My friend Scott sent the pictures that he took and I discovered another page in my journal of notes from the conference so you are all going to be treated to one more post.
On Friday, they showed a Sierra Club video about mountain top removal and then asked us to split into small groups to discuss our reactions. I admitted to my partner that I didn't feel much of anything at all except a reaffirmation that it is a huge task in front of us to fix this world and usually I have trouble believing that it will actually happen. I just act like I believe and hope that will be enough to fake it til I make it. On Saturday, Brian Mitchell, one of the speakers for the local panel echoed my thoughts and that made me feel better about my lack of indignance: "It's really hard to engage with that emotionally because then I'd have to do something." This was also echoed a little but in one of the prayers written on the butcher paper taped to the walls: "Why do I keep hitting snooze?" I ask myself that every morning. I have a feeling of absolute certainty that another 9 minutes is the best possible thing I can do for myself or the clarity with which I believe that if I turn the alarm off, I'll be able to simply lie in bed for 5 more minutes and then get up. This feeling is a pretty good metaphor for my occasional bouts of urgency that I must change my life now or I won't be living with integrity. But then I see a perfect sweater for $13 at Banana Republic or want to take my leftovers home when the only option is a styrofoam container. I fall back asleep.
But later, a woman shared that she had seen a sticker on the RedEye dispenser in her neighborhood that read: "I can't accept this narrative anymore" and I thought, "Hey, at least Ms. Sticker and I have alarm clocks." It reminded me of the "You are beautiful" stickers I see all over, stuck on garbage cans and bike racks. They make me smile every time, though they have no credibility unless one believes that everyone is beautiful. My involuntary smile and fuzzy feelings are like proof that I do believe that everyone is beautiful and discovering that I possess a belief like that makes the day better, like finding a $20 in the pocket of the coat you put on for the first time in a season.
Finally, Brian said two things that I loved. The first was that evangelism had to change from a model in which Christians were going to have to stop recruiting in order to man the life boats and start recruiting to get help putting out the fire. I've never had an eschatology (theory about the afterlife) that believed the world would get worse before the second coming, but I like the poetry of the metaphor. Brian also responded to a woman who was pushing him from a threatened perspective about some of the things he's written and said. She was trying to trap him into claiming contradictory things as true so that she could prove him wrong. (I think someone might want to sit down with her to talk about post-modernism.) But he said, "You might be probing me for a level of consistency that I don't actually have." Ah, diplomacy. I'm so bad at it that I love to see it in others.
We were given the opportunity to re-create the book cover and have it photographed. The biggest thing that I got out of this conference was a real sense that I have no idea what this Kingdom of God will look like in practical terms. I can describe it with lofty adjectives like "reconciled" but can't picture a healed society rather than one that is changed only incrementally. So, I wrote, "Imagine" as a directive to myself. My friend Jess said, "They're giving us permission to write on ourselves? Of course I'm going to do that." I really like Jess and her relationship with her husband gives me equal parts hope for my own future and despair that there couldn't possibly be more guys that good out there. One of the best parts of the whole weekend was spending more time with folks from my church, who I often only see on Sundays. We are building community and that is the only step towards changing everything that I can make myself care about. It will have to be enough.
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