would agree that I have represented what he said accurately. That is my goal as an analyst: to describe what is happening in talk accurately, not to make a judgment about the value of it or the rightness or wrongness of it.

Anyway, cheers to meeting people from the Internet and for them turning out to be cooler in real life than they are online.
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