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Chasing the Religious Left’s “Wild Goose”Luke MoonJune 27, 2011
Wild Goose speakers like Jim Wallis tried to push biblical teaching out of the way. (Photo credit: IRD)
A recent festival convened by Religious and Evangelical Left leaders served as a mixing pot of liberal political advocacy and emergent church theology. Over the weekend of June 25, over 1,000 self-identified “progressive” Christians flocked to the Wild Goose festival situated in the rolling hills of North Carolina. This mix of old time hippies and young idealists enjoyed an eclectic blend of art, music, talks, and general dissatisfaction directed at traditional evangelicals.
“Paul, in the Bible, tells my wife to be silent in church. Screw St. Paul, screw him!” shouted a visibly angry Frank Schaeffer during one session of the festival. Schaeffer, son of deceased author and evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer, lamented his family’s role in building the “Religious Right,” and the gathered audience of disaffected former evangelicals and other Religious Left groups affirmed his message. Schaeffer’s presentation seemed intentionally designed to offend traditionalists, leading to gleeful claps of approval from the audience.
While festival organizers proclaimed a “big tent” of inclusion, speakers repeatedly criticized a wide field of supposed adversaries including political conservatives, evangelical Christian leaders, the United States government and even contemporary praise band leaders. Especially singled out for disdain were Southern Baptists, who were openly ridiculed by almost all of the major speakers.
Touted as an event rooted in the Christian tradition, organizers chose the Wild Goose as its symbol. They described how the Wild Goose is a “Celtic metaphor for the spirit of God, moving where she wills, opening us to become not more religious, but more human.” Sadly, references to Christian tradition and The Wild Goose were largely cover for oldline leftist ideologies. Hoping to attract young evangelicals drawn to biblical teachings to care for the widow, the orphan, and the broken, festival speakers repackaged socialism and called it Regenerative Economies, while daydreaming about ending the nation-state through global environmental governance.
Happy for the government to push the Church away from her responsibility to the poor, Sojourners chief Jim Wallis was on hand to offer a healthy dose of fear-mongering. As I sat in the searing heat of the morning sun, I listened to his lecture, entitled “The Sky is Falling on the Poor.” Wallis showed that he is well versed in the intricacies of the evil Republican budget but ignorant as to how the debt was created in the first place. Wallis boldly stated to the applause of the audience that “the debt arrived through two wars and tax breaks for the rich.” In classic Wallis style, class warfare is good, but actual warfare – even against terror – is always of the devil.
Continuing the fear-mongering, Emergent Church purveyor Brian McLaren picked up where Wallis left off. Standing in the middle of a giant geodesic dome made of branches and twine, he lamented the lack of global environmental regulation and argued that “we must talk about the joy in paying taxes.” He raged about the “myth” that the church could take over the care of the poor from the government, calling those who believe such “stupid and idiots…and that’s being nice.” Over 40 years of failures in the federal government’s “War on Poverty” should convince religious statists at least to question whether government is always the solution. But few such doubts arose at The Wild Goose.
Although the Religious Left loves to claim the moral high ground on poverty, its activists are often quick to ignore Christ’s call to personal holiness. One speaker described how he and his friends cut out of the Bible all the passages referring to the poor and poverty. This Jeffersonian activity might garner friendship on the secular left. But the church has always recognized that the Scriptures are divinely inspired and speak holistically to all human life, including personal salvation and repentance. The Wild Goose seemed ambivalent at best about personal morality, especially sex, despite the Bible’s clarity.
Using a combination of emotionalism and revisionist hermeneutics, Peggy Campolo concluded unscientifically that “gay people don’t have a choice.” She went on to criticize those “hateful arguments that people have changed, they actually haven’t. Those people are confused about their sexuality and are probably bisexual.” Not to be outdone by his wife, Tony Campolo stated plainly that since the Church has “become welcoming and accepting” of divorced people and not restrictive to ordination, eventually homosexuality will be accepted as well. Ironically, Peggy and Tony were rebuked by a young gay activist for not affirming those who chose to be LBGTQ.
There are a few issues that have been able to unite conservative and liberal Christian activists such as human trafficking and Sudan. But such moments of cooperation are once again giving way to retrenchment. True Biblical justice comes through submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and not through faddish ideologies. The ancient Celtic Monks have unknowingly lent their metaphor for the Holy Ghost to the Wild Goose Festival, but would they have embraced the festival’s political obsessions and scorn for Christian Tradition? Probably not.
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