Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jesus, Blake, and Beer

As my second day at the beach winds down, I find myself reading. After a day that involved consuming a diet-busting bucket of fries as big as my head and carefully carving out yet another sprawling sandcastle, what better way to relax than with the romantic era poetry of William Blake?

Blake and I have a funny relationship. Several years ago, I spent time with one of the now-passed matriarchs of the church. She was a brilliant woman, sharp and wise, but her memory had been shattered by Alzheimers. Her soul was still brightly present, though, and she was good company. Speaking with her was like speaking with a shaman having a peak experience. Our conversations were inscrutably random, yet still suffused with meaning. Though she knew me, she could never remember my name. I would tell her, because she would ask, but though I told her a hundred times, she knew me only as "William Blake."

Today, as part of my "read stuff that opens you" stragedy, I read this little poem by Blake, and found myself thinking about some of my fellow travellers in the Presbymergent movement. They're setting up little groups of folks interested in the whole Jesus thing, and having those folks gather around pitchers of tasty microbrewed beer. Church...and beer. For some, it's a radical idea. But Blake evidently presaged emergent folk, and had figured this natural connection out more than two hundred years ago, so he wrote this little Theology Pub ditty:
Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold,
But the Ale-house is healthy and pleasant and warm;
Besides I can tell where I am used well;
Such usage in heaven will never do well.

But if at the Church they would give us some Ale,
And a pleasant fire, our souls to regale;
We'd sing and we'd pray all the live-long day,
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray.

Then the Parson might preach and drink and sing,
And we'd be as happy as birds in the spring:
And modest dame Lurch, who is alway at Church,
Would not have bandy children nor fasting nor birch.

And God like a father rejoicing to see
His children as pleasant and happy as He:
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel
But kiss him and give him both drink and apparel.
Sounds about right.