Wednesday, June 15, 2011

God Goes to Burning Man: Believing that God is There Before We Arrive

I am a Pastor.

I am going to Burning Man. Again. Yes, I went to Burning Man last year. And yes, I have theological justification for going there.

God is at Burning Man. He has been going since it's inception. So I thought I ought to go to Burning Man to find God, and I did.

God is in fact everywhere, and the understanding of this causes me to assume that God has already been to places I want to go, and has already been working with people I want to touch with his Gospel. This being the case I must assume that God has already expressed His love, communicated His passion, and made Himself known in some way to the people I come across every day.

This is my assumption in the city where I am a pastor - Salem, MA - yes, Witchcity USA! And I have found that this assumption has proven valuable to myself and our church over the course of the last 12 years.

So, if God has already been to the places he is sending me, it should inform my behavior towards the people I meet. These are just a few things I am aware of in my encounters with other people who attend large, sometimes strange spiritually directed festivals:

1) I assume that everyone has encountered God, whether they realize it or not, whether they define it that way or not.
2) Many weird beliefs people hold are an attempt to define their experiences with God.
3) many people do not know how to describe their encounters with God, and therefore I am sent as an interpreter of those experiences. (This might be the most powerful expression of the prophetic in our world today!)

This year I am leading a team of people to build an interactive meditation art project. This project is based upon the belief that God is already at Burning Man, and wants to communicate with people. We are merely making a place for people to listen for the Voice of the Spirit. We are also hoping to document this search for the Voice of the Spirit on video.

On the basis of the above point of faith and my 3 basic responses to it this art project is dedicated. May the God Who is Already at Burning Man, and already with all the people going to Burning Man be with us as we endeavor to be His interpreters of His Voice in our generation. Too big a task for anyone person. I am glad that God is starting the work, and simply allowing us to arrive with a stylishly late entrance.

Our project is called Pillars of the Saints. Well, and yes it could use financial support. There are 5 more days on the Kickstarter fundraising.

37 comments:

Bryan Riley said...

Phil, this is fantastic. I pray that you will help some there gain a greater revelation of Who God Is.

I also like this assumption you make: "Many weird beliefs people hold are an attempt to define their experiences with God."

But I did have a reaction to it because it adjudicates whatever beliefs you are observing as in fact "weird." Perhaps it would be better stated as many beliefs that seem different or out of mainstream are nothing more than an individual's attempt to define his or her experience with God. I hate to "criticize," but I felt compelled to do so because I was surprised you wrote it that way, knowing how you normally write!

Kit said...

I love this! We, too, at imagine/ Northampton know that God is already at work in the people around us. We recognize the need to help them interpret their brushes with God,or at the very least, their diffuse longings for the transcendent/numinous in their lives.

Steve K. said...

I wish I could go with you, Phil! I love what you're doing. God speed.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Brian,

Thanks. I understand your concern with the word, but I like it a lot. I mean it in a more classical sense, rather than derogatorily, and I am quick to admit that my/our own Christian beliefs are weird to this world in which we live in. So I am merely among of the ranks of the weird...and so are you. :-)

Pastor Phil said...

We should find a way to hang out Kit.

Pastor Phil said...

Perhaps next year Mr. Knight?

Thorn said...

For "I assume", maybe you actually mean "presume", Pastor Phil; as any notion of "God" goes before you in terms of the history of human consciousness. The notion that "God is everywhere" may in fact, not be a fact - well as much as it is written (in the Shakespearian form of translation) that Jesus said while hanging on a cross, "My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me".

It seems, Christians often presume, God is faithful to humanity above and beyond any other living and/or natural entity. Yet the very concept of Hell literally embraces a deserting and forsaking God.

As for that very human notion of Man controlling God - in this "give me, give me" begging society (often epitomised by the very nature of that begging conduct of Charities, pastors and churches), is it not written, when David's intimate friend, Jonathan went into battle, he apparently said to his armer barer, it may be that the LORD will work for us". - picking up on Bryan's point, now isn't that, "weird"?

