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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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64 Responses to 689

  1. The Millers says:

    They do look happy…

  2. dennis says:

    That is hilarious! thanks.

  3. subo says:

    what a pickle

  4. Ros says:

    They take their brains out, mine isn’t even awake at that time on a Sunday morning!

  5. miriworm says:

    If that were true there would be a lot more happy ones about!

  6. émie says:

    i’ve held a human brain.

  7. Kim says:

    Are their eyes in the jars aswell?!

  8. Doug says:

    I find it easier to leave a brain bin by the door. That way you sometimes leave church cleverer than you entered it. But not often.

  9. Robb says:

    I sometimes check my brain out on my way into the computer. Or so I sometimes think when I return to it and find I have been talking nonsense again!

  10. Paul says:

    The easy view is that I am not mindless like those other Christians over there and so can feel self smug and self-satisifed.

    The harder view is asking what I am mindless and happy about. Do I focus on the political and am mindless and happy about my personal life? Do I concentrate on personal wholeness and am mindless and happy about the wider political implications? etc. etc.

  11. jonbirch says:

    emie… i do hope it wasn’t the brain of the person sat next to you in church. :-) btw… what did it feel like?

  12. Laura says:

    yeah, what did it feel like?
    I’ve touched a cow’s heart and cow’s stomach when i was in primary school. That was squishy…

  13. Lewis says:

    I am supposed to take my brain to church?! What if people see it and laugh at how small it is? (This is not a regression to high school P.E…. honest)

    Thanks for the humour Jon. The “message” isn’t too bad either!

  14. beckyG says:

    14. Am I the only one that think these brains look like 4 leaf clovers. Does that make them the lucky ones?

  15. jonbirch says:

    i was going to make a really great point… but i’ve forgotten what it was… :-)

  16. Angela says:

    There is a knowledge in my heart, that makes me happy…:)

  17. Caroline Too says:

    do you know? I’m not so sure about this… sometimes there’s just a crack that indicates that the mindless ones are getting restless…

  18. Pat says:

    Jon asked @ 11 ‘What did it feel like?’ ….’Suprisingly soft’, is the answer:

    “this laxe pith or marrow in man’s head shows no more capacity for thought than a cake of suet or a bowl of curds.”

    ..was how the English philosopher Henry More described it on seeing his first brain dissection. [It’s rather more solid in the preserved state though.]

    Regarding the cartoon: This, like some of the discussion on the previous strip, leaves me a little uncomfortable. It’s all too easy to see this and feel slightly smug but we all have areas where others might (with some justification perhaps :???: )accuse us of leaving our brains at the door. Several years ago – by a strange coinciding of themes here :!: – I had a bit of brain pathology going on which severely disrupted my vision. One thing I learned was that ‘blind spots’ are not always obvious to us in the way that we assume they might be!

    So too with our thinking I reckon :-(

  19. Laura says:

    ah, but is a happy christian a mindless christian?

  20. beatthedrum says:

    A truely Happy Christian is one who is fully engaged with Father, Son and Spirit.

    Who knows them and follows them for that you need a mind.

    unfortuneately we are often expected to remove our brains and not think, just accept and move on.


  21. Pat says:

    Maybe we should define what we mean by ‘happy’ :???:

  22. Pat says:

    …or indeed ‘mindless’ :???:

  23. beatthedrum says:

    That might be a good idea.

    Happy is different to Joyfull afterall.

    Look at this to see what i mean http://beatthedrum.wordpress.com/2008/04/30/the-joy-of-the-lord-is-your-strength-%e2%80%93-joyous-not-happy%e2%80%a6-a-tale-of-two-states/

  24. Elizabeth says:

    I’m not sure it’s about being smug. I think it’s about being aware. I was once told that Jesus wanted us to be like ‘mashed potatoes’ leave our brains at the door of the church and just feel and absorb, not think.

    The reality for some people is that when they do do that they are happy. Maybe ignorance is bliss after all…

    I rather like the brain bin idea at 8 – it would always be a surprise whose brain you ended up going home with!

  25. jonbirch says:

    amazing you were actually told that, elizabeth. ‘mashed potatoes’ indeed! :-?

  26. JF says:

    It honestly does seem as though some people can wilfully suspend their own thought and intellect in order to believe things they want to (or feel they ought to) believe.

  27. jonbirch says:

    we all do it, don’t we? to some degree, over certain things. the biggest way we do it, is probably over how honest we are about our selves and what we’re really like and what truly motivates us, our fears, the way we control our environments, our living in denial etc. we humans have a profound ability to kid ourselves, and even to ignore the obvious.

  28. rebecca says:

    Is it really possible to be a mindless Christian (happy or otherwise)? We are called to love God with all our minds, among other things, and how can we do that if we don’t have minds?

