Spitting in the Loving Cup



I generally go to the Methodist Conference every year with the same joy that I go to the dentist... It is an important discipline, but can either seem to be time wasted, or extremely painful.


I certainly don't go expecting to have the President of Conference, recommend a song which includes a naughty word in it!!! But this year The Rev. Martyn Atkins, President of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, and hence President of the Irish Conference (more on that arcane arrangement another time) was speaking under "Pastoral Efficiency" (don't ask) at the Ministerial Session of Conference last Friday, and he referred to a line in a song by his favourite singer Joni Mitchell (I wonder how many Irish Methodist Presidents have had Joni on their ipods? I wonder how many Irish Methodist Presidents have ipods?).


It was a throwaway line referring to some of those who claim to proclaim the good news of Christ "spitting in the loving cup." Colourful image.


Yet that is what many do. We preach one thing, with one side of our mouth, and out of the other spew forth words of hatred and violence. Even where we don't openly proclaim contradictory messages, so often our lips and lives don't match (to use a phrase beloved of another former British Methodist President, the late Dr. Donald English).


It can be on many grounds - the militarism and materialism that Joni Mitchell attacks in her song... or the sectarianism and racism that has often been underpinned by inappropriate use of scripture... or as in recent days, with our new "first lady", MLA and "Bible-believing Christian" Iris Robinson, intemperate language about homosexuality, that, regardless of your understanding of scripture on this issue, against the background of a brutal assault on a gay man, comes across as callous and uncaring. The easily trotted out phrase about "hating the sin but loving the sinner," is not only unbiblical in origin, it is also unhelpful pastorally, as "the sinners" in question are immediately alienated, not hearing any real sense of love for them in that statement. Real love does not condemn through a megaphone then try to demonstrate that love in private. When we condemn people publicly for their sins, we completely shut off any chance of meaningful communion with them. We haven't just spat in the loving cup... we have vomited bile into it!

(Jools Hamilton, William Crawley (here, here AND here), Glenn Jordan and Cheryl Meban have also commented on Iris's "defense of Biblical Christianity" to one extent or other in their respective blogs)





Anyway... here are the lyrics of the song "Tax Free" by Joni Mitchell (from the album "Dog Eat Dog.")


Front rooms... Back rooms...
Slide into tables... Crowd into bathrooms...
Joke around...Cheap talk...
Deep talk... Talk, talk
Talk around the clock...
Crawl home... Lie down...
Teeth chatter... Heart pounds...
I don't feel so good... I don't feel so good...
Push a button to escape...
Preacher on the tube crying "Lord!"
There's evil in this land...
"Rock and roll music!"
Cast down these dope-fiends and their noisy bands!
"Damn their souls!"
Preacher preaching love like vengeance
Preaching love like hate...
Calling for large donations...
Promising estates...
Rolling lawns and angel bands...
Behind the pearly gates...
You know, he will have his in this life...
But yours will have to wait...
He's immaculately tax free...
"Mulitiple hundreds of thousands of ..."
Tax free...
"Hundreds and millions of dollars"
Tax free...
"A hundred billion dollars!And who is paying the price?"
Who, who?
"Your children are"


Pissed off... Jacked up...
Scream into the mike...
Spit into the loving cup...
Strut like a rooster...
March like a man...
God's hired hands and the devil bands
Packing the same grandstands...
Different clothes
"Pot in their pockets!"
Different hair
"Sexually active"
Raise a screaming guitar or a bible in the air
Theatre of anguish... Theatre of glory...
God's hired hands and the devil bands...
Oh come let us adore---ME!


Lord, there's danger in this land...
You get witch-hunts and wars
When church and state hold hands!
Fuck it!
Tonight I'm going dancing
With the drag queens and the punks.
Big beat deliver me
From this sanctimonious skunk!
We're no flaming angels
And he's not heaven sent.
How can he speak for the Prince of Peace
When he's hawk-right militant?


And he's immaculately tax free
"Our nation has lost its guts!"
Save me...
"Our nation has lost its strength"
Tax free...
"Our nation has whimpered and cried"
Save me...
"And petted the Castros"
Tax free...
"The Khomeinis' and the Kaddafis"
Save me...
"For so long"
Tax free...
"That we don't know how to act like a man"
Save me...
"I think that we should turn the United States Marines loose on that little island south of Florida and stop that problem!"
"I am preachin' love, I am!"

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