Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wild Goose - Progressive Christians Have a Come to Jesus Camp Meeting

I was over at The Reformed Pastor blog and notice this at Quote of the Day:

Paul, in the Bible, tells my wife to be silent in church, screw St. Paul, screw him!

Frankie Schaeffer, son of evangelical icon Francis Schaeffer, at the “Wild Goose Festival,” a religious left shindig down in North Carolina last weekend...

Well oh well!! Mr Schaeffer talks about his experience here in his own words at The Wild Goose 'Revival' for Doubters and Jesus Victims (Like Me)

I was alerted the National Catholic Reporter had a series of articles on this camp meeting. See Tattoos, music, and 'legitimate questioning of theology' The links to the other must read articles on it are at the bottom.

I found the first article pretty funny for some of the comments of the organizers about how they viewed religious America and if they could pull this conference off

I don't think it has occurred to them yet that even in the Bible Belt south with its collections of faith Healers, the child ministers, the female Pentecostals dancing around the sanctuary dancing in the aisles and playing the sax, the Jehovah Witness, the hard line Baptist hell and damnation tent ministers, the snake handlers, the folks speaking in tongues, and mysterious Catholics for some color that even many of the most Fundamentalist of the Fundamentalist they have come to recover from would pay them little heed.

When you live in such close quarters with this "diversity" tolerance believe it or not is very much part of the social contract to survive down here

I mean they are in the State of the PTL club for goodness sake.

Anyway I enjoy the guys writing and one gets indications that the tolerance only went so far at the Camp Meeting. Also inclusive is in the eye of the beholder. That being said it is an event I very much would I liked to have been at. I think I would have a blast observing. It sounds like fun.

A commenter at NCR actually summed up my thoughts though and I shall quote him in full . ( The bold is mine.

Not to burst anyone's bubble

Not to burst anyone's bubble or anything, b/c I know the organizers of this event were well intentioned... but, it's a bit of a misnomer to describe the gathering as inclusive. Yes, the event created space for people who feel harmed by "organized religion," and it also brought together folks from diverse ecclesial backgrounds; but, I guarantee you that it was exclusionary in its own way. You know how I know why: I went to divinity school with several of those who were in attendance. And, in that context (shaped by the same values that undergirded Wild Goose), if you even tried to have a theological discussion about women's ordination or to uphold the Catholic Church's moral theology, you were labeled a bigot and shunned. In other words, this crowd has their own theological shibboleth's which one must adhere to for inclusion in the group.

The fact of the matter is there is no religious group that is completely inclusive. The reason: anyone who is seeking to follow Jesus is seeking the truth, and truth is inherently exclusionary. To say something is true necessarily entails excluding those who do not agree. For instance, if someone says, "Those who follow Christ should be completely nonviolent," they will at some point experience a rupture in communion with those who think otherwise. Now, people of different beliefs can gather together for worship and fellowship to a certain degree. But, I just know from experience that this only goes so far. If you were to say to some of the speakers at Wild Goose that sacramental marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman, they would consider you a mean-spirited, narrow bigot. Exclusion.

So, on the one hand, I applaud the organizers of Wild Goose for their intentions. On the other hand, I still wanted to point out that it's a bit inaccurate to contrast the inclusion of Wild Good against the supposed exclusion of other manifestations of Christianity. The key difference is that the two simply have different interpretations of the truth. But, both crowds end up excluding opinions that they think are false. Jesus came not to bring peace, but the sword. Yes, the truth sets us free, but it also brings us into conflict with others (obviously, we should navigate such conflict with patience and charity). At the end of the day, I just think it's false to portray progressive Christians as wholly inclusive and Christians who maintain tradition as wholly exlcusionary. I say this as someone who's experienced concrete exclusion by progressive Christians.

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