Weekend Reflections: Legacy L.A.
Somewhere along my academic path, I have apparently become the sort of person who goes to conferences. Not only do I go to them, but I get excited about them. I promote them, and try to get other people to attend as well. I am not sure where that shift in my persona occurred, but at some point I changed from the person who thought conferences were boring and pointless to the sort of person who would actually pay money in order to listen to those boring lectures.
Today, I had the joy of attending the Legacy Conference here in L.A. This was the first time the conference had come to the West Coast, having originated in Chicago a number of years ago. The conference was focused on Biblical teaching in various areas, and featured speakers from various professions, ranging from hip-hop artists to pastors to academic theologians. Anyone familiar with my blog can see why this conference had my name written all over it.
The opening lecture was given by Shai Linne. This was the first time I had seen him since he got married (congratulations, brother!), and it was a blessing to hear him preach. His sermon was good, and served as an apt introduction to the whole conference. His focus was on the definition of faith, specifically in relation to salvation. What is saving faith? What is non-saving faith? The biggest take away was that saving faith is made up of four parts: knowledge, assent, trust, and grace.
After the opening sermon, the conference split into various workshops. I attended Fred Sanders‘ lecture on the Trinity. While I had actually taken a class with Dr. Sanders specifically on the Trinity, I knew that this sort of setting would provide different content. I am glad I did not miss this lecture. Dr. Sanders was funny, engaging, but still managed to get through more material in two hours than some professors struggle to hit in a semester.
Lunch was provided by Chick-Fil-A, which was nice. Propaganda provided the entertainment during lunch, and while I felt bad that no one wanted to participate in the games or contests he came up with, he kept us all laughing regardless of what happened. Just a note to anyone who might get a free shirt from Propaganda at some point in the future: the size is free. It is not large, it is not small. It is free. Don’t ask.
For the second session, I attended Sho Baraka’s workshop, which was entitled “I’m Young and Black, So I Guess I’ll Rap?” Before any of you get any funny ideas, I did not go to this workshop because I am feeling a deep desire to be a rapper. I went because of the questions that were posed in the description of the workshop. The questions involved the dichotomous view we often have of the holy and the secular, especially in regards to the arts and to vocations. Sho argued that in the same way that the Israelites were told to make houses and live in Babylonian culture, not being corrupted by it, but living excellently therein, we as Christians need to engage our passions in an excellent way, keeping Christ in the forefront of our hearts and intentions, even if we are not creating things only for Christians.
The problems with creating things only for the Christian market are easily discerned when considering the genre of Christian Fiction. I cannot remember the last time an English major at a secular or Christian University praised any Christian Fiction text written since the days of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. All of my peers and professors who are writers or involved in the writing world look down upon Christian Fiction, not because it is Christian, but because it is poorly written. The genre, as a whole, has become a sort of joke. This causes aspiring Christian authors to either embrace the genre and fall into the same problems (the cheese of it, as well as the lack of skill, since there are so few good examples) or write decidedly ‘non-Christian’ texts, usually resulting in darker material.
Sho Baraka of course sees this in the music industry, as well as the film industry (having directed a variety of music videos and, I believe, a short film). Christians often simply make films for other Christians, and are not held or do not hold themselves to the same standards that non-Christians are held to in the same industry. While there is certainly a time and place to primarily minister to fellow Christians (which happens to be where I feel called), if you are going to make a movie, make it excellently. There are certain aspects of film that make a film effective, and ‘Christian’ films often ignore these things. Subtlety in the message, for example, is often what makes the film. When was the last time you saw a ‘Christian’ film that was subtle? I intend to revisit these concepts in a full blog post at some point, but for now I will save it for another day.
The conference finished with a concert, where we got great performances from Propaganda,
Katalyst Kareem Manuel, Sho Baraka and Shai Linne. I, sadly, have lost the name of the band that opened for these guys, so if anyone was there and could tell me in the comments, that would be fantastic. The sound system was mixed so that the sound was far too sharp, which was harsh on the ears, but even with this problem the energy made the show enjoyable. I particularly loved that the artists all wanted to interact with us when they had the chance. I got to talk to Propaganda before the show, and met up with Kareem after he performed (during Sho’s set), and Kareem remembered me from some back-and-forths on Twitter. It was a blessing to meet these brothers and interact with them as such, and I am grateful for their fellowship, however brief.
If you have the chance to check out the Legacy Conference in Chicago, I would recommend it. This year it is in July, so be sure to look it up.