Sunday, March 4, 2012

    The second annual Justice Conference took place last weekend in Portland, Oregon, sponsored by World Relief and Kilns College. Speakers included Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne, Miroslav Volf, John Perkins, Rachel Lloyd, and Francis Chan. More than four thousand individuals attended the conference, including blogger and activist Maven Crisp. She recently spoke with ST associate editor Kitty Carlisle-Sánchez via Skype™. 

Kitty Carlisle-Sánchez: Maven, you were live-blogging this event for your own web site,, and one of our readers tipped us off that you would be a good person to speak to about the conference, since we didn’t have sufficient funds to send one of our staff there.  Thanks for joining us today via Skype.
Maven Crisp: So, I’m delighted I could help out.  This is my contribution to social justice for the day (chuckle).        
Kitty Carlisle-Sánchez: As we are indeed delighted to have you. Well give us your overall impressions of the conference.
Maven Crisp: So, it was amazing.  All the speakers were excellent, both in the plenary sessions and in the break-outs.
Kitty: Break-outs, huh?  Well given the apparent left-leaning orientation of the conference, were there any Brechtian break-outs?
Maven: Excuse me?         
KCS: Like people breaking out into song? Spontaneously?
MC: Oh, totally.  Even some of the mimes.  They couldn’t resist.  The Spirit was really moving, I’ll tell you.   
KCS: They had mimes?
MC: Oh, mimes are very important in social justice circles.     
KCS: A lot of evangelical Christians—particularly the more conservative, traditional ones—don’t seem to get this concept of social justice.  Can you help us out, here?  What is social justice anyway?  

Theologian Walter Brueggemann (left) speaks passionately about
the injustice of having one's name constantly mispronounced.
MC: So, justice is a garment, a billion threads, interwoven, interlocked, knit together with strength and integrity. Pull one thread from the fabric and the garment begins to fray….
KCS: Wait, … “Pull ten million threads and justice unravels into injustice?“  Is that it?
MC: Exactly!  So you do get it, Kitty!  How did you know?       
KCS: Because I’m reading from the same pre-packaged conference material you seem to be reading from.  It’s right off the web site.
MC: Oh.  
KCS: Can we just, you know, put aside the talking points for
  a minute?  I just want you to tell us about the conference.  From the perspective of Maven.  You know, your experience? What did the conference mean to you?
MC: So, of course I could do that.  But what about the millions—perhaps billions— of other people, who don’t have a voice to speak about the conference because, … well because…
KCS: Because they weren’t there?
MC: Yes, thank you.
KCS: Well, so what?  If they weren’t there, why would we want them to talk about it?
MC: So, see, that’s exactly right.  And that points up—precisely—everything that’s wrong and unjust about this whole thing.   You know, you and I are sitting here, in the United States, privileged, probably white….
KCS: …you know my last name is Sánchez, right?
MC: …probably in the top 1% of wealth and entitlement—worldwide if not in the U.S.  But what about the other 99% who can’t go to conferences like this?
KCS: Maven, excuse me, but I’m starting to think that you didn’t actually attend this conference.  Can we re-focus, please?
MC: So I did attend the conference.  I drove there myself. It was exactly 359 miles from my home in (Moscow) Idaho.  Not all that far a drive but a completely different world, you know?  Portland is so cool.
KCS: Never been, myself, but I have no doubt that it is, in fact, cool.  So what was your big take-away from the conference?
MC:  So, that’s a great question?  Hmmm.  I would have to say, Kitty, that the diversity in the body of Christ is a rich tapestry to learn from, and, you know, it makes the whole fellowship stronger and more cognizant of the universal and global nature of God.
KCS:  Huh?
MC: You know, Richard Twiss was probably my favorite speaker at the conference.  He’s a Native American, and he says that this is the only way to be co-equal partners pursuing shalom together.
KCS: Okay, I have no idea what you just said.
MC: See!  And that’s the problem, isn’t it? 
KCS: Well, that could be the problem, I suppose.  It could also be a problem that what you’ve said doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t really mean anything.
MC: So Kitty I am so failing to understand your attitude here.  Are you not concerned about social justice?
KCS: Well, to be honest with you, I don’t really know.  I guess it depends on how you frame it, really.  I mean, you people love to “frame” things, don’t you?
MC: Sure.  I love re-framing.
KCS: Okay, then, help me out here.
MC: Okay, but perhaps it will be helpful if you were to help me out here a bit, so that we are co-sharing and so I understand where you’re coming from, which I totally do not.  Now you are a Christ-follower, right?  A Jesus Person?
KCS: Actually I don’t see what’s wrong with the term “Christian,” but that’s just one woman’s opinion, I guess.
MC: So don’t you read the red letters in your Bible?
KCS: Sure. But my concern with you and the guys and gals on your team is that you don’t seem to like the black letters very much.
MC: Okay, well look: all this boils down to…you know, we simply want to find out what God is doing and join him there.
KCS: But wait a minute, I thought God wanted to meet us where we were. Didn’t you blog that from the conference?
MC: Yeah?
KCS: So which is it?
MC: Which is what?
Francis Chan lectures on the social justice
implications of the five-dollar foot-long.
"There is not a six-inch or a foot-long
over which He does not cry, 'Mine!'"
KCS: Is it X or Y?  Do we meet God or does He meet us? Or do you meet at a predetermined half-way point? Or what?  I mean, I just don’t get it.
MC: Why does everything have to be either/or with you people?  I don’t understand.  We’re talking about some pretty serious issues here.  Even Francis Chan said that true religion is to care for orphans and widows.  I mean, Francis Chan said that, and he’s like, Reformed, right?  You guys just love him?  So why is this so hard to understand?  There’s a lot of injustice in the world.  Jesus cares about that.  Why can’t we?

