By: Alexander Dungan, Sophomore
I would like to think that my faith in God has only grown stronger over the past years. Unfortunately, I can’t always say the same about my faith in Christians. I grew up with the church as a second home but, nowadays, I hear so many stories in the media about ways in which the church is hurting people in our world.
Then comes along a conference like Imagine What’s Next 2016.
When we first walked through the doors, Shane Claiborne (future Lux Veritas speaker) was already part way through his presentation. He talked about religious freedom. He talked about the Mexican border wall. He talked about people going to jail. And what he said reminded me just what exactly the church was meant to do.
Instead of using religious freedom to advocate for legalized discrimination, Shane talked about invoking religious freedom to serve communion to the homeless even though sharing food was against the city laws. The communion bread eventually turned into pizza but it was still the body of Christ, right?
Instead of using the border wall as a means of division, Shane talked about how there was an organized event where people would gather together from both sides of the wall and sing worship songs. They served communion too, chucking pieces of bread over the wall.
When there were no public bathrooms and homeless people were arrested if they went outside, Shane and his group marched with toilet seats around their necks and signs reading “Pee for Free with Dignity.” The also hung banners outside of a vacant church that homeless people weren’t allowed to sleep in that said “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and turn one away on Monday?”
He also told a story about a nun he looked up to as a mentor. After hearing her “final goodbyes” when she was sick, he called to see how she was doing. Apparently, this old nun had gotten better and even gotten arrested for activism a few days earlier.
I have to admit that I wasn’t at that conference for more than 15 minutes before I was subtly trying to hold back tears. It was amazing to be able to hear all of these stories of people breaking the law and getting arrested and wearing bathroom products in the name of Jesus. That’s what the church was called to do: help people by being a pesky nuisance to those in charge. From my time at North Central, I have learned to respond to stories of people getting arrested with “Wow! That’s awesome!” rather than “Oh, I’m sorry.” I also learned just what ministry can be. I knew puppets and Sign Language and marital arts could be used for ministry but I never thought of sculpting, or drawing in sand, or Scrabble, or bird poop could be used for such amazing purposes. People who say that their gifts can’t be used for ministry no longer have any excuse.
Throughout the conference, I heard so many amazing stories of the wonderful things the church has done and can do. At the Center for Civil and Human Rights, I got to have discussions that so many people try to avoid and it was spectacular. I even made a few friends on my own which is not easy for me to do in less than a year. Surrounded by weirdo, social justice warring, Jesus freaks, I felt like I didn’t need to be cautious when approaching people. I even took a selfie with some random guy because I liked his shirt! It was different than the usual. I mean there was a Ferris wheel, and polar bears, and Olympic-themed parks, and unlimited foreign soda but I still felt as comfortable as I did at home.
Overall, I think that if I can take one thing (because there are really millions) away from this conference and North Central in general, it would be that I am not called to be a silent church-goer. I am called to make noise. I am called to get in people’s way. I am called to get arrested like a crazy, old nun. I’m not just called to be; I’m called to be a light, an annoying, imposing, purple strobe light, but a light nonetheless.