This is only a short review because I was genuinely astounded by the quality of this book. I want to explain why I was astounded not spend a while droning on about what good language the author used.
‘God Collar’ by Marcus Brigstocke took me by surprise. I have always known him to be among the more educated of comedians, someone who offers out thoughts rather than choosing to pick on someone and unleash bile in their direction. I took a stab at God Collar, I had heard of it but not read any reviews but I had enough trust in his reputation as an entertainer to make the purchase.
Brigstocke manages to ask the questions that a lot of us really do want to ask. Is there a god? If so, what form does god take? Who is god’s allegiance really for? What has religion done wrong throughout history? What has religion done right throughout history?
When I was at university, I asked a friend of mine who was a born again Christian, if there was a god and what had god brought to their life? I was going through a tough time and like Marcus, I felt there to be a gap in my life. Instead of answering me, my friend lectured me and dragged me along to a Christian union meeting. This was incredibly unhelpful and pushed me away from embracing any consideration that a deity may have started this giant ball rolling.
The book opens with Brigstocke telling us about his friend James who had tragically passed away a few years previously. He told of how he fell into a depression and struggled for a long time. Many people say that writing can be cathartic but throughout this book you really do take a journey with him. You see him question things with a desire to learn not a desire to listen and then rebuke.
When my Great Granddad died I was eleven years old. I was woken up to be told that he had died in the night and for the first time in my life, there was someone who I loved who I would never see again. I cried and then went to my parents bed, laid there for a long time, refusing to eat anything other than a fish and chip player meal with mushy peas that you could buy in my local shop. There was no relevance to the meal but I remember it and so it must have meant something. It took me days to get the strength up to leave the house and when I did, it was for the funeral. The only thing I remember from the funeral is my Great Grandmother crying and the coffin going on the conveyor belt behind a curtain. I strained my eyes to look until the last second and then I closed them and opened them once I knew it had disappeared. It was the only thing I could do in the whole situation that was on my terms. I chose the last moment to see him.
Sometimes prayers aren’t answered. I knew my Great Granddad was ill, I prayed for him but it didn’t work.
Some prayers strangely enough do seem to work. A few years after this my Great Grandmother fell and fractured her skull. She was very old at this point and the doctors said that all they could do was try and reduce the swelling so she wasn’t in pain but that she probably wouldn’t even make it through the operation. That night I went to bed distraught and decided to say a prayer. About two seconds after I said amen, the phone rang and it was the hospital to say that somehow she had pulled through and would make a full recovery. In my heart of hearts I know that all this had already gone on but I couldn’t help thinking that someone had given it all a nudge in the right direction.
A similar thing happened when my Uncle was ill, the hospital told us to say our goodbyes and we did, but we also said that if he made it through the night we’d drive down and see him to say goodbye in person. I prayed again and the next morning he was alive. We drove down to Reading where he was and saw him. Again, I know that amazing doctors probably had more of a hand in this than a god but it still felt good. My Uncle survived until a week before my eighteenth birthday. He tried his best to make it but couldn’t.
That was my brief journey into whether there is a god or not but Marcus expertly guides us through the theory, concepts, the historical facts without dismissing them as easily as most do.
He provides a raw and honest account of his friendship with James, of his own grandparents relationship and helps to break huge walls of theory and history to make it accessible to all. There is no preaching and if anything, he offers only encouragement to those he look inside to find something missing and fill it with god. If there is any anger, it is aimed at extremism, prejudice and the way people judge before understanding.
This book really took me on a journey, not of self discovery because we all have to do that for ourselves, but a journey where I didn’t feel stupid for thinking that a god may have helped my relatives stay alive or where I didn’t feel like I was disrespectful for not believing in what so many do.
Don’t buy the ebook, buy a hard copy to sit it next to the Gideons bible you stole from your last stay in a travelloge.
I cannot applaud the author anymore because anyone who can make you feel like Brigstocke can hasn’t written something for the plaudits, he has written it because he had to, there was no choice.