i first wrote this as a clarifying comment to the post below, where i expressed frustration over battle cry’s san francisco return. but as i finished writing it and got ready to post it as a comment, i felt the issues raised and responded to, and the story i tell at the end, was important enough to make it a new post. the comments on that first post are an interesting read!
first, let me say that i love this discussion. and i love that a one sentence post has 30+ comments of varying opinion. i think there are overstatements in both directions, including those comments that malign ron luce’s motivation (more on that later).
but there were a couple comments/questions that i should respond to, in all fairness…
from tim hower:
Why if YS is against Battlecry do they continue to allow them to advertise in their publications like at the NYWC and in the CORE training books. Both had ads in them for Battlecry.
and from brian:
I’ve wondered about the advertising question as well, both in Group and YS’s case. I know Marko can’t speak for Group, and I’m sure not losing sleep over it, but I am a little curious.
these are great questions, and ones i can’t answer easily. i can certainly see how this all appears or sounds hypocritical, or, like YS is only driven by the almighty dollar (that we would accept ad dollars, even though we disagree with the organization). so, believe what you choose to believe — but this is the honest truth right here:
1. my blog and ys really are two different things. yes, there’s some overlap, because i work for ys and love ys and love talking about stuff that i love about ys. but my blog is not an official blog of ys: it’s my thoughts and opinions (and stuff i find funny, and whatever else i feel like posting, including, even, pictures of and quotes from my kids). i know that i am both ysmarko-blog-writer guy AND ys president, and that my comments on this blog can easily be taken as “official” ys doctrine. and sometimes (as in the apology to asian americans i posted a week ago), i DO use my blog for “official” ys stuff where i really want to express my own, personal voice. but, in general, the two (my blog and ys) are not the same thing.
2. ys is extremely intentional about who we allow in our exhibit hall and in our ad space and stuff like that. our leadership team has revisited this subject over and over and over again (and i’m sure we will continue to revisit it). our intentional commitment is this: we’ll allow almost anyone in, whether we agree with them or not. this is a missional and theological choice for us, not a financial choice. for us, it’s very much a matter of living out what we say we believe. and, since we say we believe that we trust youth workers, that we don’t need to spoon feed them or make all their decisions for them (ironically, this is a MAJOR difference between ys and atf, which, when ron and i met and chatted a couple years ago, we identified). so, every time a question is raised (internally, i mean) about an exhibitor or ad that one of us at ys really doesn’t like, or is embarassed by, or outright disagrees with, we have to swallow hard and remind ourselves that to be true to our calling and organizational values, we do not pre-select or suppress any organizations that want to connect with youth workers via these means (this, by the way, is the same reason we have general session speakers and seminar leaders at NYWC who would completely disagree with each other, and with whom i or others at YS might disagree with). we’ve only blocked exhibitors or ads a couple times, and it’s been because they didn’t treat our youth worker attendees well (i didn’t allow one organization to return to the 2nd – 4th cities last fall, after, in the 1st city, they were inappropriate in how they interacted with youth workers: particularly with female youth workers).
that’s a long-winded explanation to say: yes, i will express my likes and dislikes, organizations and ideas that get my pumped and organizations and ideas that i really don’t resonate with, here on my blog, in a way that you would not normally see YS, as an organization, do.
the line might sound pretty fuzzy to you. but it’s rather clear to me (i don’t mean that as a slam on someone for whom that line would be fuzzy — i say it to mean i know what i will and won’t say in official ys space, and what i will and won’t say in my blog).
again, from tim hower:
Marko you can’t say its just your opinion and not YS’s that you disagree with Battlecry. At the CORE training on the free resources table was the article from Group magazine from last fall that condemns Battlecry. Not the whole magazine, just that article. Why does YS continue to accept money if they don’t agree with what Battlecry is doing?
well, i think i kind of addressed this above (and, clearly, i disagree with you, tim, in that i DO think i can say it’s my opinion and not ys’s). i’m a little confused about the “group article condemning battle cry” you mention being on our freebies table. i haven’t been out on the core yet this year (i go out in two weeks), so i don’t know exactly what’s out there on those tables. but are you sure it was group? group and atf have partnered on stuff in the past (including a youth ministry event a couple years ago). i’d be a little surprised if they published an article condemning atf. but, hey, i could be wrong. i’m wondering if it was the journal of student ministries, which DID run an article, by steve argue, expressing frustration over war and battle language in youth ministry. and maybe JSM put that article out as a freebie to try to entice potential subscribers? i don’t know — i’m just guessing. even if that’s the case, JSM — while we are partners on it — operates independantly of ys. we don’t have anything to do with developing the content of JSM — we just have a partnership with them.
now… a word of clarification about ron himself. a couple years ago, ron and i had a major come-to-jesus meeting. we were both speaking at another youth ministry event (that neither of our organizations were hosting). and, we’d never officially met. we’d both spoken negatively, publically and privately, about each other for quite a while. but we’d never exchanged a word, personally.
when we met, we knew we needed to talk. i mentioned this to ron when we passed each other at one point (during the event), and — to his credit — he came and sat in the back of a seminar i was leading, listening and taking notes during the entire thing. he waited while i answered questions afterward. and then we went for a walk in the park (seriously – the whole thing, as a visual memory, has a bit of humor, because a film crew was shooting a scene for CSI in the park next to the event site, and ron and i walked through the park and sat at a picnic table to talk).
once we sat in the park and got past the initial small talk, i started weeping. i mean, really weeping. not convulsing, but tears streaming, and a bit hard to catch my breath. i told ron that i thought our speaking poorly of each other was breaking the heart of god. he agreed. i asked for his forgiveness, which he granted. he asked for mine, which i gave. then we had a very hard, but good, conversation about what we WOULD and what we WOULD NOT say about each other and each other’s organizations. we talked about what drives us crazy about each others organizations, and about what we would never agree on. we agreed that there were SIGNIFICANT differences in approach, based out of core values and theology, that we would likely never resolve. and we agreed that was ok to talk about. we also agreed that we could no longer question each other’s motives, and that we could no longer speak poorly of each other’s character.
then we held hands and prayed. we prayed for forgiveness, and we prayed for each other’s ministries. (again, i’m sure the scene was an odd one to the various youth workers wandering by! me and ron luce, crying and praying and holding hands, sitting at a picnic table in a park where a film crew was 20 feet away. people likely wondered if were we acting as part of some scene!)
i DO believe that ron is a guy who is pursuing god, and is trying to respond to god’s call on his life. i DO NOT believe that ron is evil or only motivated by impure motivations. i STRONGLY disagree with some of ron and ATF’s assumptions and approaches (particularly, with the massive use of war metaphors, and with their approach to culture).
but let me end with this: my belief in ron as a human combined with my ongoing disagreement with some of what his organization says and does leaves me realizing that there must be places where i and the organization i work for are misguided also.