|After the rains at Burning Man 2010.|
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.