Monday, January 24, 2005


Recently I went to see the English National Opera staged version of Michael Tippett's haunting oratorio, A Child Of Our Time. For those who don't know it, it is based on the events leading up to Kristallnacht during the Nazi terror. In place of the traditional Bachian chorales there sit five Africa-American Spirituals, wonderfully orchestrated into a piece of Western art music that pays more than lipservice to vernacular forms.

Tippett was not a Christian in any conventional sense. He was a Jungian-influenced humanist mystic, you might say; someone of humanity, courage, humour, faith and hope -- politically committed to the dispossessed, a pacifist imprisoned for his concientious objection, and a person of extravagent and intense artistic vision.

From such people we often get far more profound theological remarks than from those of self-regarding piety. An article by Dennis Marks in the ENO programme (see also my music weblog, NewFrontEars) drew my attention to an incredibly powerful comment Tippett made to his friend David Ayerst shortly before the completion of Child.

I have of course not the slightest idea where healing will come [from] because the moment of complete dereliction for the Christian civilization has probably not been reached and so the moment of God's voice from the whirlwind has not come. Though perhaps the whirlwind has come! And that is the only kernel of truth I see - that God will be found in the refuse bin as of old - the stone that has been thrown away.

Goodness. I am considering the possibility of a book on 'God After Christendom'. This will certainly be its opening quotation. Strong echoes of Bonhoeffer, among others.

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