*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Brought to tears

28 August 2015

iStock

ALMOST as good as the programme itself was the image used to promote Lacrimosa (Radio 4, Monday of last week): a close-up of an eyeball, in which the stain of a tear refracts into a religious image in stained glass. Image and content were for once in perfect accord; for this was the account of a man so oppressed by his religious upbringing that he was unable to cry.

Well, almost. He cried at bereavement; and he almost cried at the sad part in the third X-Men film. But Proinsias O’Coinn, by his own admission, is unable to cry at any of the works of art, music, or film which tend to leave the rest of us blubbing uncontrollably. It’s a Wonderful Life? Not a drop. Schubert’s most tender Impromptu? Like the drought in summer. As a child, he cried freely: “A bit of a yap,” in the coinage of his native South Armagh. But the heavy religion of his youth has knocked all that out of him. That, and the fact he is homosexual.

Mr O’Coinn was a little coy about telling us this important fact at the start, but once he let it out, then a kind of rudimentary psycho-geography started to emerge. Put it this way: South Armagh Roman Catholics are not known for their public displays of emotion at the films of Barbra Streisand, and Mr O’Coinn reckoned that his inability to cry was the result of anxiety about displaying vulnerability, and thus giving himself away. Coming out to his friends has thus been the first step in breaching his self-imposed emotional regulation.

I don’t think I am spoiling anything by revealing that, by the end of the show, he did not quite achieve the big, Kleenex-drenching shot we were all hoping for. In fact, the closest he and we came to having our tears jerked was when he met a priest and asked him, with a naïvety that was either touchingly sincere or shamefully manipulative, whether he, as a gay man, would be admitted into heaven’s pearly gates. Frank Capra, eat your heart out.

So we know now the sorts of things that Mr O’Coinn is going to have on his playlist. But what if you are an unreconstructed fundamentalist, waging war on the decadence and heresy of the world? What music do you kick back to? In the case of Osama Bin Laden, it appears that the Algerian light-entertainment star Enrico Macias fits the bill. Some gentle crooning is just the thing when planning the scourging of the infidel.

Sadly, the 1500 or so cassettes reviewed in The Bin Laden Tapes (Radio 4, Monday of last week) contained few such insights into the man’s musical tastes, but more about the way his strategic focus shifted over the 20 years represented here. The tapes, recovered from Kandahar after the fall of the Taliban, include sermons, and even audio from battleground exchanges, and have been researched by Professor Flagg Miller for a new book on the Taliban.

In among the brutal rhetoric are moments of touching humanity, including a recording from the Afghan/Russian conflict in which soldiers eat breakfast and recount with nostalgia the sweetmeats of their homelands. The scene might have come from any number of sentimental war films; could it have been the closest Bin Laden came to a tear-jerker?

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

4-8 July 2022
HeartEdge Mission Summer School
From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.