Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Alpha course

My computer's hard drive crashed, and they put a new one in it, and then *that* crashed, so now I ended up with a faster computer with more RAM and a bigger hard drive. Kewl.
But it's also pretty annoying, since I had to reinstall all my software, *uninstall* all the unbelievably annoying boomph they install at the factory, and generally tweak and fiddle to get it into the shape I like to have it in. but that's mostly done now, and I kinda like it, although I'm still having one issue that I sense is going to take more work than I want to give.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the Alpha course. It's a introductory course on christianity which lots of churches all over the world do. It originated at Holy Trinity Brompton, which I've been to! Lovely Megs grew up helping out on Alpha courses, and since we got married, I guess it was inevitable that I would end up attending at least one.

the way they work is thus: there is a meal, generally quite yummy, and everyone sits down and eats. And then everyone watches a video (or sometimes an actual live speaker) talk about that week's topic. And then we sit around the table and talk about the topic, or whatever else we may want to talk about. The leaders are trained to *not* preach or teach, but rather to encourage and facilitate questions and discussions, and in my experience they do rather well with that.

so I attended my first alpha course some 2 years ago. It was kind of a strange experience because I was going through the process of unbecoming a christian, and the alpha course is kind of intended to facilitate the opposite process. But it worked relatively well.

Now I find myself doing the course again. Meg got invited to be a conversation facilitator at one of the tables at the alpha course which is being run by Union Church, whose pastor, Renee, Meg has gotten to know lately. And the church offered to provide babysitting if I wanted to come, and I thought, ah well, why not.

So I went the first week, and as in the fist time I found Nicky Gumbel, the speaker on the videos, unbelievably annoying. he just constantly says these things that don't work for me at all.

And then I skipped week two for E's birthday. And then week three was the first week when there was actually discussion (that is, there is no discussion time the first week, for some odd reason). And again I found Nicky really obnoxious, and then I found myself at a table with 7 other Christians, and no other non christians, and I felt a bit surrounded, and just generally with low level psychological discomfort, and I said to myself "Why am I doing this?" Finding no good answer, I decided to stop.

But a guy at my table who I kind of connected with a little bit expressed disappointment at my imminent non-return. He said "It's going to be pretty boring without you!". And I said "Well, maybe you and the rest of the table, if you get too bored, can put your heads together and come up with an incentive to convince me to return" To which he replied "How about a six pack?" To which I replied ".... Let me think about it. Ok! Deal!"

So I attended again tonite, and again found Nicky obnoxious. He reminds me of a slick car salesman. Tonite he talked about how there's no catch to Christianity--it's a free gift. That is such a half truth. yes, it's true, but it's only half the truth. The other half is that one is required to take up one's Roman death by torture device and follow me. One is required to lose one's life to find it. One is required to undergo the chastening promised to every son. Etc. etc. etc. There's no catch, except this one freaking enormous catch. Nicky generally absolutely refuses to talk about the dark side of Christianity, and I find this amazingly unpleasant.

But the discussion around the table tonite was a bit better. Nicky talked about how one of the ways one knows that one is a Christian is "The Holy Spirit's witness", included in which, he said, are the "fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, self control". So I asked my fellow diners if they thought there was any evidence that Christians possessed these items, on average, to a greater degree than non christians. And they more or less agreed that that wasn't really the case (emphasis on "more or less" here)

Anyway, I guess I've carried on at some length.

I think I shall continue to post each week about this course.

Unfortunately, the six pack didn't show up tonite. But my friend says he owes it to me and will make good on it shortly.


stephanie said...

Prostituting yourself for beer, huh.

Joe said...

Never have liked the Alpha course much - despite having been on it five or six times one way and another.

But then I am argumentative. Having a discussion over a beer is much more my theological scene than listening to a smart-arse on a video.

LP said...

my favourite description of christianity is"

"salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life."

bonhoffer, i think...

yes. there is a ginormous catch.

Justin said...

I think that the 'free gift' idea is fully true. Not a half truth. I don't think that there is any bait and switch.

Giving up your whole life and then gaining it IS the gift. Following to your death IS the gift. The chastening promised to every son IS the gift.

Thats the point.

Its only bait and switch if you miss this crucial point.

Benjamin Ady said...


I kind of see what you are saying. The thing is, it's not a *pleasant* gift, is it? It's one of those more expensive than the whole world, life altering, life shattering, gifts with powers that could very much destroy you (yes, with the goal in mind, supposedly, of remaking you, but still ...

It's a gift more akin to Bilbo's gift to Frodo, isn't it, than akin to typical American Christmas presents?