    Check out this hymn: http://tinyurl.com/cv6cv5 ; it is very short, but I find it interesting the way it treats the needs of the heart, mind and soul.

  29. Pat says:

    I’d agree with what you say about the need for honesty Jon; but I also think there are certain blindnesses or complacencies that come ‘built-in’ to our world view, as it were, and we don’t recognise them because we don’t always realise that we have a world view and that it conditions how we perceive, think, interpret, articulate, construct our own narratives etc.

    I can remember so clearly when this penny dropped for me: I’d always prided myself on being someone who didn’t just take what I heard from the pulpit as ‘given’ but would ask myself certain questions about it, evaluate in the light of other things I held to be right etc. Then, (as a result on my first encounter with liberation theology in the form of a unit in our local dioscesan ‘Bishop’s course’)I realised that all thosequestions and evaluations were based on a completely unexamined set of assumptions that were built into the particular world view I was part of. ‘The scales fell from my eyes’ indeed! It’s probably no exageration to say that this realisation, in a variety of ways, was something that’s altered the course of my life :-)

    But all too often, even knowing this, I still fall over things because of the way they seem through the specs I’m wearing – and I don’t recognise this for what it is :-(

  30. Robb says:

    Rebecca – Is it really possible to be a mindless Christian (happy or otherwise)? We are called to love God with all our minds, among other things, and how can we do that if we don’t have minds?

    I suspect that it was not the way it was written but your last statement is hugely profound. If you have learning difficulties then how can you love God?

    How does my profoundly disabled cousin fit into it all. Is she outside of the love of God because she is unable to understand the ineffable sublimity of it all.

    [Sorry, most of that statement was one I made to an ordinand who said that we souldn’t dumb down language but educate people up to ‘our level’.]

  31. Pat says:

    Robb – Like you I’m not sure the question how can we do that if we don’t have minds? was meant in the way it could be read – but I agree, it raises an important point about what we mean when we use this terminology.

    I think that ‘Hearts, souls and minds’ whilst being a useful liturgical device can, unfortunately, also be a rather unhelpfully dislocating way of thinking/talking about the nature of human persons.

    Beatthedrum @ 20 – how does joy ‘feel’ then? Or is it a completely unemotional thing?

  32. jonbirch says:

    interesting, robb. that’s what i immediately thought. for most of my growing up my mum worked in the paediatric wing of our hospital. consequently, i spent a lot of time in the company of people who could be considered to have a more limited intellectual capacity than me. without wishing to be simplistic or syrupy, i can honestly say that i was often thoroughly humbled by those who i met. sometimes i have cursed my intellect and imagination for over complicating my life and making it harder than it need be.

  33. jonbirch says:

    i don’t think joy and happiness are at all the same. i am not a parent, so my next comment may lack understanding… but it annoys me when a parent’s greatest wish for their child is that they be ‘happy’. i think i’d rather mine were fulfilled… certainly fulfillment, joy in struggle and a life of integrity is what i wish for my beloved god children, nephews, nieces and children of friends. happiness, it seems to me, is a daft thing to pursue. it just seems selfish somehow. however, i often wish i were happier.
    unpick that lot! :-)

  34. You’ve found the slogan of the organisation I used to work for, before I started asking questions…

  35. Pat says:

    sometimes i have cursed my intellect and imagination for over complicating my life and making it harder than it need be

    Are intellect and imagination really such a curse Jon? Maybe you should think of it as different rather than harder

    Re happiness and joy – I’m not sure, to be honest, how I would articulate the difference between them – or if such a difference is quantifiably real. Have to think about this some more.

    I too wish those I love to find their way, to be comfortable and confident with who they are, and to live with integrity and love – and I’d hope that fulfilment and joy would be amongst the consequences of that….

  36. beckyG says:

    32. Jon-I hear you. Henri Nouwen talks about his work with the L’Arche community as being around people who were what we’d term mentally challenged and yet they were some of the most holy people he had ever met. They could receive God’s love with all the innocence and joy of a child.

    There are times when I feel that I get in the way of God too much of the time, which is why I work to retain my childlike sense of wonder without being childish – see Mike Yaconelli. I sense this is where Paul is going when he chides us to grow up in the faith and go from eating milk to more substantial faith – he wants us to mature in our faith but not lose the love of God. What often happens there is that we view growing in faith as going into this theological/philosophical academic head game where we talk about God and it sounds good and important but doesn’t touch our hearts – along with this comes a dismissal of those things such as certain forms of music and worship forms as being “childish.” That’s what happened to the emergent dialogue in the US at least.

    I started listening recently to some of the praise music that really moved me in my twenties – some of it is just bad praise music. But I can now listen to some of this material and really enjoy it – the intellectual snot in me kept me away from this stuff for too long. Here it wasn’t a matter of putting my mind in a jar but be willing to let my heart have its’ say as well.

