The following article is by Blaze contributing writer David Urbanski.
Christian outdoor summer festivals featuring music and speakers are nothing new. Creation. Cornerstone. Jesus Northwest. They’ve been happening every summer since the early 1970s. But a new one took place last weekend in North Carolina—the Wild Goose Festival—and its decidedly left-of-center focus on “justice, spirituality, music, and art” generated quite the buzz and drew almost 2,000 participants. Below, watch a promo video for the festival:
And whereas Christian festivals always feature music as the prime drawing card, the Wild Goose Festival took flight on the strength of its cadre of left-leaning speakers, such as Jay Bakker, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, and Shane Claiborne. Most notable was Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, who “called us movingly, sanely well to organize, march and provide the wind behind Obama’s sails in order to change his priorities from war to education, compassion and justice,” blogged Frank Schaeffer, a left-leaning Christian leader who attended the festival.
Schaeffer—son of the late evangelical Christian thinker and author, Francis Schaeffer—has distanced himself from his father’s views in recent years. To wit: He titled his blog “The Wild Goose ‘Revival’ for Doubters and Jesus Victims (Like Me)” and observed that “we understood each other, understood why it was a big deal that some of us were gay, open and happy in spite of everything, understood why some of us still wanted to follow Jesus, even though the world we came from—far right, hate-and-fear-driven wacko religion—has done its best to turn Jesus into Attila the Hun and/or Michele Bachmann.”
Indeed, it’s seemed that the most common denominator among festival organizers and attendees is that they “love God but aren’t thrilled with institutional Christianity, particularly the religious right,” according to a USA Today article.
The festival Web site notes that Wild Goose “is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation.” A writer for the National Catholic Reporter observed “young tattooed evangelicals, musicians with instruments slung over their shoulders, gay Christians of all stripes and seasoned members of the Christian Left emerged, most carrying backpacks, water bottles and sleeping bags.” Most notably, longtime Christian singer Jennifer Knapp—who has come out as a lesbian—played the festival.
Already, the festival has drawn the ire of more conventional evangelical bloggers who don’t like its broader view of Christian spirituality or openness to gays and lesbians. “The wise Christian will have nothing to do with these neo-Gnostic fools who’ve unbuckled themselves from the Word of God and have embarked upon their Wild Goose Chase of subjective experience,” wrote Southern Baptist blogger Ken Silva of New Hampshire-based Apprising Ministries.
Not that the Wild Goose Festival is a new and unique phenomenon: It’s modeled after Greenbelt, a British Christian rock festival now in its 37th year. (And in case you were wondering, the term “wild goose” is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit: noisy, passionate, not easily tamed and tending to flock together.)
The political tone of the festival could hardly be called Reagan-esque. One of the speakers, Rev. William Barber—North Carolina state president of the NAACP—shared his thoughts last Friday under a tent to about 200 people. Barber, who’s been arrested three times in recent months protesting budget cuts to social programs, said the Tea Party has adopted the language of bigotry and racism, according to a second National Catholic Reporter article. Obama’s election has also produced “a violent backlash that always starts with language,” Barber noted, such as “Take Back America.” Five of the six elements of the Tea Party take their roots from hate groups, Barber said. Watch Barber, below, discussing “economic justice” at a previous protest:
Some people said Obama’s election “would represent post-racism,” Barber added. “But we know better than that.” The current Republican strategy is “to segregate voting power, wealth and educational opportunity,” he said. “Tax cuts are about isolating wealth in the pockets of a few.”
Interestingly one online comment from the National Catholic Reporter article took issue with the decided lack of color among Wild Goose attendees, as well as their motivations:
“Dr. [Martin Luther] King would have had nothing to do with a bunch of white people lying on blankets and sipping white wine. He would have told them to get off their asses and do something with the Gospel. I’m tired of people bastardizing Dr. King’s legacy by associating it with soft causes, especially the black people who have made a living by saying they knew him way back when. The only place you can understand Dr. King is in the trenches, not on picnic blankets. These are the kinds of Christians Dr. King marched AGAINST.”
Schaeffer concluded differently:
“Wild Goose Festival is going to grow into the largest, best run, most dynamic religious happening in the U.S. There are lots of smart spiritually hungry people with their eyes open…Next year, be there. And if you’re an atheist, agnostic, whatever, you’ll like it too because you’ll be amongst those rare sort of religious people who will admit that we’re all in the same boat and that certainty is a killer and humility is all that works, if, that is, you want to live and let live instead of using ideas as weapons.”