Wild Goose Takeaways: One thru Three
Last week I journeyed to the other side of the country with Rich and Alex to take part in the second annual Wild Goose Festival. Wild Goose is a collective camping experience whereupon hundreds of people (possibly a couple thousand? Rumors abound about the actual attendance) converged in the hills of North Carolina to talk about things pertaining to justice, spirituality, music and art.
Once we successfully got the generator running in our RV (yes, yes… we weaklings enjoyed the comfort of an RV instead of most folks who went the traditional route: tent), and once we got the AC cranking, we were ready to set out and discover who we might meet and what sorts of moments would challenge, encourage, convict or inspire us.
It’s helpful for me, after attending things like this, to write out what impacted me most. It helps it “stick,” if you will.
And since I also like to blog ocassionally, I thought I’d share those things with you.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be similarly impacted?
There were six moments that had significant impact on me. I’ll share three today and three more tomorrow.
So here are, in no particular order, the first three things that I can point to and say, “it was worth the gross heat, sticky humidity, the scare of tics and buzz of mosquitos because that made an impact on my life.”
Phyllis Tickle, Constantine, and Birth Control Pills
If you don’t know who Phyllis Tickle is, she is a 79 year old spit fire of a woman who has helped shape and give voice to the emerging church movement. Her voice has been extremely formative for those of us who have wanted to challenge the status quo in Christianity over the past decade (i.e. Western Conservative Fundamentalist-driven Evangelical Christianity). On Saturday morning she delivered a talk called “From Constantine to Us” wherein she gave us all a quick drink out of the fire-hose of Church History, laying the foundation of when the Christian religion became tied to the State (possibly one of the biggest mistakes and most damaging things to ever happen to the Christian faith… sigh). One of her things is to point out how every 500 years the Christian faith goes through an extreme makeover. 500 years ago was the Great (Protestant) Reformation. 1000 years ago was the Great Schism. 1500 years ago was the Great Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And, of course, 2000 years ago was the Birth of Christ. And so now the church is again poised to experience another significant and defining shift, towards what is being called the Great Emergence.
And as impressive as it was to watch and listen to her rattle off all these dates and names and places and events with zero notes, it was more amazing to watch her build up her argument. Utilize rhetoric to create her proposition. She is sharp and quick and witty, but also brilliant and smooth and masterful in her craft. I’m certain she’s put in more than the 10,000 hours required to become a genius in her field.
Her final “point,” if you will, was to establish how the basis of our Christian faith, rooted in Judaism, has always been grounded at home (or, in the case of our ancient heritage, the “tent”). And how it was the responsibility of the families to pass on the narratives to their children in the tent, and then occasionally multiple familes would gather together and worship corporately in the synagogue. Once a year, also, the families would pilgrimage to the temple. But the foundation of the faith was established at home, in the tent.
Our culture, today, has lost that value. So many families either have two working parents or are single-parent led (there is no moral judgment on these scenarios, just an observation of their reality. Also, this was where the “birth control pill” part came in… not sure I totally understood where she was coming from, but she had an interesting sociological and professional vocational take on how birth control pills impacted women in the workplace and trickled down to impacting the family at home. You’ll have to get the .mp3 later and listen for yourself), and other families have zero interest or understanding in how to raise their children in the Story of God and they rely on their church’s children ministries and youth groups. And by Phyllis’ estimation this needs to be re-considered. We need to, as followers of Jesus, re-establish the value of raising our homes to walk in and through the story of God.
Kate and I can point to many things that our little family already does and has been doing to accomplish just what Phyllis was talking about. So that was really cool to feel affirmed in that. But it was also encouraging and inspiring for me to think about how to do it even more, and to also have the bigger philosophical (and, dare I say, “biblical?”) values to drive such efforts.
Ian Cron and Cynicism
Ian Cron, to put it simply, is an ex-Evangelical pastor, current Episcopal Priest, author and speaker. I’ve read/listened to a handful of Ian’s work over the past couple years and was thrilled to get to spend an hour listening to him share at Wild Goose.
