Q: Who stole the word "Christian" and turned it into a word that means "Right Wing Republican" these days?
A: The religious right did and I was part of that effort.
Q: Who will restore the word Christian to its rightful meaning as "followers of Christ" and the word "religion" to mean inclusive love of the other?
A: The Wild Goose Festival is trying hard to do just that.
Wild Goose is an organization that launched its debut festival promoting justice, spirituality, music, and art in June 2011 in North Carolina. I was honored to be a speaker there talking about my journey from far right evangelical religion to progressive politics and tolerant inclusive faith. I'll go again this year (June 21-24) as an unpaid volunteer and speaker for another 4 days of pleasure and inspiration.
The festival's debut attracted 1,700 attendees and a wave of well deserved media attention. Now there is some good news: Wild Goose is coming to the West Coast too.
The WG board announced the addition of the second festival site, "Wild Goose West," to be hosted August 31 - September 2 at Benton County Fairgrounds outside of Portland, Oregon.
About Wild Goose
Wild Goose is an affordable, four-day outdoor festival (inspired by the U.K.'s Greenbelt festival), a Woodstock-style event now to be annually held on both coasts, rooted in and critiquing the fundamentalist religious tradition and offering a real alternative. Wild Goose has become a vibrant progressive and inclusive creative space, a welcoming community experience and an influential voice for justice.
Along these lines, during Wild Goose's debut last year, Jim Wallis, T-Bone Burnett, Phyllis Tickle, Vincent Harding, Over the Rhine, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Brian McLaren, Peggy & Tony Campolo, Inter-varsity Press, Restoring Eden, Michelle Shocked, William Barber, Jim Forbes, Gabriel Salguero, Paul Fromberg, Lynne Hybels and 1700 others of us met to sing, drink beer, learn, teach, argue, pray, eat, dance, and re-imagine a new world. We were Christians, atheists, agnostics, members of other faiths and people from the LGTB community, all races and of all backgrounds. We forgave and welcomed each other.
Forgive me for this blatant promotion but note I'm not officially connected to the festival and I don't have any financial ties to it. My work is non-paid. In the light of my question, who stole the name "Christian?" WG is a personal answer for me. To explain this I have to tell you a bit of my own story.
Until Irish peace activist Gareth Higgins (the founder and director) asked me to speak at Wild Goose in 2011, I hadn't spoken at a major (or minor) religious event for 25 years plus (with one exception of the Greenbelt Festival in the UK 5 years ago). I'd given up on anything good ever coming out of a community that contains homophobic "family values" bigots, conservative Roman Catholic bishops seeking to strip women of their reproductive rights, and "leaders" like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson, Mitt Romney et al.
Almost 30 years ago I found myself abandoning the evangelical world as it became more and more right wing, exclusionary, homophobic and frankly more like some religion based on Ayn Rand than Jesus. Not to mention, the evangelical arena seemed fatally politicized.
But how could I complain? My late father Francis Schaeffer and I helped make it that way.
We helped found the religious right and the anti-abortion movement in the 1970′s and 80′s. I wrote, produced and directed the multi-million dollar documentary series featuring my father ("How Should We Then Live?" and "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?") that started the ball rolling to the eventual takeover of the Republican Party. It was taken over by people who once were mostly interested in Jesus but whose actions eventually made them look more interested in backing George W. Bush and his wars.
In the early 1990s I repented of my family's tilt-to-the-right, changed my mind on politics, life and faith and shook the dust from my shoes and ran. I've written several books like Crazy For God explaining why I left the religious right and the redemption I found in inclusive loving faith.
I'm still hungry for the community faith can provide when its not busy judging others. I want to share that good news. And Wild Gosse Festival is the place I've discovered that shares that vision.
I discovered that there really is a "third way" that transcends the either/or choices between a "Christianity" (and all religions) more interested in how you vote, and a "secularism" that seems to want to strip my life of transcendent meaning. That third way is what Wild Goose means to me and I think, to many others. I hope you join us June 21-24 on the East Coast or August 31 to September 2 on the West Coast. See you there. Drinks in the beer tent on me if you mention that you came to the festival because you read this article!
Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author of more thn a dozen books including Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back