Friday, August 03, 2007

Creation music festival report, part I

Well, I'll try and get some of this down before it's so far in my rear view mirror that I can't remember anymore.

Before we left to go to Creation (a huge, multi-day Christian music festival at an outdoor ampitheater in central Washington state), I was sure I was going to have to just grit my teeth and get through it. My spouse and daughter have been going for years, some years with our church youth group, some years with just the two of them plus a few of our daughter's friends. They would come back glowing, and both of them have wanted me to go for a long time. I kept begging off because it sounded so awful-- miserably hot, primitive camping conditions, and lots of conservative Christian rhetoric floating around. But unfortunately I used as my excuse that our son wasn't old enough yet. I had randomly picked ten as the age when he would be old enough to go, and guess who turned ten last month??

So I had no excuses left, and I was kind of curious how it would go, given that I'm working through my conservative Christian background anyway. This year we went with our church youth group and a bunch of various friends, so it ended up being a group of about 25 of us. All of them that know me thought it would be a brand new experience for me since it's not the type of thing that I do these days, but honestly, I grew up going to this kind of stuff. I've been to stadium revivals, Christian music concerts, and smaller church revivals; I've heard Billy Graham, Luis Pulau, Leighton Ford, Hal Lindsey... well, I could go on, but you get the idea. I even went with my family to a huge thing called Explo '72 (short for Evangelism Explosion) that was held in Dallas in June, 1972 (I honestly don't remember that much about it since I was only 11 at the time but OF COURSE there is a wikipedia entry about it that I just found-- apparently 80,000 students showed up for it and at the final concert, there were more than 100,000).

I find these days that I distrust emotionalism in religious practice. Cynicism, again, I confess. But you would not believe how many times I've been to retreats, meetings, seminars, camps, conferences, concerts, etc (not just Christian) and seen people (myself included) get on a so-called "spiritual high" that just doesn't have much to do with living life in the trenches: the everyday grind. But as reported last week, I'm discovering that maybe I've taken my own cynicism a little too seriously. Plus, it was obvious within twenty minutes of arriving that if I was going to dismiss the "spiritual high" phenomenon, there was going to be little to nothing for me to experience at Creation. So I threw caution to the wind and decided to just let myself experience it as if I were a lot more naive than I really am. Or maybe that is an illusion, too.

So I found myself there, the first night, listening to a speaker whose agenda was clearly to convert as many as possible. Normally I would just tune this guy out, because to me, conversion is the least useful spiritual experience (maybe because I was raised in a religious tradition so I've never had a conversion experience?). But I was trying to allow myself to get into the spirit of the thing, so I listened. As I said, I'm fairly adept at re-writing things in my head on the fly, so it ended up being pretty interesting. Toward the end, he was addressing the fears that people might have that keep them from God. So in the spirit of the thing, I was examining my own fears. And I discovered to my own surprise that my biggest fear was that the conservative evangelical thinking of my youth might actually be true. I don't like the person I was then. I don't like the opinions I held as if they were Ultimate Truth. I don't want to be like that again. But here I am twenty years later, so afraid that it might be true that I don't even want to think about it, or let any of those types of thoughts into my head. Possibly what it would feel like to have been brainwashed by some cult and have to go back into it-- what if I get sucked back in? I believed this once, what if I end up believing it again? what if, just what if, it turns out to be true, and-- as someone who professes to want to know what is true -- I have to believe it?

But the cool thing was that the act of discovering and articulating this fear seems to have been all that was required to let it go. I don't think I knew it was there, although I've felt some of it before (what if it's true? what if I get sucked back in?). And as soon as I let it go, I knew it had lost its power over me. It was a very cool feeling. So I was able to experience the rest of the three-day festival as a curious observer: taking in some of it, letting some of it pass me by, watching the people around me, listening to the artists, and just not worrying about whether or not some awful thing was going to happen as a result of having participated. It was very freeing. Just that one experience the very first night made it worth going.

to be continued....
Aunt BeaN

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