I have recently returned from attending the annual Greenbelt Festival. On their web site the event is described as:
Greenbelt is an arts, faith and justice festival with a long and rich history. We’ve been going since 1974. That’s over 40 consecutive festivals. Without a break.
There have been a large number of comments on the Facebook page this week, many of them quite predictable but none the less interesting for that. I was particularly drawn to a discussion today centred around whether Greenbelt had lost its Christian identity.
Identity is something that I have been increasingly interested in exploring in the past few years. I have covered this in blog posts on here and, also, in many discussions with friends and family.
All this had led me to create something of a thesis that I hope to expand on in the future, perhaps in a book (if I could ever be disciplined enough to sit down and start writing!). The working title for the theory is ‘The 3 things that make you a thing’ and here is a brief summary.
I should point out that this does not apply to character traits. For example, if you are a selfish person, this is rarely a lifestyle choice and generally used by others in identifying a way in which you behave.
According to ‘The 3 things that make you a thing’ in order to be identified as ‘something’ (Christian, vegetarian, City fan etc.) you must fulfil 3 criteria:
- You must align yourself with the tenets, beliefs or values of the ‘thing’
- You must declare yourself to be the ‘thing’
- You must live in a way that people would identify you as being the ‘thing’
If we apply this test to Greenbelt we might therefore conclude that it is not a Christian festival. The reasons for this are that whilst it is quite clear, when you attend, there is a strong Christian ethos evident in much of the programme, so that is a tick for #1. It also feels very Christian in the way people behave and conduct themselves, again we can give it a tick for #3. However, in their own description of what Greenbelt is, the organisers do not describe it as a Christian festival so we have to give a cross to #2.
Now a lot of Greenbelt attendees might argue with this and have on the Facebook page. We tend to assume a sense of ownership with events we attend like Greenbelt and we like to ascribe our own beliefs and values to them – you will read and hear phrases that start with ‘My Greenbelt is…’ but I would reject these ideas as being too subjective. The only objective way to view Greenbelt is that it is not a Christian festival. To offer further context for this assertion, I have attended other festivals (Kendal Calling and Glastonbury) on a number of occasions and have experienced countless acts of kindness and generosity that, in many other settings, would doubtlessly be described by some as Christian.
I understand this will not end a debate on this particular topic, that is not my intention, it is really in individual identity that I am most interested in exploring my ideas more thoroughly.
Probably need to come up with a better name for it though, any ideas?