Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Preparing for Sundance – Part I

My heart races faster, as I think about the fact that in four days I will arrive in Park City Utah to enjoy a week at the Sundance Film Festival.  Sundance has been an event I have wanted to experience for some time.  Thanks to my friend Ben Dudley, who reminded me about this immersive class at Fuller Theological Seminary, I’m not only going to experience Sundance with some old and “new” friends, but I’m going to be able to finish my Master’s degree at Fuller (one class to go) at the same time.  God is good.

I’m looking forward to seeing Drama Premieres like The Son of No One, starring the likes Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Katie Holms and Tracy Morgan to World Documentary Premiers like The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, directed by Morgan Spurlock, of Super Size Me.   I’m looking forward to checking out some World Drama’s like Abraxas, about a Japanese Metal Rock Monk, to World Documentaries like The Flaw, which is about the US Financial Collapse and how capitalism has changed, not for the better.  I’m also excited to be able to take in some U.S. documentaries The Redemption of General Butt Naked, about a murderer of thousands becoming an evangelist, to U.S. dramas like Higher Ground, where Vera Farmiga from Up in the Air, makes here directoral debut. I just found out in my current trip to Blacksburg, Virginia and through friends on facebook that a survivor of the Virginia Tech Massacre has a short in this year’s festival.  I’m hoping to put that on my calendar. I’m planning on writing up reviews to the films I have the opportunity to see all week long on my blog, as well as about my experience of the festival as a whole.

As a pastor in Hollywood for the last number of years, one of my favorite series to teach on annually, and one of the best received series has been – Hollywood and the Ancient Text – where we bring film into dialogue with theological ideas from scripture.   The book we read on Reel Spirituality has prepared me to dialogue with the films I’m going to see with more depth.  Reading the chapter: Who is a theologian? in Jürgen Moltmann’s  Experiences  in Theology, has prepared me to appreciate the fact that many of these film makers are likely theologians, for Moltmann makes the case that “Christian theology does not belong solely in the circle of people who feel that they are ‘insiders’. It belongs just as much to the people who feel that they are ‘outside the gate’” (17) for “Christian theology has to do with more than Christian self-presentation in public life. It has to do with the presentation of public life against the horizon of God’s coming kingdom. Christian theology is theologia publica.  It is public theology for the sake of the kingdom” (15). Thus even the atheist is a theologian, in that they have a clear view of the God they reject.  His thoughts on dialogue in a multi-faith society are helpful and the distinctions between direct and indirect dialogue are worth thinking more deeply about.  Indirect dialogue being something that takes place “at local levels where social questions are at issue and at global levels in conferences on the environment” or film festivals in City Park, Utah.

Kenneth Turan’s chapter on Sundance from his book, Sundance to Sarajevo: Film Festivals and the World They Made,  on the history, experience, growth and prestige of the Sundance festival, with iconic figures like Robert Redford behind it, has wet my appetite for the experience even more.  It is amazing how many “counter festivals” that Sundance has spawned all around it.  Turan has prepared me to approach the festival with not just the films in mind, but the experience of the festival itself.  For while we might encounter the divine in film, the interaction with the “artist theologians” and the lovers of art from around the world, are other places I expect to encounter God.  I’m highly anticipating the special dialogue we will with some of the filmmakers, theologians and artist each morning, as a part of our Fuller experience.

I’m guessing that God will surprise me this week by showing up in places that I least anticipate Him.  For creativity flows from the One behind all creation, and the wind of the Spirit has a history of being uncontained by the four walls of the church, or the four walls of our minds.  My only concern about this coming week at Sundance is when will I sleep?

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