Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Harold Camping Dies

Harold Camping, whom I satirized in 2011, when he predicted the end of the world on May 21, 2011 died Sunday, December 15th at 92 years of age. Yes, he got it wrong, and it may be necessary to highlight that fact in his death, but I do not believe it is necessary to revisit mocking him. Death always requires a gentle hand, and a calming voice. In his prophetic failure, I think there was even a positive model for those of us who get it wrong to follow, and there just might be a few of us who get it wrong - sometimes. ;-)

I have written more about it here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I've decided I want to be a Fundamentalist. Who's in? It's easier and gentler than you might think.

Join me on my website and find out why --> Why I want to be a Fundamentalist.

I think you will want to be a Fundamentalist too. (snicker, snicker)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our little church in Salem, MA has developed one of the most unique Christian Outreach projects in the world over the last 14 years. The video describes a few of the things we do, and needs we have. You can contact me for further information at philwyman (at) salemgathering.com or visit our donation page.

The Gathering, Salem | Fundraising video from Phil Wyman on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Interview with Jim Henderson

If you have not heard the interview with my friend and occasional companion in culturally sensitive (sometimes crazy) outreach - Jim  Henderson. You should check it out. I asked Jim about his interview with Ira Glass a couple years ago, which recently made some waves in the social networking world of Youtube and FB, and....

I've got the podcast interview with Jim, and the specific cut of the Ira Glass interview HERE.

He says that I am crazier than him. The verdict is still out, but he is certainly intelligent and eloquent.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Origin of the Universe: Why the debate is still so hot

I was asked by atheist Barry Hampe to answer this question. (Barry seems like a really cool guy.)

"Christianity: Why do some Christians and other theists lean so heavily on the origin of the universe ("creation") as proof of the existence of their deity, rather than evidence if the deity's presence in the world today?"

I answered, and decided to post the answer here as well. So, here ye go. :-)

*nod to Barry - thanks for the invite.

The answer to this question has a number of levels, which are worth considering, but cultural pressure has got to be considered at the top of the reasons for this tendency.

The argument against the existence for God (or gods) based upon evolution and random occurrence as the sources for the origin of the universe has been one of the primary debate points by atheists and skeptics since shortly after Darwin's introduction of evolutionary theory on November 24, 1859.


It can only be expected that this argument against the existence for God would be countered by theists of all kinds. A general theory arguing against the existence of any personal (or impersonal) deity based upon a theory of origin is an argument against all deities.

It has only been 154 years since the initiation of this issue as a primary argument against the personal interaction of a god has been rolling around in our culture. 154 years is not a long time for the development of a major paradigm shift. The imprecise nature of measuring time in billions of years, and tracking evolutionary change we can not observe with our eyes makes this paradigmatic transition a slow and awkward one.

The question, of course, can be reversed. Why do atheists and other skeptics insist on using the origin of the universe as an argument against the existence of God(s)? The cart may be in front of the horse with this question.

Historic events in America (such as the Scopes trial) have made this an even hotter topic than in other countries. It is not even 100 years since that event. People are still alive today who can mark that trial as a evental moment in their lives.

Believers in the existence of a deity can not be expected to argue for a deity they do not believe in. Thus, their arguments will typically come from the perspective of their own faith system.


The words "proof of the existence of their deity" are underlined. I am assuming this is a significant sub-point to the question. One can not expect a person of faith to argue for something they do not believe. Thus, I would not argue for the existence of the Mormon deities, Allah, or Krishna and the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. Yet, I will submit that arguing generally for the existence of deity in general may be more effective than arguing for a specific deity in this particular debate.

Many people still believe that variations on William Paley's watchmaker illustration is as effective as when it was introduced in 1802.

The teleological argument for the existence of God is still alive and well. Oxford mathematician John Lennox, and Philosopher William Lane Craig are just two examples of scholars pressing the teleological argument today. Craig has revived the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Because brilliant people still hold variations on the teleological argument as valid, one can not consider the argument dead. To do so may be proof of a bias.

