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.


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.