I was in Belfast, mystic city haunted by the horrors of sectarian violence and the spirit of Van Morrison last week, spending time with my friend Pete and a group of people from various spots around the globe, all gathered to explore some of Pete's theological ideas in the setting and environment that gave rise to them.
It was a few days of intense conversation and engagement with ideas that seek to extend the radical theology conversation into the 21st century, by taking into account the cultural, philosophical and religious shifts that invite new reflections on what it means to talk about God, belief, faith, church etc. The mix of people was something of a surprise to me at first. I think I imagined that it would draw an entirely different group, don't know why just did. But it was a great group, and I think, the right kind of group. There was openness and willingness and desire to not only express concerns and worries, but also to seriously consider some radical departures from conventional wisdom. It also provided an opportuntiy to think out loud and almost 'refine the ideas' in public. Sometimes people ask questions that demand you make sure that you aren't simply sloganeering, that there is substance beyond the provocative statement or theory. The practitioner experience demands an entirely different perspective than theoretical ideas--can they, do they work on the ground? what good is a theory if it cannot be lived out? I have never doubted Pete's work because I knew it came from somewhere concrete, that it was birthed in a community of people attempting to live something out, but it was a good reminder of that, and it was great to be in Belfast and meeting again with some of those people.
There were all kinds of events--lots of talking without a doubt, but enough art, food, music, magicians, experiences a d tours of the city, to keep things fresh and alive. I talked a bit about cultural moments and contexts, about sacredness and the profane, about holy ideas and wholly other views of the divine and Pete and I talked together about re-thinking Paul--something that philosophers are doing in earnest, and something I feel that theologians and practitioners need to be engaged in with similar intenstiy and focus.
I came back on Saturday and jumped back into my regualr life at full speed, so more thoughts later--but it was good.