Last week I went to the Cornerstone Music Festival, an annual event held in Bushnell Illinois, for the first time. There are many things that I saw that I expected. Hundreds of tents playing everything from Celtic ballads to heavy metal, 15 year olds and 40 year olds with mohawks and tatoos, and just about every type of individual in between.
What I was not expecting was the intellectual sophistication of the workshops in the mornings and early afternoons. I sat in on Jonathan Case, a religion and philosophy professor at Houghton University discussing the implications of the shift of Christianity from the Global North to the Global South. I also sat in on several workshops listening to a Wheaton professor discuss the theology of N.T. Wright, one of the most widely acclaimed (and controversial) New Testament scholar alive today. By far the most interesting for me was Stephen Sizer's workshop on the dangers and fallacies of Christian Zionism. His workshop called "I Left Rapture Theology Behind" was surprisingly popular. Stephen Sizer made a compelling case for partial preterism, a view held by both R.C. Sproul and Hank Hannegraph which sees the bulk of Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the book of Revelation as describing the events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D.
According to partial preterists, believers should be preaching the gospel and occupying until He comes while at the same time looking for the imminent return of Jesus to usher in a New Heaven and a New Earth. Date setting based on current events leads to error, and possibly a man-made apocalypse. Having grown up listening to Christian Zionists and their repeated calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (though they dare not use the term) and their repeated efforts to thwart peace-making efforts between Jews and Palestinians (peace-making is the antichrist's work in their view), I couldn't agree more.
I was happy that there were very few people I had to convince that poverty was a moral issue. Hundreds of people signed the One Declaration and many indicated that they would call their congressmen to advocate for the world's poor once they get on the mailing list. Given the fact that the renewal of the Farm Bill, which desperately needs to be reformed, is being discussed in Congress right now, I was thrilled to be able to attend a workshop that actually encouraged me to write a letter to my representative on the spot. I honestly hope that Senator Bond will read my letter and consider the implictions of 3 billion subsistence farmers around the world being put out of business due to extravagant U.S. Farm Subsidies.
I also talked with several individuals from Christian Peace Maker teams, an organization advocating non-violence. I was humbled to actually talk to people who have stood in front of Israeli tanks to stop them from plowing over Palestinian markets while at the same time building friendship with Jewish settlers. Talk about the Sermon on the Mount 101. There were more than one Anti-War groups there that, although I still have many questions about pacifism verses the just-war theory, I admired the cogency of their arguments-and their passion for peace.
Cornerstone is like a Christian Woodstock. In fact, the people that run the festival, the Jesus People are linked to the original Jesus Movement that came out of the Hippie Movement. This doesn't mean that everyone at the festival was a committed Christian liberal. I would venture to say that most were not. I do think it fascinating however that this is the only gathering that I can think of where someone like Michael Moore could conceivably sit down and have a meaningful conversation with an American pastor without the two reaching out to grab each other's throats. Now that is peace making!