Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

May 2005

Faith & ReligionTuesday, May 10th, 2005, (9:31 am)

It’s fair to say that I am not the biggest ‘church-goer’ in the world. My ‘Sunday best’ hasn’t been dusted off for an unmentionably long time, and if I were a Catholic then I’d need at least a week free for confession. However that’s not to say I don’t have Christian beliefs or convictions in the spirituality department, it’s just that I don’t really speak the Church language and my attempts at learning it were about as successful as my attempts at learning French.

I kind of feel sympathy for the cool people in Church who are trying hard to attract new faces to their congregations and save souls in the process. Their challenge is nothing short of a huge uphill struggle. It seems to me like the easiest age group to catch are young kids, because lets face it if you give them fun things to do young kids are easily persuaded. However the moment they starts getting into their teens and watching their image more and more, Church is in for a battle. Then they go off to college and from my experience that’s where Church loses the greatest number of its former youthful flock.

‘Reaching out’ to adults is equally as difficult. Christianity, certainly here in the UK, just isn’t deemed as ‘cool’ and with a tons and a half of stereotyped images to combat even the most earthy evangelist is going to have to work hard to make the idea of Church sound appealing.

Sometimes I think that Christian people forget what its like to be one of the so called ‘non-churched.’ They overlook the fact that Church is essentially a whole new culture, with it’s own sub-language, clubs, humor and rules. Taking an un-churched person to a Church could be fairly compared to taking a nun to a strip-club! Imagine for a second, if you will, standing there while everyone around you sings praise and worship songs, prays and listens to their preacher talk. Depending on what kind of Church this is, there could be all manner of things happening from the simple eyes closed while praying thing, through to the lifting up of hands and rotating the wrists like a satellite dish trying to tune into the best signal. Or in extreme cases the congregation might all of a sudden start breaking out into a wobble while they sing, or talking in tongues (which often sounds like gibberish) in the prayer times.

Then of course there’s the message. “2000 years ago this guy, who was Gods son, but also God, came to earth and after doing some cool stuff he was crucified. But he died for your sin. So you can live forever – cool huh!” Errr… okay. “Jesus Love You!” Try explaining that to someone who you’ve just told that Jesus was put to death 2000 years ago. It is of course way more complex (and simple?) than that. I’m just paraphrasing of course, but you get my point.

It’s a tough sell, and it’s not made any easier by the fact that in today’s sexually active society, Christianity’s biggest export (apart from Jesus) is the whole ‘no sex before marriage’ thing. That’s a tough sell in a society with spiralling divorce rates and a ‘try-before-you-buy’ mentality. It’s perhaps a telling fact that of all the Christians I know, this is the one major stumbling block that often separates them from Church in the end.

It’s no surprise to me though that Church attendance numbers are rapidly falling in the wealthy west. We have so many other cool things to distract us from taking the time to ponder the bigger picture. We’ve got play stations, movies, clubbing, shagging, exercising, dieting, suing, fighting, profiting, working, heck we’ve even got blogging to distract us! How on earth are we supposed to find time for God in all of that?

In the end the truth is what it is I suppose, and we’ll all learn that sooner or later. In the meantime I’m happy enough not to go to Church for the time being thank you very much because, ironic as it may seem, I find that the hardest place to be a Christian is Church.

Christian Christians

GeneralMonday, May 9th, 2005, (3:12 pm)

I’ve been offline for a few days. My broadband was being upgraded then it all stopped working. But I’m back now, on a shinny new speedier connection too.

So this weekend my car acquired air conditioning thanks to a couple of local crack-heads. At around noon on Saturday two crack-heads were walking past my car which was parked on my street, when they saw a four pack of Guinness on the front seat. Being smacked out of what remains of their brains, they decided that it was an entirely reasonable thing to do to slash the roof of my convertible to get into the car are steal the Guinness and other beer that was rather foolishly on display.

Unfortunately for them the roof wasn’t all that easy to get into so they had three attempts at getting into the car. The final attempt involved the girl kneeling on the floor while the guy used her to step onto the back of the car and then tear the roof and lean into the vehicle to retrieve the beer. To his delight, no doubt, there was my wallet also, so that was also taken.

Eye witnesses saw what happened but claimed they didn’t realise what was actually happening until it was too late. Reasonable I suppose, I mean the sheer gal of this crime at midday is unbelievable. The Police were not able to find the thieves who caused several thousand dollars of damage to the car in order to get a $6 pack of beer!

