As I arrived at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing, I expected the weekend to be filled with learning about reading and writing, and to leave the festival with more books than I knew what to do with. I hoped to learn about the Christian writing scene — something that was completely foreign to me until hours before I arrived in Grand Rapids — and what my role in that scene could possibly be in the future. While I did learn about some of these things, and I did return to Chicago with my pack heavier than when I left, I ended up learning more about the current atmosphere of Christianity and, more importantly, my role in God’s kingdom as a writer.
In retrospect, the thing that I found unique about the festival was that it was essentially the hub of Christian culture. While there are other conferences around the world that also focus on Christianity, with dozens of speakers sharing God’s truth to audiences of thousands of people, it is at Calvin that these ideas all begin to emerge. The publishers who print the books that cause change across Christian culture were at Calvin, as were some authors and prominent thinkers in Christianity who all had stories to tell about faith and real life. It is from these publishers and speakers that the truth is conveyed to the general public.
Being at this center of Christian thought meant that I got to hear a lot of ideas that will soon start to take shape in the general Christian population. What I mainly saw was the beginning of a shift towards returning to basic Christian teachings, most prominently the idea of loving your neighbor regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation, for we are all made in God’s image.
This is something that we’re taught early in our Christian life, but do not always keep in mind as our focus drifts towards other things like repentance and personal conviction. I have seen too many Christians, including myself at times, who would rather condemn or ignore those whose ideologies do not align with Christian theology. We are too quick to tell people that they are wrong, when we should be showing them the love of Christ regardless of what they believe.
Thankfully, we are returning to an atmosphere of equality and acceptance in the Church, as was made evident by the passionate pleas of several speakers at the festival. I am proud to say that I had an opportunity to work with Relief, a publication that is especially pushing for this shift towards acceptance.
In light of all of this, I realized what my mission as a Christian writer is, and that is to share God’s truth with everyone without prejudice, while at the same time keeping in mind that life is never perfect or clean or clear-cut.
As a Christian, it is my duty to share the love and message of God with others, be it explicitly preaching it or by living my life as an example of Christ’s work during his time on earth. As a writer, I have a responsibility to try to make as much sense of life as I possibly can. The two are not mutually exclusive, as I have learned, and therefore, I believe it is my duty in life to try to help address the tough questions of the world, with Christ’s message as my guide.
I will not be able to answer every question or save every soul through my words, but I believe that as long as I stick to simply sharing God’s love through my work and my life, then my purpose will have been accomplished. The festival helped me realize that, and I returned to the daily grind of college with a renewed mindset that is especially important as I set foot on the path that will eventually lead me into the real world — a world which desperately needs the love of Christ.
Andrew Koenig is a guest contributor and served as a Relief intern during Festival 2012. He is a sophomore at Trinity International University pursuing a degree in English/Communications.