Pastor Phil said...

Hi AGAIN Thorn,

Once again you are trying to introduce an argument about the existence of God into theological points which are aimed at people who "presume" that point already. So, once again, your comment has nothing to do with the direction of this post. There are better places to attach these thoughts than here. Please try to limit your discussions to those appropriate places in honor of common (and internet) etiquette.

I appreciate good discussion with skeptics, but to find a place to introduce in your opinion, where it is not already a point of discussion is a bit like being asked if you are "born again" when all you wanted was directions to the grocery store.

May you find rest for your soul,
Phil

Thorn said...

What is relevant to your way of thinking is not necessarily the same for all - indeed that is why this comment facility exists - to get bloggers such as you, to think beyond themselves and their finite little worlds, is it not? Otherwise this is not a discussion, its a very controlled monologue, where ideas are stifled in preference for some particular dogma or another. As for a soul, Pastor Phil, does such condescension clearly evident in your last comment,at least "presume" you have one? Or do you?

Pastor Phil said...

Hello Stephen-Thorn,

I see we are reverting to rudeness now. If you would read more carefully, you would see that I said your comment had "nothing to do with the direction of this post." Please note the word "this," and also note that I did not call your post irrelevant, but commented that skeptics' questions/challenges belong in their place on a Blog directed toward Christian theology - this post is not that place. You continue to come off as Slavoj Zizek might be inclined to consider you - a fundamentalist atheist, and your evangelical fervor to push your position where it is not the point of discussion comes off like a bull-horn toting street preacher.

Please place your arguments against the existence of God, or challenges to Christianity in their appropriate locations. It will help you receive the audience you so desperately desire, and greater respect as well.

Maybe you have your own blog? Wouldn't that be a great place to share your challenges? If you have a site you are welcome to share its link here. If not, then please be careful that you do not become a troll.

For appropriate locations to post comments challenging Christianity you can type in "atheists" in the search box at the top left corner of the blog as a starter.

May you find peace in your mind,
Phil

Thorn said...

Who is Stephen?

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pastor Phil said...

Thorn,

Stephen is the guy from Swindon, England who was the only person visiting this blog between 7:21 and 7:34am on this day the 17th.

He writes amazing similarly to you, is likewise aggressive against Christianity and me, and happens to be visiting this blog at the same time you do from what looks like the same IP address - would you like me to share that address with you here in the comments?

Funny he was reading this blog, at 1:03:52. 8 seconds before you posted "Who is Stephen?"

Thorn said...

Pastor Phil. Well, remarkable that you think I have any similarity with this person, Stephen - you've clearly got it in for him.

Getting back to the point I was making. Why do you presume me to be an Atheist when I had not publicly stated my religious persuasion? I simply questioned your particular comprehension of "God". After all, you have made a number of assertions as to "His" nature, apparently to justify an involvement with the "Burning Man" event which is based on radical self expression and self-reliance.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Yes, the question was not answered; is God everywhere or only where he chooses to be? Does God also reside in Hell?

Pastor Phil said...

Dear Thorn,

You should be more careful. Apparently two other people are using your computer when you aren't looking. Someone named Stephen and now someone who called anonymous.

Anonymous said...

@ Pastor Phil: Are you not avoiding some rather important questions, while asserting some of your responders are one and the same?

1. Thorn gave reference to: "it may be that the LORD will work for us" (a) Does God do our bidding? (b) Submit to our will? (c) A servant to his own creation?

2. Do we have a "soul", whether we consider ourselves, a Christian or not and just exactly - what in your opinion, is a soul?

3. Why is it important for you to place labels upon those who make a comment? Does it matter, a commentator is Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Agnostic, Pantheist, Agnostic or Atheist (amongst many others)? whoever they may be? Does it really matter, beyond the face (content) of what is written? Thorn apparently did not state his religion (and reminded you) - does that make him or maybe her, an atheist?

4. You wrote in your blog that, "God is in fact everywhere." This statement presumes at least two things (a) God exists, and (b) assumes some substantial evidence to support the belief. Thorn pointed out that God left Jesus on the cross - there is much written about God "moving" from place to place - even Moses hid on fear of death as God passed by. A poignant question then, does God reside in Hell?

