• Eddie Gilman

Bad Christian Conference Review

I like to think of myself as a sort of writer, who writes while the iron is hot (so to speak). Inspiration is a powerful force when creating. Most of the time, I have to awaken my inspiration, by starting, and doing it. Very rarely do I feel like I have so much inspiration, that I don’t even know where to begin. That is the moment I am currently entrenched in, as I reflect over the past two days.

Last week, I was turned on to a Podcast called “Bad Christian Podcast”. If the name alone wasn’t intriguing enough, the conversations, ideas and topics discussed certainly were. Ironically, it came to my knowledge that Bad Christian was about to embark on their first conference, within a reasonable drive of me. And, at a very reasonable cost for the two day event. I was sold! I don’t write much in terms of reviews, marketing, or similar things. But this deserves a review.

To be clear, I am not super familiar with the Podcast yet, as I was just turned on to it. So, my review is more about the conference itself, and what appears to be the heart, soul and essence behind Bad Christian. Let’s start with the name. Does the word “Bad” mean – “bad to the bone?” Inferring that it is “cool, awesome, or hip?” Or, does it mean “Bad” in terms of morals – right and wrong. I think it means both. I believe it labels its following well. And I actually like the idea of this label (and I’m typically not into labels). It sort of reminds me of other familiar terms, like “bastard child” – or – “Red Headed Step Child”. It is certainly counter cultural, yet on purpose.

Why does that matter? Because labels are psychologically powerful; and in this case – it defines the rawness of the hearts and minds behind the movement. And to me, that is what this is about – a movement of beautiful hearts and minds! The individuals who make up the community, is what makes Bad Christian so unique to me.

Allow me to explain...

History is not defined by the passing of time. But by the memorable or revolutionary landmarks that sprinkle the historical timeline. It is without question (and dare I say) without debate, that we are experiencing a pivotal moment in American history (and Christianity) that is entirely new, uncharted, and never seen before. It is evolving, organic and defying past traditions and ways of thinking. Even if you are not a political or spiritual person, you can feel the difference. As if our intuitive sixth sense is signaling “red alert”. There is something different in the air.

Despite cultural norms and cultural conditioning (culturally Western speaking), humanity is defined by evolution (and I don’t mean the Theory of Evolution). History is the revealing of rising empires, revolutions, and innovations. Their rise and fall, their adaptation and change etc. And I believe the heart expressed this past weekend, (at the very least) is a foreshadow of a new type of generation and people. A generation that is fed up with old and outdated traditions, as well as current political and secular associations. It’s a breed of people, that are giving themselves permission to exist in a world where they can ask questions, not need black and white answers, while maintaining objectivity without isolating themselves from the rest of humanity. Nor becoming indifferent to society simply due to the difference of thought, opinions or beliefs. This might sound political, but it’s actually humanitarianism. And perhaps, for the first time in my life, I might be just that - a humanitarian. And my role model is still the most controversial humanitarian leader of all – Jesus Christ.

Enough with my preface, and on with my semi-review. The founders or Mad Scientists behind this movement (though I doubt they would call it a movement perhaps) are family men / musicians who come from “churched” backgrounds, believe in Jesus, but don’t associate (much) with the modern Christian (Corporate Christian) culture. Every one of them was extremely down to earth, and the entire opposite of anything religious. Most importantly, they were real and raw. I am not fan of superficial. Nor am I fan of inauthentic. These guys were like my long lost invisible friends, that I was meeting in physical form for the first time. Their thought process, ideas, and motives for why they started this movement (again…my word…not theirs) was eerily similar to years of silent opinions and thoughts I kept to myself. Because I was very much a part of a culture that would ostracize me for having radically different opinions. Or at least frown upon my questioning the many black and white beliefs that were handed to me (as fact – not theory). Which is interesting, because Theology by definition is the study of nature, God or religious beliefs. Not just the facts surrounding them. Any major identifying factor of humanity, becomes dis-empowering when it trades objectivity for disillusionment. Among the masterminds of evil, who understood this concept, was Hitler. And he deceived an entire nation into attempted eradication of an entire people group. Certainly due in part by the lack of objectivity, of the theology being presented as fact, by the people that were deceived.

