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Shalom Jubilee Thoughts

February 21, 2010

Just a warning for you atheist types. This is going to be a post full of Christian language and concepts.

So, I just got back from Jubilee 2010 and I’m full of a crazy amount of emotions. I’m not going to vouch for the coherentness of any of these thoughts or impressions. I’m just too tired for that. All I can say is I have a great sense of shalom about the whole thing. If you don’t know what shalom means, it’s a Hebrew word that is commonly translated as “peace” or “absence of conflict”. This is such a lame translation of the word because it means so much more than that. It means a deep, abiding sense of wellness, wholeness and restfulness.

First, I want to say really enjoyed the student group that we took from Ohio State. All of them where really engaged and excited about what they learned at the conference. While we took a smaller group then last year, I thought this group really engaged with the conference. We had pizza on Saturday night and everyone shared what they had learned. Later that night, we had a curling watching party in my room as our resident Canadians explained the rules. Thus, my new phrase, curling brings shalom.

I can’t say that I remember much about Friday night’s session. My thoughts ran in a million different directions, mostly focused on the next day. However, one cool interview I remember was with the founder of Gift Card Giver.  Basically, the founders had an idea to collect gift cards from people they never use and give it to those who would need it. One story involved a family who had a terminally ill child that needed to take a trip for more treatments. The Gift Card People gave them enough collected gift cards to pay for their gas and food. Beautiful, simple idea full of Shalom.

On came Saturday. The morning didn’t start well, as I woke up with a very painful sore throat. I sounded like Johnny Cash, which, come to think of it, wasn’t a bad thing. The hot chocolate that I hoped would relieve some of the soreness spilled down the front of my sweater. Not a whole lot of Shalom going on at that point.

I didn’t get to attend any breakout sessions at this conference because I spoke at three different sessions. Well, in the first session, led by my buddy Steve Lutz, I was more of the color guy, adding my two cents as needed while I ran the power point. Steve gave an excellant session on what it means to be called to campus ministry. He talked about the inner and outer call, while teaching the need for a gift set to be a successful campus ministry. Shalom by creating future campus ministers.

The Saturday morning main session turned out to be the best Jubilee session I have ever attended. It started with Jim Belcher who wrote the fantastic book, Deep Church.  Turns out, Chris Seay, who was supposed to be the speaker got sick. Jim gave a really good talk on people being Jekyll and Hydes who are always losing the struggles with our dark side. We need grace to break the cycle.

Susan Isaacs is an actor, writer, and the author of a one woman play where she takes God to marriage counseling. She finds out that the god in her head is not really God, merely her own projection of God. Her play had everyone laughing and her last quote really nailed home the point Jim made earlier, “God destroyed my life and it was the best thing that ever happend to me”.  Shalom through laughter.

So, after a delicious cheesteak sandwich, I found the room where I would give my presentation. I always like to get their early so that I can make sure everything worked. The room filled up pretty quickly to around 75-100 people. The number really suprised me. My talk flowed along the lines of my book, A Chaplain of Pirates.  Thoughts included, “I had a Jonah heart towards atheists”, “You have to do God’ s work in God’s way”, and “You can’t lie to atheists. They have a high bull detector”.

After the session, I got a number of really cool comments from students who wanted to start their own version of the Thomas Society on their campus. Plus, there were about ten atheists in the room. Their comments ranged from, “He is the most atheist friendly Christian I have heard” and “I felt like he really represented what atheists think fairly and accurately. I recognized myself in what he said.” Shalom for atheists being presented as people, not as evil  monsters.

Then came the big event, the panal discussion with Hemant Mehta, Ashley Paramore, Steve Lutz and me. It took place during the Saturday afternoon time known as “The Afternoon experience”. To our suprise, we had nearly four hundred students show up, maybe more. Basically, we allowed everyone to write questions and send them to the front of the room. Steve moderated the questions while the three of us answered. Truthfully, it went by so fast I don’t remember much of it. However, the aftermath turned out to be the most interesting part. A lot of people came up to Hemant and Ashley to thank them for being there and to ask them questions. Hemant stayed for nearly an hour to talk with people.

Afterwards, the Ohio State students had pizza with Hemant, Ashley and their atheists friends who came to hear their panal discussion. We ate pizza, talked, laughed and had a serious discussion about pornography. Shalom through an odd fellowship meal.

Side note: There were a few students who were disappointed more “blood” didn’t flow in the discussion. Some, I’m told, left in disgust at my supposed weakness. I’m sorry they left and didn’t get the point of the discussion.

I’m not suprised, because I know the concept of “dialogue, not debate” is a foreign concept to many in both sides of the Christian/atheist discussion. We feel like we have to be at war with each other. We don’t. My whole point in this concept is to create an atmostphere of shalom for atheist and Christians to dialogue. My idea is that if you are talking about the Gospel in a harsh, nasty and combative light, you really aren’t presenting the Gospel. I have done it plenty of times myself and I’m sick of it. I got Hemant and Ashley to Jubilee to help further our friendship. I got them to come so Christian students would see these sorts of dialogue are possible.  I wanted them students to see that Shalom shouldn’t just extend to the poor and the needy around the world. It should extend to Athiests too. For me, it’s only in that Shalom that truth will be found, the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Shalom through a different community.

Of course, how could I forget Byron, blessed Byron and his wonderful books? Shalom through reading, reading and more reading.

Sadly, I had to leave before John Perkins took the stage on Sunday morning to get Ashley back for work. I heard he knocked it out of the park.

There is so much more to be said about the conference. So many conversations. So many good mercy organizations who had booths at Jubilee. So many other good speakers. Others must tell those tales. Thanks to Scott Calgaro for taking a huge risk on Steve and I’s idea to have atheists speak at Jubilee. It was a mad, crazy idea. Then again, Scott is crazy guy who puts together a fantastic conference. He brings shalom through his work. Thanks, Scott, for letting us speak.

I’m going to sleep now.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Johann permalink
    February 21, 2010 10:16 pm

    Glad to hear the panel went well, and that the “Christian warriors” were a minority. 😉

    Do you think this might become a regular Jubilee feature, or was this a strictly one-off project?

  2. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 21, 2010 10:34 pm

    That is an excellant question. Too soon to tell, I think. I think it went well enough to be considered next year. I think we will make some changes to make it better if we do. I would certainly like to see it happen.

  3. February 22, 2010 1:42 am

    And may the deep sense of Shalom stay with you day to day long after the conference is over, Mr. Thomas. God knows we all need it both here at OSU and elsewhere.

  4. February 22, 2010 1:57 am

    I wanna go. 🙂

  5. February 22, 2010 9:51 am

    I really had a good time there Jon – I hope I can get out there next year. Panel or not!

  6. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 22, 2010 9:54 am

    I will personally gurantee you will be there, even if I have to rob a bank.

  7. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 22, 2010 9:55 am

    Oh believe me, Mikalatos, you are on the top of my list of speaker recommendations. We can have a book signing together.

  8. February 22, 2010 8:10 pm


  9. February 24, 2010 8:16 pm

    You forgot shalom via cheesesteak.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your color commentary in Steve’s talk.

    It was great to spend my first year at Jubilee and hope it’s one of many. Matt M. – you definitely need to get there. There was an IV dude in attendance, so y’all better represent next year…

  10. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 24, 2010 10:25 pm

    Tell him, Benson. You see, Matt’s a big published author now, so he may not have time for us little people. 🙂


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