John Lennox
William Lane Craig
Kalām cosmological argument

The debate appears to be at a stalemate. Because of this, when a debate on origins is presented to the public it looks like two heavy weight contenders fighting for an unclaimed title belt.


Each side thinks that they are the winner and the debate has been won by their side. Ultimately no significant change appears to happen, but it sure sells books as the debate keeps going. So, perhaps each one of us who has bought a book, watched a debate about this subject, or had our own debate about it as responsible for the ongoing passion concerning the topic.

Is that bad? That's for the individual to decide, but if it was to become my passion, what is that to you? ;-)

This stalemate does look ridiculous to many people. Micro-biologist John Shapiro referenced this stalemate back in 1997 in direct response to books by Dennet, and Dawkins.

"Both sides appear to have a common interest in presenting a static view of the scientific enterprise. This is to be expected from the Creationists, who naturally refuse to recognize science's remarkable record of making more and more seemingly miraculous aspects of our world comprehensible to our understanding and accessible to our technology. But the neo-Darwinian advocates claim to be scientists, and we can legitimately expect of them a more open spirit of inquiry. Instead, they assume a defensive posture of outraged orthodoxy and assert an unassailable claim to truth, which only serves to validate the Creationists' criticism that Darwinism has become more of a faith than a science."


Is Darwin in the Details? A Debate
James A. Shapiro


As far as evidence of deity in the world today: If you think the teleological argument is a rough one to follow try bringing up the active presence of God as a debate topic.


Each time I see this one come up, it seems to get personal. ;-)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Palenque Rainbow Gathering - post #2


After the great flood of 12/21, we left for an afternoon to find our campmates who were away during the flood, and then returned to the gathering. I call it the "great flood," because so many people had camped close to the river, and we had spent a few hours in the early morning darkness harboring wet fugitives under our large tarp, or helping pull tents out of the river.

This was our last full day in Palenque, and so we packed up our stuff. Joshua, Jeff, and Chris had already left for home. Shlomy, Cate, and myself were the remaining people from the Jesus camp with our new found friend Benjamin.

Benjamin joined us in the first few days at The Gathering. He said that he had felt his faith in Christ waning with his long travels and the influence of the Rainbow Gathering, but he was encouraged by his time with us over the week. He would prove to rock it for Jesus like nothing I've seen in awhile.

I said a few goodbyes on the last day, and then discovered there was going to be an evening ceremony. I was asked to join the ceremony by presenting an invocation for Christ to be present. I was honored to do so. Such ceremonies often dislike an obvious Christian presence, and so the invitation was a statement of acceptance by some of the leaders of the community.

Cate was feeling sick, and sat out the invocation. Shlomy and I prepared some simple ideas. We would start with myself giving an introduction, Benjamin would pray and invite the presence of Jesus into the circle, and Shlomy would do a recitation-response reading from Psalm 136.

The gathering of the ceremony circle took quite some time to begin. It included a group trying to create a spiral dance, and a long "Om" by the crowd of over 500. Then a spanish speaking man I had not met offered a New Age devotional, and a time to hug ourselves and tell ourselves that we love ourselves. I did not do too much self hugging, because having love of self seems to often be more my problem than my help.

He finished and Shlomy, Benjamin and I stood in the perimeter berm of the fire in the center of the circle.

With a translator helping to convert my words to Spanish, I started by saying, "We are wounded healers. We are philosopher clowns. We are impoverished philanthropists." At this many people identified personally and laughed, and so I continued, "We have nothing and everything to give. We are broken and yet we offer wholeness." 

Despite the fact that many in the Rainbow family feel that there is no such thing as good and evil - no imperfection, this was still received well. And seeing this I pressed just a little further.

"I come from a broken tradition." There was a smattering of laughter from those who knew something about me. "Everyone knows my tradition is broken. The whole world sees it. I am a Christian Pastor!" And now everyone laughed loudly with me.

