It’s been a blogless and full week, but today I was chairing the wonderful Sandford St Martin Trust in London. Last week the Church Times chickened out of a headline quoting the great scriptwriter Tony Jordan. When I interviewed him after handing him the Sandford St Martin Premier TV Award for 2011 for The Nativity, he described how he had realised in the course of writing the script that he was dealing with ‘truth’. He actually said that while sitting with his rum and cigarettes at his computer he realised: “Shit – it’s true!”
Not only did the Church Times chicken out of using the quote for a headline, but I dropped it from my initial blog report on the Awards ceremony, too. Anyway, it was less elegant than the words I quoted back to him: “The Nativity is a true story and a thing of beauty.” Discuss it if you will, but it was the dumping of the sh*t I thought was funny. If you see what I mean.
Then, a couple of days ago, I was on a BBC Radio 4 documentary celebrating Bob Dylan’s journey of faith as he hits his 70th birthday. Narrated by Esther Freud, Blowing in the Wind was a fascinating trek through the development of Dylan’s spiritual commitments. You’ll have to listen to it (4 days left on iPlayer) to get the full story, but the interesting bit for me was the debunking of the assumption that Dylan had a Christian ‘phase’. This assumption goes something like this: he was Jewish, then nowhere, then hit a rough patch and got misdirected into Christianity by his friends, then grew out of it and moved on.
But, one of the points I tried to get across on the programme was that Dylan’s life can’t be divided into self-contained phases like this. No one’s life can. It is one single ‘journey’ and one set of experiences is taken up into what follows – all of it shaping and re-shaping the person, but never simply discarding the bits we don’t like. It all becomes who we are.
That’s why Christians take forgiveness seriously. Forgiveness isn’t about removing the source of grievance and ‘forgetting’ it; rather, it’s drawing the sting out of it and putting it into an ordered place where it can be appropriated but it can’t bite you any more.
Anyway, I am off to Basel tomorrow for a brief stay and a conference on Saturday. The I go to Dresden to do a number of events and speaking engagements at the Kirchentag. I will try to put some of it into writing here.