   KCS:  Well maybe because it’s difficult for those who’ve benefited from colonization to identify with the poor and vulnerable.
   MC:  (stunned) By Jove, I think she’s got it!
   KCS:  Hey, was that a minced oath?
   MC:  A what?  Oh, no, it couldn’t be.  I’m a vegan, actually. 
   KCS: Well we’re going to have to wrap things up here, so let’s go to a final question: What did you see/hear at the Conference that could not have been said if it weren’t a “Christian” gathering?
   MC:  So… hmmm.
   KCS: Would you like me rephrase the question?
   MC: Uh, no, actually, Kitty, no.  I actually think the question itself is very useful, even though I’m afraid I can’t answer it in the way you would like me to.
   KCS: Can you answer it at all?
   MC: So, yes.  Because…I actually think it’s an excellent question.  It’s the question that matters here.  Not the answer.  The question.
KCS:  That sounds very Emergent.
MC: Well, maybe, but with all due respect, Kitty, I think the question represents everything that’s so very wrong with contemporary Evangelicalism.
KCS: In what respect?
MC:  So, in every respect, actually.  It’s always gotta be about being exclusive—being on top.  And putting other people down.  For their beliefs, you know, and for what they don’t believe.  Because they’re not like us. You can’t get around it.  You just can’t.  We’re better because we have this Christian thing.  
KCS: But what bothers me—if I may—about all this talk of social justice and conferences like this is that there seems to be precious little mention of justice from God’s perspective…
MC: …but who are you to say what God’s perspective on justice is?        
KCS: Someone who reads the Bible?
MC: There you go again.
KCS: So if I may be so bold as to offer what I and many others believe to be God’s perspective on justice is that, Rob Bell notwithstanding, that it most certainly does include a hell.  No one wants to hear about that, let alone talk about it. But the fact remains that most people are headed there…all of us, in fact, as a default mode, unless someone or something intervenes.  We think Jesus is that someone. And He is now calling on all men everywhere to repent.
MC: That is so sexist.  Like women can’t repent.       
KCS: So why don’t we give you a chance to plug your website, The
MC: Actually, that’s not quite accurate; as of March 1, we are at
MC: Yeah.
KCS: Really? 
MC: Really.
Blogger and activist Maven Crisp
KCS: And someone knows this? 
MC: Well, yeah.  Of course.  Why? I mean it just seems an interesting URL, “prefix” — whatever it’s called. (pause).  Hello? You seemed surprised by this information.  

KCS: No, it’s just…you know the XXX.  Aren’t you concerned people are gonna think it’s a porn site?  I mean, “crispy maven”—no offense, but it sounds like it could be a dominatrix.  
MC: Point well taken.
KCS: So what can readers expect on the blog?  Pieces about social justice, theology, and…?   
MC: Exactly, Kitty. I also like to use the blog to promote my sustainable recipes.
KCS: What the… I’m sorry, what is – I’m feeling a minced oath coming on here.  What are “sustainable recipes?”
MC: So, sustainable recipes are nutritious, great-tasting recipes that are healthy for people, agriculture, and the planet.
KCS: OK, real quick, why don’t you quick give us your favorite 2-3 “sustainable recipes?”
KCS: OK, sounds good.. Sounds very….sustainable. .. So…
MC: So?
KCS: So…how was Burning Man this year?

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