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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!

10.02.2023

‘Hi Ren’: Screwtape Letters for the Streaming Generation?

‘This is a soul splitting open and exploding into art.’ – Ari Grossman

I’ve been watching complete strangers shed tears, at a loss for words, or opening up about their own mental health struggles, prompted by their first viewing of one song.

I’ve been watching reactions to ‘Hi Ren’, a video performance by independent musician Ren. It’s a nine-minute exploration of the artist’s struggle with self-doubt – compelling in its delivery, deceptive sophistication, and raw honesty. By the end, we are in no doubt this is a life lived, not imagined.

What ‘Hi Ren’ does so well is explore the lie that we are constantly told by the world, the flesh, and the devil (1 John 2:15–17) – you’re not good enough, so just give up.

He puts that devilish whisper on the screen, rather than keeping it in his own head, and in doing so exposes the falsehood that it’s only happening to you, and no one else will understand. It’s a hard watch, as he is bullied, mocked, and accused by a voice that seeks to control, coerce, and diminish his God-given talents. It’s a powerful performance, which engages viewers to the final line.

Tears have been shed as viewers recognise their own hidden thought life in Ren’s, their own struggles with that other voice. Although it starts as a struggle with himself, the source and reality of that voice is ultimately the devil, exposed in a boastful rant.

Hope makes a powerful appearance in the song, too. This is possibly the source of the video’s popularity and ability to connect with viewers. Hope from knowing that someone else has felt the way you feel, that they’d believe you if you told them.

How do we put Jesus at the centre of this desire for hope? How can we bring hope to the mental health epidemic of isolation and anxiety? It’s with the truth that Christ died for all, regardless, so everyone can be whole, healed, and forgiven.

Are we authentic? Do we hide our self-doubts and failings?

Can we open up a conversation with friends and colleagues about whether this song affected us, and invite them to respond?

If there’s a voice whispering ‘it’s not worth trying’, you know who that is and you know that he’s been overcome.

The world seeks our authenticity. Whether with fellow believers, relatives, colleagues, or social companions, we can demonstrate Spirit-led compassion and commitment to those he has put in our lives as we draw alongside them.

Nick Horgan
Nick works as an administrator in Higher Education, and co-leads his local Pinner Writers’ Group

Comments

  1. Thanks for this Nick. Going through my own depressive episode at the moment, as a church leader, I identify with so much of what you say and the battle I and many others are facing. Will definitely look this up.

    By Vaughan Pollard  -  10 Feb 2023
  2. Almost mind blowing – I’m almost 75 – broke out of family restrictions long ago – and tend to recognise genius when I see/hear it – what a refreshing scenario – will listen to whatever I can find.
    Love the REAl Jesus – learning to see Him in everyone – that means EVERYONE – no I’m not religious but I am Christian in the widest sense of that meaning.
    Ren – keep it going !! I for one appreciate your style.

    By Jonathon Hemingray  -  10 Feb 2023
  3. It is indeed a powerful one.
    Love others as you love yourself? But when you hate yourself because you seem poorly made then how can you love others. Truly what is love? Seriously, it’s not something I know or feel. Fear yes, and therefore hope as an antidote to the constant fear. Life is hope and the awareness or acceptance of life might be love? Breath or a share breathing might be love?
    It’s not just the ends of the spectrum that feel like they don’t fit.
    The unnoticed neurotypical also despair and are deafened by the noise our culture creates.
    I am 55, married and a father of two, I have got this far, somehow, but feel an utter failure, clinging to daily routine and habits to mask my lack of standing.
    How long…

    By Jupe  -  24 Feb 2023
    • Dear Jupe I’m sorry to hear how you are feeling.

      I can assure you that many, if not all of us, have felt something similar at times, at different depths, over different time spans.
      You are not alone in this. My own experience and the reactions of the Youtubers I have watched bears testimony to this.

      I suspect the ‘love others’ line was directed at those who love themselves too much rather than too little, so please don’t take this one to heart.

      We are more than our sins, failures and regrets.
      We don’t always believe this until we are told, and we often aren’t told unless we ask.
      For example, as a naturally cautious and perfectionist person (also unnoticed neurotypical) I was always surprised at parents evening, (or now work appraisals), at what had been seen of me, (rather than what I carried in my head).

      Maybe we can start by loving/appreciating the goodness we see in others, and they can reflect back the goodness they see in us.
      Let someone else tell us what we can love about ourselves.

      You say you neither know or feel love, and are married and have two children.
      Do they love you ? Can you accept their words, without playing them down ?

      I think what we can take from the song is that these thoughts do happen to everyone.

      I’d recommend you find a support group, a prayer triplet, or a professional counsellor (if possible all three).
      And I’d recommend you meditate on those verses that tell us of God’s love and purpose for us. Google can help.
      The love is there, for the real you, but when we can’t see it we may need to be shown.

      By Nick  -  26 Feb 2023
      • Thanks Nick – I will cogitate. As I bounce, from high peak to low trough… we are so elastic.
        But yes, thanks.

        By Jupe  -  7 Mar 2023
  4. You can call it God or the Devil but I prefer Courage and Fear.
    Hi Ren is a courageous song about human fear.

    By Bill  -  1 Dec 2023

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