As with any shared experience, all the people involved come away with different stories of where they were and how it looked from their vantage point. Well, along with many others, I spent the last week of June at Cornerstone Festival 2007 in Bushnell, Illinois. Overall it was a very good year. Here are some things I won’t forget for a long time:
1. Finally meeting Stephen Sizer in person. He had to be the most dedicated seminar speaker I’ve personally ever heard of at Cornestone. After his flight to Chicago was cancelled, he booked a flight to St. Louis and then rented a car and drove the remaining hours to Bushnell, arriving at 4am! He began his first talk at 10am did another at 1pm, and then spent the remaining days adding a lecture at 4pm to catch up on the material he missed on the first day due to the flight cancellation. That, my friends, is a model to me in going the extra mile and caring about one’s message and audience. I’m proud to know Stephen and would ask you all to pray for his talks in New Smyrna Beach, Florida on Christian Zionism, near a few megachurches that are bastions of the stuff. I think that of all the tracks we’ve done at Cornerstone Festival on Middle East issues, Stephen’s has been the most well received. He stuck to the scriptures and was well received. In the face of all the American hub-bub and brooh hah over End Times eschatology and wacky political agendas for Israel, Stephen is firmly but gently spreading the much needed message that “the Emperor has no clothes.” The agenda Christian Zionists set for the End Times, Middle East politics, and Israel as some sort of theocratic-bible-land-to-be is not biblical, Christian, or even rational. We’ve been sold a bill of goods and are doing a world of harm to Middle East Christians.
2. Meeting Jaime Moffett and Shane Claiborne of the Simple Way community. Jaimie and I had many nice walks and talks in the midst of trying to run our perspective booths.
4. WWJB? A film by Rob Van Alkemade, little brother to my friend Glen. I saw the second screening all the way through. I’ll try to post a review later. You may have to remind me. My little girl couldn’t sit through the whole thing in the first screening and so we went back over to Artrageous. Also saw “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and “Robot Monster” in the Imaginarium.
5. Saw Rosie Thomas live with my sister Jen. I can only describe it as both a music treat and a comedy venue. Rosie has an unbelievably high squeaky voice, not unlike Julie Miller and June Carter Cash, but it’s not necessarily heard in her singing. We were constantly put off by how melodramatic a song could be but then without a pause she would yell out “Thank you very much!” in this incredibly disarming and comical manner. I swear Jen laughed through a third of the show. I spent a lot of time looking over at her for her reactions. Thanks to Mr. Pibb I awakened from my movie induced slumber at the Imaginarium and saw the Lost Dogs midnight set at the Gallery stage. What a treat! Again, musical comedy, complete with two songs of karaoke, until Terry announced “the bar is closed.” I picked up the lastest Dogs CD “The Lost Cabin and the Mystery Trees” and have forgiven them now for the last “Islands” CD debacle. (Yes, I know, I’ll stop whining and get a life.) Seriously though, the Lost Dogs continue to be the most underrated country band out there. Do they get venues outside of churches?
These are a few of the highlights. As always, I’m home in recovery mode now. Martha and I and the kids camped for a week before the festival and then came home on JPUSA’s chartered bus the day after. What I took away from the Fest was a sense of family and community, new friends, the reminder to pray for the larger world and activities of Christians I only see and hear of briefly.
There are a few troubling things that rankle me about the Festival every year. I’d rather not mention them but it is on my heart. I’m bothered by the information overload at the festival. By the need to grab attention with a “Times Square” publicity approach. Anthropologically speaking, Cornerstone gathers Christians from all walks of life to six miles of dusty roads where we can look like the third world for a week. Why then can we only communicate with the same silly signs and symbols (cardboard billboards) we use the rest of the year? Christian apparel with hopeless shallow and mixed messages, sound bite music, and signs with cryptic Jesusy lingo, all made me feel hopelessly out of place and in need of real connections with people. There are no short cuts to real conversations people! Ok, soap-box over. I see all these things as signifiers of our human frailty. They’re meant as conversation starters. Doesn’t work for me necessarily, but who am I to say what should or shouldn’t inspire someone else? I must admit to not being such a great conversationalist myself. I can be downright off-putting, having turned and walked away from way too many opportunities to mingle. There’s a lesson there for me.
Glad to be home. Thanks to Steve the Anglican and Richard for the Charlotte Von Kirschbaum books. They both arrived in the mail. What a wonderful grace surprise! I’ll be posting on these ASAP. Blessings.