Saturday, July 29, 2006

My Summer Vacation (and its aftermath)


Four weeks ago, my husband and I returned home from Cornerstone Festival, a Christian music and arts festival run by Jesus People USA . It happens right around Fourth of July weekend every year, and I’ve only missed a few years since I started attending in 1993. Gary and I have a special attachment to Cornerstone because that’s where we (providentially) ran into each other in the summer of 1996 and picked up the friendship we had in college – which led to our marriage the following year. (I’ll tell you all that story sometime.)

The festival is a huge event – it takes place in western Illinois on the site of an old 500-acre farm. They fill a dozen stages with bands from 2:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. for five days. The majority of attendees camp on the grounds, and numbers regularly top 20,000. Among longtime festgoers, Cornerstone is known by the apropos nickname of “Lolla-Ja-Pusa” (after the ‘90s hardcore music fest Lollapalooza).

During the day, there are several lecture tracks that are housed in smaller tents scattered about the campus. Most of these focus on aspects of Christian living, mission work, cultural engagement, and spiritual growth. Every moment of the festival is filled with fascinating things to do and people to see – it’s impossible to take in a whole Cornerstone in a week, which is why so many of us return again and again.

Despite the many choices we have, the place where Gary and I hang out for nearly all five days is the tent called the Imaginarium. It’s the place where Christians of all stripes meet to study, dissect, and celebrate popular culture – everything from Godzilla to Flannery O’Connor to the X-Files to Lord of the Rings to Frankenstein to Jason and the Argonauts to Jules Verne to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The conversation covers all aspects of the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres – all sliced, diced, stewed, seasoned, and served with the commentary of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, and other modern Inkling-type authors and speakers.

This lecture series was inspired by the late, great WONDER Magazine, the Children’s Magazine for Grown-Ups. Authors Rod Bennett and Lint Hatcher, through their great devotion to monster movies and weird tales of all sorts, deep reading in Church history, much soul-searching, and tragic rejection by Southern evangelical culture, discovered that the questions being asked in their beloved science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories were the same questions being asked by philosophers and theologians: What is man’s purpose? Is there a God? Do I have a soul? What happens when we die? How should I order my life with others? What does love require? In the mid-1980s, Rod and Lint began to write about these ideas and published 12 issues of the coolest Christian magazine on Earth… until the money ran out in 1996. But luckily, before its demise, the magazine was discovered by members of JPUSA who created the Imaginarium lecture series at Cornerstone as a venue devoted to just these sorts of explorations.

Gary and I love the Imaginarium. It was there that I first met Rod and Lint, and their friendship and companionship on my road to Rome has been most precious to me. It was through Imaginarium lectures on the lives and work of Tolkien and Lewis that I discovered the concept of sacramental theology – the idea that God uses symbol and ritual to break into our space and time. I learned that the subcreated worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth were built upon a foundation of a pattern of Christian symbols – the same symbols and patterns embedded in traditional Catholic and Anglican liturgy. And it was there that Gary and I discovered the delightful sense in which, through the power of literary reiteration, “King Kong died for your sins”.

This year’s Imaginarium theme was Days of the Dead, exploring the cultural context of Halloween and the Mexican celebration of El Dia de los Muertos amidst a larger theme of “life amid the ruins”. John Morehead, a missiologist and author with a keen interest in world cultures and dialogue with new religions, presented the cultural background for these celebrations; Jon Sweeney, an Episcopalian with an affinity for Catholic saints, lectured on the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his call to “rebuild the Church”. Several other speakers also added colorful analyses of related topics including the classic sci-fi novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, the uses and abuses of archaeology, the hit TV series LOST, and commentary on the horror movies of producer Val Lewton (Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, The Body Snatcher).

Because these discussions take place in the context of Protestant evangelicalism (JPUSA is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church), theological debates sometimes arise between members of differing Protestant traditions. In the past, these have been taken well in hand by Imaginarium organizers Mike Hertenstein, David Canfield, and Rod Bennett, who all have well-honed apologetic skills from their years of debate with Bible-only, cultural-separatist types. Disagreements during Q & A times are approached charitably, if not resolved amicably; in any case, the discussions are lively and educational.

This year, however, a debate was ignited after the festival on the Internet by a lady named Dwayna Litz and several of her fellow travelers. Dwayna would best be described as a Christian fundamentalist – a label I don’t believe she and her friends would be offended by. Her tradition dates from the turn of the 20th century, a reaction to the growing liberalism of mainline Protestant churches of the day; I’m sure she would describe herself as a “Bible-only” Christian, and her magisterium includes John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody, A.W. Tozer, and Charles Spurgeon.

She posted a report online on July 11 that tells the tale of how she and several of her friends “infiltrated” Cornerstone and the Imaginarium in order to “witness” to festgoers. (As several other bloggers have noted, this was akin to “infiltrating” a baseball game by purchasing a ticket and sneaking into the bleachers to watch – in the midst of hundreds of other people who don’t know you from Adam or Eve and couldn’t care less if they did.) In this report, she detailed her experience and her impressions of Cornerstone; basically, she came away horrified and condemned Mike, Lint (who hosted the Imaginarium this year), and all those participating as minions of Satan. *Sigh.

