Last week Charletta and I spent 5 days at the Cornerstone Music Festival in southern Illinois promoting Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). For me, it was an inspiring awakening to the “Revolution in Jesusland” as Zack Exley calls it. That is, the increasing openness of young American Evangelicals to God’s vision for shalom. It’s an awareness that Jesus’ redemption is not just an individual soul thing, but an invitation to transformation of relationships, communities and creation as a whole.
Charletta and I joined Jim Fitz at a booth that he has been staffing for the past five years. When Jim first started out, no one at Cornerstone had ever heard of CPT. Furthermore people were openly hostile. “Are you really Christian?” was the frequent challenge. Over the years, responses have begun to change. Even the one person who sat down and argued for half an hour about the efficacy of nonviolence told us he gets our newsletter. Part of the reason for this is Jim’s persistant witness. Many people come by with a familiar greeting for Jim. His beard and his hat are well known. But Jim’s perseverence is not the only influence on changing attitudes.
A week ago, Zach Exley posted the story of a young man titled Put one back in the Mennonite column. It’s a story that resonated with many readers of the post (see the comment from Tyler for example). And judging by the conversations I had at the CPT booth, it’s an increasingly common story. One young man told me that he used to thing CPTers were hippies and peaceniks and then he read the The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne and now he really thinks we’re doing great work. We talked for 20 minutes and he told me about the challenge of discussions about pacifism with his middle-aged Republican friend.
At least among Cornerstone Evangelicals, Shane seems to be having a major impact. We sold more then 30 books from Jim’s peacemaking/justice/reconciliation library which is about 27 more then he’s ever sold before. We were also able to see the Jesus for President tour first hand. Haven’t heard about it? Read the CNN story. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical myself. Haven’t I heard this all before I though. It took me only a few minutes under the big red and white tent to realize that this was something special. Chris Haw and Shane took turns telling excerpts from biblical story interspersed with music from the Psalters. They brought God’s shalom vision alive in a vibrant, engaging presentation. The central question was: “What is a Jesus-follower to do when the empire gets baptized?” You can see a good summary here. I would call it an Anabaptist reading of the Christian story. Others might call it unpatriotic or anti-imperialist or just “the message of Jesus, put within its actual cultural and political context”.
Whatever label you choose to describe the Jesus for President, I think any one who was there would feel the spirit of revival at work. The gathering concluded with a 4th of July sparkler liturgy as we sang “When the Saints Go Marching In.” These are the heroes we should be celebrating rather worshipping the flag. The tour has two more weeks to go. You can catch them in Albuquerque, Lubbock, Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando, Durham, Richmond and Philadelphia. See the their tour page for more details.
Mennonites should be paying attention. We can’t affort to sit this one out.
P.S. You can read Shane’s own account of their Cornerstone performance on the God’s politics blog.
Here are more photos from Cornerstone:
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