5. So, is it your intention to take God to the Burning Man, if for some reason he may not be found there?

6. And while you appear to have a handle on God, just where is he in this conversation, Pastor Phil?

Looking for a gracious, "Godly" reply.

Rose said...

Wow - amazing - so true.

Merry said...

Go with God, Phil! I hope I'll get a chance to meet you out there....blessings to you :-)

Rose said...

Hay Merry. Does "Go with God" mean God is moving from Salem to the Black Rock Desert of Nevada at the same time appointed by radical "self" expressive and "self" reliant people and Pastor Phil should be getting on Him - like as if God were, a bus? Amazing. How on earth, do you both, do it?

Anonymous said...

Maybe he's just going for the "trip", if you know what I mean . . .

Pastor Phil said...

Dear Anonymous,

Please stop using Thorn's computer. I may have to contact the authorities and let them know you are breaking in to his house and using his computer, while he goes to the bathroom. You and your friend Stephen are clearly using the same IP address as this Thorn character.

Since this blog is able to track from where, when, as well the IP addresses of visitors. I can see that only Thorn's computer (which I really thought was Stephen's computer, but he denies the fact) was on this blog around 4-4:30am (my time).

Perhaps I should consider that you are a group of Skeptic Trolls who are working together? or perhaps you are one person with a quickly switching dis-associative disorder?

P.S. I never called you an atheist. I suggested that if you wanted to pursue this conversation you should look under an appropriate topic on this blog such as "atheists."


So, after that tongue in cheek approach to your trolling (after having to ban you from other social networking sites, and my friends having to do it as well) Stephen, I once again am asking you to place your comments in appropriate locations for discussion. This post is just not one of those places.

Pastor Phil said...

Thanks Rose.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Merry, Come visit us at The Spirit Dream, or the Pillars of the Saints art installation. Hope to see you too.

Rose said...

Yes - how amazing - so true - was agreeing with Anonymous and those questions you haven't answered. :P

Pastor Phil said...

Oh look. A Rose between the Thorn and the Anon. How cute.

All coming from the same IP address.

A troll by any other name is still...

Rose said...

I'd rather be a troll that an egotistical censoring bull shitter - but then you apparently "control" your God and your fawning followers, don't you? "Wow, Amazing. So true . ."

Pastor Phil said...

Rose, Thorn, Stephen, and Anon...please leave me alone until you grow up and learn to be both honest and polite. Goodbye.

Cern said...

Just to note that a really good way to engage in dialogue when there are differences in perspective is to do so with grace and courtesy. Initiating dialogue in an adversarial way is counter productive to having any dialogue at all.... more conducive to a monotonous diatribe. Descending to profanity .... I've found that those times when I do that, I've reached a point where I have lost the ability to communicate effectively. I make an effort to avoid communicating at all when I get to the profanity stage.

One of the things I particularly like about the Pillars of the saints project is the potential it contains for bridging gaps between worldviews in the sense that people who may hold different worldviews and find they interpret experiences in different ways might get a glimpse of the worldview of others through their comments on the walls. It has great potential for initating some fascinating discussions and both expanding understanding of difference and finding commonality. :)

BB

Mike

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cern said...

Well Stephen, the tricky one is the IP address factor. It is possible that the software for the blogger site might have had a glitch. But, as a web forum owner, I use IP address details to encourage a peaceful environment on my forum. So it would be an understandable detail to consider. If there were to be a glitch, it would be hard to prove, which makes for an uncomfortable situation.
I think, perhaps the most productive course for all concerned would be to draw a line under recent conflicts and to move on towards a more positive, peaceful and constructive approach to dialogue. Not easy to do. But, from y experience, well worth the effort. :)

BB

Mike

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hope said...

Can't wait to join you out there, Phil! It's going to be awesome!

Pastor Phil said...

