But now I'm going to have to talk about something else. Something very close to my heart, actually.
So the new Hillsong album, "let there be light." just came out yesterday. If someone happens to stumble on my LJ (huh, what? how?) and doesn't know about this Australian charismatic-Christian mega-church powerhouse of music, then well, I just explained what Hillsong was for you.
So the story behind that is my aunt invited me and my sister to Australia for a couple of weeks for the Hillsong conference. This conference is an international, annual event in Christian music. It's massive. Twenty thousand (or more) people go there, to participate in this incredible show of light and music and inspirational preaching. It's a complex undertaking, eats up huge gobs of cash, and is rather glittery, so people accuse Hillsong of being just another money-hungry corporation, except specializing in "Christian entertainment" instead of, say, "ridiculously expensive gadgets with a fruit logo". Personally, I think no organization can get as huge as Hillsong is without turning into a sort of corporation/bureaucracy/micro-economy (pure economics of scale), so I'm sure they're trying to be as authentic to their calling as they can under the circumstances.
Anyway, I know I don't strike anyone as the religious type, but I'm actually obsessed with God. Have been ever since I was seven or eight, i.e. old enough to be scared I was going to die in my sleep while in sin. We've been wrestling with each other for a pretty long time, God and me (but let's not go down that rabbithole this time).
And even though I try to situate all of this in the social and economic context, there's still a part of me that still yearns towards this God -- the God of my childhood, the God of my mother -- like a child reaching out for its parent.
It's not just the participation mystique. I mean, put a huge bunch of people together and make them sing or dance in unison, and they'd all have a religious experience. That's the entire point of rock concerts and nightclubs and Renfaires. But the experience of being there wasn't just the dissolution of self into a collective identity.
There was just something about all of it.
Because, you know, I don't generally sing in church. Two reasons:
1) I sing at a different register than most songs. So when I try to sing along to anything, I always have to reach up very high or very low. If I do try to sing without straining up or down, my voice comes out very flat, in a monotone that's almost scary (like a zombie cultist chant, if you want to imagine).
2) I always cry when I sing in church. I mean, I cry ALL THE TIME (it's a feature, not a flaw!) but it's worse at church
But just being there, surrounded by all these people singing, listening in particular to this Filipino pastor my aunt also invited along, all crying out to this same awful, awesome God I've been struggling with since I was a child... And it all just came bubbling up. And I sang. (I sounded like a bullfrog, but that's not the point.) And it wasn't like losing myself. It was like me taking hold of myself, seeing everything I am, and offering myself up. It's like I was a hollow tube in a pipe organ and the song was just going through me. Like I was looking straight at God and saying, "For this moment, no arguments, no rationale, you have me completely."
Pretty fucking scary.
Also one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life.
Which really describes everything God is to me.
I feel extremely privileged to have been there when they were recording this album. My favorite songs:
* What a Beautiful Name
* Let There Be Light
* Behold (Then Sings My Soul)