    The spiritual leaders I admire the most have that ability to distill the spiritual truths so that they aren’t dumbed down but revealed to all.

  37. jonbirch says:

    becky… mike yaconelli is indeed tremendously inspiring.

    pat… i think i’m probably confused. i’ll try again. :-) in life you have to do things which don’t make you happy, because they are the right thing. happiness may come later, in the knowledge you did the right thing… happiness may indeed not come as a result. i’m not even keen to simply make others happy by my actions if i do not think that is the right thing to do. know what i mean? :-?

  38. jonbirch says:

    i don’t necessarily want the next generation to be happy with things. maybe i’d rather they had a sense of discontent or conscience etc. about some things.how does this relate to our being happy. one should not be happy about injustice, but one could go about dealing with it with a sense of joy. hmmmmm. it’s quite confusing isn’t it. :-?

  39. jonbirch says:

    i think i’m going round in circles. :-)

  40. beatthedrum says:

    Pat I think you cn feel both but one is a building block / foundation in your life the other is an emotive responce to a time and place.

  41. Pat says:

    Hi Jon – I think I was actually agreeing with you :lol: – I don’t wish for ‘happiness’ first and foremost or above all else for my children but that, as you said, they find their true belonging and live that with integrity and ruled by love (in its richest, fullest, most God-like sense). I think discontent and unsettledness might well be elements of that – but joy or even happiness may also result! But yes, the terms are confusing and, as I said, I can’t make up my mind about the reality of any quantifiable difference between them in existential terms (which might not make much sense but sounds impressive anyway :D )

    I hear what you and Becky are saying about those with ‘different intellectual capacity’ and I too have been much moved (and influenced) by the writings of Henri Nouwen; however I think we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of generalising or romanticising their spiritual experience as somehow taking or being a purer form. Such a view may owe as much to projection of our (or his) own discontents and fantasies as to reality – at least in some instances.

    Becky – I don’t think ‘academic’ approaches to maturing in faith have to equate to quite such a negative or self-satisfied/delusional experience as you seem to suggest :-(

  42. Pat says:

    Beatthedrum @ 40 – could you expand on that a bit more please?

  43. jonbirch says:

    yes, we are in agreement, pat. the terminology is a bit confusing though, as you say. i too, value theological, philosophical, scientific pursuit… and i really enjoy a good steak, emotionally and cerebrally. :-)

  44. Robb says:

    On monday I said to a few friends that I had been chided (is that a word) for joining “three zillion people who hate the new facebook” with the phrase “if only you cared so much about world poverty”. Now I spend most of my life dealing with ‘big issues’ and there is only one of me. I try to be an agent of change and part of solutions rather than problems. However, I like to do with with a twinkle in my eye and joke in my mouth because that is who I am.

    I have got to the point where I can listen to the childish and see the profound. Heck, I’m sat on a train listening to ‘the devil went down to georgia’.

    And I will no doubt end up discussiong civil liberties and child poverty after my photography group and trying to fix stuff later on.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that joy isn’t necessarily the problem. I can still see Jesus heart breaking all over the place and do something about it at the same time.

  45. jonbirch says:

    amen, robb. :-)
    btw… they do try very hard to make facebook worse, don’t they? this is a very serious matter indeed. :-)

  46. Robb says:

    And to hammer the point home Rage Against the machine just shuffled onto my playlist shouting about gun crime!

    God really does take the mick out of me sometimes!

  47. beckyG says:

    41. What I loved about Henri Nowuen’s work with the L’Arche community was that he didn’t romanticize the crap that he had to deal with in more ways than one. His work enabled me to see people with new eyes. But I agree there is a tendency to romanticize the work if one’s not careful. I have learned over the years to read other people’s stories without romanticizing that that should be my life.

    I agree with you re: the academic bits – I should have used less generalizing language – I wouldn’t have gotten an MDiv/MSW and read like a fish if I didn’t value knowledge. My tone was the unfortunate result of a few too many extremely negative encounters with emergent academic types who “debate” and “pontificate” on spirituality in the abstract as though they are the first ones to discover the pilgrim path. Thanks for reminding me not to hone my critiques so I am not flinging mud and casting a broad net. ‘Preciate it.

  48. Pat says:

    Hi Becky – Sorry! Mine was a bit of knee jerk because I’ve been hit with the ‘academic’ cosh in a number of different church contexts and have resented the associated implications that thinking about one’s faith is some form of elitist conceit, a million miles removed from ‘real’ christianity :-( ….but I know, from a conversation we had before, that’s not how you think. And I’ve long realised that you generally have very specific targets in mind when you make such remarks, so I shouldn’t have done a grumpy on you :oops:

    Discovering the writings of Henri Nouwen was one of the significant, liberating experiences of my life :-)

  49. Robb says:

    Pat – ever been told you live in an ivory tower? Or my personal favourite – asked to explain something and then derided for knowing about it.

