Monday, September 13, 2010

Further Thoughts on Burning Man: the direction of spiritual pursuit in a post-Christian America

Today I had my yearly eye doctor exam with Krishna Gaddipati.  Our whole church likes Dr.Gaddipati, he has been a life saver, you can read more about that story here.

After the rains at Burning Man 2010.
I mentioned to the Doc that I had just returned from Burning Man.  He spent time in the Bay area and had friends who had extolled the virtues of Burning Man.  For Krishna's friends Burning Man was a spiritual experience - a pilgrimage of sorts.  My last post relates some of those same spiritually enlightening dynamics which it held for me.

This is the nature of spiritual pursuit in our age as I have seen from the perspective of one living in a pilgrimage location.  500,000 people will visit my city in October alone.  Many come to Salem, MA in pursuit of fun in the month long Halloween season, but others come in pursuit of the mystical, magical and in hope of the answers or comfort it may provide.

There appears to be a growing movement of people leaving the Christian church as we know it in its traditional forms in search of something other.  Among those who have left Christianity altogether, some have adopted other forms of religious expression such as Neo-Paganism.   Others have adopted non-religious worldviews such as new-atheism.

Interestingly, Neo-Pagans and new-atheists have a common factor.  They are both movements which gather around events - "festivals" as it were. Whether the Amazing Meeting, or local gatherings during Pagan Pride days both movements exhibit a trend toward gathering together on a yearly calender cycle, and finding their inspiration to live throughout the year by a combination of the 'festivals' and personal reading during the year.

Enter Burning Man:  a festival based upon radical self-expression.  50,000 people meeting in the barren desert.  Like Jews traveling out into the wilderness to see John the Baptist they gather in a climatically brutal, and barren environment.  But these do so to celebrate life, art and a tradition of "gifting."  To find meaning, to cry at the temple, to celebrate the burning of the man - these are things which happen at Burning Man.

Is this our new mode of spiritual pursuit?  Is this how our generation is finding God, or inspiration, or direction, or hope, or learning experiences?  If so, the Christian church might be behind the times on discovering how to touch pilgrims wandering through the deserts, and festivals looking for God.


No line on the Horizon said...

Together we Find encouragement thru radical inclusion, it's at festivals which invite us to not patron but participate in that becomes the new life of community. When will the church see the "stage" is not an adequate substitute for real experience...journeys don't happen when you are sitting still ...

Pastor Phil said...

Radical words bro. We could definitely cause some good trouble together. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from Australia.

These two references provide a radical (that is going to the root) critique of what is usually called religion in this day and age.


Pastor Phil said...

Thanks anonymous,

It would be good to add your name and contact into the post if you provide links.


John W. Morehead said...

I'm glad to hear you went, and had a great and spiritual experience. It was an amazing time for me a few years ago. If only other evangelicals could understand why and what this festival means.

Pastor Phil said...

Hoping to repeat next year. Theme: Rites of Passage. Is that rockin'! or what. Wanna make plans to meet John?