Report from Jubilee

From the powerful and prophetic challenges of the orations of Tony Campolo to the quiet and literate honesty of the ever quirky Lauren Winner—love those glasses!—to serious perspectives in renewed thinking in fields from computer games to astronomy, advertising to medicine, business, law, architecture to education—the JUBILEE conference was as thrilling as ever.
It may have been our hardest set-up in recent memory; we arrived at 10 pm Thursday night, after driving a huge rented truck that rattled and hummed down the turnpike spewing diesel fumes behind the widest windshield I’ve ever seen. By 5:30 am (Friday morning) we realized we had less than a quarter of the books displayed and were in a pretty serious snit. We got a bit of shut-eye, bought too much dark roast and Red Bull, took care of our kids a bit, and with a team of reliable booklovin’ volunteers, proceeded to set up the rest of the 25 tables, getting finished just in time by about 7 pm. With the loud band, the flashing lights and the nearly 2000 students, it was a wild and amazing setting to have meaningful conversations. But, there we were, showing off books on college life and spiritual formation, Biblical study and postmodern culture, social engagement and Christian politics, the history of philosophy and a worldview shaped by the contours of the basic story of the Bible, the need for compassionate resistance to the sins of our society and how to form attitudes shaped by deep, Christian convictions. We talked about and showed off the books that illustrated our view that the Lordship of Christ makes a difference and offers a vantage point, a set of perspectives across the whole college curriculum. (See our “Books By Vocation” annotated bibliography over at the website for just a handful of the titles we had on display.) We were off and running, with hardly a moment to sneeze.
We got the truck re-loaded and finally back to Dallastown after midnight Sunday night and we unloaded into the garage, returning it by the late night deadline. As that crazy druggie band used to sing “What a long, strange trip it’s been….”
Highlights? Well, as always, it is a privilege to work with the innovative and theologically solid CCO. Neither literalists or liberals, not fundy or fuzzy, these generously orthodox folk who do campus ministry are really good with students, funny and fun, serious without being heavy. Not everyone who works for the CCO, let alone the wild gang of thousands of students they cajoled into the Hilton may fully realize the history of the conference or the “reformational movement” that inspired it. (That is, by the way, why I promoted in my announcements the new edition of Creation Regained by Al Wolters, which as nicely as anything summarizes this full-orbed Christian worldview stuff. Click here or here for two good reviews from other bloggers.) As I wrote last week, the CCO and the conference planners have been influenced somewhat by Dutch neo-Calvinism (hence, this attention to worldviews, this legacy of discerning fundamental ideologies that shape theory, the call to reform ideas so that institutions can be transformed, this Kingdom of God stuff that affirms God’s mercy and goodness in history and yet seriously resists evil where-ever it is found, this cry to renew the culture by affirming the norms for various spheres and zones of social order and the subsequent need to “think Christianly” in fresh and Biblical ways.) And so, it is a highlight of our year just to be around folks who are intentionally raising up such a vision of a wholistic faith, engaged and energetic, youthful and idealistic, principled and pleasant, calling for justice and action, well rooted in evangelical faith and the renewal of daily habits of wholesome living. What a good, good vision to show forth. CCO puts it well when they say they want to “transform college students to transform the world.” Let us pray it is so!
More specifically— sorry if I leave anybody out—I was amazed to met Bryan Stevenson, an African American man who grew up in the poor and segregated South, and ended up (through scholarships at Eastern U, by the way) at the top of his class at Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, it is said, he could have worked nearly anywhere he wanted and was on the fast track to being a Big Success. He has worked ever since doing poverty law, advocacy for the very poor and, specifically, for those on death row, now through the Equal Justice Iniative in Montgomery Alabama. In the mid-70’s I passed out flyers to every room in my dorm my second year of college to fight the death penalty and I’ve followed this issue for years; his clear-headed and kind talk was as powerful a testimony as I’ve heard on this topic. Thanks, Bryan!