He told us stories of how his previous pastoral position ended in a sadly negative way (to which I could certainly relate), and how that led him to a season of great cynicism (to which I could, and can, also certainly relate). He walked through several things that can cause cynicism to burrow its way into our souls and slowly begin to eat it away. Cynicism, he said, seems to be the new hip and cool posture to have towards the church. If you want to fit in with the cool kids, you need to be anti-church in some way. Be negative and cynical, everybody’s doing it!
And for a season it feels good. But it is ultimately a path that will lead to death.
The opposite of cynicism is resurrection. Living as new creation will weed out a cynical heart.
My favorite line from his talk was this, “let the excellence of your life be your biggest form of protest.” In other words, instead of moaning and bitching about how you were wronged or how things are messed up in the church, just put your head down and move forward. Keep doing your thing, and do it well. And when you do it with excellence, may THAT be what ultimately critiques and protests against that which you are cynical towards. (An aside: while I love this, and hope to embrace it one day, I’m not quite there yet. Just being honest. But I DO love the intent behind it!)
He ended by saying, “don’t criticize the church… just DO IT BETTER!”
Good word, Ian. Good word indeed.
Being cynical is easy, and often times it masks our own laziness.
Frank Schaeffer and Wonder
In college, one of my textbooks (actually, one of my favorite at the time), was called “The God Who is There” by Francis Schaeffer. Francis was one of the leading voices of Fundamental Christianity, defining the movement with tight apologetics and ultra-conservative theology. His son, Frank, spent years following in his foot steps. But soon the curtain was pulled back and the wizard had to admit that there was no wizard, it was all a sham.
Frank gave up the million dollar private jets and the multi-thousand-people arena speaking gigs because he could no longer stomach the very theology and ideology that his dad and other Fundamentalists espoused.
Now he speaks about things in a much more open and loving way, and during his Friday afternoon talk I couldn’t help but be moved as he talked about how he now believes in the God of Love. Gone are the tightly wound theological arguments, gone are the neatly packaged biblical expositions, gone is the certainty and knowing all the right answers and right ideas. What stands there now as his assurance that God is Love and that God loves him is his relationship with his grandkids, especially his four year old granddaughter Lucy.
He told story after story of how his interactions with Lucy would constantly remind him of Love and give him hope of the Creator’s existence.
He talked about how his posture towards Lucy helped to illuminate how God must posture himself toward us. One such story was about how Lucy accidently broke a vase at Frank’s house. Lucy turned to see if “Ba” was angry (Ba is her “grandfather surname” for Frank), and even asked, “Ba, are you mad at me?” To which Frank replied, “Lucy, when you and I are together, the only thing I care about is you. There is nothing in this house that you could break that would make me angry or upset at you. You are the only thing that matters to me.”
I love the following reflection he offered (this is my paraphrase):
I can no longer buy in to the idea that God would require of me the absolute correct beliefs about a few certain (or possibly many?) doctrinal issues, and should I not be correct on that itemized list then I will find myself forever tormented in a literal Hell. I cannot buy in to this because of my granddaughter Lucy. Imagine if I say to her, “Lucy, in order for us to have a true and real relationship you need to know the names of all my cousins, you need to know my favorite color and food, you need to call me by my correct name which is “Frank” and not “Ba,” and you need to read all the books I’ve written and view them as the most important books you’ll ever read. If you do not do these things, and get them right, then I’m sorry but you will not get to spend time with me, and worse, I plan on punishing you forever and ever.” Now if I, as a jerk and an ass-hole of a man, could not even fathom such a thing, then how much more a supposedly good and perfect Creator? If God is not at LEAST as good a Father to his children as I am a Grandfather to my grandkids, then that’s not a very impressive God.
I appreciated Frank’s various examples of how his grandkids kept alive his WONDER towards God.
My own kids are the most important things to me, and too often I forget, or get lazy, or get selfish and don’t appreciate how the Love of God is manifest every time I play basketball with Zeke. Every time I accept a full-body hug and kisses from Tai. Every time I let Jae leap from the ottoman in to my outstretched arms. And every time Lil’ Huck cranes his neck around just so that he can see me, smile, and touch my face.
Like Frank, I want to allow those moments to bring me the wonder of knowing and receiving the Love of God.