A week ago I returned from the Wild Goose Festival in Shakori Hills, NC. This festival is the first of its kind in North America, modeled after a similar event in the UK called Greenbelt, which is a festival of arts, music, justice and spirituality. This festival was born out of a desire to see people of faith embody their faith in more just and joyful ways, connecting across lines of denomination, politics, class, race, etc. The hope of this festival was to create space for conversation, reflection and celebration of both our similarities and differences in the name of an evolving church.
This festival was not a convention or a conference led by keynote speakers and attended by passive listeners. Rather, it involved musicians, theologians, social justice advocates and artists engaging in conversation with participants about tough questions relevant to the deep needs of the world and of God's people. As many of you know, I generally balk at theology that smacks of any sort of fundamentalism or evangelicalism. However, I also shy away from people who are too far left in their theology, although this is a relatively new development for me.
This festival provided real sacred space for engaging in conversation instead of beating each other over the head with our theology. I spent an entire morning just sitting at the coffee shop on the festival grounds with a book, my journal and a really large latte. I had wonderful conversations with all sorts of people including an evangelical book publisher, a physician who works with HIV patients in San Francisco, some prominent emergent theologians, a couple in their seventies who drove to the festival from the Midwest, the Muslim chaplain from Duke University and the author of the book that I am currently leading a book study on, Samir Selmanovic. What was beautiful is that I, along with everyone else at the festival, heard and experienced things that made us uncomfortable (don't get me started about the contributor to Religious Dispatches advocating for gender neutral pronouns...), yet didn't shut down the conversation. There were things I passionately agreed with and other things I vehemently disagreed with, but I put that aside for awhile, and just listened.
I am working on being able to freely admit that I have been one of those people who have used my progressive theology and social activism to pass judgment on others, while moving forward with an attitude of humility and pragmatism. I had a great conversation with my pastor Nadia this week in which we were reflecting on the progressives' tendency to "call people out", fracturing the very relationships which could lead to change. The only place for authentic dialogue is in the middle where there is space for conversation and grace, where we suspend our judgments and demonstrate openness and a willingness to learn. And while this is something that I have been attempting to practice for years, this festival finally allowed me to live it.