"Even in our brokenness we have something to offer, and so we want to invite the spirit, not just the spirit, but the person of Jesus to join the circle. If you would like to join in this invocation, we invite you to lift your hands." 

And so, some sheepishly, some boldly, but many people lifted their hands. 

Then Benjamin prayed.

At first slowly, then increasing in a gentle rising meter he prayed. I had told Benjamin to use his spoken word, and hip-hop poetry if he felt so inclined, and a few sentences into the prayer he did. He was poppin' rhymes about our brokenness and Christ's crucifixion, rhymes about God's glory and Christ's uniqueness.

A few hecklers made some comments from the crowd, but it remained respectful for the most part, and was well received by a few. Then our friend Jorge, a Mayan Christian from Palenque began to translate. As he did, Spanish speaking Christians began to join his prayer loudly, and others began to counter the rising prayers by trying to shout the prayers down, and then a crazy pandemonium broke out. We were in the middle of 500 New Agers, Radical Faeries, noisy Spanish speaking Christians, angry Latin American travelers, and confused hippies. Some shouting that there is no god but ourselves, and some shouting that there is only one God. Others were shouting that there should be no division - that we are all one, and still others ringing bells, and trying to create the ever present Om.

I laughed at the silliness of it all, even though I realized it could get out of control in a quick moment. It seemed to go on for maybe five minutes. Then it eventually subsided with one group creating that ever present Rainbow Om. 

The ceremony eventually continued with far less control than the leaders hoped for, and occasional rants from hippies over little issues, but it ended peacefully. We hugged Jorge and Ingrid (his girlfriend who arranged the ceremony). I blessed them and their life together. Then we left to take Cate, who was feeling ill, back to Palenque. 

As we left the Rainbow Gathering, Benjamin said, "I would not have felt complete without standing up for Christ like that. It could only have been better if someone had thrown a rock at me."

I like how Benjamin thinks. I understand.

This was our last night at the Rainbow Gathering, and it felt just a bit Pauline. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stories From the End of the World Rainbow Gathering

A first of a short series:

Front page of Christianity Today is carrying a short dispatch post of our time at the gathering: http://www.christianitytoday.com/

Direct link:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/december-web-only/dispatch-from-end-of-world.html

12/17
At the ceremony circle:

On our third day at the rainbow gathering in Palenque, the morning food circle was followed by a "focalizer group" to determine the type of ceremony to occur on the 21st. These are the festival moments I feel most compelled to participate in. From our camp only Cate From Asheville was there with me.

The discussion centered around only a couple topics and lasted almost all day. The first topic was the location of the ceremony. The second was the nature of the ceremony. The ceremony had a talking stick to regulate discussion and keep interruptions at bay.

Most of the Rainbow Family wanted to hold the ceremony on the archaeologocal grounds at the temple site. They were willing to sneak in over the mountains on a four hour trek to come in a back way if necessary. The temple site is not open at dawn and gaining access  appeared to be impossible, because even the Mayan elders were not holding ceremonies on that day. It seemed clear from the discussion by those who were familiar with the government, and the site that access would prove difficult if not impossible.

A young man with long dreads (which defines 50% of the young men at the gathering) told a story of holding a siege type ceremony at Tikal, Guatamala - complete with riot police on 12/12/12. He was part of a Rainbow Caravan that started a year earlier in Canada, and made it's way to the international Rainbow Gathering in Guatamala to meet another caravan coming from Argentina. Those who wanted to gather for a ceremony in Tikal went to the temple grounds and were denied access. 80 people stood in a circle in front of the gates, and began to hum, "Om." Then they walked through the front gates untouched. They created a sacred fire, and began a ceremony in the rain which began to fall. Soon the riot police arrived. One last girl tried to protect the sacred fire, but the guys carried her out. The whole event ended peacefully with the police driving many of those who had walked or were on bike out to the distant entrance. The wiser locals did not consider this a best example to follow in Palenque.

