- Slides: 38
My Story, His Story, Your Story Claude Cunningham
Mollie - 25 Mischievous hedonist Semi Christian Moneyed family 16 December 1939 – 3 months into WW 2 St Saviour’s Church, Springs, Transvaal Bruce Cunningham and Mollie Goldsmith marry, move to the Antelope Gold Mine, Southern Rhodesia Bruce - 27 Pedantic moralist Nominal Christian No family or capital
1943 - Selukwe Peak Chrome Mine Mollie and Diana – Hedonist and Rebel
1944: Claude – birth trauma Easy child, sissy
1948 – Bruce, Diana – and who’s the girl on the left?
Great Childhood • • • Kind parents – mother’s family our roots Anglican, social, small mining camps Boarding School at 10, 12 Music, Books, Movies, Letters, Debating CS Lewis
Daily chapel - Simple faith a mainstay – Confirmation meaningful
Baptismal Confirmation at 13 • “Do you renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of this world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them? ” • “Wilt thou then obediently keep God’s holy will and commandment and walk in the same all the days of thy life? ” • Does God pay attention when we say “I do”? • What if I break my vow?
Tough Childhood: 3 to 16 • • • Failure at sport and manual skills Sexual overtones/ games from ~ 3 Isolated boys’ school at 12 – late developer Daily bullying & ridicule – escape impossible School reports critical Parental conflict Bullies made prefects before me Reluctant loner – books, books Learnt I was un-manly, ugly, didn’t matter, couldn’t win, must look only to myself, and God. Thoughts of Ministry, murder and suicide.
Final school year 1962 - Happiness Begins • • • Bullies gone School prefect Voice broken (at last) Good ‘A’ Levels, A+ in English Making real friends Awarded bursary to study mining anywhere
Royal School of Mines ‘ 63 -’ 65 • Boy from the bush in Swinging London
College Life Freedom, fun and failure Joined Rowing Club – dropped Joined Bisley Club – poor scores Only Mines student not inducted into “Chaps Club” – again, worthlessness • Friends! • And they were having sex. . • •
Letters home: 31 January 1964 -- Still a Christian “John invited me to go out on the booze tonight with a bunch of the lads celebrating the finish of exams, but I declined - I just cannot think of it as a good time for getting paralytic, spending an awful amount of cash, and feeling terrible. “It is rather rare in this country to find anyone whose idea of a good time is not to indulge in all the vice and nuisance possible, whether it brings enjoyment or not. All young people have this mad urge to take full advantage of their youth, and it is amazing the number of utterly worn out students to be seen around each morning. ”
But – by 1966 – Earl’s Court ‘Digs’
“Egypt – and not Joseph” • Cynical culture – Satire, “Private Eye”, Debunking, Anti-authority and Prurient • Increasingly sensual, intellectual, and miserable – Striptease dens • Playing for friendship and popularity – “Life and soul of the party” • Aggressively anti-Christian – Contemptible “Weakness, Naivety, Enslavement”
2 June 1966 – letter to parents (1/3) “This evening I took a bit of a break from work, and went around the corner to see Billy Graham in session. Earls Court was packed out with the sort of people you would expect to be attracted by him, and it was quite amusing, to see him holding forth, miles away across the other end of the hall. There was a short, sickening talk by Paul Anderson (strongest man in the world)….
2 June 1966 – letter to parents (2) “It was all highly Americanised, as you might expect, with those on the platform treating the audience like morons (which appeared to be an appropriate tactic for the majority). It is funny how I suddenly became extremely disenchanted with organised religion…
2 June 1966 – letter to parents “I think it was through studying the sort of people leading it. Because it is no longer persecuted, it has lost its purpose and challenge, and the majority of people dealing in it are either in because they are not psychologically up to the battle of life (in which case what are they doing, telling others who are, how they should behave? ), or they know a good way of tricking people out of money when they see it. ”
My vow. . “Do you renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of this world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them? ” Only achieved a 3 rd Class Honours BSc
1967 - Return from London • Took MSc at Wits Mining – Bursary from JCI Gold Mining • Appointed as “Tutor” for new students(!) • Complete happiness…
And 22 year old foolishness. . 7 April 1967 – letter to parents 1/3 “On Wednesday night we had the first house meeting. . . I attended in a suit with a pink floral tie, as I had to convince the house to create the post of Official Pornographer. This I managed to do, and was promptly elected to the post. I was also elected onto the library and motor subcommittees.