Curiosity, humanitarianism, truth and love that invites all individuals – regardless of race, background, creativity, belief (or lack of) etc – to exist together in one massive, open dialogue about real and sobering subjects - that is the simplest way I can define the conference. As well as defining the Bad Christian movement. All the while, allowing flawed humanity to exist alongside the essence of the movement. It is unfiltered. It is PG-13 at best, and rated R in some senses. I feel like I could speak for the Bad Christian whole, by saying “we don’t fit into any of the modern Christian genres, but we love Jesus, Jesus loves us, and we love people like Jesus loves people”. It’s so profound, that not everyone who follows the movement, is even a proclaimed Christian. As controversial as that makes the movement sound. There is something beautiful and inviting (and dare I say, Christ-like) about exploring God, politics, ethics, culture and social norms in a way that allows more questions than answers. Without the arrogance that there always has to be black and white answers. Or, that one must conform to a particular school of thought/belief, to deserve love, respect, and a place to question such things. And thankfully, asking questions is not a sin :-P

One recurring theme in the conference was a statement I highly agree with:

“We need to have better conversations”.

Unfortunately, the word conversation can mean different things to different people. The context here is, better conversations under the umbrella of curiosity. That we all deserve to listen, and be heard. It is the cumulative whole that makes something powerful, unique, and diverse. Variety is in every way, a colorful shade of God. Arrogance is the product of human self-preservation. It is the undeveloped nature within us, that produces arrogant immaturity.

That is my very messy interpretation of the underlying meaning that I felt define Bad Christian.

What impacted me most about the conference?

There was certainly a vast array of topics, ideas, opinions and perspectives. Most of which I could agree with, and at worse, I could appreciate the essence or heart from which it came. But what impacted me most, was the feeling of belonging. I have never really felt like I had a tribe, as popular as that term is these days. In fact, I am typically anti-social trend. But there is no other way to say it, I felt at home in this crazy diverse group of beautiful people, from all walks of life. The transparency, vulnerability and perspectives shared, across the many uncharted, taboo and off-limit conversations was inspiring and refreshing. I felt like it put theology back in its place as a study. Not an absolute. But this was just one piece of a larger pie. As Christianity or theology was not the only topic at hand.

A brief summary of topics explored, ranged from the fall of a toxic mega church (Mars Hill Church in Seattle WA). The perspective from women in an oppressive environment, within the Mars Hill Church culture. Meaning, church leadership was male driven, male dominated, and women were subsidized (to put it nicely). Other topics ranged from biblical perspectives (literal or metaphorical, to “we don’t know” topics) racism, sexism, the marginalized, the privileged, politics, political tribalism within religious circles, exclusivity, social media and its effects on culture, church and church politics, corporate church/Christianity vs. small groups or home churches, masculinity and femininity and many other topics. There was also a breakout group session, with topics ranging from Podcasting, music and production, marriage, relationships and sex, etc.

Most of the interactions were panel style discussions led by a moderator. As well as panel to audience Q&As. There was never a dull moment, and even if you weren’t particularly invested in a certain topic, the discussions were very interesting and engaging. The setting and tone of the conference was more like hanging out a friend’s house, than being in a traditional conference setting. It was very off the cuff and raw. Everyone spoke freely, and NOTHING was watered down. Everyone spoke what they truly felt. It was very sobering, considering most discussions happen under the pretense of political correctness. That was all thrown out the window here. And quite frankly, that was one of the many elements that made it so refreshing.

Being a newcomer to the group (so to speak), I am not yet familiar with the Podcast and general following. But, I do feel that the conference succeeded in defining what Bad Christian is all about. Which is an open minded community, that is OK asking questions, not having answers, and working toward positive life objectives while embracing humanitarianism. And since I can only express my individual opinion, from my individual perspective, this is what Jesus did. I’ll never wear Christianity well. I’m not sure I know what Christianity means in this day and age anymore. As I have as many issues with the corporate Christian world, as I do with the secular world. I’m an imperfect follower of Jesus, that believes He is center stage. He is the ultimate end-all, be-all. He is the point. He defines my beliefs.

In closing, one of the co-founders (I think it was Matt) described himself, and this tribe of people as being Misfits perhaps. Which made me think of the people Jesus chose to be his closest twelve. Jesus is the ultimate paradox to the ugly that Christianity often is. A label is just a label, but people are always people. Humanity is an ugly thing. I liked that definition. I’m perhaps a counter-cultural entity among those that share the Christian label. And I’m OK with that. I think there is a lot to learn and experience in a community like this. I would highly recommend checking out the Podcast, and joining the conversations taking place. We are all beautiful and necessary contributors to a better and brighter world. If/when we set aside our differences and pursue the good as a whole. That might sound like positive thinking – and it is – but it is positive thinking with a greater purpose.

Do yourself a favor, and check it out: badchristianmedia.com

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