July 26, 2011
Reflections from Wild Goose Festival
Thank you to Rachel Neftzer Snavely, IVP editorial assistant, for taking the time to share her experiences from Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina.
I have a problem. Many, I'm sure, but the one I'm referring to is that I love to be right. Not so bad in itself, I suppose, if it weren't accompanied by a more devious character flaw: I love it when I'm right, someone else is wrong, and I can prove it.
I'm not so hard on myself as to think that I'm the only one who suffers from this hubris. It's human nature, and followers of Jesus are not exempt. In fact, I sometimes wonder if we are not more prone to it than the general population. In any case, it's a serious challenge facing the modern church.
I remember exactly when I realized I had this defect. I was a freshman in college, and had proudly declared my major in Bible and theology. I was telling my boyfriend (who is now my husband) all about what I was learning in one of my theology classes. I excitedly delved into some theological minutiae--something about the economic and immanent Trinity, I think--and spoke very eloquently about all the interesting things I had learned. At the end of my trinitarian sermon, my not-yet-husband asked, "So ... why does all that matter?"
He repeated the question. "Why does it matter? I mean, how does it affect our lives?" I don't know, I thought, suddenly frustrated with his practical nature.
I realized then that being right, or knowing facts simply for the sake of knowing them, wasn't sufficient for the faithful follower of Christ. Right thought (orthodoxy) and right action (orthopraxy) have to be connected. Being right--or smart, or informed--is worthless if it isn't connected with obedience and action. In fact, it can be destructive. The book of James says as much. Jesus, too.
This is one of the reasons I was so interested in being a part of the first annual Wild Goose Festival in Shakori Hills, North Carolina. The wild goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit, and this festival was all about gathering together and discussing how the Spirit is moving in our time, and how we can enter into the movements of God. The festival was oriented around the themes of justice, spirituality, art and music, and was intentionally inclusive--all were welcome regardless of age, race, gender or religious commitment.
Speakers and performers at Wild Goose—all of whom waived their speaking or performance fees—were regarded more as participants in the discussion than as celebrities. They were there on their own time, with their own money, because they thought it was worth it. Half of each session was devoted to conversation, allowing other participants to throw in their two cents, or to ask questions of the speakers. There was no green room—or any other color room, for that matter—to which the speakers could escape. They walked around talking with others, many of them camping like the rest of us. The festival hosted several Likewise authors, including Mark Scandrette (Practicing the Way of Jesus), Margot Starbuck (Unsqueezed), Sean Gladding (The Story of God, The Story of Us) and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne (Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers).
The inclusive nature, along with the session structure, made for an environment that encouraged humility (though imperfectly) among speakers and participants alike. Speakers were immediately held accountable for what they said, conversations happened in-person and face-to-face rather than in an impersonal online dialogue. It was an admirable and helpful format, and I hope the gathering becomes more theologically and ethnically diverse to bring healing and relationship among the various affinity groups of Christianity.
My husband will tell you that I continue to struggle with the impulse to prove others wrong. Certain topics (and, to be frank, certain people) set me off on angry tirades. I imagine I’ll never be completely healed of this, but the image of the wild goose encouraged me to strive for the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul says that if we live by the Spirit, we will produce these fruits. He contrasts these with the works of the flesh, which include enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions and envy (Galatians 5:19-21). I’m often tempted to converse according to the flesh; Paul tells us that these ways have been crucified with Christ, and that we must now be led by the Spirit.
Experience some of what Wild Goose was all about in this summary video: