Thanks to all of you who inquired about how my trip to the Cornerstone Arts Festival turned out a couple weeks ago—especially Shlomo. I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to do a post. The problem is, I’ve had so many thoughts about the even swirling around in my head that I don’t know where to start. But here’s my best shot.
1. Cornerstone Is Cool. I’ve heard about this event for years. Back in college, I was always jealous of those folks who were able to go. I was always fascinated by Jesus People USA and their radical community of faith. What’s more, I love music, and Cornerstone is brimming with passionate bands and musical artists from a variety of genres. There’s also amazing visual art exhibits, a mini film festival highlighting several unique independent titles, and a superb lineup of workshops and seminars. If you ever get the chance to attend, I’d highly recommend it. But there are a few things you should keep in mind …
2. Cornerstone Is Hot. Literally. The festival takes place at a tree-less campground, surrounded by cornfields in rural Bushnell, Illinois. The summer sun heats up the proceedings, beating down on campers and making it a sweaty, dusty affair—when it isn’t raining.
3. One word (or is it three?): Port-a-Potty. Those of you who have been to a summer festival this year, like the Taste of Chicago in my neck of the woods, are acquainted with the joys of the Port-a-Potty. But 20,000 hot people in the middle of the country relieving themselves in a limited number of plastic out-houses is a tricky—and smelly—proposition.
4. Cornerstone Is (Mostly) White. My three sessions on Reconciliation Blues went well. I shared about the themes from the book and the unique position of being a minority in predominately white Christian settings. Vince Bacote, a theology professor at Wheaton College and an African American, was kind enough to allow me to interview him during my final session. We talked about the journey of a black evangelical and many of the ways that race trips us up in society and the church. One topic that came up during an evening session: Will America ever elect a black president? (That seems to be a hot one this summer, for some reason.) As you know, race is a difficult topic to talk about, especially when you’re one of only a handful of blacks at an event of some 20,000 folks. Mike Hertenstein, one of the festival organizers from JPUSA, and I got into a couple of conversations about the dearth of people of color, particularly African Americans, at the festival. Mike and others have been trying to figure out for years why more blacks do not attend the festival. After all, though most of the musicians are white, the organizers do attempt to include some diversity in the lineup. One popular theory is that, and forgive me if this offends anyone, black folk just don’t get into camping out. I’m curious, what do you all think of that one? An unfair stereotype, or a legitimate point? I must admit, if JPUSA wasn’t in the practice of putting its speakers up at the Days Inn in nearby Macomb, I definitely would not have gone.
5. Cornerstone Is God’s Body. I was blessed to meet lots of incredible men and women who love the Lord. Many of them had dedicated their lives to living out their faith incarnationally in urban and impoverished communities across the U.S. I was moved by their passion and desire to serves others and glorify Jesus. They were young and old, punk and prep, Emergent and traditional. The tatoos, body piercings, and colorful hair worn by many at Cornerstone mark them as outcasts or untouchables in the eyes of some people. I felt a certain kinship with these brothers and sisters who are sometimes marginalized in the body of Christ.
It’s late, and that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for enduring my rough rambling. If you have any feedback on that question about why more people of color do not attend the Cornerstone Festival, I (and probably the leaders at JPUSA) would love to read your comments.