It started with a whisper. One person leaned into his mate and tipped him to the truth. From there it spread like wildfire. The jig was up and I’d been found out. And it only took about twenty seconds or so…
About ten years ago, I made my first trip to Ireland. My friends Steve Wingo and Barry Page had created a live multimedia event called ‘Choices.’ For sixty minutes our band played a mix of really cool tunes set to riveting visuals (on three screens no less). Our venues were schools in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and it was an incredible week of sharing truth in an incredibly creative way. Playing along in sync with the video and audio elements was challenging. Considering the technology of the time, it’s amazing it worked at all.
We spent a little time in Dublin before heading north. It was early December and while cold, the weather was surprisingly kind to us. U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” had just been released and I had Bono singing in my ears as I roamed his city.
We pressed on through. Somehow we won back the crowd and by the end they were applauding like mad. But we never made that mistake again the rest of the tour.
It may not be that way now, but when you enter the city of Belfast you immediately feel it. The spirit of hatred…of bondage, and fear.
It was the feeling of religion.
We lodged in a three story mission house on Shankill Road deep in Protestant territory. At the time, Belfast was divided into enemy neighborhoods, Protestant and Catholic. The legacy of hundreds of years of bigotry and urban conflict. As a Southerner who grew up in the sixties, I knew the stench of this particular hatred.
During our week in Belfast we were to play a mix of schools in both Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. This made our host and guide visibly nervous. You have to understand that the IRA and various militia groups held more sway than the police in some areas. Some of our folks ran afoul of just such a group. It was a tense few minutes but thankfully no one was hurt.
Putting together a show like “Choices” is tough. But then to try and perform it for a week in another country is madness. One kind of important problem arose when our lead singer ended up not being able to go. Like I said, kind of important indeed…
A solution presented itself through the very nature of the show and how it was produced. We were going to be playing live to the locked video footage. There were already audio backing track elements. All we had to do was record the singer! The visual elements were the highlight of the presentation and the live band added the kick. Perfect!
When we arrived in Belfast we had a production rehearsal. All went well, but we were divided about the vocal. Should someone attempt to sing live?
None of us had the vocal chops to pull it off, sadly. The alternative? Use the recorded vocal, but one of us would sing along and double the lead. In essence pretend to be the singer…
Pretending. It didn’t take long for that first crowd to see through the facade. We only attempted this ruse that first time. Thankfully the music and the visuals carried the message.
Guess who stepped up to the mic and pretended to sing? Yep…yours truly. The irony is not lost on me. Proclaiming truth while pretending. Trying to be something we were not…what I was not. God was gracious enough to work and move anyway.
How many times do we erect the facade as we attempt to follow Christ? I do it all too often and all too easily.
It’s said that “…the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” Too often I’m an accessory to theft and murder and destruction through my pretense and my pride.
Pretending. I’m too old to play anymore. This adventure with Christ is not the “best life now” as we proclaim it to be. It’s a hard road and honestly right now it’s hard indeed.
Our friend Martin took us to the wall that divided Belfast. He described the horror that took place as Irish rebels clashed with British soldiers. As Protestant murdered Catholic and on and on. All for the sake of hatred pretending to be religion. He left us with this hope: “The only thing that will bring peace to Ireland is the blood of Jesus.”
Amen, Martin. Peace to us all. Peace to me.