So, a few people asked me what my thoughts were after watching the first of the Alpha videos.
And my answer to them all was the same.
"Preaching to the converted."
Which surprised me, a little, because the setup I had heard for the Alpha video was that they were hosted by an agnostic who'd found God, who set out to disprove the existence of the divine, and instead ended up embracing it. And that, I thought, was something I could get my head arounde. That was an argument I'd love to hear.
And maybe that's still where we're going. There's still 9 weeks, 9 videos, to work our way through. Perhaps that still on the horizon.
But, from a purely marketing perspective, bad start.
It's like the way we're told to write essays when we're in high school.
Tell us what you're going to tell us. Then tell us. Then tell us what you told us.
As an introductory video, its job should have been to tell us what we were going to be told for the next nine weeks. If it was going to ask serious questions, then those questions should have come up. If it was going to tackle difficult issues, then those issues should have come up. But for the most part, they didn't.
Instead, the video host made some jokes, got some laughs, and said the sort of things that are only really going to ring true to people who are already on his side.
I suppose maybe I'm being a little unfair.
Complicated questions were asked. But over-simplistic answers were given. Which doesn't bode well for the rest of the program.
If we were going to be dabbling in complicated answers, I'd hope that there would be a hint of that in the first video. Instead, what we got were answers that, well, preached to the converted.
Or, I suppose, to the almost converted.
To those that were looking for easy answers.
When the man on the video (I don't know his name, and while a variety of names came up on my Google searches for Alpha Courses, I'm not sure who's who, and I'd hate to misrepresent anyone) talked about the emptiness we feel inside, or the desire to find something more in life, I started to think, "Hey, maybe i could acutally get into this."
Because I think we all feel that.
We're all familiar with that emptiness, that certainty that there must be something more to life than just what we know.
But the answer to that emptiness, it seems, is Jesus. And, more specifically, a personal relationship with God, though Jesus.
That's the only thing that can fill that void. The only thing that can make us complete.
And this isn't something new.
This is something that's been niggling at the back of my head for years.
Something that's bugged me for years.
We're all created with this void. Because this void arises out of a desire for a relationship with the God that created us. And the only way to fill it is with a personal relationship, with him, thorugh Jesus.
Isn't it a little bit perverse?
Isn't it a little perverse to create something that is lacking something, then demand that it seek you out for what it lacks, and then act as if you're loving and merciful for giving it what it lacks? For being willing to fill the absence that you created?
How is that merciful?
How is that loving?
Dear God, let this emptiness, this void, be worth more than just an excuse to seek you out. Do not let me think that you made me, and then tortured me, all so that I would feel compelled to find you.
If that's what it's all about, if all you want is to be loved, if all you want is to be worshipped, then just make us loving, just make us worshipful. Get rid of the whole joke that is free will.
If all you want is love and worship, then why did you put in me the desire for so much more?
Already, my opinions are coloured by what I read tonight, about the Alpha Program. Already I'm reminded that, too often, churches are like politicians, where after awhile, they stop caring about their congregation, and focus only on their sustainability. Their ability to pay the bills. Their job.
The alpha program has been ridiculously successfuly. I've only seen one video, and I think I already know why.
Because it preaches to the converted.
And, more importantly, it preaches to those who want to be converted.
Those who are desperate for an answer.
Those who want to fill the void in the hearts, at any cost. Those who are willing to cling to any truth. Those who are willing to find any meaning they can.
It preaches to the converted, and to those who are desperate for conversion.
This is the sort of rant that would likely have someone accusing me of not approaching the program with an open mind. But if they did make such an accusation, I don't think they could be any more wrong.
I do have an open mind.
I'm open to anything.
But I have conditions. I have logical conditions, scientific conditions, and yes, even spiritual conditions.
As the narrator in my current novel has said, on more than one occasion, yes, I want to believe.
But I'm still waiting for you to give me something worth beliving in.