The circle was filled with many interesting characters. Many people had no opinion on the meaning 12/21, but felt that unity was important. Most ideas were no more creative than holding hands in an "Om Circle." Some people did not care if the date was important. Some thought it was the beginning date for the transition to the age of Aquarius. One long white bearded gentleman called Raja Merk Dove said he was a Senior Interplanetary Space Ambassador, and encouraged unity. The Interplanetary Space Commission was in charge of helping take care of "trash planets," and of course, Earth was considered one because of the way we treated the planet.

At one point, Cate took the talking stick and stated graciously that she desired to see her path represented. She was a follower of Yeshua - Jesus, and He is the Prince of Peace. She desired a moment to seek His Spirit. Oh, yeah. Cate rocks.

I spoke after Cate. My goal is often to open only a slightly larger crack in the opportunities which present themselves to us.

"Shwmae fy nheleu. Fi ydy Phileo. Oedd fy nhadau yn dod o gwlad Gymru."

I translated my own words and then continued. "Hello my family. I am Phileo (this was the name Shlomy had given me). My fathers came from the land of Wales."

Then I talked about how I felt connected to the early Welsh saints who were likely the last of the ancient Druids. Who (it is said) were slaughtered by the Romans. Then I spoke of how I could bring to the table of our common gathering something from this tradition, and I suggested an Eisteddfod experience - a place for poets and musicians from many traditions to share their skills.

After all, an open event with many people sharing seems far more open to the Gospel than silence and "Om Circles," because good news does come through proclamation - no matter how silly that seems at times.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Post Halloween Thoughts from Salem, MA


Almost 60 people from around the US joined our little church to offer spiritual counseling to the celebrants in our city. Our church meets in a former bank along the red line marking the visitors route around the city. From our church, and from tents set up in one of the busiest squares in downtown Salem they provided Dream Interpretation (ala the Book of Daniel) and “Spiritual Readings” as a means of identifying with the spiritual seekers coming to Salem.
Valor is a local Witch. She likes our church. On Saturday before Halloween, I taught a class introducing the 60 outreach ministers to the world of Salem. It was part introduction to the belief systems of Neo-Paganism, part sensitivity training to fight back the urge to engage in spiritual warfare, and part pep rally for the outreach. I introduced Valor to the class.
“If you haven’t met a Witch. This is what a witch looks like.” It wasn’t hard to imagine. She was dressed in black and red – complete with robe and pointy hat. During October, this is the look for many Salem Witches for the Halloween season. The rest of the year, most look like your next-door neighbor. She smiled. She hugged me. She shared a few words. At the end of the teaching I told everyone to hug a Witch.
Kelly and her daughter Bonnie joined the outreach from Raleigh, North Carolina. They were two of the first Witch huggers to approach Valor. The stage was set. People were ready to treat Witches like regular people with the same dreams, passions, struggles, and joys as everyone else.
Despite cultural clashes with evangelism styles, the people coming to Salem are seekers. It is a surprise to those who join us in outreach. People are still standing in line to experience spiritual counseling after 13 years of sharing God’s love in October.
Kimberly and Leeland offered love expressions in our church throughout the month. “You are amazing! God loves you so much, and sees how special you are.” Kimberly would sing out to people. I’m not sure what unique quality Kimberly carries, but love is the biggest portion of her power. People would melt in front of her. People cried, they laughed, they prayed and asked for Jesus to touch their hearts.
The variety of evangelism expressions visiting Salem creates a wild, sometimes violent culture clash each October.
Visiting street preachers know about our church. We are fairly famous for a small group of about 40 people. Weekends in October some of the preachers decide to declare by loudspeaker, that “The Gathering is a cult,” or some such accusation.
Dan Kupka, a local musician and self-described agnostic, who hangs out at our church, stood patiently in front of a street preacher with a microphone and a loudspeaker. I watched from a few feet away as the rain from the remains of Frankenstorm - Hurricane Sandy pounded the few visitors walking the streets a couple days before Halloween. I wondered what craziness might erupt once the preacher finished his monologue. Dan had come out of our church without a coat, and was soaking wet before he had a chance to say his peace. When the preaching subsided, Dan stepped forward into the street preacher’s face and gently asked, “Can I get you a sandwich, or a coffee or something.”
For the previous month, I had been telling people in our church (who often are bothered by the incoming street preachers) that it was imperative for us to respond peacefully and lovingly to the noisy visitors, even if they felt that the preachers were leaving the local churches to pick up the mess afterward.
Dan’s gracious offering to the street preacher became a model for our church. This was the way of our Savior – the Prince of Peace. And the way was modeled by an agnostic.
More stories to come soon...