Foolishness. . 7 April 1967 – letter to parents. 2/3 “The pornography post involves quite a lot of work, as I am starting from scratch, and must therefore establish the traditions and modus operandi. (This basically involved keeping a book of lewd songs and poems for posterity: a wrinkle I added was to place on the notice board each Sunday, “A thought for Sunday” in the same vein).
Foolishness. . 7 April 1967 – letter to parents 3/3 “I have gathered quite a lot of material already. Poor Wendy - on Friday, everyone was drumming into her that she was in the clutches of the Ernest Oppenheimer Hall (EOH) Official Pornographer. ”
Was it really about pornography? • In practice, had never had sex even when it was. Ifonyou’re offer: atignoring most, was. God, intensely curious. • Fun, forgetting clowning, laughter the realdoes aim. your vows, • Deep when encouraged Hedisquiet give up on. Authorities you? rather than disapproved. • Naivety, conforming to the “Flower Power” image • But what was it doing to others?
1969 – Time to start work, but. .
9 month hiatus • • • Engaged to local girl in 1969 – for ~4 weeks Rheumatoid arthritis Spiritual healing – evidence of supernatural Terrifying escape Prolonged stay in hospital – Anglican priest/ Teilhard de Chardin • Slow recovery, back to RSA to work, Oct ’ 69 – Atheism: emotional, not rational
On the mines - Randfontein • • • Music, work, contact with Wits friends Overspending on Hi Fi, Car Rejection by women (no wonder!) Reading – Existentialists (dark, depressing) Journal - ugly, raging passions, longings for – (a) a wife – (b) sex – (c) meaning
8 March 1970 – wrestling with truth • “Living - why is it that Life becomes meaningless if death is absolute? We all know this, but I'd like to be explicit. Do I have a purpose? Can't I just exist, like a tree? • “But even a tree contributes to the general pattern of nature helps things along. It is fulfilling a function, but does it have a purpose? This is the basic question! If the answer is 'yes', then I must accept that I, too, have a purpose. Otherwise, I'm an accident of nature, mingling with millions of other accidents. • “It is more likely that the answer is 'yes'. The tree is put there to provide cohesive forces in the soil, to breathe oxygen into the air, and to provide shade. To provide wood for man, and to please him aesthetically. It appears to be a vital part of a Great Plan. ”
June 1970: Ambushed • Staff Hostel supper and Rev Barry Wood • The offence offered, the stunning rebuke • Wilgespruit
Aftermath – Gains and Losses • • • Complete peace, wonder, purpose, freedom. Deep sense of previous utter waste of time. Old friends tolerant, uninterested New, unchoosy friends of all ages Simple joys, without alcohol
The unsought blessing….
Unmerited Grace • Church responsibilities and challenges • African Enterprise, CS Lewis
The Bottom Line - Supernature • God was always there – Hedging – My love of truth His instrument – My failures, the arthritis, the spiritists, Teilhard de Chardin, the timing of Mission 70, the key rebuke – Goads to the great Sheep fold • Many battles followed, both within and outside the church – By His Grace and Help, have been able to stand – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” “Do you renounce the devil and all his works, the – Most painful is experiencing in others what believers experienced vain pomp and glory of this world, with all from me – knowing and not being able to reach them. But I keep covetous trying, anddesires praying. of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them? ”
Finally • My mother’s prayers. She had found Christ while I was in London
• The amazing wife and family given me when eventually I yielded all to Him
• All glory from Him, so undeserved – And it’s not over yet