It’s hard for me to put into words what the last few days at the NYC Mockingbird Conference have meant to me. I’ve felt a lot of feelings while being there. I laughed, cried, danced, prayed, worshiped, and more.
This conference is special to me. It’s special because this is a place of relief. The majority of my Christian life has been marred by spiritual abuse, and most of my relationships have been based on conditions and expectations I could never meet. Because of that, I at times feel like screaming “I can’t get no relief!” None of that is present at a Mockingbird conference. For the first time in my life I’ve felt like I’ve joined with a group of people who have reached the lowest common denominator. The expectations are minuscule because we have brushed up against a Jew who met them all for us.
The people really make Mockingbird a unique place. From the outside looking in we look well put together. But, If you peel back the veneer of our lives what you might find is suffering, mourning, grief, pain, loss, and more. We are all different, but very much the same. There are no spiritual elite present. Essentially, Mockingbird is full of losers joining other losers dancing the night away, and for a moment we are getting relief from the outside pressure that we will face when the conference is over.
Many, including myself have little ambition. Most, if not all of us are not going to change the world. We have acknowledged our humanity, sin, and bound will. We know we have a hard time towing the line, following the rules, and I know I personally excel at rebelling. We have acknowledged our “righteousness as filthy rags.” We have also become aware that there is not much we can do about it, and we don’t have to because our justification is not at stake. In the words of Robert Farrar Capon:
“We’re all dead here and we’re having a terrific time. We’re all lost here we feel right at home.”
In truth Mockingbird is not for everyone. No one is going to tell you what to do here. There are no tips at how to live a better life. No church growth principles. No steps to success. No demands or expectations. No spiritual to-do lists or chores. No creative ways to enhance your quiet time with the Lord. We get enough of that everywhere else. Here there is grace.
I wouldn’t call it a mountaintop experience. It isn’t cool hipster Christianity (thank God). It’s not a church nor does it want to be. It is, however, a lot of fun. I’ve never had more fun at a religious gathering. It reminds me of what C.S. Lewis once wrote; “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” That is what a Mockingbird conference is like.
You can smoke here and no one will fuss at you. There are people there in recovery, and there people there that might need to be in recovery. Maybe a Mockingbird conference is our recovery group. A recovery group that tells you that you are forgiven over and over again.
It’s a place for the wealthy and economically distressed because we all know deep down we are poor in spirit. It is a place where you can quit pretending, or keep right on pretending.
For me, Mockingbird is a place where I can start trying to be myself. Which is absolutely terrifying because I’m not exactly sure who I am anymore and if these people actually knew the real me would I still be accepted? I believe the answer is yes.
Lastly, Mockingbird is a slice of heaven. As Robert Farrar Capon says:
“Heaven is Miller Time. Heaven is the party in the streaming sunlight of the world’s final afternoon. Heaven is when all the rednecks, and all the wood-butchers, and all the plumbers who never showed up – all the losers who never got anything right and all the winners who just gave up on winning – simply waltz up to the bar of judgment with full pay envelopes and get down to the serious drinking that makes the new creation go round. It is a bash that has happened, that insists upon happening, and that is happening now – and by the sweetness of its cassation, it drowns out all the party poopers in the world.”