Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

I came up to town for a party to launch a new publishing company called Notting Hill Editions. One thing led to another afterwards, my rail ticket was open-ended, and I stayed up in town for two days and nights, drinking in pubs and clubs. Two incidents stand out in my mind from the broken kaleidoscope of experiences, one right at the very start, one near the end.

In the first, an evangelical Christian flung himself down next to me in a crowded railway carriage and started boasting about his close relationship with God. In bragging loudly about God to me, he was also testifying to the entire carriage. The more people who heard him, was the line of thinking, the more chance there was of the Holy Spirit convicting someone of sin and adding to his tally.

He was a tall, fit-looking guy, dressed for cycling. Calves furry with golden hair bulged out of three-quarter-length technical trousers.

The tanned face and lantern jaw were brimming with self-satisfaction and a sort of fake excitement.

He was a prison chaplain, he said, and he was the pastor of a church. Seeing God at work among prisoners was amazing. Wasn't God amazing? He was continually amazed at how God changed lives, particularly prisoners' lives. And he was amazed at how God chose the unlikeliest raw materials for the building of His Kingdom. Why, one guy in his Bible class went from being a hardened habitual criminal to a full-time youth worker. God speaks more clearly to those who have reached rock-bottom, didn't I think so?

I'm a susceptible chap, happy to see the other person's point of view more clearly than I see my own. And the Cross doesn't offend me, either, as it seems to do so many. I was disposed to give the guy a hearing, even a debate.

Unfortunately, he was an idiot. He thought God's mind and his were alike, except God's was slightly more daring and versatile. And now here he was, on this train, trying to interest everybody in this absurd projection of his imagination.

I looked at him, irritated that God should be so misrepresented. God amazes you, I said.

Is that what you are telling me? Well, whoopee, I said. What were you expecting? English middle-class conformity? The guy was so shallow and self-regarding he became even more excited on hearing this. He thought I was there for the taking. …

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