Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Afrika Burns Synchroblog: Burning Man Regional Burn

I am amazed at times how blogging is able to impact people around the world. A while back I was contacted by Nic Paton of the Emerging Africa blog who shared his appreciation for my research, reflections, and writing on the Burning Man Festival. Nic and a group of fellow travelers recently returned from a trip to a regional burn as part of Afrika Burns and he invited me to particpate in a synchroblog. My participation in this provides me with an opportunity to introduce some of my work in this area to new readers coming by my blog as a result of the synchroblog, and to remind other readers of the significance of this festival and alternative subculture. In this post I will point toward my work on Burning Man Festival in Nevada, and will suggest three helpful resources for further exploration.

To begin, readers might be interested in my previous blog posts on various facets related to Burning Man:

"Dance, Festivity, Christianity, and Burning Man"

"I've Been Burned"

"Burning Man: A Few Impressions After the Red Pill"

"Burning Man, Communitas and the Church"

"Carnality, Burning Man and Alternative Culture"

"What is Burning Man Saying to the Contemporary Church?"

"Burning Man and the Emerging Church"

"The Green Man: Burning Man 2007 Art Theme"

"The Fight Between Carnival and Lent"

"Burning Man and Play Theology"

"Burning Man, the Temple, and Memorial Day"

Readers might also be interested in the interview I did on Burning Man and my graduate thesis that can be found here. In addition, my thesis can be downloaded in its entirety at this link.

Beyond my own research and writing on the topic I'd like to recommend a few resources that I have found helpful and which provide for continuing reflection. The first relates to understanding the general social and cultural context in which Burning Man arises. This resource comes in the form of a book by Gordon Lynch, The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty-first Century (I.B. Tauris, 2007). In this interesting volume Lynch examines an ideology arising out of the religious Left that crosses various religious boundaries and which represents a significant form of progressive spirituality. While Lynch only mentions Burning Man once in the volume, as he describes the values and key elements of this progressive spirituality it is clear that it has affinities with the values and spiritual quest of Burning Man.

Moving from the general to the more particular, one of the sources I benefited from during my thesis research was Graham St. John who touched on Burning Man in connection with his own research on alternative cultural events in Australia and the U.K. St. John has an interesting blog called Edgecentral, and his doctoral thesis can be downloaded here.

Finally, one of the elements I interacted with in my thesis in the context of church in the West was a theology of play and the related issue of festivity. This was one of the more difficult areas of my thesis to get past my supervisor, but I believe it is one of the most significant in that Burning Man features play and festivity as major facets of expression, and these are ones that are sadly lacking in various expressions of Western Protestantism. After completing my thesis I discovered Robert K. Johnston, The Christian at Play (William B. Eerdmans, 1983), which represents a modification of his doctoral thesis on the topic. I was pleased to see him interact with many of the same play theologians I interacted with, and I took Johnston's willingness to take up this topic in a major fashion as vindication of my own intuitions on the significance of this topic. Readers will benefit from a consideration of Johnson's research on play theology in application to Burning Man.

(Photo accompanying this post from Burning Man 2007, captioned as "Brooke performs in the Fire Conclave on the night of the burn," by photographer Scott London. Copyright London and Burning Man LLC.)

Please visit the other websites that touch on the Afrika Burns experience as part of this synchroblog:

Photographs on Signs of Life : Rob Mills and Mike de Freitas

Tim Victor on Tim Victors Musings : Afrika Burns

Ant Paton on CapeConversation : Wondering about the wilderness, by Ant Paton

Rob Mills : Signs of Life

Emerging Africa : Afterburn: A Karoo Flowering

Mike de Freitas on CapeConversation: Afrika Burns, a Christian response, by Mike de Freitas

Nic Paton : a baptism of joyful fire : Afrika Burns synchroblog

RuZl on Liquid Light : a desert underground

Roger Saner on Future Church : An oasis of silence

Other writings of note:

From the mouth of the Man himself : What is Burning Man?

John W Morehead: Burn, Baby, Burn, Christendom Inferno: Burning Man and the Festive Immolation of Christendom Culture and Modernity

John W Morehead: Apocalyptic Man Ablaze: The Hope of Burning Man's Effigy Fulfilled in the Risen Holy Fool

Overtone Music blog : Afrika Burns: Backwater Art Back In Fashion

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Thanks for this post and for noting all the resources.

I believe various themes challenge evangelicals - creativity and trust (usually Christian events are staged and controlled); nudity and sensuality (we've elevated sexual sin higher than any other); community and belonging and participation(people are expected to believe not belong and attend).

I'm still chewing through what these mean for me personally as well as for any community I have a hand in forming.