If you have never been you should go, even just to giggle at the gong shower, (don’t ask, just giggle) or for a good pint in the Jesus Arms, or a recyclable paper/plastic cup of wine at the Blue Nun. The stand up comedy this year was fantastic. Luminaries such as Stanley Hauerwas came, and talked quite convincingly, though rather sourly, about America’s civil religion. The festival site, which is on Cheltenham’s race course was decorated beautifully, and festival venues where called after areas in the middle east… marking the plight of the Palestinian people. Sobering statistics reminded campers of the less than comparable living arrangement the Palestinian refugee camps look like: All in all a lovely (and at point challenging) event, which we enjoyed quite a bit despite the woolliness of the whole thing.
And then there was doubt. Doubt almost had a physical presence in the festival. It was the stated position of crowds, if the cheers and boos where anything to go by. Some conversations we overheard also sounded as if doubt was the de facto position of most people around us. But the concept was ill defined. Doubt in what? Doubt in God’s existence? Doubt in personal salvation? Doubt in tradition?
It all seemed a bit mixed up. In fact, it almost seemed like Doubt was a person. So hard to define aren’t they, people, individuals? This is a hunch, but it might that lots of people at Greenbelt might have, at one point in their lives, been alienated by a situation in which certainty (or the certainty of the people around them), did not match up with what they wanted to believe. Or it might be that some people around them where not humble while making proclamation statements that seem hollow because they do not include love (or at least don’t seem to), or because they lack a narrative substance, or because they are bigoted.
Greenbelt offers people the opportunity to leave situations like that behind and come to a place where certainty, or the need for certainty (or a type of certainty) is not a prerequisite to enter the Kingdom of God. At Greenbelt the atmosphere was one of questioning certainty and at points worshiping agnosticism. I struggled with this a bit, not because I never have doubts or don’t find some of the peculiar theological and culture mannerism of the church we go to without its problems, I struggled with this stance because the only think that people did not seem to want to doubt was the stance of doubt itself.
Now this is not to say that meeting Mr. or Mrs. Doubt is diabolical and sinful. But it did feel a bit much at times. Why do you have to question everything? Why do you have to ‘reimaging’ all of the ‘spaces.’ Why do you have to give shape to a void?
Why not be tentative about things? Why not wait and see? Gods bigger than you.