Mockers and Mourners Both

BM Temple _ Kevin RollyFor the people in our culture who have been struggling with religion, I have discovered a mixed bag of emotions, sometimes all mixed into the one bag of a single person. The mixture of anger and sorrow appears to coincide with their struggle. When they read the stories of impropriety on the part of priests, and televangelists they become angry and mocking, and yet in another setting they are profoundly saddened, and these two emotions are not far from one another. Could it be that we are typically too close to the subject to not feel the full range of emotions when religion fails? Is it like a love relationship, with the betrayal being more hurtful than anything anyone else could possibly do to us? Is this why we become both the mocker and mourner when religion falls apart in front of us? At the Burning Man Festival the week concludes with the burning of the temple. Since 2000, this has marked the end of the whole event. Unlike the Saturday evening raucous party of the burning of the man, the temple is a quiet, somber event. 20,000+ people sit quietly as the temple is consumed. They have written upon the walls of the temple throughout the week. Permanent markers stain the temple with holy graffiti: words of release, words of pain, words of victory over addiction, words of surrender, words of grief, words of joy, words of dreams to come, words of pop wisdom, words of praise to the divine, words of blasphemy, words of confession, words of anger, and words of love. While the temple burns many people are crying. When it falls, people cheer. Those who cry and those who cheer are often the same people. Is this burning of the temple at Burning Man somehow indicative of our struggles with Christianity? Are we mockers and mourners both? photography by Kevin Rolly

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