by Peter Rollins
August 30, 2012
I remember a good friend calling me many years ago, having just read How (Not) to Speak of God. As the conversation went on he said, “Pete, those gatherings you write about in the second part of the book were so inspiring. I loved them! They were so much better than when I was at them!”
This can help us understand Immanuel Kant’s distinction between the harsh realities of the French Revolution (with its terror and violence) and the inspiration birthed by the French Revolution (inspiring far-reaching political and social upheaval). In short, his insight that a problematic material reality can provide the ground for the birth of an ideal that instigates wide-ranging transformation.
With the creation of ikon (along with The Last Supper, The Evangelism Project, The Omega Course and Atheism for Lent) a group of people in Belfast embarked on a grand and ridiculous project of rethinking the event of Christianity. In the course of setting up and running it, a new and inspiring vision of faith appeared to grow. Yet the on the ground reality was often difficult (lack of resources, equipment that failed, bad ideas, conflicts, misunderstandings etc. etc.) The dirt out of which the idea grew was, well… dirty.
Knowing all of this another friend recently asked me if I would be willing to put myself through it all again. Whether I would want to get my hands dirty with a new project that would no doubt be full of difficulties and conflicts. The answer was a simple one: absolutely!
I’m no gardener, but I guess that one of the best bits is the work of digging into the manure and planting seeds that might grow into something beautiful. The only thing holding me back has been the time it takes to find people to work with and the effort needed to really understand the landscape that will be worked on. But the time of preparing is over.
A small, but growing, band of people have come together. A group who are, in fear and trembling, embarking on a new one-year project with me starting on the 9th September in Brooklyn. I have no illusions that this will be a difficult journey as we strive to present a radically different vision of faith, one that overturns what is taken for granted by so much of the actually existing church. It will no doubt involve conflicts, boredom, confusion and annoyance at different times among different people. Some things will hopefully work beautifully and others will no doubt fall flat on their face. We will risk and we will fail… not once, but time and again.
So do I think that something wonderful will arise out of the dirt? I honestly don’t know, but we’ve got to try.
In truth, if you pack a few things and come along with us on this dissident journey there will be times when you’ll regret it and be disappointed. Because of that, if you want to be involved I would dissuade you from coming, there are other more brightly lit paths to walk. But if you need to come, if you feel that you must throw yourself in to this cauldron and see what happens, then do what you need to in order to be there.
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