The Tentative Apologist
2/11/11 at 08:34 PM 0 Comments

Rock stars finding God in church (but not like you think)

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How do people experience God?

A century ago Rudolf Otto famously analyzed one type of experience as what he called the sense of the numinous, that is the encounter with a transcendent, holy other. Otto analyzed this experience as having two dimensions. To begin with, there is the "mysterium tremendum" which includes a sense of fear, awe, and of one's own vulnerability and/or unworthiness. The mysterium tremendum tends to create the desire to flee, to run, to hide. But at the same time it is complemented by the mysterium fascinans which is characterized by a deep, magnetic attraction, a desire to remain, to sense this presence more fully. Together these two dimensions create an unforgettable experience of fear and peace, repulsion and attraction.

The sense of the holy often catches people off guard, particularly if they have no religious beliefs and thus no prior expectation to sense anything at all. It can leave them shocked, shaken, bewildered, and yet desiring to know more of this strange, ineffable, mysterious other.

People have often sensed this holy presence in grand churches like St. Thomas Church in New York. Indeed, it is into that very church that Canadian rock star Burton Cummings came in late 1974 / early 1975. He stopped in without any religious beliefs and with no religious expectations, simply with the intention of warming his hands on the walk back to the hotel. And he was completely floored by his encounter with the divine numinous that enveloped him while sitting in the pew. Indeed, the experience inspired the classic song "I'm Scared". Check out Burton's own reflections on his experience with the numinous that led to the song here and consider the lyrics below:

"I'm Scared"

Said I'm scared, Lord I'm scared, I'm terrified
never been much on religion but I sure 'nuff would like to hear the call
I'm scared lordy lord I'm shakin' I'm petrified
never been much on religion but I sure 'nuff, just fell down on my knees

Heard the choir singing something about good will toward men
and sleeping in heavenly peace
Stopped by to see St Thomas
on a cold and dreary New York afternoon
something in the air was oh so rare
I dont know what it was but I know that its still right there
and I'm scared lordy lord I'm shaken I'm terrified,
never been much on religion but I sure 'nuff and just fell down on my knees

(short instrumental)

Livin' in confusion, searchin for truth that I've never found
I've needed something to really believe
looked toward the heavens on a dark and stormy winter afternoon
something in the air was oh so rare
I'm not really sure what it was but I know that its still right there,

and I'm scared, hey hey hey hey hey hey I'm terrified
never been much in religion but I sure 'nuff fell down on my knees
oh oh oh oh oh I'm scared you know I'm shakin I'm layin awake thinking about it now I'm terrified
never been much on religion but I sure enough would like to hear the call

come on now give me a sign your listening to me
you hear me talkin you hear my cryin,
its confusin to me lord I'm terrified
never been much on religion but I sure 'nuff,
just fell down on my knees

www.randalrauser.com

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