Ordinarily, this sort of thing rolls right over us longtime Imaginarium fans like water off a duck’s back, but these attacks on JPUSA, Cornerstone, and the Imaginarium were so wrong-headed and vitriolic that I’m compelled to respond. Herewith is my fisk of Dwayna Litz’ Cornerstone “expose”.

[Litz in bold, me in regular font]

***

“Days of the Dead” at Cornerstone “Christian” Youth Camp

Below is a summary of our covert mission trip to witness at Cornerstone Festival 2006, owned by the “Jesus People USA” July 4-8, Bushnell, IL. The camp is held on 500 acres of land with a reported 25,000 youth from churches, seminaries, and Bible colleges in attendance.


First, Cornerstone is not a “youth camp” in the traditional sense. It began as, and still primarily is, a music and arts festival attended by all ages. Over the years as the various lecture series have developed, programs geared specifically to youth and children have been established, but this is no cabins-with-a-counselor, one-schedule-all-day-for-everyone event. Ms. Litz puts it in a completely wrong category – and thus sets up the wrong criteria for judging it from any perspective.

The furtive mission trip to research behind the scenes teachings of Christians for Biblical Equality and “The Jesus People” (who are mostly teachers and members of CBE) could not have gone better! The Lord provided a way for us to walk in absolute freedom there to do the research covertly and distribute 500 fact sheets of “CBE vs. the Bible” to cars in the parking lots, all of the speakers’ tents, and then at last posting them on fences and port-a-potties all over the campground (while most of the CBE members were gathered with the other “Jesus People” watching a horror movie in the “Imaginarium” tent in celebration of “The Days of the Dead”).

“Furtive mission trip”? “Covert” research? She seems to have been terrified at the idea of being ‘found out’ as ‘not one of us’. She obviously had no conception of the myriad of Christian denominations and non-denominations represented at Cornerstone, and even the differing theological interests and emphases of JPUSA leaders. How is it that she and her friends managed to feel so profoundly alienated from nearly everyone at Cornerstone? With every conceivable Christian expression from Anabaptists and Anglicans to Ukrainian Catholics and Universalists represented, feeling like a stranger there takes some effort. It seems that she made up her mind going in that this is how it would be, and she spent those few days focused on everyone who looked, spoke, or acted differently than her and her friends.

Does that sound Christian?

Ooh, snap! Don’t you love that question? The answer depends on how you define “Christian”, right? All-righty, then. Fasten your seat belts, folks – here we go.

People are going to be shocked at some of the teachings we heard there this week. Articles are forthcoming where I will quote the teachers verbatim in the contemplative, mystic error they were teaching the youth and others under the guise of “Christianity”. Here is a preliminary encapsulation of our mission trip to Cornerstone:

Ah, the “contemplative, mystic error”. You mean the one that produced The Cloud of Unknowing, a classic of Western literature from the 14th century? The one that undergirded the monastic revival of the concept of personal holiness in the medieval Church? The one that inspired George Fox (founder of the Quakers) in his quest for peace and harmony in our troubled world? The one that drew St. Therese of Lisieux to write an autobiography that caused her to be declared a “Doctor of the Science of Divine Love” by the Catholic Church? The tried and true Christian devotional practices that have produced and now sustain the work of all Christians in establishing God’s Kingdom throughout the earth? Those “errors”?

[Caveat: We could have NEVER done this in our own strength—never. We started off the days and ended them in prayer and Bible reading. After the mission was successfully accomplished, we all prayed together, thanking God, telling Him how much we appreciated Him using us.

Oh, pardon me – I guess it’s just other people’s format and language of devotion that you find objectionable.

[snip]

We were greeted by a hard rock “Christian” singer who wore a t-shirt reading, “Kill it before it kills you,” right inside the gate. We had never seen so many teenagers dressed in black in our lives, nor had we ever seen so many tattoos—all at a “Christian” camp.

Kids dressed in black and an attention-grabbing T-shirt slogan – it makes me wonder if she’s seen the inside of a public high school in the last few years. I actually like that saying, “Kill it before it kills you”. She doesn’t mention what “it” may have referred to, but it’s a great statement about, say, temptation. And with all the concerns about teenage obesity - Black is slimming, didn’t you know?

Tattoos – now there’s a fundamentalist bugaboo. They’re a stumbling block to some conservative Catholics, too. They quote Leviticus 19:28 and insist that any sort of piercing or marking is sinful.

I have a question for Ms. Litz and her friends, though – what were they thinking when they got their ears pierced? It’s acceptable, and almost a rite of passage, for women in Western culture to pierce their ears – why doesn’t the blanket prohibition apply? Because it doesn’t mean anything except that they wanted to conform to our shared Western cultural beauty ideal. In this, I completely agree - beauty should be the standard in all such cases. See this page for many sane ideas on the subject.

We learned that Gandhi was more Christian than he knew.

See this link for proof of the truth of this statement.

We were taught that it is common among “saints” to levitate! We were told how saints like St. Francis of Assisi experienced “miracles” from God such as levitations, and many saints had experienced levitations—it was a common practice among the saints. Someone raised her hand and added, “It reminds me of the weird stuff in some charismatic circles like the Toronto Blessing where people were getting ‘slain in the spirit’.” The teacher warned, “I think I have made it clear that we have no right to judge such experiences.”

I was at this lecture by Jon Sweeney on the life of St. Francis, and I believe Ms. Litz misrepresents his meaning here. Sweeney did not say that levitation was a common or everyday occurrence in saints’ lives, nor that it was a “common denominator” among those saints canonized by the Catholic Church. He simply mentioned levitation as one of the miraculous occurrences in Francis’ life, and that other saint stories mention this as well, among many other types of miracles. (If Sweeney had really wanted to emphasize levitation, he would have mentioned St. Teresa of Avila, whose sisters had to sit on her in order to keep her from levitating during states of holy rapture, and St. Joseph of Cupertino, a fellow Franciscan who often levitated while saying Mass!) When another woman commented on the “Toronto Blessing” in this context, Sweeney did in fact reply, “…I think I have made it clear that we have no right to judge such experiences” - referring specifically to the holy laughter/slain-in-the-Spirit phenomenon. He was trying to avoid offense to any charismatics in the crowd who had experienced such things as an encouragement to their faith.

Litz seems keen on the inadmissibility of such evidence of the power of God in the life of a believer, and like many of her co-laborers, she instinctively consigns any such story to the New Age trash heap, crediting demons with great powers of deception.

She also seems to be champing at the bit to “judge” and evaluate these miracles. I hope she’ll be glad to find out that these days, though admittedly not so much in the time of Francis, the Catholic Church has a whole department of folks dedicated to just this task. Saints’ causes (e.g., the issue of whether two verifiable miracles have occurred as a result of the intercession of the heavenly candidate) are carefully investigated and argued, complete with an appointed “devil’s advocate” to explain the miracles away if possible. Another example would be the fact that, to my knowledge, the jury is still officially out on the Virgin Mary’s appearance at Medjugorje in 1981, though many rank-and-file Catholics are convinced of its reality and are edified by encouraging messages published by its devotees. At the end of the day, however, we Catholics (and reasonable Protestants) have a category fundamentalists don’t have for private mystical revelations or experiences: “worthy of belief”, i.e. not dogma requiring assent (i.e. leafy green vegetables, necessary for your Christian growth), not evil to be avoided (hemlock, holly berries, antifreeze – deadly to the spirit), but “officially harmless” (Cheetos, Brussels sprouts, coconut cream pie, papaya, green apple-flavored Jolly Ranchers, catfish, sweet potatoes, liver & onions). If it agrees with you, fine – if not, no need to bother, feel free to just pass the plate. Ms. Litz’ scheme of things, however, doesn’t allow such luxuries – all mystical or miraculous manifestations are either of God or straight from the pit of hell.

One speaker said he was not comfortable “wearing the title of a Christian.” He was “an aspiring Christian,” but he was not comfortable wearing that title.

I was not there to hear this comment and can’t speak to it directly. Cornerstone has in the past hosted professors and authors who were not professing Christians in order to hear them speak on topics related to their field. We had a fantastic presentation on the Mars Rover in the Imaginarium one year by a member of the NASA team managing the project; I don’t know whether she was a believer or not. But, when a person like this is sharing his or her expertise and excitement about something momentous going on in our world, does it matter if he or she is a Christian? If he/she is not attempting to teach the Faith, what’s the big deal?

This presenter’s comment actually strikes me as an attempt at humility - or perhaps an attempt to avoid precisely the sort of religious judgment Ms. Litz levels at him.

All of this was in the “Imaginarium” tent, which was Bob Passantino’s favorite tent, we were told, at the Cornerstone festival before he passed away. To give tribute to Bob, a skull was placed on the altar of the dead for him! Skulls and pictures were also placed to remember Mr. Rogers. However, it was not a beautiful day in the neighborhood! It was a satanic night in the “Days of the Dead.” But, then again, the other people there seemed to be having a fine time. I guess it was just our team of women who did not feel comfortable writing a name of a dead loved one on a sugar skull and placing it on the shrine.
A tribute was made to Batman. There were the pictures in the glowing dead shrine of everyone from Rosa Parks to Mr. Rogers. One woman walked up to the podium and gave a tribute to Flannery O’Connor and placed a flower on the altar for her. Many would speak to the dead people saying, “I just want to thank ___for all he/she has taught me,” as if the person’s spirit was in the place to hear. (No clarification was made on how we should not speak to the dead according to the Bible, of course).


I was also there at the Day of the Dead remembrance time, and had actually been looking forward to it. I had recently learned a lot about it, since my Catholic parish is more than 50% Hispanic and we have a beautiful ofrenda (altar for offerings) each November in our sanctuary. When we read in the weeks prior to the fest about the plan to celebrate the Day of the Dead in the Imaginarium, Gary and I both planned to bring several items from home for the ofrenda.

Because of this, as Mike Hertenstein (the JPUSA member who programs and produces the Imaginarium each year) gave his introductory spiel, I remember cringing inwardly at times – for completely opposite reasons than Ms. Litz. He explained that in his research on the Mexican cultural phenomenon of the Day of the Dead, he had discovered many fascinating aspects of it – but he couldn’t really offer us an authentic expression of it on its own terms, since we’re all “gringos”, after all. He then put forth the idea of piecing together “an Imaginarium version” of the tradition in an effort to “make a personal connection” with it on our own terms. I thought, Isn’t this what we Americans always do – appropriate others’ cultural traditions without regard to their cultural meaning, and end up mangling them? Why must we build an artificial wall between authenticity and a personal connection? (Also, due to past unrelated incidents at my church among the Anglo parishioners, I've become very sensitive to arbitrary rewrites of Scripture and the liturgy – and to my raw nerves, this smacked of yet another agenda-driven abuse of Catholic tradition.) I sighed, and then my attention returned to Mike and Dave Canfield, who were both very excited about the sugar skulls they’d found in a Mexican tienda and the adventure of seeing God work through this exotic, sensual way of remembering the dead. I took another deep breath and did my best to lay aside my personal reactivity, and Gary and I each took a few sugar skulls from the boxes being passed around. Mike encouraged us to write the names of both our living and our dead loved ones on the backs of the skulls, come to the microphone and share what they meant, and place them on the ofrenda at the side of the Imaginarium tent.

Although I believe our Imaginarium Day of the Dead ritual began in Mike’s mind as a pastiche of sorts, a two-dimensional, pen-and-ink sketch of an n-dimensional, colorful, living religious/cultural reality, God took Mike’s offering, blessed it, broke it, and shared real spiritual food with all of us who participated in the celebration that evening. The Lord certainly was present and met each of us in the midst of the sharing time as we told stories of our families and friends, grieving their loss and proclaiming our continuing love for them. And as we entered humbly together into the trappings of this strange ritual and allowed God to somehow find us in it, the Lord opened His heart to us – wherein the spirits of our loved ones do in fact live, move, and have their being. His Presence in our midst brought all the living souls that we named back with Him. Jesus was powerfully proclaimed even as several people strove to honor some fictional characters, Aslans of their own, through which they saw Christ.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Catholic or not; the communion of saints is real. You can’t get around that. From Ms. Litz’ point of view, it was very (properly) spooky and profound, and if it gave her the creeps, well… it wasn’t our fault. (Here's a further explanation of the Catholic view of the communion of saints.)

A skeleton was placed in a casket on the side of the room surrounded by trash on the floor.

In response to the mention of skeletons, Mike Hertenstein has posted this G.K. Chesterton essay on the Imaginarium website. I’ll quote two choice paragraphs and let Ms. Litz et al. duke it out with GKC, if she cares to:

The importance of the human skeleton is very great, and the horror with which it is commonly regarded is somewhat mysterious. Without claiming for the human skeleton a wholly conventional beauty, we may assert that he is certainly not uglier than a bull-dog, whose popularity never wanes, and that he has a vastly more cheerful and ingratiating expression. But just as man is mysteriously ashamed of the skeletons of the trees in winter, so he is mysteriously ashamed of the skeleton of himself in death. It is a singular thing altogether, this horror of the architecture of things. [emphasis mine] One would think it would be most unwise in a man to be afraid of a skeleton, since Nature has set curious and quite insuperable obstacles to his running away from it.

One ground exists for this terror: a strange idea has infected humanity that the skeleton is typical of death. A man might as well say that a factory chimney was typical of bankruptcy. The factory may be left naked after ruin, the skeleton may be left naked after bodily dissolution; but both of them have had a lively and workmanlike life of their own, all the pulleys creaking, all the wheels turning, in the House of Livelihood as in the House of Life. There is no reason why this creature (new, as I fancy, to art), the living skeleton, should not become the essential symbol of life.

Celtic abstracts were posted on the walls, as well as excerpts from teachers such as Thomas Merton.

Merton, a 20th-century Catholic monk beloved by many for his wisdom, needs no defense from me.

Someone mentioned the idea of singing a hymn and the teacher jeered, A Hymn? We can’t sing a hymn in the Imaginarium! The teacher heckled the comment extemporaneously as if hymns were too out of date and inappropriate! I would agree that the hymns would certainly not fit the spirit at work in the place. The hymns would oppose such a spirit for sure. Eerie music was played as the people walked up to the shrine/altar to place a sugar skull or flower on behalf of the dead.

We did in fact sing a hymn in the Imaginarium at the end of our gathering that evening; I know because I led the group in singing the Doxology after Presbyterian pastor Paul Leggett offered a benedictory prayer in closing. Ms. Litz must have left by this time - had she been there, I bet she would even have recognized the music, since it was the version I learned growing up as a Baptist, to the tune of Old Hundredth. I’ll stick with this charitable thought instead of speculating on any other reason she left this fact out of her report.

Horror films were lauded, and we were taught from Gretchen Passantino that there was nothing wrong with celebrating Halloween since it was “All Saints Day,” so there was a night designated for costumes at the “Imaginarium” in celebration of Halloween. (We did not attend).

Gretchen Passantino-Coburn is also quite adept at defending herself, so I’ll not waste the space here. It’s too bad they didn’t come to our Halloween party the following day – I got all gothed out as Sister Bodily Death from St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, one gal brought a whole suit of chain maille, other folks improvised as they could. It was fabulous fun, but I guess our childlike dancing and playing wasn’t - holy enough? Is that it?

[snip]

In the “Prayer Tent” we were told to take off our shoes and walk the Labyrinth. No children under the age of 14 were allowed to enter without their parents. The teacher asked me if I would like to journal, and she handed me a mind-numbing maze to follow on paper on/in which to journal! At the end of the “prayer” walk, after the participants had been given a choice of verses to read over and over as they walked the “sacred ground”, they came back to report what God had shown them while walking the mantra path. One lady said, “As I walked along, I felt one thorny area, so I avoided that area…but then as I was almost done with the labyrinth walk I realized I should have walked on the thorns for God since Jesus suffered for me.” She looked like she was going to cry. The teacher nodded in sympathetic agreement. It was all I could do to remain silent and not explain to that poor woman that we were called to a different kind of suffering—suffering that makes one proud of one’s own humility is not the right kind of suffering! It was extremely hard to sit through all of these sessions and not say anything.

Briefly about the labyrinth as a spiritual practice: These patterned pathways as a rule are not “mind-numbing mazes”. Traditional forms of the labyrinth, including the most famous one in mosaic on the floor of Chartres Cathedral, are comprised of a single winding pathway that one walks while praying – on any subject that comes to mind. It’s meant to be a representation of one’s path through life, one’s spiritual walk with God, with the goal of Heaven at the end. See my above comment about papaya, catfish, etc. – if you like it, fine. If not, no one’s shoving it down your throat, for Pete’s sake. And Ms. Litz’ comment about “suffering that makes one proud of one’s own humility” – actually, I completely agree (see her second paragraph above).

One day a woman on our team could not take it anymore and raised her hand to comment. She said to the CBE teachers, “Galatians 3:28 taken in context is only pertaining to salvation.” John Trott interrupted the conversation from the opposite side of the room to change the subject announcing, “But women have gifts, too!” The woman on our team thought, Galatians 3:28 still only pertains to salvation taken in context. We have found a popular tactic with the CBE teachers is to change the subject when they are wrong about something.

Christians for Biblical Equality has their own lecture series at Cornerstone in a separate tent. I take Ms. Litz at her word as to what she heard in the CBE tent this year; since I wasn’t there, I don’t have much to say about it. From conversations I’ve had with CBE members and in looking at their publications, I actually am not a supporter of their stated goals, since I’m a Roman Catholic who accepts magisterial teaching on these sorts of issues (and loves Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body). I’ve tangled with Jon Trott (his name is spelled incorrectly above) over the issue of artificial contraception in the past; I don’t feel the need to engage either him or Ms. Litz here, except that in regard to the flyer entitled “CBE vs. the Bible” that we found on our car and read – I remember thinking that I didn’t agree with either the ideas represented by the CBE leaders’ quotes or how Ms. Litz and her friends were using Bible verses as sledgehammers to oppose them. (Jon has his own response to the kerfuffle here).

For the record, I agree wholeheartedly with Jon’s statement, “But women have gifts, too!” Of course they do; all baptized Christians do; I lectured in the Imaginarium myself on this very issue in 2001. (To learn more of the Catholic view of spiritual gifts, see the St. Catherine of Siena Institute website). Regarding women’s ordination, though, I’ve already got my dog in the fight between magisterial and modernist Catholics. Ain’t got no ‘nother dog to put in this here.

We learned that absolute truth can lead to problems! It often births self-righteousness and judgmental attitudes—we should accept everyone and not “push our truth off on anybody”. We were also taught to show kindness to people “with no motive for evangelism.”

Again, since these lectures were not in the Imaginarium, I have no comment on them – except to say that from my limited knowledge of the Emergent Church phenomenon, which many JPUSA leaders endorse, these statements are most likely the result of an effort to interpret the Scriptures and Christian history through a postmodern philosophical lens and do not represent rebellion per se against Jesus or the truth of the Gospel.

[snip]

We saw a sign that read “Anam Cara” in the merchant tent at a table for a rock group. I asked, “What does Anam Cara mean?” The boy who looked to be about fifteen answered innocently, “Someone told me it means ‘spirit friend.’” I asked, “What is the language?” He gave a popular answer there at the camp, “I don’t know.” Meanwhile youth were standing in line for tattoos and gauging. I asked, “What does gauging mean?” The girl who was plying the gauged holes in the ears of the “Christian” youth answered, “Oh, it means nothing.” I looked it up later and found that gauging is a practice of voodoo worship in African tribes.

Once again, John Morehead has lots of good stuff to say about this kind of thing. Again, since it didn’t occur under the auspices of the Imaginarium, I won’t speak to it.