Friday, November 02, 2012

of long tongues and cleaning up after the carnival: Post Halloween Thoughts

This Halloween was a unique and crazy carnival for The Gathering. Every Halloween is that, but they each have their own strange life. This year a few new friends, and new events set the stage for the changing future of outreach in Salem.

Christianity Today asked me to write a story about the circus of outreach styles which occur every October, and to focus on the things we do during the month. Our friends Michelle Pritzl and Shawn Fitzgerald were asked to provide photography back up for the story.

I placed myself and a few friends in the last slot of the evening: Aaron Zev Katz, David Gerard, Mark Muzeroll, Jim and Allison Trick, and Michael Pritzl (who just moved to Salem a couple months ago, and when we get together we look like Dumbledore and Snape ) joined me for the closing set of Halloween Night. My favorite moment of the whole month of Halloween Outreach (remember Halloween is a month long event in Salem) was when we were leading a crowd of hundreds singing with us to such songs as Lake of Fire, and Amazing Grace.

Friends from other outreaches joined us for the first time: Hope Deifell (my favorite Burner), Kelly and Bonnie Williams (who were at the Wild Goose Festival), and our always faithful and surprising friend Alan Drake from Dallas brought his friend Kresimir Zeravica (a brilliant Croatian now living in Dallas).

Our Children's Day was on the verge of going extinct, but thanks to some help from Jason Silva from the mayor's office, Ellen Talkowski (the Queen of Halloween), Dominic Benvenuti from Domino's Pizza, Aggregate Industries, Fiesta Entertainment, and Shara Sobelman the event is on the rebound and should grow well over the next couple years.

Dream Interpretation teams rocked it, and a few new friends (Leeland and Kimberly) joined us through the month and touched people's hearts deeply.

More than any other year, some of our visitors from distant places left in tears, because they were so touched by new friendships they developed. And of course, those friendships included our friends who love The Gathering, but do not identify as Christians. Bonnie, Kelly, and Debora Spotted-Eagle just had to get a picture with their new friends. They just fell in love with Valor, Stephen and Dan - the Witch, the Tie-dye Buddhist Guy, and the Agnostic.

Valor added color to the season by making a "Hug a Witch" sign and standing in front of some aggressive street preachers. Dan (the agnostic) stood in the pouring rain of Hurricane Sandy getting drenched, and waited for a street preacher to take a breathe, and then asked if he could get him a sandwich or a coffee (note: Dan has been out of work for quite a while). These were funny moments, where the people who love us but do not identify as Christians were showing love to people they struggled to accept. These are lessons for all of us who do call ourselves Christians.

So, now my tongue is hanging out, and I am ready to sleep for a month, but the clean up must follow the carnival. This was a great year of surprise, and the biggest surprise was the fact that dozens of people wanted to start following Jesus. Of course, as always we will gauge that by the daily changes occurring in heart, mind and action. Following God is not the easy path of life for most of us.

