I’m not a great fan of tv’s portrayal of faith folk, for below the surface there often lies a hidden agenda where anyone with a religious or spiritual belief is fair game for overkill satire and ridicule. However, one recent series on the UK’s BBC has changed the whole scapegoating game. ‘Rev’, starring Tom Hollander as a kind but deeply flawed Anglican vicar trying to hold together a failing inner city church and tenuous marriage has ticked all my boxes. It reveals the ludicrous position that many men and women have been placed in as they attempt to work out a sense of Divine calling on a full-time basis within organised religion. Tom’s character, Adam, isn’t some kind of evangelical superstar, confident in his packaged message and his own pastoral abilities but rather a very human being attempting to be honest with both God and man. Anyway it’s now come to an end but, like the wine at Cana, the best was left until the end.
Not wanting to completely spoil the plot for any of you who might get to watch the reruns, Adam ends up broken and despairing on a city park, green hill with his whole world crumbling around him. In his own psycho-spiritual abyss he starts to dance and sing the following lines from Sydney Carter’s whimsical, little hymn from the 1960s.
I danced on a Friday
When the sky turned black –
It’s hard to dance
With the devil on your back.
They buried my body
And they thought I’d gone,
But I am the Dance,
And I still go on.
As Adam tentatively danced something broke within my own spirit – here in the often plastic schedules of tv land, Spirit was speaking loud and clear to me and all who watched. The overwhelming sense of Other continued as Adam suddenly notices that a tall homeless person, with cheap, green, track suit bottoms, wooly hat and accompanying beer can, has suddenly appeared from nowhere to join in his melancholic song of hope. The stranger, in the form of my fellow countryman, actor Liam Neeson, sits down to chat, calling Adam by name and staring at him with compassionately green, glint-filled eyes. ‘I understand Adam’, poignantly flows from the actors lips as both Adam and I simultaneously feel a deep strength flow into our dark inner worlds.
Of course, the Stranger immediately vanishes before Adam runs home to inform his stressed out and disillusioned wife, ‘I’ve just met God!’
Interestingly, ‘Rev’ was written by a team advised by a number of past or present clergymen, hence its authenticity, albeit one dressed up at times dark, comic humour. Sadly Adam is not alone in being pulled in two conflicting directions. The tug for a normal family life, one away from the continuous demands of others and a genuine sense of calling to be a channel of Divine Love is the day-to-day experience of many professional clergy. Yet no matter how much our psyche-soul’s secrets are repressed by routine, ritual and devotion, the real us will always win in the end. Let’s face it, betrayal and its resulting disillusionment are the norms of many religious and spiritual pilgrims. Yet, in the depths of nervous breakdowns and the like, the Truth gets a chance to shine through our ego’s protective religious veneer.
Here, at the end of our inner rope, we unexpectedly find a Presence; One who has been waiting patiently for us to turn off our frantic search for meaning, whether secular or religious. Falling off our inner treadmill, in a heap of dark despair, doubting our very sanity, a Light appears to lead us into a new wholeness. The game is up for our exhausted ego, as the devil load of communal expectation and religious striving falls away, perhaps for the first time in our earthly Sojourn.
How strange that many of us only get in touch with the Dance of Divine Love after darkness has done its worst. Yet, even such darkness ultimately proves to be a servant of the Light, that Divine Energy and Purpose that skips its way across the portals of our Being. A Light that invites us to join in the jig of joyous liberty, even on the darkest of demonic dance floors.
The secret of our release is closer than we all imagine – unless we become like little children we will not see or experience the Kingdom/Queendom of God.
Dance on all you Adams.