Freakstock 2012: Pt. 3
In this blog post, I’ll be discussing my thoughts regarding Freakstock, the Jesus Freaks, and other things encountered at the festival.
Of all the things I encountered at the festival, the strangest thing of all happened to be the most normal thing there: beer. This was not just any beer, though. This was Freakstock Beer. Jesus Beer, as it were.
Freakstock was selling its own brand of beer. To make matters even more controversial, the bottles were labeled with an artist’s interpretation of Jesus with the words “Prost auf Jesus” printed clearly. For those of you who aren’t German scholars, this translates to “Toast to Jesus.”
Obviously, I was expecting to encounter strange things at Freakstock, but certainly not this. A Southern boy from an area where alcohol has its own negative stigma within the Christian community there, it certainly struck me in an odd place. Obviously, it wasn’t just different from the culture of the American Bible Belt, but it was something pretty interesting to ponder for a good while. Not only was a Christian festival selling beer, heretical back in the Southern states, but it was “Jesus beer,” prompting people to “toast to Jesus.” What did this mean? Blasphemy? Good-natured Christian humor? A serious statement?
Obviously, given my heritage, I was prone to assume the conservative route, that this was probably borderline blasphemy and an example of Europe’s liberalized Christianity. The more I thought, though, I started realizing the other angles. Who was I to be offended by this?
The more I thought, I started to recognize that, yes, this is an example of liberalized Christianity in Europe, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. While controversial, yes, it was a perfect example of what Freakstock and the Jesus Freak movement seeks to do. In order to understand that, let me try to give you a brief history of the Jesus Freaks movement as I understand it.
The Jesus Freaks movement was started in Germany in 1991 by a guy named Martin Dreyer. Eventually, it became an international non-profit organization in 1994 based out of Berlin. The Jesus Freaks movement is pretty interesting and unique to Europe, as they actively seek to minister to drug users, homeless people, as well as other people marginalized by the Christian Church. This is part of the reason why Freakstock is such a strange amalgam of subcultures, styles, and nationalities. Martin Dreyer is an interesting figure in German Christianity, as he also wrote his own version of the bible, called the “Volxbibel.” Much like the super controversial “The Message” Bible in America, Dreyer’s “Volxbibel,” which translates to “People’s Bible,” is written in a simple way that is easier to understand by someone who hasn’t experienced the Christian vocabulary. Essentially, by paraphrasing the Bible, Dreyer sought to contextualize scripture in a way that could be easily understood by unchurched peoples. Controversial, yes, but does it serve a purpose to spread the Gospel? Yes.
The Jesus Freaks have always been a fairly eclectic group of people, so it makes sense that they would find all kinds of scrutiny by the straight-laced Christian majority that didn’t understand their looks, behavior, or cultures. That being said, I see a genuine purpose in the Jesus Freaks. If no one else is reaching out to the former hippies, the goths, the punks, the drug addicted, the kids with broken lives, the just flat-out weird, then who in secularized Europe will? I don’t mean to sound condemning or judging when I say this, but it certainly doesn’t seem that the mainstream Christian Church has done a good job of evangelizing, discipling, and supporting these people.
So, taking all of that in context with the “Jesus Beer,” I could waste my time being offended as a result of my heritage, or I could accept it as the act of a very different group of Christians with a common goal: to see God glorified through the spreading of Christ’s gift of redemption through His death and resurrection to all peoples. That’s exactly what I did. Sure, the fact that there’s a beer that says “Toast to Jesus” on it is strange, hilarious, and otherworldly to me, but God is good and I’m in no place to judge.
That being said, all of my experiences at Freakstock did raise a few serious concerns. Is this the best way for reaching out to non-Christians and ministering to Christians? I don’t know; I’m in no position to answer that. Are there potential pitfalls to such an edgy event hosted by such edgy people? Definitely.
Because this festival and the youth movement that hosts it is accepting of all people, there were a lot of things that alarmed me.
The abundance of alcohol at the festival was obviously the biggest worry I had, as I absolutely believe that the Bible directly addresses drunkenness. Sure, not everyone was getting drunk. Many people were just enjoying some beer along with the sun and live music. But, there will always be people, Christians and non-Christians that seemed to be taking it a bit too far with the drinking. When you have a festival that sells its own brand beer, how do you navigate the deep, dark waters of determining if you are being a vessel for ministry or a stumbling block for others? By making your event accessible and appealing to non-Christians, at what point does it become more of a pitfall to people than an open door for ministry? I don’t really think there’s an easy way to answer that question or address this problem.
Here’s what conclusion I came to:
Just like this beer, God will be glorified through the actions, events, and people going to this event, whether they realize it or not. Are there better ways of treading this fine line? Maybe. But why should I bother trying to find that answer when, at the end of the day, I see a festival full of very different people, Christians and non-Christians alike, attending a festival designated specifically for glorifying God through their actions, performances, statements, hospitality, and, yes, even their beer.
Who am I to judge or presume to have better solutions for addressing an increasingly more rampant issue of preaching Christ to Europe’s exponentially diversifying youth?
May God be glorified in everything.