If you would like to follow upcoming events and outreach events of The Gathering and our friends you can sign up to our mailing list on our website.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Who's Forcing Who? A response to a cowardly atheist blog post

So Danger Ranger doesn't like Christians forcing their way into his life - or at least that's how his rant sounds. He decided to respond to my article in Christianity Today from his post Baptist, atheist worldview, but since he blogs without allowing comments, I will respond with a return post - an open one, with comments allowed. ;-)

Mr. Danger Ranger does a few things I find sad in the world of blogging:

1. He posts about someone in debate, calls out names, and leaves no place for response. I think that is cowardly. It's like a drive by shooting. Dude! Come on down to the O.K. Corral and let's shoot it out like men! Consquently,
2. He gets really preachy. Hypocritically, he berates myself and other Christians for being forceful about our approach to sharing what we believe, and then force-feeds his own opinions like a parochial school nun with a heavy ruler.
3. He recites the tired evangelistic atheist lines so popular today. "Yawn." Please read beyond the Four Horseman, and look into some atheists with more intelligent, less biased responses - how about Zizek or Badiou?

That said, I will respond to a few things Danger Ranger wrote:

He hates the subtitle of the online version of the Christianity Today article: "How God used us at Burning Man." 

Me too. That was actually my biggest disappointment in the CT edits. I never wrote that line. I dislike that terminology, and it got added only when the article went to the website edition and they wanted a lead in line to get people to click through.

One of the difficulties in writing missional material is how editors edit it. They do so for the Christian crowd, and I do not write for those who speak the ghetto language of Christian circles. I do not live in a sterile Christian environment, but in a wild world of people with wild ideas, and I am just another one of those nuts. That line was not my writing - not even my way of thinking. I am not sure I even like the terminology of getting "used." So, he had a valid, but misdirected point. That's what people who preach and don't listen do.

He says, "It doesn't appear to strike Mr. Wyman as odd to admit that Christianity is incapable of "wildly creative thought" such as is all over the place at Burning Man, and then claim, only a few paragraphs later, that Christianity's beliefs are somehow "embedded" in Burning Man..."

That is an extremely poor read of the story. I did not say that Christianity was incapable of "wildly creative thought."

Two mistakes are happening here: 1) he is using a different definition of the word Christianity than I am. He is talking about the whole system of faith, and I am talking about the current iteration of Christian institutions in the world today. Both valid definitions, but they mean something significantly different. The late Christopher Hitchens* regularly used the difference in definitions of "Christianity," "religion," and also of the word "faith" rather disingenuously to argue that because certain people and institutions were corrupt or stupid that the whole system of belief was therefore corrupt and stupid. I shouldn't have to point out that such an error is basic logical fallacy. 2) Incapability is not even to be assumed in my point, it is read into it by a biased mind, which assumes that Christianity is stupid. Mr. Danger Ranger, please re-peruse history and note the brilliant and creative minds, which have wildly traced our world with their influence and see the hand of their Christian influence - both rebels and leaders: Galileo, Newton, Kierkegaard, Bach....

My quote: "I wondered why Christianity had not typically embedded itself into these festivals, why we weren't among the leaders of new cultural developments and wildly creative thought."

Now Danger Ranger takes the greatest part of his post to respond to this issue. He sees Christianity as a non-creative system incapable of doing anything but hitching onto the creativity of others. In fact any kind of Christian expression is viewed as the "pinched confines of [our] reality tunnel." I find this beyond ridiculous. Danger Ranger desires no success for Theists (but of course, he also assumes that I am trying to convert people - another common mistake made by preachy atheists like Danger Ranger - personally I do not believe that I can convert people.) He also denigrates my choice of seeing God in all things. Of course, he doesn't think that his own shallow worldview (all our worldviews are shallow in my opinion) is likewise incapable of defining the universe - no, it is fine for him to see Burning Man through his own atheistic philosophical system, but it is not okay for me to do so through my theistic system. I would contend that this makes me more open that it makes him. maybe that is why I allow comments, and he does not.

on Daniel:

Danger Ranger accurately points out a mistake in the article about the definition of someone's name. I was retelling a story given to me by someone else, and after placing the story in the article and having it accepted, I realized the mistake. The story was a great story despite the error on the definition for Daniel's name, but I decided not insert a correction to the story - probably a mistake, but certainly not a great one.

