Back for the second session of the Alpha Course and there were indeed more people, as well as the familiar faces from last week. I chatted to a musician called Jeff and we found common ground over troubles with our technological tools getting in the way of the real work we wanted to do.
Tonight we were to watch a video presentation by Charlie Mackesy. I joined Mandy and David on the sofa. David was surprised that I was back after my comment last week about the course being mis-advertised. I had been mostly positive and said I was interested by the whole idea of discussing these big questions; I guess I’ve got some way to go in expressing myself clearly. The video took a little while to set up, but was entertaining. Charlie gave an eccentric account of his journey to Christianity, littered with genuinely funny jokes and quotes from Ghandi, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. This was a personal account, not an academic argument for his beliefs, but I expect most people find personal accounts more persuasive. I was a little irked at how he presented his former, atheist self as cynical and naive. I don’t know, those things may have been true of him, but the stereotype smears all atheists, cynical and not.
When the video finished we formed two groups of about 7 people and did the introductions again, as there were some new people. This time we had to say what item we’d like to take to a desert island. Plenty of people went for books or technology, though two others, like me, chose a musical instrument. I admitted I was not a very good guitarist, but that would be ideal with no one to hear me. I also restated my reasons for attending Alpha including that I would like to learn to express myself better.
We moved on to talking about the video and what we thought. There was a bit of an awkward pause with everyone waiting for each other to speak, so I leapt in saying I thought the speaker was pretty funny. People agreed and the conversation moved on to the misconceptions about Christianity that had been mentioned. One girl whose name I didn’t catch said she gets a bit of a worried reaction when she mentions going to church. I found this all really interesting, so was annoyed when my alarm went off for my train. I apologised for the interruption and she finished what she had to say and two others gave similar stories, with Jeff admitting that he wasn’t sure when someone, particularly in America, told him they were Christian what kind of Christian they meant. As I put on my jacket and left I managed to point out that other beliefs, such as atheism or Islam are similarly misunderstood and that I’d aim to consider people as individuals as much as possible, separate for any labels. This received some nods, though regrettably I had to make my excuses and leave.
They’re a nice bunch and I’d like to spend the time getting to know them better. I need to work out a way to stay a little later so as not to miss most of the discussions at the end, as that’s the most interesting bit for me.