Saints and Aints: The Thing About Belief
"Belief is a beautiful armor, but makes for the heaviest sword." - John Mayer
When we announced that we were going to have an open mic session themed "Belief", I was banking on a few things. As with all of our events, we strive to be intentional in our efforts to engage the community. Never for vanity or merely adding to the noise, we want to create spaces where people, artists and supporters alike, are encouraged to be simultaneously passionate and compassionate as possible. This session would be no different, because we wanted to prompt two groups of people that, as far as Lynchburg is concerned, generally tend to keep to themselves.
I'm talking about believers and non-believers, spiritually speaking.
Aside from being home to one of the country's largest evangelical college campuses, Lynchburg is a small town. Being from Newark, NJ, I don't think that I'm the best person to really speak about the culture and identity of a community that I've only recently become familiar with. The history here is deep and multi-layered. At the same time, I've been a part of many conversations that suggest that this town has a strong representation of conservative Christians. As a Christian myself, I barely noticed this. After all, when having the luxury of belonging to the majority voice in this instance, it doesn't exactly stand out.
In the broadest sense of the word, to be a Christian in Lynchburg is really easy.
We have community and we have support. We have access and we have comfort. We have direction and a plethora of churches to attend, and if that's not our bag, we can start our own mini-community in our own living room.
With all of that in mind, I've been curious about something. Aside from believing in Jesus, what do we believe?
At Lynchburg's annual street-festival, GetDowntown, I asked an attendee what he believed. He responded, "I believe in God."
Barely containing myself, I inquired, "Okay. And what else?"
The Listening is not, and has never claimed to be, a faith-based organization or a ministry; at the same time, we are not afraid to ask these questions and invite you all to the conversation. In Something More, a research publication by Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, we see that there are communities all over gazing into the gap between the sacred and the secular. Here's a quote from this document, which you can check out here:
"We found that young people experience meaning and belonging in makerspaces, co-working hubs, dinner parties, fitness boot camps, and fan communities. And though the organizations count themselves secular, they demonstrate elements of religious polity, liturgy, and even spirituality. In fact, many unaffiliated participants in these communities have not left religion behind; rather, they are finding religious life wholly outside of its institutions."
Maybe it's possible that we have more in common, in our hunger for togetherness, than we lack. Maybe we talk about what we believe, there's a whole world of potential connection that we're missing out on.
I offer the following as some of my own personal beliefs, independant of The Listening's mission and vision and do not reflect the views of the organization:
I believe in Jesus Christ, who loved me in spite of my nature to screw up.
AND I believe that hugs are good for your health. When bodies align and are drawn together, a good hug can drastically improve a person's day.
AND I believe that the Big Bang Theory should've ended three seasons ago. Not all shows are created equal, and I think we get it by now. Geeks are people too. Let's move on.
AND I believe that Black Thought is better than your Top 5 favorite rappers, bar for bar.
AND I believe that children are the future, just not what we expected.
AND I believe that Black Lives Matter. Don't @ me.
The thing about belief is that we all believe in something - but the crime is in thinking that if you don't believe what I believe, your belief is invalid. I believe (hah!) that there are more ways to show up and stand by our belief system while still learning ways to connect with our fellow man. Even if some of us have more fears than faith, more doubt than deity. We find more meaning when we ask those hard questions and dig deeper - and it helps when we can do that together.
In many ways, this is a major part of why The Listening exists, and specifically in Lynchburg. This is why our open mics are so important, why we want to bring a Freedom School to this community, why we believe in the life-changing power of the arts. We've been asking one question for the past five years: If you had a room full of people willing to listen to you, what would you say? Would you play it safe, use the same script again, or would you go there?
I'd love to hear from you, and if you don't comment below, you should definitely come out to our open mic session on Thursday, September 13th at Speakertree Records.
What do you believe?