On the upside, the car did actually kind of need a new roof, and I am taking this opportunity to upgrade the roof to the sleeker, sexier (heated glass rear windowed) Sportster model. Plus I am also getting the back of the car re-sprayed and the scratches repaired, the inside refinished and cleaned and the who car polished courtesy of the insurance company who will also be renting a car for me while the work is done. And I figured I might as well get a rear wind deflector too so that the air doesn’t rush back into the car when the roof is down. So in a way, the crack-heads have kind of done me a favor here. I just hope they don’t feel an encore is in order.

My car before the damage
The Long Way Home (‘Meanwhile’ article)

TravelSunday, May 1st, 2005, (4:33 pm)

It was a beautiful day today! We took to bikes and cycled around old Amsterdam taking in the sites, and the warmth beside the famous canals. Everyone here rides bikes, its the number one mode of transport.

Can’t really post much more today. We’re going out again in a few minutes to the coffee shops and probably won’t be back till late, then it’s up early for another day where we’ll most likely cycle out to see some windmills and tulips and stuff if it’s nice. Then home to England in the evening. So this is my last post till I get back I guess. I’ll post more pictures of Amsterdam and my America trip when I get back.

TravelSunday, May 1st, 2005, (8:12 am)

Well yesterday was the main Queens day celebrations in Amsterdam. So we were out all day long walking around soaking up the atmosphere. A tradition for local residents on the tiny streets of this packed city, is to bring out stuff they want to sell to little stalls they put up in-front of where they live. The streets are lined with people selling their old stuff. A lot of junk, a lot of interesting things. Kids were out on the streets busking, concentrating extremely hard as they played their chosen instrument for the bounty of a few Euros tossed into their little collection hats, baskets or tins.

Surprisingly their was a distinct and noticeable lack of Police. In the entire day we saw only a handful of Police officers in a city that was bulging beyond capacity with locals spilled out onto the streets as well as the years highest number of visitors. The usually quiet canals were heaving with boats precariously packed with people, most of whom were standing up singing, or dancing, but all of whom were drinking.

We stopped in at a little back street bar whose owner is known to our host Mark. It was before lunch so the though of beer was far from my mind, but this was Queens day, so for the majority the thought of beer was nearly the first only thing on their minds. We sat and watched people walk past on the warm but fairly cloudy day. It was perfect weather for Queens Day strolling, not too hot for walking around, but not at all cold. I wish it had been as sunny as Friday purely because my pictures would have been nicer. However according to Mark, the sun would have bought out even more people and moving around would have become a nightmare, so we had the perfect medium. It was a very relaxed way to spend the day. Walking a little, sitting for a while, walking a little more.

After dinner we headed back to Marks apartment at Wester Park in the Jordaan where we chilled for a little while. Will and I then headed out again on our own as Mark was exhausted from walking so much after a long week at work. We wandered around the city streets that were already clearing as people retreated to their homes or hotel rooms to sleep off two days of drinking and all kinds of other bodily abuse, hoping the Sunday hangover would be a long time coming.

The street cleaners were out in force, sweeping away the mountains of plastic cups formerly full to the brim with European beer. Washing down the pavements with high powered jets of chemically enhanced water. So with the main streets already nearing death we decided to see if the fabled ‘red light district’ was any busier. Despite two days of drinking for many of the people in Amsterdam, red light district was still packed with a mixture of beered up guys, curious couples, drug dealers and various other unsavory looking characters all milling around on streets lit by neon signs promising to reveal unmentionable things and the glow of red lights from windows where prostitutes sat in various stages of undress.

The place had a strange atmosphere with hoards of people slowly walking past windows where girls bathed in red light sat trying to maintain a sexy look that would hopefully earn them their keep. I’d heard so much of the red light district of Amsterdam but the place still surprised me. I consider myself an broad-minded person, but this place sits out on the extreme edge of open-mindness. In the end, after walking around the tiny little streets for a while I just felt sad for the girls who sit in their little red lit windows looking out at the endless sea of faces that peer in at them like zoo animals. These girls surely didn’t make conscious career decisions to move to Amsterdam and become prostitutes committing umpteen sexual acts with faceless strangers who knows how many times a night.

If these streets are the only streets Amsterdam is famous for then that is a great sadness. In a place so rich in culture and serenity, the red light district could only be considered as its dark underbelly, and perhaps a dark underbelly of society in general.

Today we’re going out on bikes, and the sun is shining.

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