I present a few notes here on Channel 4's Revelations on channel 4, 7pm Sunday 28th June.
The programme will follow 8 people.
Ed is motivated to find out about God because friends of his urge him to do so.
Dave, a psychology student, has some serious doubts about Hell.
Mel has the sense that there is more to life and she has perhaps felt God in the difficult moments.
They reflect on the course and Ed is disappointed that there is no 'hard sell'. However, Ed doesn't like to be sold anything because as the program progresses, we discover that he raids supermarket bins for free food and is quite addicted to the thrill of getting something for nothing.
The table suspect Ed is the most likely to become a Christian but perhaps they are right, as one of the biggest barriers, I suspect, is our inability to accept that salvation is a free gift. Ed loves his free gifts!
Nicky Gumbel is compared to Tony Blair by the narrator, who goes on to explain how 'Young, pretty Christian women serve food to the agnostics', and this was part of Gumbel's vision!! I'm not sure that this would have been part of Gumbel's plan, would it? Haven't men served the food too?
We are told that 30,000 courses have run in 168 countries.
Ed discusses Alpha with a fellow psychology student who believes that testimonies about the presence of God can be caused by frontal lobe activity. But Ed is won over by how happy his Christian friends are.
Dave is beginning to doubt that happiness can be secured through alcohol and one-night stands.
Ed finds Matthew's portrayal of Jesus to be less than endearing and is worried by a Jesus who seems to condemn lots of people. He wonders if he is beyond redemption but feels that it is not bleak to think like this. He is testing things out.
The programme portrays the Alpha weekend as something quite mysterious and as the audience, we are prompted to anticipate that one of the agnostics will take a giant leap towards Christianity at the 'unexpectedly intense and strange Alpha weekend away'.
Ed declares an awareness of God's presence during two minutes' silence. But the psychology student was meditating instead on corporate silence and the affect it has on a group. Our psychology student does not believe in the soul.
The narrator begins to understand that powerful and emotional things happen in small groups. He dwells on the course's emphasis on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit and mentions Gumbel's reaction to the Toronto Blessing. He presents the Alpha weekend's objective as speaking in tongues as if this is its only aim. Some attendees are rather concerned at the prospect of the 'outlandish'. At the weekend, filming concentrates on worship where the Holy Spirit is invited to come.
(Personally, my own Alpha weekend was void of such a narrow objective and we were taught more about the numerous ways in which the Spirit makes his presence manifest and how he works in your life long-term. I did not speak in tongues on my Alpha weekend, however, I did fall backwards.)
Neal leaves the room. This is not for him. He was overtaken by fear at the unusual.
But Dave was moved, he enjoys the closeness; the music, but he's not entirely sure what's going on. Back in the room and the presenter watches Zita, who has talked earlier about speaking in tongues during her father's passing away, hand Dave a piece of paper which he suspects will change Dave's life. Dave is ministered to and we do not see Dave for the rest of the night.
The next day, they have Holy Communion. We are told that Dave is ecstatic but we also hear from someone who is disappointed by the Alpha course. Tongues has been too extreme. I think I agree with him. If people have no Christian foundations, I think it is a lot to introduce people to after only a few weeks, if they are making a commitment to Jesus for the first time in their lives. Neal makes some pertinent points, witnessing God's creation as an example of one of God's gifts. Mel goes as far as to say that the emphasis on tongues has put her off organised religion.
Ed, who took Holy Communion, is still unsure.
Dave was prayed for and he thinks it's 'nice'.
The narrator is won over by all the 'niceness'. He thinks that 'tongues' is a big risk but he admires the Alpha course for taking risks.
It would seem that the presenter is fairly open-minded. He is not mocking but he does make it sensationalistic by focusing in on a particular aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit. I think it presents a view of Alpha which is biased towards an objective which I do not feel has dominated the Alpha courses that I have attended.
I will continue to watch this series with interest.
Ordained Anglican. Thinking out loud about church.