    Sorry – I digress…

  50. Pat says:

    Robb :mad: :evil: :cry: …in quick succession

    I sometimes ask myself why I bother :-?

  51. Robb says:

    I feel your pain ;)

    I also feel :evil: when someone then goes on to say “Jesus doesn’t care about that”. I can only assume that they are referring to the way in which they have just casually dismissed me as a human being when they said those words.

  52. beckyG says:

    48. Bingo – glad we’re on the same page. I chose not to use specific examples as the emergents have INCREDIBLY thin skin and I’m no in the mood to be accused of libel or slander (spending on the format) when I’m in fact voicing an opinion that their work presents plenty of promise but as this work has evolved over the past few years, I find the end product to be quite lacking.

    But to give a somewhat generic example – the emergents dismiss the institutional church while embracing the ancient mystics. They conveniently “forgot” how the church informed St. Anselm, Mother Teresa and others they so admire – I can’t read anything written by these guys about mysticism because it’s so historically inaccurate. It’s like they transported these saints writings into the 21st century ex nilio. Mother Teresa’s book moved me tremendously – I did a short bit about it in the book because I saw how much good she did by remaining faithful to both God and the church and the interplay between the two. I just finished another great book “My Life with the Saints” by James Martin, SJ that makes connections between the saints lives, how they are interpreted in the church and how they have impacted him in a truly moving way.

    51. Robb – that’s why the academic material is so critical. I’m editing my chapter on Jordan now and got a book by an academic who taught in the Middle East titled “Jesus Through Middle Eastern eyes” that I am skimming to see if there are any gems I can add. I CANNOT do my work without solid academics doing the primary research. Now not ever academic is a solid scholar but over the years, I’ve learned how to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

  53. Robb says:

    That sounds really interesting.

    I hate it when people try to “read” someone’s life as though they were living it now. People sometimes try to make everyone an iPhone generation saint without any of the real context. it’s like we claim people as “one of us”.

    Sorry – this makes sense until I write it down :D

  54. Pat says:

    I guess the ‘magpie’ temdency is one we all sucumb to from time to time though isn’t it :-?

  55. jonbirch says:

    i only hope, when i’m gone, people romanticise what i was i was like. :-)

  56. beckyG says:

    53. Bingo. Bingo. Bingo. The lack of any real comprehension of church history in much of the US emergent dialogue is appalling.

    Yes, we all read the saints differently – one of the more bizarre discoveries in writing my book was admitting how St. Kevin touched me while St. Brigid did nadda during my trip to Ireland. I expected the reverse to be true given what I knew about these saints. And you can go to Ireland and have a blast while being clueless about the saints – but if you know the history and then touch the soil – whammo.

    Add to it that one of the dudes doing this postmodern retelling of the saints is being pimped here in the States as a “sexy new thinker” (that’s how the publisher is pushing this puppy) and you’ve got the dangers of selling sex and salvation – a toxic cocktail I wish people would stop serving (but it’s mixed because enough folks drink it).

    56. No Jon, I’m afraid it’s “man boobs” for you. :-)

  57. doctor ruth says:

    I’m a few days behind by the look of it, but if anyone is still looking at this thread, you might be interested in http://www.authentichappiness.com – they’ve done a lot of research into what makes people ‘happy’ and identified three kinds of happiness, (i) the immediate pleasant response to a positive situation, (ii) the happiness from being engaged and absorbed in valued activities which draw up on our individual strengths, and (iii) the happiness that comes from using your strengths in a purposeful/meaningful way, ‘in the service of something bigger than oneself’. They’ve done lots of work in identifying these human ‘strengths’ and it wasn’t much of a surprise to me that they were somewhat reminiscent of the fruits of the spirit!

  58. jonbirch says:

    fascinating… and as you say, not surprising… but brilliant none-the-less. i’ve always intuitively seen those ol’ fruits as the key to how we bring joy to the world… and it’s true! :-)

  59. Pat says:

    An interesting site doctor ruth – although I feel that ‘authentic’ is possibly rather a loaded word :lol:

  60. doctor ruth says:

    yes indeed, very loaded, i guess you have to use that kind of language to get research funding in the US!

  61. Pat says:

    Sad but true I guess, and maybe not just over there either :-?

  62. Robb says:

    On the subject of “claiming someone as your own”, check out this and do something about it!!

  63. Pat says:

    Robb – this is ghastly. I haven’t picked up last weks CT yet and so had missed this article. I don’t think they put up a candidate in our part of the world but will check it out.

    Slightly amusing to see that Jesus is apparently a ‘white man’ (and no doubt of good british stock) though!

  64. Robb says:

    “Slightly amusing to see that Jesus is apparently a ‘white man’”

    Like I said on the blog…. Middle Eastern Man.

    Yep – it is horrific. I am ashamed to be white!

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