It’s funny that, in last week’s column, I wondered whether the new traditional-yet-space-age convention center would be used to simply turn tourism tricks or for events that reflect issues close to this community—because, as this issue hits the stands, the very first official convention activity is taking place at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. And it ain’t, contrary to popular belief, the Conference on Cultural Tourism, which starts later this month, on Sept. 28.
Instead, Santa Fe’s new beating heart of a community and commerce center is blessed with an auspicious christening by Revive Santa Fe. Billed as “a seven day gathering to know and experience the refreshing presence of the lord,” the conference is an event from the Dallas Bible Church, which is sending a team called the “Anazao 7” (anazao is a Greek term loosely meaning “revive”). This youthful and spunky, but still vaguely ominous team—which has adopted the historical nomenclature of groups involved with political oppression or racial violence—did an advance scouting of Santa Fe. According to the Revive Santa Fe Web site, the team “encountered people of intellectualism” here, like “Paul encountering the Stoics and Epicureans” of Athens and, presumably, they decided that Santa Fe was ripe for a Godly assault on materialistic and deterministic ways.
The Dallas Bible Church, like Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Wasilla Bible Church, is a non-denominational ministry. This is the happy, easy-going, “no agenda, we promise” code that is currently used to describe fundamentalist evangelicals. Like other well-funded, radical ministries, these guys have their schtick down pat. Revive Santa Fe takes the Santa Fe River as its central metaphor, suggesting the river itself has dwindled because of our sins and that our souls and the prospects for the community’s youth are as dry as the river.
Using this theme, the Anazao 7 plans to demonstrate that all the community’s rifts can be healed—and the river will run again—if only everyone comes together to revive the Holy Spirit. Each night of the week-long event features relatively heavy-hitting musicians, including Sheila E and Los Lonely Boys. The vigorous, youthful and Weimar-blond Kyle Martin will lead nightly “story-telling” sessions, while the vaguely vampiric (at least in his press photo) Christian guitarist Keith Cooper will assume the role of “worship leader.”
Revive Santa Fe hasn’t only pegged us on the water issue, it also has honed in on Santa Fe as an art town. Mike Lewis, better known simply as “Jesus Painter,” will be on hand each night to—what else?—crank out painting after painting of Jesus. Hells yeah.
In addition, Revive Santa Fe is promising results: A “fun fact” on its Web site claims that during and after a 40-day “Revive Dallas” event, the city received the most rain in five decades following a prolonged and parched 2.5 year drought. I guess droughts ain’t as biblical as they used to be.
Plumbing beyond the surface of Revive Santa Fe’s very slick, graphic- and video-filled
plunges one into a predictable onslaught of rhetoric about the decline of family values, the need to end homosexuality and Santa Fe’s ready comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah. Make no mistake about it: These happy-go-lucky singing, painting, dancing, story-telling, concerned-about-the-river folks are bigoted fundamentalists with an extremist agenda and a dangerous sense of moral entitlement.
But hey, it’s a free country and a particularly free city, so knock yourselves out, Revive Santa Fe. Thanks for the cash infusion and don’t let the door hit you on the way back to Dallas.
However, the intrusion of a well-funded, highly organized, extreme right religious group like this one does offer—as it claims—the opportunity for some deep reflection on values. The agenda that lurks beneath the surface of such events is very much the one that has energized the Republican right with the addition of Palin to the ticket. The values Santa Fe stands for when it is at its best—tolerance, openness, creativity, real community—are very much in danger of becoming a smoldering wreck in the wake of the next presidential election should fundamentalism remain a powerful influence in the White House. But watching in horror at the comical extremity of people who still actually think banning books is a good idea is a distraction from actually preventing such a future.
I agree mightily with Arianna Huffington’s comments in an interview with this paper last week [“
”] that the next several weeks should not be about measuring Sarah Palin’s fitness to be VP, or a dozen other trivialities that invite comparisons between the US and a crumbling Roman Empire. Rather, they should be about Barack Obama’s character and his ability to focus on what’s truly, deeply, seriously important.
Imagine what “pulling an Obama” will mean if the most charismatic fundraising juggernaut in the history of the Democratic party whiffs it.
Yo, Barack—quit dicking around with all this namby-pamby, middle of the road, crybaby, centrist crap and man up, bitch. More than your career is at stake here. It’s time for a different brand of Revive United States.