Danger Ranger's mistake is to take this and see it as the crux (probably not noting his own poor pun) of the difference between Christianity and Burning Man. Christianity is judgmental and Burning Msn is open is how he sees it. That may be true for certain iterations of Christianity down through the ages. It can only be expected that the largest expression of religion or even philosophical construction the world has ever seen will have the largest number of stupid adherents. It will also have the largest number of brilliant minds, and creative expressions. It should be remembered, that we gave birth to the turn of phrase "judge not lest ye be judged."

Burning Man is not a group of Atheistic Anarchists. It is Buddhists, Neo-Pagans, Hedonists with no interest in faith systems at all, Atheists, Christians, Anarchists, and probably a few Raelians and Scientologists as well. It is an open system, and I have approached it from my Christian worldview with an open mind toward loving and accepting others. After reading his post, I am not sure Danger Ranger has learned to do the same thing from his own worldview. In fact, I would conjecture by the tone of my own writing and his that I fit the anarchist worldview better than he does. Coming from a pentecostal/anabaptist theological construction places me into the realm of the great iconoclasts and rebels of history.

So, Danger Ranger, if you read this, you are welcome to join us at the Theremaniacs Camp at 3:45 and G at 9pm on Thursday evening for our Philosophy session. You will find it in the events for Burning Man - or, come and find me at the Theophony art installation, which I think will be near the 12:00 line between the Temple and the Man - don't know our placement for sure yet. I think you will find that we are far more open, accepting, and liberating a group that you can imagine. Well, that is if you can imagine outside the confines of your own worldview. Here's to hoping we meet up, and you are more open in person than on a page.

* for a perfect example of Hitchens' logical error on the definition of the words "Christianity," "religion," and "faith" see his debate with Tony Blair. This illustrates the same manner in which Danger Ranger illogically uses the word "Christianity" against the context of my article. Unfortunately, Tony Blair appeared to argue accurately about "faith," but did not appear to catch the logical fallacy in Hitchen's duel use of the words. The introduction is really boring and far too long, so most of part one is a wash. Part two begins the debate.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Only Two Weeks to Burning Man!

Welcome to SquareNoMore - Phil Wyman's blog about outreach, church life, and finding God in this crazy world.

My most current activity involves creating a large art installation at the Burning Man festival. This will be second year of this festival outreach. Currently, Christianity Today has a feature article about last year's project.

We successfully raised $8,000 on a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to build this year's installation, but that just scratches the surface of what it costs our team of 15 people to build Theophony: a large interactive musical instrument, which teaches lessons on spiritual disciplines. 13 artists from aroud the US have joined us to create 24 4'x8' murals for the walls. Engineers are working on the theremin (musical instrument) we are creating, and the lighting. Contractors, and carpenters are building our custom yurt, and we have a small team of boys who play with fire, who will help burn the thing down at the end.

BUT! WE WILL SAVE THE ART AND THE ELECTRONICS. :-)

If you would like to help make this project come to life, there is still time to give. We are in need of help getting the elements to the desert, and the 60,000+ people we hope to touch with the gentle goodness of God. You can still give through our paypal donation link on The Gathering Website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Omnipresence of God and Burning Man

I believe in the omnipresence of God.
I believe God loves everyone in the world.

These two simple truths lead me to a simple conclusion, which I am hoping is correct.

If God is everywhere, and loves everyone, then He probably would like to have the people who love Him be available in most places. This certainly makes sense out of the Great Commission. He sends us everywhere to touch everyone.

I am headed to Burning Man in a month, because I believe in these values. I live in Salem, MA because I believe in these values.


On one side of this conclusion I ask myself: What are the limits to this? Are there any?
On the other side I ask myself: Has Christianity done a good job of being willing to go anywhere to love people in the same way God does?

