In the 80s and 90s, if you were young and evangelical there was a chance you followed a band called “Fat and Frantic.” In my opinion, they were the best live band of the time. Jim and Silas had the knack of holding an audience in the palm of their hand and moved from the whacky “Last night my wife hovered my head” to a hard-hitting protest song. One moment we were laughing and on a high, the next silent and thoughtful. They mixed tongue-in-cheek protest songs like “Darling Doris” (about B T’s removable of red telephone boxes), with “Bill and Jacky” a devastating song about the impact of the miners’ strike. It was this ability, to make us laugh and articulate our feeling that the world was not the way that God intended, that made them a phenomenon among Evangelical youth.

Youtube recently gave me the opportunity to re-live the Fat and Frantic concerts I went to as a teenager and student. Then I discovered “Freedom” from a much more recent tour. This song was always there at every gig I went to, and it didn’t pull its punches. Today, I still can sing it word for word. I was struck by something in Jim’s introduction. He says “One of the most disappointing things about being old is that the things I was angry about when I was young, still make me angry now. Many of them haven’t changed. I know you share my anger.” For a while I was a little perplexed by the reaction I had to these words. The song is about how we are promised freedom but we find that the rich hold power and deprive the poor of freedom. “But freedom without justice is a freedom for the few who have bought the right to tell us that their freedom lie is true.” Who, following the banking crisis, can deny this? You only need to spend a little while looking at the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in our world to understand why Jim says he is still angry.

So where did my perplexity come from? There is a tradition, going back to the Old Testament prophets, of expressing God’s anger at the oppression of the poor. Shouldn’t I still be angry? But something had changed. Had I sold out? Had becoming middle aged made me tired and blunted my zeal to do what is right? I do know that when I started spiritual direction I  had to let my desire for social justice go for a while. Why? Because it was feeding something in me that got in the way of God’s work in my life. Believing passionately in a God who sided with the poor and was angry at injustice gave me a one sided God, who it wasn’t easy to get close to and that was the way I liked it. Discovering a vulnerable God was incredible difficult and I avoided it for a long time. However, as I confronted this, I was able to re-discover the importance of the Church’s mission to the poor and work to bring about social justice without the personal angst that stopped me deepening my relationship with God.

So was this why listening to this song felt different? This was certainly part of it but there was more. I talked to Neil about it and what he said hit home. “When you are young, you try to change the world “Out There”. As you get older you see that you need to change yourself.” It is only when I allow God to change me that I can do that which he has called me to. This is another sort of freedom, a freedom to love the poor and fight on their side without it feeding the negative in me.

When we as individuals form communities that are open to God’s work in our lives then his work of justice can really begin. Lent is on the horizon. What better time of year to contemplate how and when I oppress the poor; where I contribute to an economic system where human dignity is denied and the vulnerable are taken advantage of, for profit. Anger at the “world out there” needs to be softened with humility. I have a heart of stone that needs to be changed to a heart of love. Nothing has changed: the things I was angry about are still there. There are still things to be angry about. Everything has changed: I am part of what I was angry about. God’s gift of freedom that “shines and glistens” is tarnished not by others but by me and my sin. I have to change if anything else is going to.