Out of the Q

Still processing…unlike DJ, I’m slow-drip. If you were still looking for a taste, check out the video found on YouTube:

Noticeably absent at Q was the on-stage presence of Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latinos. Although at the very least, 2 of the presenters were African American, and of course, diversity and multi-ethnicity were stated as key values by a number of people. Comforting? Maybe…we’ll see.

What was set as a premise was the notion of 7 Channels of Cultural Influence (pdf). They are, in short:

  1. Media
    — television / radio / publishing / newspaper / Internet
  2. Arts + Entertainment
    — artists / film/ literature / music / performing arts / sports / theatre / video game
  3. Business
    — advertising / mktg / pr / biotech / ecommerce / finance / law / medicine /nanotech / science / services / tech
  4. Education
    — schools / college / university / continuing ed
  5. Government
    — executive / judicial / legislative / military / political commentators / public policy / advocacy
  6. Church
    — local churches / parachurch
  7. Social Sector
    — educational / family / foundations / marriage / religious

The presupposition that there is a single, monolithic culture is problematic because it does not take into account subcultures. Thus, even if there are arguably these seven channels of cultural influence (highly debatable if the church would even qualify in certain demographics), they are duplicated in each subculture. Some would even make the very valid case that American evangelical Christianity has become a subculture unto itself, and thus, even when they convene to “impact” the culture at large, they only can sit atop their own box and make observations with field binoculars.

The reason why many of the Asian American pastors and leaders who attended the Q felt they walked away emptyhanded, is that despite all the great ideas and the high-powered speaker list, very little of it is applicable to the Asian American context. Don’t get me wrong, great ideas and inspiration abounded, but readily applicable? Not so much — not without a lot of processing and decompression.

In essence, while Q was indeed the coolest “Christian” conference I’ve ever attended, its existence perpetuates some of the problem inadvertently. First of all, there is a tendency from the industrial model to assume that there are “best practices” to church, even as believers and church leaders. Secondly, the industry of Christianity is dictating how Christian communities should be formed, rather than the community itself. In other words, programs are leading people. Our intentions are good, but when we commoditize who Jesus is, or perhaps more to the point, people who tell us what life with Jesus is like, we create subculture heroes, and then they themselves can’t get out of the box that we proclaim that we are trying to get out of. Or perhaps we hope that they can pull us out of the box with them.

We end up as American Idols, rather than artists — masters of a craft, willing to suffer for our art, wrestling with ourselves to make room for our expression, where we don’t care if we’re starving or not. Q doesn’t give me the sense that it will be a place to incubate great ideas, but rather I fear it could be a center for continuing Christian industry. Ultimately, this is not what real innovators do, this is not where the most creative people convene, this is where they give their voice and share their success, but it is not the crucible for their vision.

I have no problem with Q, please don’t misunderstand. I’m just trying to figure out where it stands in my mind. These aren’t final thoughts…just initial ones.

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Comments

  1. djchuang says:

    Does that make me a French press? 🙂 I loved Q for being the only place like it, a place for some innovators and ideators to get some hot ideas, though there is room for diversifying as you’d outlined. Yes, there are many subcultures, yet we are all one human race so there are some transcendent principles of how followers of Christ can shape and influence culture/ society. I didn’t expect to find direct applications from Q, or any conference, partly b/c I am not a pragmatist, though I do know many who do want the takeaways and the next steps.

    As Larry Osborne has said, and I may be misquoting, the dirty little secret about innovation is failure. Stories of failure would make it all much more earthy and authentic, though that doesn’t sell tickets to a conference venue.

  2. David Park says:

    Absolutely you’re french press, DJ. You were live-blogging Q! I’m posting something almost 2 weeks later! I enjoyed Q for the ideas. Obviously, there aren’t may places you can hear guys like Rob Bell, Jeff Johnson, and Kevin Kelly in one setting, and that is one way to see Q as invaluable. My point is though, those innovators weren’t shaped by a gathering like Q.

    Even so, I think there is value in it. I’m just trying to parse out what the ramifications are.

  3. daniel so says:

    David — Thanks for sharing your impressions & thoughts about Q. I wish I could have made it… maybe I’ll make it to next year’s “R” conference…

    That is always a huge struggle for Asian American church leaders — trying to filter & reconfigure things we might pick up at a conference or in a book to make sense in our context.

    I hear what you’re saying about the Christian industry and programs leading people. I wonder if that’s not just an issue with Q, but in the conference format itself? I know I always want to know who is speaking/teaching and if it’s someone I have never heard of I am hesitant to sign up for it. Although, as DJ mentioned, I always want to hear more about the actual failures these leaders experience — I think that’s more true to life and relatable to ordinary church leaders like me.

  4. David Park says:

    Daniel, you’re right. Who would pay to listen to “no names”? I suppose that isn’t attractive either. But would you be interested in something like http://www.ccda.org? I was floored when I started listening to some of their talks after not recognizing names. The content is “real world” and decidedly un-sexy, but I was so convicted by the content and approach. I think I’d like to check them out next.

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