Why I cried all the way through Bohemian Rhapsody
Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels
Tonight I find myself standing in the third row of one of the largest churches in the City of London. On stage is my son, debuting as the new bass player in the band leading us all in worship. As I look around, less than one day after my own birthday and thus 364 days before my mid-fifties, I struggle to find a single person my age or older.
I stare in wonder at these amazing young people, so full of energy, so passionate, so hungry for a church that wants to be authentic and make a real difference in the world. Today has already been an incredibly emotional day, earlier we saw the story of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody at the Imax cinema. It took me back to my own youth, as a young man in my church back home Freddie had more or less entirely passed me by. We were church goers, so we didn’t approve of his Rock Music, much less his lifestyle. The church at that time had also almost completely ignored one of the most amazing events in the 1980s. Bob Geldof’s LiveAid was not organised by the church so how could it possibly be from God….?
I remember around 1980 a school mate invited me round after school to come and listen to his music collection. I, slightly reluctantly, agreed and was even more apprehensive when I arrived at his house to find his music collection was the entire works of Queen to date. I remember so clearly wrestling with my thoughts of disapproval whilst listening to this simply indescribable music coming out of his Hi-Fi. How could something so beautiful, so powerful and immensely creative be so wrong?
Here I am almost 40 years later listening to my son playing in a church, as his Bass Guitar is vibrating through my ribcage, I thank God that this new generation of church goers have left behind so many of the old prejudices and judgemental attitudes that the Church has been known for for so many years. The “holier than though” is being replaced with the “I’m just like you” now, and truth and honesty and authenticity are the order of the day here. These guys genuinely want to make the world a better place, not by condemning people or preaching at people but by simply loving, coming alongside and welcoming their neighbours!
I cried all the way through Bohemian Rhapsody partly because in the last 20-odd years I’ve finally discovered that if you look hard enough at people, all people, any people, you will likely see something of the divine, something infinitely beautiful in every one of us. For many years the church thought its job was to point the finger at others and tell them where they were going wrong. Making judgments on their lifestyle. We thought we were doing God’s work. That however is not who God is and that is not the job he has given us. That God has been replaced with another God whom we have created in our own image. We needed an excuse for our prejudice and our arrogance so we found some scriptures in the bible that proved we were right. That God was judgemental and disapproving of any sinner who had not yet been forgiven (i.e started coming to church) so we reversed the roles and created a God who looked more like us. (off course with any generalisations there are always notable exceptions)
Let’s be honest much of the church throughout history has been perceived to behave in that way. It’s one of the main reasons why many have turned their back on church.
In the very 1st chapter of the bible there is a great story and we often miss the most important clue of who God really is and how he feels about us people and His creation: “On the sixth day God created man and woman and God looked at everything he had made and he saw that it was very good”.
The first thing God says over you is that you are very good. Before you were born, before you open your eyes in the morning Gods thoughts about you are that you are good. Not evil, or full of sin, or wickedness but VERY GOOD.
The reason is very simple ..
You are made in HIS image..
You look like him..
You have his characteristics..
You have his talents…
His power to make something beautiful..
It’s the first thing God says about us and this entire planet
Its universal, not exclusive nor unobtainable.
So I look at Freddie and I see a divine gift, I see a beauty, I see a divine power to create something so everlasting, it will remain for many more years to come, far outliving the life he lived here on earth. So I wept because encountering the divine, even though it is through the medium of this huge screen in the IMAX, is powerfully moving and awe inspiring.
I wept because despite this divine beauty I also see the ever present human fallibility, pain and heartache. It’s the story in Genesis again. Only when you have that knowledge of good and evil do you become like God. Freddie was Like God and his pain enabled his beauty to shine even more so.
I also wept because as a young man when Freddie was still alive I was too proud and too arrogant to see through my own prejudice to recognise the God given creativity and divine beauty personified in one man ( or even.. one band).
Now I hear what you’re saying, “You are being too critical of the church!” , “it wasn’t all that bad”, “the church did lots of good stuff too”. All of which may be true, but a bit of self-criticism is good and self-reflection is not a bad thing, it means you’re willing to learn from your mistakes, something we the church could do a lot more off.
You see, I believe in the church, as I believe in God too, but I also believe the church can be better, I believe Jesus didn’t just come to earth to die. He also came to live and for all those years that he lived he was teaching US how to live. …not how to be good Christians or good believers but how to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. That’s why Jesus never said “put your faith in me” but he did say “follow me” “do as I do” , “live your life like I do” and what did he do?
And He reached out to the outcast, to the poor and the needy and those most despised in society.
I believe in a church that lives, that loves and that serves. I believe in a church that isn’t continually drawing circles round itself to define where evil ends and good begins. I believe in a church that is inclusive, that sees the good in people, that has hope for everyone, a church that looks for God in people.
I do warn you though if you start looking for God in people and stop looking for the sin you’re going to find him in the weirdest most unlikely places! And when you do be ready for the compassion overload. You see when you only see the goodness you also feel the pain, I call it Enlightened Empathy
I wept because I finally found God In Freddie Mercury albeit 40 years too late! And I wept because now his pain has become my pain, you were right Freddie, you were born to perform it was your calling, your great commission I wish you could have known Gods Endorsement earlier in your life “YOU ARE VERY GOOD”. RIP my brother!
This new generation of young believers have a unique opportunity to do church better, to learn from the mistakes of the past. To be authentic, genuine and honest. If they do then the future of the Christianity in the UK is indeed very bright and it will prove to be a positive force in our communities!!
also published here