Being boldly inclusive includes surprises in many walks of life. Boldly inclusive is the mantra of the Guardian Liberty Voice (GLV). The meaning of such an incantation requires clear understanding, if one is to fulfill the ideal. What does it mean to be boldly inclusive?
It means to be inclusive in a bold way. Grammatically, the word inclusive is acting as the verb and boldly is the adverb modifier. Thus, simply to be inclusive does not satisfy the meaning. One must be inclusive in a bold or daring manner. This encompasses dealing with one kind of material in journalism, specifically words. However, being boldly inclusive in any area always includes surprises and even risks, which is why it requires a modicum of courage.
For instance, picture a scene of a middle-aged man with his 10-year-old son. They are going camping together and bring much of the usual camper’s fare of tents, fishing poles, and sleeping bags. The two are prepared for lots of outdoor fun in the July heat. However, this is much more than a simple camping trip. Their destination is a scene which embodies the words of GLV’s CEO and publisher, DiMarcko Chandler, who writes:
We must make an effort to level the playing field so that all voices are invited to participate in our global conversation.
The Cornerstone Music Festival Is Born
The middle-aged father and his son, in our mental picture, were headed to the Cornerstone Music Festival. Cornerstone has recently become a relic of the past. The festival ceased operating in 2012 after 29 years. The event was the brainchild of Jesus People USA (JPUSA), a group of young idealistic believers in Jesus, from the late 1960’s in Chicago, Illinois.
The idea was inspired by Woodstock and the outdoor summer concerts that came about in its wake. The people of JPUSA wanted a Christian alternative to the secular rock concert scene. They knew there was a fledgling market of young believers who were not enamored by traditional church music.
They also knew there were a lot of up and coming Christian rock bands, who wanted to get a musical message about Jesus out to the world. Their reasoning was akin to the title of one song, “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” by Larry Norman, who also performed at Cornerstone. The folks at JPUSA prayed and decided to put the bands and the market together in an outdoor concert venue. It was an immediate hit. In the years that followed, many successful Christian bands got their start at Cornerstone, including Jars of Clay, Reliant K, Skillet, Petra, and D.C. Talk.
Cornerstone began in 1984, on the Lakefront County Fairgrounds outside of Chicago. It started with a few dozen bands and a couple of thousand people. In only a short few years they outgrew those facilities. JPUSA searched for a better venue farther away from residential areas and found it in 1990, on a farm outside of the small town of Bushnell, Illinois.
Cornerstone Expands to Become Intentionally Boldly Inclusive
The 250-acre venue was renamed “Cornerstone Farm,” and there the festival grew to encompass far more than Christian rock music. Cornerstone was held most often in July for 5 days, encompassing the Independence Day holiday. Once the venue was moved, the event became intentionally boldly inclusive on a scale hardly imagined when JPUSA started the venture.
Cornerstone attracted 25 to 30 thousand people from all over the world during its heyday from the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. Over 300 bands of various genres performed. They ranged from heavy metal, punk rock, folk, Celtic, Australian, and Indian styles of music. They were all themed around a boldly inclusive way of presenting Jesus to believers and non-believers alike.
However, music was not the only thing about Cornerstone that was boldly inclusive. The central area of the farm featured a film festival. There was also an area for families, where skits and children’s music were performed, and where an art festival called “Artrageous” was held. Sports like volleyball, basketball, and skateboarding could be enjoyed. There was even a late night dance club with techno music for the college age adults.
Perhaps the riskiest aspect of the festival was Cornerstone University. There was a setup of 10 to 12 tents on the grounds in which renowned professors from Christian colleges and universities would travel from all over the country to speak. They engaged students of all races and ages in the hot and humid central Illinois summer. The topics included discussions about culture and the controversial issues of the day. Everything from philosophy to abortion; same-sex marriage to evangelism; evolution to creationism; and much more was taught, discussed, and debated in a Christian context.
The risky part of Cornerstone University was its mission. Its purpose was not to complain about a sinful civilization, among which Christians lived, or to oppose the culture itself. Instead, Cornerstone sought to boldly engage people in truth and love and offer a Christian alternative. JPUSA received much criticism from others, in and outside the Christian community, for its openness to different people and views. Some critics opined that Cornerstone was just inviting sin into the church, and should be denounced as heretical. Thus, it required copious amounts of courage to continue being boldly inclusive in the face of such harsh criticism.
The Boldly Inclusive People of Cornerstone
The boldest and most inclusive components of Cornerstone, were the people that came to the festival each year. All, whether a follower of Jesus or not were welcome, provided they could pay to get in and abide by the general rules of no alcohol or illegal drug use. The ticket prices were ridiculously low, generally under two hundred dollars covering five days. However, if one could not afford this they could volunteer to work at the festival doing a variety of tasks. Jobs included garbage collection to setting up the huge main stage. This allowed a person or group to attend the festival for free.
JPUSA exhibited extraordinary courage by allowing this because of the incredible mix of people at the festival brought about the potential for immense risk. Every sort of cultural community was present. For example, young goths sweated out the July heat in full black garb, alongside old hippies clad only in shorts and sandals. Those with long, short, multi-colored, bold, and hair cut in creative ways, often walked to breakfast or dinner together. People from Germany and Sweden camped next to others who lived a few miles away in rural Illinois.
Families with small children swam in the lake on the grounds alongside university students of all races and backgrounds. People of all sorts of church communities, liberal and conservative alike, even those not part of a religious community, were together in prayer and study at sunrise. Being boldly inclusive included surprises on all levels at Cornerstone.
Regrettably, the era of Cornerstone has passed. It succumbed to the ravages of economics during the first decade of the 21st Century. Of course, the low ticket prices never managed to cover the cost, and donations dwindled when the economy began to turn sour. However, for a brief moment, Cornerstone provided glimpses of, the boldly inclusive, biblical picture of heaven from Chapter 7 of the book of Revelation:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…
While Cornerstone is no longer around to exemplify it, the value of being boldly inclusive was seen there in amazing fashion. Hopefully, the legacy of Cornerstone will generate a similar effort in the future. If so, perhaps generations to come will see how, as a believer in Christ, being boldly inclusive includes surprises as well as the courage to present Jesus in love and beyond human division.
By Daniel Osborn
Edited By Jessica Hamel and Tracy Blake
The ESV Classic Reference Bible: Good News Publishers
THE CHRISTIAN POST: After 29 Years, Cornerstone Festival Comes to a Close
Revolvy: Cornerstone Festival
GENIUS: “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music” by Larry Norman
Guardian Liberty Voice: The Historical Model – “Boldly Inclusive”
Featured and Top Images Courtesy of Thaddeus Stewart’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License