At the end of July 2012, I’ll be pitching a tent at Soul Survivor, the leading evangelical festival in the UK aimed at young people. For seven days, I’ll be blogging my experiences on this site.
Why am I doing this? You’d be very entitled to ask, given I’m a flag-waving heathen who divorced God acrimoniously in his teens. The answer is, lots of other people – most of them believers – will be too.
Soul Survivor is, like, big. Tens of thousands attend each year. Along with other festivals like Newday and Ignite, projects like the Alpha Course and the Newfrontiers church network, it forms the backbone of a popular, missionary Christian movement that gained prominence in the 1990s.
Churchgoers, particularly Anglicans, are a thinning herd, but these groups have gained traction. Their attendees may will be the Christian mainstream of 2042, and as such it seems important to get informed.
‘Have you seen Jesus Camp?’ an acquaintance asked, who’d been before. ‘It’s like that, but worse.’ I know current evangelicals, specifically Newfrontiers, forbid women from preaching – my relatives, closely involved, have this book on their shelf – and I’ve heard tell of homophobia at these festivals too. How many campers are celibate teens? How many creationists?
If Soul Survivor fits the descriptions I’ve heard, its popularity is worrying. But I want to be fair – I’m a skeptic, and don’t want to rest on anecdote. When I planned the trip, readers of my blog donated the price of my ticket; they wanted someone to report, factually and non-confrontationally, what really goes on at this event.
So that’s my plan. Later this week, I’m going soul-o.
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