While the others were researching on our last day there, I set out with the fact sheets, hitting two of the back parking lots, behind the main rock stage. Every single person was receptive! I saw normal looking Christian youth who were not dressed in black, absent nose rings and tattoos. It was obvious they had come to just camp out and be with friends. I gave the fact sheets to the youth leaders. They all thanked me. I put others on cars and tables and inside tents. I gave one to a youth leader who said, “It is interesting that you would give me this, because I am also a professor at Moody Bible Institute, and I was just discussing CBE’s inclusive language teachings with my youth group. I am very concerned about this error being taught.” He showed me his notes pertaining to the subject of CBE’s attempt to neuter God with inclusive language! A link to Walter Martin Ministries was at the bottom of our fact sheet, and he said, “Oh, yeah, Walter Martin, he was great.” I could tell he was really pondering the whole picture and counterfeit spirit at work. As I left he continued to discuss our fact sheet with the youth.

One man took the sheet and looked over at his teenage daughter and nodded as if to say, “See? I told you.” He said adamantly, “Thank you very much. I knew something was not right about this place.” I told him that I had just been in a class in the Imaginarium where the teacher had taught that “saints” levitated in church history, and we should not judge such “miracles.” He shook his head in disapproval and was reading the fact sheet as I walked out of sight.


You know, I’m honestly glad that Ms. Litz found someone to talk to that could relate to her point of view. She left Cornerstone refreshed by finding new friends in Christ. That’s what the Cornerstone experience is all about, in my book.

[snip]

Then, we all met back at the hotel, and we PRAISED THE LORD FOR USING US FOR HIS GLORY!! We got back on the plane the following morning and thanked the Lord for every little detail. We knew that God had accomplished all we had done for His glory, and He had protected our steps. We laughed at the airport leaving Peoria thinking about that girl’s testimony at CBE and commented in jest (realizing that CBE must have been in shock to find those flyers everywhere), “We are smart after all, and God has a big plan for our lives.” We giggled. (It was just a joke, in reference to the feminist girl going to seminary to show everyone how smart she is). IT IS ALL ABOUT HIM AND NOT ABOUT US. We knew that it had not gone so smoothly because we were smart or we were women, but we knew it had gone smoothly because the Holy Spirit had done this, for the GLORY OF GOD’S NAME.

It felt great to be done with the mission, and it sure felt good to leave that camp! I had to weep down on my knees in the hotel as I prayed just thinking about that dark place. The fun will be in seeing what the Lord will do with our research, and the fun comes in trusting our precious Lord to use those 500 fact sheets to give His people the Truth and protect them from a lying counterfeit spirit at work to deceive. (Attached is the fact sheet we spread far and wide at that youth camp, leaving CBE in shock, no doubt.

Galatians 1 and 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 encouraged my heart as I read those passages on the plane on the way back to Denver.

To the praise of His glory, Dwayna


It’s good to hear that Dwayna and her friends were comforted by Scripture on their way home. As my friends and I have discussed her report since she posted it online, we have also been comforted by Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, specifically these verses: “But because of false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage - to them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” (Gal. 2:4-5, RSV)

[end]
* * *

On July 23, I attempted to post the response below on one of the original Cornerstone-related comment threads on Slice of Laodicea, but since I’ve checked back and haven’t seen it, I assume the moderator blocked it. Here it is for your perusal:

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I realize I've come quite late to this discussion, only after Lint (my friend, a real person, a graphic designer who lives with his wife and family in a medium-sized city in the Deep South) wrote to let me know what was going on in these circles.

Probably you've all moved on by now - and I sincerely hope you have. I am writing to tell you all to stop slandering Lint and impugning his character. Stop attributing diabolical motives to his speaking, his writing, his attempts to dialogue with you. Engage his ideas however you like, but I know ("for a fact", Sister Karen) that: 1) Lint knows history, 2) Lint has studied the Scriptures thoroughly, 3) Lint knows and loves Jesus Christ, and 4) Lint interprets the Scriptures through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, a very different lens than your own, which I realize you reject.

One other thing I must make clear: The Cornerstone Imaginarium is not geared toward youth ministry. I have attended the Imaginarium since its inception at Cornerstone 10 years ago (and been a speaker myself), and I am 42 years old. The attendees at certain seminars sometimes include folks in their teens, but 20-somethings and older comprise most of the audience. No one is purposely trying to corrupt anyone's children.

I beg you to listen to what John Morehead had to say in his summary of his experience at the Imaginarium this year. It is not the wisdom of God to divide the people and cultural artifacts of our world into categories of Good and Evil that map exactly with Us and Not Us, What We're Comfortable With and What Gives Us The Creeps. True spiritual discernment becomes impossible if you elevate your own spiritual sensitivities to the level of Dogma. (I know the majority of you won't receive that, but someone ought to tell you so that you might seek a more spiritually effective way to exercise this gift - even in your own midst.)

Here's a quote from John Morehead's essay:

…[O]ne of the reasons why Imaginarium explored [the Days of the Dead] theme was to explore how evangelicals are missing out on important aspects of what it means to be human. In our knee-jerk Reformation reaction against ritual and symbolism we are missing important aspects of expression... In the process we end up missing out on participating in the fullest dimensions of the human experience, and we deny the full implications of the incarnation [emphasis mine]. The Word came in the flesh to live among us and to participate in culture, including its ritual and symbolism. Evangelical overemphasis on the rational and the textual ends up denying the fullness of the incarnation that also embraces the imagination.