What do you think? How would you answer these questions? What caveats are there, and in what ways have we fallen short.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Carnival as Revolution

The Italian "carne levare", or perhaps the late Latin "carne vale" are both potential origins for our word "carnival." Meaning to "remove meat" or "farewell to meat" respectively they point to the prohibition against meat at Lent. The Latin "carne vale" would later be thought of as "farewell to the flesh" since it translates the same as "meat" or "flesh."

Carnivale was presented as a means of revolution by Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin. In our wild world driven by growing freedom in hedonistic pleasures and capitalistic designs taking advantage of the same pleasures for the purpose of greedy gain, carnivale has become a revolution of pleasure. It has also become a trap for those who would enslave us for greed's sake. Every generation has the struggle for freedom, and in our generation this struggle it has been empowered by the commercialization of our passions. So, we must ask ourselves: are we really free? or is our so-called freedom the gateway for someone else to enslave us?

Our momentary pleasures and our sexual passions may not be our own. Could it be that they are being driven by others who are selling us things to make us feel fulfilled.

Enter stage right: The Holy Fool.

The 6th Century Saint Simeon is called the Holy Fool, and became the patron saint of fools and puppeteers in Catholic tradition. Through his tomfoolery and wild behavior he transformed the city of Emesa, Syria in his lifetime. He used wild clownish theater to share the Gospel.

Like fighting fire with fire, it may be time for the rising of the Holy Fool once again. We live in a season of carnivale as revolution. Our society is being transformed, and in some ways enslaved in a Roman "Bread and Circuses" style through the absurd theater of the entertainment that captivates us. Perhaps a Pauline "foolishness" is in order to counteract this wisdom of our age.


"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty..." (1 Corinthians 1:27)

I am hoping for a revolution within this world's passion driven revolution. I am praying for Holy Fools to rise up even now, and call our culture to something outside these traps of "the flesh" being set for us by our television sets, and rich men making money from our addictions.

If you identify with this - please, join me in the gentle and creative revolution. We are already practicing the revolution in Salem, MA, and the Burning Man Festival. Perhaps you would like to join us, pray for us, or support this work through giving.

Our current Burning Man project: Theophony, is part of this carnivale revolution. We are raising money to complete the project and get it to Burning Man this August/September. Consider helping us as our team seeks to raise $8,000 by July 21st. Follow the link above, or click on the block below, and please let us know what you think.



Visit The Gathering at Salem online

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Life of the Holy Fool

"For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Last week I played the fool. Literally.

I was running closing ceremonies for the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina. Myself and Callid Keefe-Perry played co-ringmasters to a part revival - part circus ceremony. That's Callid and I pictured above. The parts we played were two sides of a Holy Fool. Callid was the slightly legalistic revivalist styled circus ringmaster, and I was the anarchic Jesus-people hippie ringmaster, and we played a grand tension of the Christian life (law versus license) against one another.

The creation of a carnival-like atmosphere has regularly allowed me to befriend people very unlike myself. Christians with beliefs far more liberal than my own fairly conservative evangelical reading of the scriptures, the Witches living in my famous little city of Salem, Massachusetts, and the people called "Burners." (Our friends who go to Burning Man.)

More and more I find myself creating and being involved in artsy, and crazy ideas. So much so that I am wondering if my calling is to be a clown - a clown dancing and tripping between the many warring factions of our broken world - bringing peace and a gentle God revolution. I often am more comfortable in uncomfortable places than I am among people who think and act just like I do.

Last week I was at the Wild Goose in a wildly divergent Christian crowd. In a little less it that two months it will be an outreach art installation at the wildly hedonistic Burning Man, and after that back home to Haunted Happenings in Salem, MA.

Right now we are in the fundraising stage of our Burning Man art installation, and need help to get the project together and to Nevada. I guess we are looking for people who want to join the convocation of Holy Fools.




"If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)