A writing prompt from thinkwritten.com. I read it this morning and have typed the following in an evening. During the day lots of different thoughts passed through my head and I didn't know what I'd be writing about until I sat down and found myself typing the first sentence. Even as I pressed the first key this post could have gone in several directions including a few with no basis in fact.
Addict: Everyone’s addicted to something in some shape or form. What are things you can’t go without?
Are you A to J?
That was a question asked at the start of a song called Addicted to Jesus, the title track of an album by a Christian recording artist named Carman. On this track he was joined by a Christian band called DC Talk whose album Jesus Freak achieved more than two million sales in the USA. I've got to admit it's a decent album and I confess that even in my post-theist days it's still on my phone today.
I do not have the song Addicted to Jesus on my phone or anywhere in my music collection. Have a listen and you might be able to hear why.
The album was released in 1992 and even then I found parts of it musically and lyrically painful. I was addicted to other Jesus music in 1992. In that year I had a subscription with Vineyard Music which churned out dozens of new songs from the Vineyard churches. A new album. Every month, complete with sheet music for every song. I loved those albums dearly and I adored singing those songs. I would play them often with the guitar, often with friends. That kind of behaviour was acceptable and normal because I was studying in a Presbyterian theological college. That sounds grander than it was.
I became an evangelical, charismatic, born-again Christian in 1990 and it's safe to say that I was addicted to Jesus. Or at least addicted to something that I found within that Christian tradition. I think now that I wasn't addicted to Jesus at all but rather to the sense of belonging and certainty I found in my faith, a real sense of hope and meaning, the fuel that Christian books gave my head, and in those days to the highs and excitement given me in the kind of churches I attended. My addiction was to ideas and experiences rather than to a historical man.
I had heard of Carman not long before becoming a Christian. I can place a time and date on that conversion. It was then that I prayed the "sinner's prayer", asked for forgiveness, and welcomed Jesus into my life to be my Lord and Saviour. I prayed at about nine in the evening on February 20th 1990 in a friend's bedroom in a hall of residence in Bradford. I remember it well and remember the surprise I had at how damn good I felt afterwards. I honestly felt as if a weight had lifted from me and that "all things are possible to him who believes." It was a solid and sound born-again conversion experience. They're not uncommon. Tonight there will be people in Britain who have a similar experience to mine and they too will feel damn good afterwards and their faces will beam as much as mine did that night. These people may become addicted too.
Ian hadn't brought many personal possessions with him from home. He'd had to transport himself from Belfast without a car and couldn't carry enough to furnish a room with the amount of clutter that I was managing to pack in to my own room across the hall. He didn't have a lot. He didn't need a lot. Perhaps he had always been that way. Or perhaps his faith had the useful side effect of teaching him that he didn't need lots of stuff in order to be happy.
What he did have in his room was a case containing twenty cassette albums of contemporary Christian music. From Ian I learned the names of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. I learned of Christian rock and I confess that I devoured it. It might not have been the greatest music in the world. Some of it was more dreadful than lame. I loved it though and could listen to songs about Jesus and sing about him as much as I liked. It felt marvellous. I'd fallen for Jesus and could sing love songs that made me smile. I listened to Whiteheart, Petra, Stryper and lots of other bands and when I'd worked my way through Ian's tape box I started to buy my own cassettes.
And then there was Carman. Ian had brought a Carman album with him from home. It was his live album called Radically Saved. Here's the title track. You may wish to block your ears. You may wish to laugh. You might even enjoy it. I loved that album. Mea culpa!
I received that album with much enthusiasm. I copied all of Ian's cassettes and played that one many times before buying my own copy. My girlfriend became a Christian a month after me - and stopped being a Christian twenty years before me! She loved that album too and enjoyed Carman so much that when he came to the UK and played a gig in London she went to it.
So why am I talking about Carman and my Jesus addiction? An addiction that in my post-Christian days I've relegated in my head to the status of special interest. Why aren't I talking about my other addictions, addictive behaviours, obsessions and special interests? After all, I've had more than a few of those. I was tempted today to write about self harm. Or something more mundane like sudoku, old time radio, tea drinking and buying, books, CD buying, various computer games, or anything else that has veered towards being psychological addiction. Perhaps writing too will become an addictive behaviour but I hope it doesn't. My addictions or obsessions sometimes end badly.
There is a reason Carman came to mind among the many thoughts of today and that reason is Facebook. For some reason Facebook's algorithm decided that I would want to look at something he posted. He is going to be premiering a new song on January 19th about Donald Trump. How exciting. A Carman song about Trump. It is exciting. It must be because a lot of people are excited about it. I'm not excited at all. A song about Donald Trump written by a man who called the election result a "miracle victory." It's just not my thing. I believe that Carman is doing his best. And I believe that sitting down for a pot of tea with him might turn out to be pleasant. Perhaps we would even sing together. But I think I will give this song a miss even though it's likely to contain jokes.
Carman asked his fans what kind of things should be in the song. My answer that racism and sexism should form the themes of the first two verses was not popular. Nobody liked my idea. I personally think any song or poem about Trump should include topics like that. Donald Trump provides us with a lavish smorgasbord of things to write about and manages to create a new tasty dish nearly every day. I can't decide whether he is a satirist's dream or a whether he's a satirist's nightmare because he is beyond satire. A spoof Donald Trump twitter account would be no stranger than the real one.
Carman wasn't really asking for my answer. I'm not a fan, though it's enjoyable to remember the time I was. For the most part I can smile at the old songs again.
If Carman was to visit my home he might ask me this: "Are you A to J?"
And I would answer, "No I am not."
But would I be telling the truth? Or is my addiction much like it would be if it were substance abuse? Am I still an addict? Perhaps for me it is impossible for me to become an ex-Jesus addict. Perhaps my brain will keep going back to him in different ways for as long as I live. Maybe Jesus is like self harm and never truly goes away completely.
I just asked a friend this: "Am I addicted to Jesus?"
She gave me an immediate response. Didn't even have to think about it.
Yes, she said, you are. He's not real and you're addicted to him.
So this is Clare, Jesus addict.
Ex-Christian. Ex-theist. Ex-Jesus Freak. And Jesus addict.