This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wild Goose Festival 2014 - I.

             Susan and I have been to all four Wild Goose Festivals; it’s become the keystone of both our vacation and professional development each year.  For those who don’t know, we refer to the festival as “Progressive Christian Woodstock,” to give the feel of both the offerings in creative worship, social justice practices, and Christian teaching, as well as the fact that we camp out in the North Carolina woods during the whole thing.
            When we arrive, after claiming a campsite and setting up the tents, there is this annual ritual of figuring out the program guide.  I realize it must be difficult to organize so many venues and presenters, but every year the program guide is only barely intelligible.  This time I had to literally rip out pages and rearrange them so that all the events for each half-day appeared on the same spread of open pages.  What I couldn’t fix was the listing of presenters by category, and then not telling you in the calendar what category each presented was, which made is very tedious to actually find out who some of these people were.   Why they don’t just list them all alphabetically is a mystery to me.
            Last year’s festival included appearances by Krista Tippett, and for months she featured interviews from the festival on her NPR show, “On Being.”  Therefore, with this jolt of publicity, I expected a larger festival, and was right.  I noticed considerably more people around this year.  Perhaps half of the attendees were first-timers.
            Also, in the past year the festival lost one of its founders, civil rights legend Vincent Harding.  We made a point of remembering him by singing his words to the tune of “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder:” “We are building up a new world, we are building up a new world, we are building up a new world, builders must be strong.”  Sometimes this kind of language makes me nervous.  The worlds built by people have all been prisons of injustice.  But in the context of this festival and Vincent’s life dedicated to justice and peace, that verse is a calling to participate in the new world God is building.  

Brian McLaren.
            The star of the festival this year, as every year so far, was Brian McLaren.  Most of the venues he appeared at were overflowing with people… which is fine.  Brian is still the godfather of Emergence Christianity, and his message is the essential grounding of the festival.  The more people hear him the better.
            Brian’s new book is We Make the Road By Walking, a catechetical summary of Christian faith through 50+ short chapters based on passages from Scripture.  It is like a new lectionary, bringing the reader through a year of Bible readings viewed from the emergence perspective.  For instance, I heard him talk about how he dealt with Holy Week and Lent.  Too often we treat the events of Good Friday like some kind of protection racket: convincing people they have a problem then presenting them with our solution.  A forgiveness racket, he called it, in which we attempt to solve problems people don’t yet know they have.  Wouldn’t we be more effective evangelists if we started with the problems people actually have, and showing how being a disciple of Jesus Christ brings redemption and healing?
            Brian noted that he focused during Lent on the Sermon on the Mount, how Jesus comes not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it by extending it beyond the written code.  For, as Jesus himself noted, it is easy for people to twist the literal observance of the written words of Scripture into just the opposite of what God intended. 
            We Make the Road By Walking is a very good intro to Emergence Christianity through Scripture.  Hopefully it will silence the critics who complain that Emergence is somehow contrary to the Bible.  It is only contrary to the ways the Bible has been misused for centuries in the service of Empire.

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