Again, I realize that few of you will hear and receive this, but I share it in hopes that the Lord will touch your hearts - and if nothing else, that He will move you on to more spiritually profitable endeavors.

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

God bless you, Kathleen

14 comments:

John W. Morehead said...

Kathleen, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Imaginarium controversy of 2006, and for sharing thoughts at the Slide of Laodecia blog.

For the record, I am a student in intercultural studies and missiology at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. So in that sense I am a missiologist, but while I have studied in the area of cultural anthropology as an aid to cultural understanding and misisons I am not an anthropologist.

Keep up the good work.

Kathleen Lundquist said...

Noted - I'll fix that.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Matt Stone said...

Kathleen, thanks for your coverage of the issues.

On my blog you mentioned coming at things from a different angle due to your Catholic background. In that capacity I'd also be interested in your perspectives on the Emerging Church since you've heard of it, and particularly the New Monasticism (an Emerging Church submovement) if you've heard of that.

I have a Catholic background originally myself but am a few steps removed from that now as you'll see from my profile. I think some Catholic perspectives are definitely needed in the EC conversation for a bit of a reality check, noting your comment on decontextualised borrowings at this point. Maybe you'll take that up?

Matt

Kathleen Lundquist said...

Thanks for stopping by, Matt, and for your comments.

For the past year, I've belonged to a Christian songwriters' group here in Portland sponsored by Imago Dei Community [see the link in the post], an independent church oganization that leans heavily toward the postmodern/Emergent side of evangelicalism. Their mission statements use a lot of the postmodern vocabulary, though no one's come out and said "We are part of the Emerging Church" in my hearing. So, I've been learning about it. Many of my friends there were drawn to Imago by the book _Blue Like Jazz_ by Don Miller, a local Portland author involved in the founding of the church. (BLJ is on my stack of books to read...)

I have formed some opinions, though; see my posts below this one for my reactions to two interviews with Brian McLaren, a major figure in the Emerging Church. As I learn more, I may post on this topic more in the future - stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Kathleen

Very cool experience and sad to see that anyone (the church lady?) could read such nonsense into such a wonderful event.

regarding some learning and growing that I've gone through over the last few years....my last catholic parish I went to had something about the labyrinth and it really weirded me out, because I just assumed I knew more than the priest in my parish, so I thought it was new age nonsense and got really made about it (silly stupid thoughtless me!). After going back to school (History, medieval studies, and some philosophy...starting grad school in the Fall!) and reading about certain practices during the Middle Ages, while, gosh, I guess I owe some people a big huge sorry for my arrogance in thinking this practice was New Age in origin.

Finally, earlier this summer my wife and I went to Europe. One of our visits was to Chartres and their it was! What an awesome experience that was!

I think the problem is that some of us (including me and Church lady!) get in our heads that we KNOW Christianity and we KNOW flawed spirituality when we see it. Maybe it is the sin of pride that we are practicing instead.

I think we should all pray for church lady so that the Holy Spirit can open her mind up to some different (although still orthodox) ways to approach God.

pax

Dale Cebula

Marc Hamer said...

Hi Kathleen,
I agree with your assessment about the t-shirt and the tattoos but that's where it ended for me. You described Universalists as Christians which either means you are not informed on their theology or lack there of, or you are completely lacking in the discernment area. Calling Universalists Christians is like using the term flaming snowflakes. They just don't go together. Universalists do not believe Jesus is the only way to salvation which is what the bible clearly teaches. I guess I would have to ask if you beleive Jesus is the only way. You also stated that Thomas Merton in your words, "needs no defense from me". I take that to mean you support his teaching which was by the end of his life more influenced by Budhism than the Jesus found in the bible. You also seem to beleive in the appearances of Mary which in the end puts peoples eyes on Mary instead of where they belong, on Jesus. This is what I beleive the bible is talking about when it talks about lying signs and wonders. With all this and more which I don't have time to comment on now, I am really surprised JPUSA has had you as a speaker.

Marc Hamer said...

I am sorry but I didn't want to leave it at that. I hope that you would prayerfully consider the things you are beleiving and teaching and test them in light of God's unchanging authoratative word. I guess there's one last thing I would want to comment on. In the beginning of your post you described Dwayna as a fundamentalist and put her in the company of Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, A.W. Tozer, Jonathon Edwards and John Calvin. Those are people that most evangelicals including myself would hold in very high esteem. I thought your description of a fundamentalist was fairly accurate in going back to it's origin in the early 20th century but there is an obvious stigma attached to the term these days which I'm sure you are aware of so I am a bit curious as to your motives in using that term. When most people use the term, they associate it with ignorant, backwoods hicks who like to test God with snakes and beleive the King James version of the bible is the only legit. translation. I should note that Jonathon Edwards was attending Harvard at the age of 13 and Charles Spurgeon is widely known as the prince of preachers. I could go on about these men but I think the most important link is that they all had an esteem for Christ and an unfailing trust in His word. If that's the company you put Dwayna in, you can include me as well. Though I'm sure I don't agree with Dwayna on everything, I'm pretty sure we agree on the essentials of the faith and I am very concerned that you don't hold those essentials in as high esteem. I like what Walter Martin once said in describing the essentials (fundamentals of the faith). The essentials are the line of demarcation between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the cults. I guess each of us have to ask which kingdom we're walking in. Pretty big question if you ask me.
Thanks and God bless,
Marc

TulipGirl said...