Also, it was good to finally meet Adrienne Chaplin, who followed my hero Cal Seerveld as the professor of aesthetics at Toronto’s Institute for Christian Studies. Adrienne is the author of Art and Soul a book we often suggest as one of the top two or three titles on faith and the arts. She took students on a walking tour of the Warhol museum and it would have been sweet to go along but we, of course, were strapped to the book display around the clock. (We went to bed each night after 3 am.) Chatting with her even just a bit, though, was very nice. I am eager to see her new chapter in Square Halo’s revised edition of It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God when it comes out later this year!
Vince Bacote–Mr. Bay Coat, that is–was surely a highlight. Dr. B teaches at Wheaton and happens to be one of the few African American Kuyper scholars. I will talk more about his important lectures and his very good book later, I’m sure. What a good guy he is, and how cool for CCO to connect with him.
Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of u2 by Steve Stockman has been a favorite book in pop culture studies and it was wonderful not only to finally meet him, but to hear Stockman’s heavy Irish accent. He presented some good stuff, I’m told, based on his chapter in that book on how u2 has been a voice for social justice. When he invited me for a drink at the late night pub I had to chuckle…I think the booktable was open later than the “pub” and he didn’t realize we would be working that late. He has become good friends of our best friends, Ken & Gail Heffner, who recently took a batch of Calvin students to Belfast to study the troubles there. Thanks to CCO for hosting such an important international author and pop critic.
Lauren and I exchanged a few pleasantries back stage before one of my big book announcements, prior to her big keynote, just after the emcee slingshot pieces of pizza out into the audience. I packed in a ton o words in my 8 minutes, but got a bit tongue-tied. She quickly noted that I mis-pronounced her name–Winter? Yeah, and I spit like Campolo, too and got my “mix all talked up.” Very embarrassing. Still, one person said he learned as much from my book plugs as much as any other part of this very content-driven weekend. Thanks be to God for words of encouragement.
Steve Taylor used to do edgy and very thoughtful (and sometimes playfully fun) new wave rock music that was among the best CCM stuff of the 80’s. Anybody who followed contemporary Christian in those days knows who he is. He now is the producer of the new film about race relations, Second Chance, which screened at Jubilee. It was a privilege to stand with him, to chat about his work, to suggest a handful of books. What fun!
I hope I do not bore you to say that another highlight was to hang out with the wise and prophetic genius, a leader of the alternative Christian Labor Association of Canada (CLAC) Gideon Strauss. G.S. has more creative output—from his blog to the thINK journal, Comment and his daily work at the Work Research Foundation—than nearly anyone I know. He is radically neo-Calvinist, having studied all manner of reformational philosophy and social thinking. He understands what Jubilee has been and what it needs to be as we try hard to pass on the legacy of this world and life way of being in the world and thinking about culture. He desires to deeply effect change that is sustainable and serious, and yet has with great joy served not only big ideas and social organization (like the labor union and the writers in Comment) but he and his wife mentor students, befriend those who need a guiding hand, and network others of like mindedness without a bit of guile. He and Angela and two lovely daughters crossed our paths at the book stand more than once and it is a honor to be their friend. Jubilee should be glad for their support.
If you haven’t, read back over last week’s posts and see the links to the book lists of the authors who appeared at Jubilee. If you weren’t there, pick up a couple of those, and it will be the next best thing. Not quite the same, but a good step. As I told the gathered gang there at the conference–mountaintop experiences only last for a bit. Commitment to ongoing learning, reading and learning, that is the way of sustained and meaningful growth. To that end, we work hard setting up displays and doing mail-order. We are at your service.

Hats off to Scotty Calgaro, Vinny, Becky, Rachel and all the others who helped us play a role in this big event. And a special thanks to the volunteers. You each know who you are, and you know how passionate we are about books, authors, bookselling and influencing students to read widely. We could not have done it without you and we are very, very appreciative. And thanks to the many, many folks who said kind and supportive words. It means more than you know.

2 thoughts on “Report from Jubilee

  1. Sheesh, Byron. Genius, already. I’m afraid it’s much more like really-slow-but-thoughtful-guy-who-tries-to-do-what-seems-to-be-needed. But yeah, our daughters are lovely!

  2. Gideon–and anyone else that may be reading: I choose my superlatives with great care. And I am correct on this one, even though you are too humble to admit it.

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