Day 1 – Session 3
The Robbie Seay Band opened up the final session of the day. Their musical performance wasn’t overly impressive, but I really admired Robbie’s honesty as he shared the story of his turnaround recently from apathy to genuine concern for the poor and oppressed. He did a great job of expressing how Compassion International kids can change our worldview. I’ll give him this: he does have sort of distinct, raspy sound which makes him stand out in the pool of status quo “Christian” music.
Brian McLaren was on stage next for another interview by Nancy. I had been really anticipating his address, because I have been very challenged, encouraged and perplexed by his writing. I have only read his recent book, Everything Must Change, which has received its share of criticism. B-Mac (as I like to call him – we talked after the session was over. seriously.) opened by giving a highly filtered synopsis of the book, talking about the two operating questions – What are the biggest problems in the world and what does the message of Jesus have to say about them? He spoke about the Suicidal Machine we live in and the problems of the Planet (Prosperity), Peace (Security) and P (Equity) and the primary framing stories we are living within (Domination, Revolution, Isolation, Scapegoat) and finally the alternative framing story that Jesus Christ offered – to live in the kingdom of God and its new reality of reconciliation rather than destruction.
McLaren also gave us a glimpse of why these questions first became important. When he was working a youth camp back in the day, he asked the kids what were the primary questions they were facing in the church. The kids responded with topics such as predestination vs. free will, guitars vs. drums, etc. He then asked them what questions/topics were important to them - the things they cared about and talked with their friends at school about. They responded with things like poverty, racism, over-population, etc. He put the two lists next to eachother and was amazed that there was NO crossover. That was a problem. That is a problem.
Quoting Shaine Claiborne, he joked that if "the Church won't get involved in these issues, then the rock stars will cry out."
McLaren said that we have been saved not only for the afterlife, but also from wasting our lives here on earth. We need a both/and, not an either/or. He was asked about the redemptive work of Christ and he responded that of course he believes in that, but apparently there are some people out there who "know better than I do what I believe."
McLaren talked about how God cares about the soul and the body, the eternal and the temporal. And as artists, we should appreciate that because so much of art is an intermingling of the two.
He left us with five challenges:
1. Integral worship - give a higher and fuller view of God through our worship and teaching
2. Humanize the other - we are so accustomed to dehumanizing the other in our country, but we must unearth the real, human element of people's stories of suffering and joy.
3. Humanize ourselves - stir and unveil our own emotions and stories, lead people to inconvenient thoughts
4. Revalue creation - celebrate the beauty in creation and its reflection of the Divine as we see in many old hymns, such as Come Thou Fount, How Great Thou Art
5. Revalue (Redeem) our relationships and connectedness
"You all have been doing an amazing job at making the Church better because of art, but I hope that you can see now that maybe God wants to make the world better because of the Church."
Nancy and Brian also brought up two men who lead Fair Trade organizations, one in California (Trade-As-One), the other in the Dominican (Peralta). Both have markets set up here at the conference, where we can get products such as messenger bags made from recycled rice sacks - very cool. The memorable thought from the Trade As One guy:
"How often do you vote? (every couple years) No, you vote every time you open your wallet." Know where your money is going and what you are supporting.
Day One of the Arts Conference was basically awesome and I look forward to the two remaining days.