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ISMISM New concepts for the Nineties; No. 28: Brainism

Brain, n. 1. The convoluted mass of nervous substance contained in the skull of man and other vertebrates. 2. A convoluted mass of neurotic substance contained in the Church of England and other denominations, otherwise known as Rev Chris Brain, chief celebrant until recently of the rave eucharist Nine O'Clock Service in Sheffield; a similar description would apply to many of his 300 congregation, a large number of whom are undergoing counselling (a late 20th century religious practice, qv) after being abused, sexually and spiritually, by their leader.

Also brain-wave: a bright idea, such as attracting non-churchgoers to worship by using hypnotic music, eerie lighting, clouds of incense, a dead language, arcane vestments and ritualistic movements (see also under Roman Catholicism, pre Vatican II). Brain scan: to look around a congregation in search of nubile women. And brain-stem: the central trunk of the brain; the prime organ used in the non-penetrative sex which is also believed to be characteristic of the above (on non-penetration see also brain-teaser). This need not be linked to Christianity, as is evidenced by the tantric sex workshop - "putting the sacred back into sex" - at the What Women Want conference at the South Bank yesterday.

Associated phrases: to have got (something) on the brain, to live in luxury in a pounds 200,000 farmhouse on donations from individual worshippers, to purchase Armani clothes, holidays, car, mobile phone, video and recording suite with someone else's money.

Brain-ache: the difficulties the above can cause to the wider church. Brain damage: those more serious injuries inflicted by brain-ache which leave the function of the Church permanently and substantially impaired. Brain death, irreversible loss of function - as when Nine O'Clock Service becomes Not The Nine O'Clock Service at insistence of local bishop, often following brain-storm (see below).

Brain-storm: a succession of sudden and severe phenomena, due to prolonged cerebral disturbance, often following rash of articles in the Daily Mail by outraged individuals who themselves never go to church or who advocate ossified forms of religious observance such as are attended only by 12 old ladies, a retired army officer and a sprinkling of those being cared for in the community (see under Church of England, typical congregation).

Hence Brainism: the doctrine that the traditions of the Church can be safely ignored, and the ephemera of contemporary culture embraced, in search of new adherents to the faith. A superficially attractive notion which all too often ends with its practitioners being admitted to psychiatric hospital.