Safe Space for Dangerous Conversations: Faith & Justice in an Age of Wikileaks- Vic Thiessen

“It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

So says Morpheus to Neo in describing The Matrix in the 1999 film of the same name. It’s a line that comes to mind when I hear the various governmental responses to Wikileaks. ‘How dare anyone try to reveal pieces of truth in a world of lies and cover-ups?’ they ask. This unmasking of the powers is a dangerous game, as witnessed by calls for incarceration and even assassination of the Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, and any suspected Wikileaks information leakers.

Two thousand years ago, it was likewise dangerous for Jesus, and he paid the ultimate price for his fearless truth-telling and noncompliance with the ruling authorities of his day. As followers of Jesus, we are called “to live in history with open eyes, to look deep into present events, beyond the conflicting claims of those vying for power” as we “search for and attack the very roots of violence and oppression that hold the human story hostage,” as Ched Myers has said.

When I first visited the Greenbelt Festival eight years ago (I was living in London at the time), I was struck by two things:

1) This was a “safe space for dangerous conversations” (as Gareth Higgins described it to me then) and

2) There were so many Christians looking for such a safe space on their journey towards finding a Christianity with integrity for the 21st century.

One forum for such dangerous conversations is the discussion of film, the most popular entertainment medium of our time. Films can open our eyes to the truth around us and help us become more fully human. But they can also promote blindness (e.g. the myth of redemptive violence: the idea that violence is often necessary to accomplish good ends). As a film buff, and sometimes critic, I got involved in Greenbelt’s film program. Now that I’m back in Canada (in my spare time I am the COO at Mennonite Church Canada), I look forward to being part of the film program at the Wild Goose Festival. If you’re ready to be unplugged from the matrix, maybe I’ll see you there.

Vic Thiessen was Director of the London Mennonite Centre, and is current COO of the Mennonite Church in Canada. With his brother Walter, he co-hosts the Thiessen Bros Film Blog.

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  • audie

    So, I’m looking at the list of speakers on the WG website, many of whom I’m familiar with from the what I’ve learned about the emergent ‘church’ or from places like Sojourners, and from all of that, what I think you mean by “Safe Space for Dangerous Conversations” is that WG is basically an echo chamber of like-minded people who will hear their own ideas coming from everyone else’s mouths, no one will seriously challenge anyone else about anything, and frankly all that will be accomplished is that everyone will think that everyone else thinks as they do.

    Am I mischaracterizing? Then, pray tell, where are the speakers who will not simply echo each other’s ideas? Where, for example, is someone like a Mark Driscoll? Where is a biblical apologist like, say, Ravi Zacharias or Norman Geisler? Where is someone like Chris Rosebrough, who despite serious differences has been to these kinds of events before, and has spoken at least once at an Outlaw Preacher’s gathering? Where is someone like Tim Lahaye or Thomas Ice? Where is someone like Ken Ham?

    This is a free country, and you may gather together as you wish, and invite whom you wish, but do avoid putting on airs. This event is less about conversing on ‘dangerous ideas’ then it is making like-minded people feel good about themselves and each other. There will be no serious challenging, no actually back-and-forth discussions and debates, no real search for truth.

  • Kat

    @ audie:

    I agree with you that it is good and helpful to have challenging discussions and debates, representing all points of view, especially when it comes to theology and spirituality.

    However, as one who has somewhat ‘liberal’ theological beliefs, I interpret a “safe place for dangerous conversations” a little differently. I see it as a place to come forward and admit my beliefs, without fear of ridicule and/or cries of ‘heretic!’ (which I have experienced at other times in my life). I see it as a place to change and develop my ideas further by listening to theologians and social activists who might share a few of my views but differ in others.

    You’re right that many of the names here might think along the same wavelengths, and that most of those who attend this festival will have many beliefs/views in common. But I think that instead of being a place for us to pat ourselves on the back for having such ‘progressive’ ideas, it is rather a place to feel a sense of belonging and welcoming to express our thoughts and listen to others as we all process what it means to be Christian.