Wednesday, January 09, 2013

“I had never actually listened to a Muslim share about Islam."

Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren looks back on his recent tour

Greenbelt recently hosted Brian McLaren on a tour to various locations in England in support of his new book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Here, he looks back on his history with Greenbelt, and his time with us at the end of last year…
My first Greenbelt was ten or so years ago. I had a day to take in the festival before I had to speak and so I wandered around, taking it all in. Some tents with crafts. Some young singer-songwriters. A reading of a play. It was all good.
Then I wandered into a crowded room in which an anti-globalist/feminist/Muslim/activist was speaking. She was brilliant. She was intense. Her perspective was far different from anything I had heard before. I was hooked. Where else could I go to experience anything like this?
By the time I left, I had made some new friends, met some new mentors, discovered some new artists – all of whom are part of my life today. No wonder those few days turned me into a devotee of Greenbelt.
This history made my fall tour with Greenbelt all the more meaningful. It was wonderful to think that I could be part of bringing a mini-Greenbelt experience to folks across England (London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, and Southampton). Great music (thanks to Jasmine, Gareth, and Miriam) ensured that the events would be more than talking heads. And great conversation partners guaranteed that people would not just hear a talk about a book about encountering the other, but that they would actually encounter people from Muslim and Jewish faith traditions… in person.
Several times people came up to me after the event and said, “I had never actually listened to a Muslim share about Islam. I had only heard Christians talking about Islam,” or “I had never really considered how Christian words and symbols would feel to a Jewish person, but tonight, I felt it.”
Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of dreaming with some friends about how a Greenbelt-ish festival can be transplanted from Cheltenham Racecourse to the US. (The dream has begun coming true, under the name Wild Goose Festival.) By participating in the “Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding Tour,” I got to see how Greenbelt is transplanting its creative mischief and conspiracies of kindness from a raceway in August into cities across England all year long. It’s thrilling to think what Greenbelt will be and do in the 40 years ahead.
Thanks to all who came – and thanks for inviting me to Greenbelt, a decade ago and a few months ago.
  • 08 January 2013