14 August 2014

How to Ask?

amanda-palmer-2First, I suggest you watch this TED talk by Amanda Palmer. I did not know who she was (still don’t, really) --she is part of a Band called Dresden Dolls.

Her music is interesting, but not necessarily my cup of tea. I don’t endorse many of her beliefs or lifestyle (some of it will raise eyebrows): Such as, in one of her videos she walks up to a girl who is reading a bible, takes it away from her and tosses it over her shoulder; or in another video, she sings about getting an abortion (complete with coat hanger metaphor and some mockery of pro-life Christians).  There is no doubt she is a very creative person. But this post is not about the content of her music, videos or lifestyle.

But what she talks about in this video is important.

How to relate

For example, she says this in the video:

“I wrote the songs, and eventually we started making enough money that I could quit being a statue, and as we started touring, I really didn't want to lose this sense of direct connection with people, because I loved it. So after all of our shows, we would sign autographs and hug fans and hang out and talk to people.”

Ouch! That pushes me outside my comfort zone.

I wonder how much we think about the idea of a direct connection with people? The very essence of the Christian faith, if you read enough of Paul and the gospels, is connection. Isn’t the basic image of the church that of a body? Think 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.


But read on to see how she acts to connect with others. She reaches out over twitter and other social media, she will connect with people who will let her “couch surf” in the home, things like that. While the actual events are important, it does imply openness to others and a certain amount of vulnerability.

It also implies a certain amount of asking and giving. She will ask for help with different things, and her fans reply overwhelmingly. She has come to rely on her fans in many ways, which amounts to interdependence. There is almost a symbiotic relationship between her and her fans.


Yes, asking.

“And the media asked, "Amanda, the music business is tanking and you encourage piracy. How did you make all these people pay for music?" And the real answer is, I didn't make them. I asked them. And through the very act of asking people, I'd connected with them, and when you connect with them, people want to help you. It's kind of counterintuitive for a lot of artists. They don't want to ask for things.But it's not easy. It's not easy to ask. And a lot of artists have a problem with this. Asking makes you vulnerable.”

This is really counterintuitive. Asking makes you vulnerable, which is not what we in the west are about. We are about control, power, positioning, et al. But again, read some Paul or one of the gospels. You see a different picture. One of the most counterintuitive words of Jesus is “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

Seeing Each Other

“And I think when we really see each other, we want to help each other.”

So, a idea to end with is all about “seeing each other.” I think there are some good ideas here, ideas that we as followers of Christ shouldn’t have to be reminded of.

Now What?

One idea that I continually confronted with comes from a friend who strongly dislikes the basic fundamentalism she encounters in so many churches. To her (correctly), the Christian faith is about transformation, not changing behavior. But too many of the sermons she encounters are more about Stop doing that and start doing this! and less about depending on grace.

What would happen if we took an interest in someone and ASKED them how they were, and kept asking questions instead of giving them a four step plan to happiness and productivity? We are not the dispenser of grace, but we can be the conduit.

So, how do we reach out to others? How can we choose to be vulnerable, open and interdependent with others?

If someone outside the church can get these basic principles, why can’t we?

What do you think? 

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