Hope,

Almost done with this phase. Now it's getting more exciting. :-)

Phil

hope said...

to "Anonymous" (& Rose):

1. The Bible is a fairly complex meta-narrative, and it's hard to pull out one example to prove a point. Therefore, it's taken out of context all the time. Nevertheless, concerning your questions, (a) “God does not do our bidding?” – Definitely not. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts; yet sometimes He aligns things to work out for us, while remaining in His good & perfect favor. (b) “Submit to our will?” - We are too imperfect for that. Plus, there's no way we can fully comprehend all the different facets of the universe, so why submit to our will? (c) “A servant to his own creation?” - Not exactly. Jesus came as a servant, lamb, prophet & teacher to teach us a lesson in humility.

2. “Do we have a "soul", whether we consider ourselves, a Christian or not and just exactly?” - Yes, everyone has both a soul and a spirit. Our “soul” is our human nature, driven by worldly desires. Our “spirit” is that image of God within us that desires to reunite/connect with His Spirit. Both are hurt by this world, so both need healing. Living from the “soul” is living in fear, responding with greed, hatred, lust, envy, etc, and being constrained by the physical, mental, social, economical, cultural & religious parts... being of this world; while living from the “spirit” is connecting to His eternal creation, seeking His Truth, following His Way, living the Life He hopes for us, and freely responding to/with His Love... while being in this world.

3. Labels are an imperfect attempt to categorize & make sense of one another. Instead, what happens is we jump to conclusions, prejudices and miscalculations about who someone really is beyond a given “label”. I guess it just depends on what you believe, what what you profess, and how you live your life, despite how someone labels you. So, regardless of whether or not you are an Atheist, it might be good to ask yourself those same questions, then maybe you'll know how people perceive you and/or why you are “labelled” a certain way... Then you can stop being so defensive and just accept & love yourself. (God does.) Nevertheless, I think it's perfectly fine to ask questions & make comments, as long as they are respectful and not spiteful in nature.

4. God is vastly near and nearly vast, so yes, He's everywhere. If you're unsure whether or not God exists and if you don't have substantial evidence to support it, try humbly asking for proof. He'll prove Himself to you in a way that only you can see/hear/understand, because you are one of a kind and so is His relationship with you. Then again, that may not be tangible enough for you. Take “love”, for example. How can you prove that you love someone? You may have a ring, a statement of commitment, a stack of love letters, or perhaps several witnesses of your love for someone, but nothing can really prove it. Regarding your question “Does God reside in Hell?” - no. God is everywhere, moving within & among His creation, but he doesn't “reside” anywhere. Hell is not a physical place to which He can visit; it is simply an eternal state of spiritual being to which His love, perfection, creation, and beauty do not extend.

5. God cannot be “taken” to the Burning Man, because He is already there - creating, inspiring, displaying His glory every morning/evening, and making connections all over the place in His grand tapestry. If anything, He might be (re)introduced to those open to that conversation, relationship, healing, and perspective shift. That's why we're going – to be part of that with Him, intentionally & deliberately, and to learn more from Him about how to “be” in the process.

6. “Where is [God] in this conversation?” - Again, as the Master Weaver, He's behind it all. He's not limited by time or space or labels or questions or human spite or “our bidding” or tangible proof, so the real question is, Where isn't He in this conversation?

Anonymous said...

@Hope. Thank you so much for giving us such a gracious view in answer to my questions to which Pastor Phil is apparently unable or unwilling to provide an appropriate response - so caught up with an obsession over alleged (now demonic in the medieval sense - see next thread) "trolls". God is certainly not in the censoring hand of blog administrators attempting to stifle the content of reader's reasonable questions. Unless of course this dialogue is to help him understand, this is blog is not about him at all, but God who should be given the ultimate control. Does he not understand that the Holy Spirit moves as He wills and not at some dictate of a blog administrator?

Pastor Phil said...

Anonymous,

I will leave this reply only because it is directed to Hope.

Your other comments with their only slightly veiled rudeness (often not veiled at all - such as in this case) toward myself will be deleted as I have had to do with your comments in other internet venues.