"Welcome to Portland. Have you gotten high yet?" That was how Donald Miller welcomed the 600 participants of Q to his hometown. As a very "progressive" and "post-Christian" city, Portland is a colorful backdrop for this year's Q Gathering. Much of the city's cultural texture was captured by a clip from Portlandia that played during Miller's welcome:
Gabe Lyons, the founder of Q, added his welcome. He reminded the room full of iPads, faux-hawks, and black framed glasses that the event is called "Q and not A" because we don't have all of the answers. That launched a day of engaging conversation and some controversy.
Jamin Brophy-Warren from Kill Screen Magazine spoke about the redemptive power of video games and the struggle to recognize them as a legitimate art form.
Tom Ritchie, one of the guys who invented the original mountain bike, shared about how his time in Rwanda rekindled his hope. His company has supplied thousands of custom designed "coffee bikes" to help local farmer transport their coffee beans.
Louie Giglio interviewed Jennifer Wiseman, an astrophysicist (yes, a literal rocket scientist) about the formation of stars and discovery of hundreds of new planets. The images Wiseman shared of galaxies 33 billion light years away provoking silent worship.
Of course there were many other 9 and 18 minute talks on topics ranging from urban design to evangelism to law. But a common theme emerged–God's people are engaged in meaningful work in every channel of the culture. Vocation matters.
The most anticipated session occurred Wednesday night when Gabe Lyons interviewed Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" that caused an uproar last summer. (A handful of local protesters appeared outside the venue as a result.) Lyons outlined his reasons for inviting Rauf to Q in a post worth reading. And as someone engaged in Muslim-Christian dialogue, I was pleased to see civil discourse modeled for the leader here in Portland.
Lyons framed the interview well and noted the clear theological differences between our communities, while holding up the importance of engagement, dialogue, and not leading from a posture of fear. Rauf and Lyons talked about the challenges of Islam adapting to modern cultures, the fear behind sharia law taking over the US, and how the media poisons Americans' perceptions of Muslims, and Arab Muslims' perceptions of Christian Americans. The conversation was so important that Lyons even allowed the clock to hit 00:00 and kept going–something unprecedented for Q.
Stay tuned for more updates.