It was very interesting reading your Imaginarium experiences from this year. While C-Stone has its faults, I wouldn't say they are the ones conjured up by this "covert missionary."

Btw, the last time I was at C-stone was '96. . .

Kathleen Lundquist said...

Hi, TulipGirl - it's changed a lot in those 10 years, let me tell ya... Um, is there a reason you haven't been in a while, if I may ask?

And Marc - thanks for your comments. I'm working on a response to the issues you raised; I'll post it as soon as I get it finished.

Marc Hamer said...

Hi Kathleen,

I'll look forward to reading your response. Just for your information, I have been to Cornerstone in the past and enjoyed much of it. The last time I was there was in '97 and I heard some good talks by Elliot Miller who spoke on the New Age and Norman Geisler who shared about homosexuality. I also enjoyed Glen Kaiser's talk on the Christian music scene and I thought he had some excellent insights. I also enjoyed some of the music but I came away thinking there was a major dose of narcisism among many of the musicians. I also don't get the whole Christian Goth thing. What does light have in common with darkness. I think sometimes we are so bent on being cool and relevant we loose our distinctiveness from the world. I was also a bit disturbed by Mike Roe and his band playing a Led Zeplin song even though they played it very well. I am just curious as to how God is glorified through that when it was written by a band that was openly into satanism. This lack of distictiveness has bothered me since I first committed my life to Christ 17 years ago. I came out of the secular music scene playing professionally during most of the 80's and what I saw in the Christian scene was not much different. I played in a band in the early 90's who proclaimed to be Christians and discovered shortly that it was way more about them than God. The singer songwriter in the band is now an open homosexual and the other member is drifting through life with little passion after his wife left him for her boss at work. I am tired of hearing stories like this and there are many more that I could share. As someone who is now living overseas, I look back at the American church with much clearer eyes and what I see is a church that has so sycritised the culture in with itself that there is hardly a distinction anymore. Why is the divorce rate in the church the same as the world? I'm sorry but as someone who grew up in a divorced family, that makes me sick. There are a couple of verses that come to my mind with regard to this: Deut.18:9-13 and 2 Cor. 6:14-17 I think that pretty much sums it up.
Thanks again and God bless,
Marc

Kathleen Lundquist said...

Hi, Marc - here's just a couple things:

- That song "Nobody's Fault but Mine" that you remember Mike Roe playing - perhaps you'll be encouraged to know that Led Zeppelin didn't write that, but they stole it from Blind Willie Johnson, a '20s Delta bluesman. Roe played it in the set they did on tour that year (I saw it in California), and he'd introduce it with, "Zeppelin stole this song from Blind Willie Johnson, and we're stealing it back." Hope that knowledge might ease that memory.

- You sound dismayed and sad at the way some of your Christian friends have run off the rails into sin. There's a lot of us in that boat. I'll say a prayer for them, that God will meet them somehow and change their hearts.

- I totally agree with your feelings about divorce as well; I have two (women) friends who are in the process of being royally screwed over (pardon the expression) by no-fault divorce laws. It's a horrible shame. May God have mercy on the souls of those who take advantage of the weak and powerless.

Marc Hamer said...

Hi Kathleen,
Thanks for the responses you've given and the info. on Mike Roe. I don't remember hearing his preface to the song with that clarification but he may have and I was just spacing out or something. At any rate, they were definitely doing it in a more Zepelin style which to be honest took me back to my drug days and confused me to say the least. I am wondering how others out there reacted to it. I'm sure many who were there had no clue Zepelin did it because they were sheltered from that kind of music. I still think it's a matter of syncretism which is a problem in the church today. I also know the tempation to want to play songs like that, because they are fun to play. I do remember them playing it very well (especially the drummer who would have given John Bonham a run for his money)so from a musical standpoint, I enjoyed it. That being said, I like to be very careful as far as what music I listen to be it secular or Christian. I don't like to write some music off because it's not Christian. I also think there's some so called Christian music that is more dangerous than the secular because it gives the Christian listener a false sense of security while teaching them faulty doctrine. Anyway, I could go off for hours on this topic so I'll just leave it at that for now.
Marc

Wilma Tyndale said...

And it was there that Gary and I discovered the delightful sense in which, through the power of literary reiteration, “King Kong died for your sins”.

And you're suprised a Bible Christian is upset?

I guess everything [including outrageous blasphemy] is A-ok in the erudite world of Emergent Pagan Catholicism. King Kong, Tolkien, Labryinths, Horror Movies, and Mexican Paganism....Maybe next year they can plan a Solstice Summer Celebration, The Tao of Stephen King, prayer to the Four Winds, Sage burning and Diva Ultra-Goddess Theology class for wayward yuppies who want to play at being "religious" instead of actually seeking after Gods Will and learning His Word.

Kathleen Lundquist said...

Wilma, I've responded to your comment in a new post; see above.