Last week witnessed a rain-soaked gathering centered upon “the intersection of music, justice, spirituality and art” in Hot Springs, North Carolina. The muddy campground attracting an estimated 2,200 participants at times resembled Yoda’s swamp world of Dagobah, complete with Evangelical Left luminaries espousing theologies similar to the aged Star Wars character’s new age pronouncements. The Wild Goose Festival — named after the Celtic imagery for the Holy Spirit—draws in aging Protestant Mainliners and disenchanted ex-evangelicals. The festival highlights what its apologists call “emergence Christianity,” but Wild Goose certainly does not shy away from liberal politics. This year’s event featured both in spades. Emergence Christianity, popularly known as the Emergent Church movement, springs primarily from 20th century deconstructionism. In his public interview with Krista Tippett, emergent guru Brian McLaren described the movement as “postmodern…post-colonial…and post-Holocaust.” He contended that modernism is a “colonized…European form of Christianity” which crumbled away under the postmodern uncertainties of globalism and relativism. McLaren thought the Holocaust frightened believers away from the idea of a “Christian nation,” all the while tyranny became associated with a faith in absolutes. “We’re probably at our worst when we present our faith not as a story but as a system,” he argued. “We need to give up the crazy European idea of monoreligious cultures.” Of course, opponents to such wondrous post-everything progress are none other than conservative evangelicals “with the audacity to say that homosexual people are ruining marriage” and Catholics “more concerned with keeping women out of the priesthood as the world is destroyed by carbon gases.” Featured speaker Frank Schaeffer (outspoken critic of his father Francis’ legacy) was more direct: “Certainty is the enemy of the truth.” Indeed, many wild goslings boasted they were “seekers who haven’t found the answers,” but were “looking for companions on each of our respective faith journeys.” Wild Goose “elder” Vincent Harding addressed the opening invocation to “Mother-Father God, Benevolent Being,” “the spirits of those who came before,” and “the spirit of the earth.” Observers might not know where this flock is headed, but it’s definitely not north. This loosey-goosey theology allows for a panoply of beliefs and practices. This year especially, the festival highlighted issues of sexuality. While organizers tout Wild Goose as a “safe space for dangerous conversation,” the festival benefited for the first time from sponsorship by the homosexual advocacy organization the Human Rights Campaign. In one presentation, openly gay Roman Catholic priest James Alison likened church leaders with Italian traffic cops: well-dressed figures who occasionally feel the need to emerge from their booths and direct traffic, causing more problems. Asher Kolieboi, who was born female and now embraces a male identity, demanded a “trans theology” of affirmation in all congregations. Such ethics require a tolerant God. Thankfully, the “Benevolent Being” is quite nonviolent! After all, the texts of violence, divine punishment, and judgment stand for “the people sharing how they understand themselves and God,” according to Pastor Amy Yoder McGloughlin of the infamous Germantown Mennonite Church . “Whether or not it’s [historically] true doesn’t really matter to me,” she revealed. Of course, making space for a nonviolent God gives room for pacifism and universalism. If the Highest Power in the cosmos never inflicts pain to fulfill the demands of justice, who are human governors to carry out war? Moreover, if God does not punish sin, does He send anyone into Hell? Such unenlightened concepts typical of traditional American Protestantism should be thrown away with coal mining and offshore drilling. Perhaps the perfect encapsulation of Wild Goose was its chili cornbread Eucharist. Touted as an example of “bioregional discipleship,” the service featured a “good old fashioned altar call tonight at communion,” where supplicants would repent of their “consumer lifestyle” and “petroleum-based investments.” Wild goslings enjoyed a feel-good narrative of healthy eating and locally-grown ingredients. “I have grown this corn on our land in the [New Mexican] mountains. I ground it by hand…used rainwater from North Carolina to make the batter,” the presenter boasted. He added, “It’s mountain corn. It tastes toothy. This isn’t a white cornbread. It also has great chili and cheese we’ve added to that cornbread tonight, and it tastes meaty. It tastes like a body.” Opportunities for scatological humor aside, this insipid “ Stuff White People Like ” vibe resembles a Portlandia sketch more than a religious service. Apparently, the most important questions surrounding the sacrament aren’t about Christ’s presence and substance, but instead whether or not the ingredients are certified fair trade organic. The size and longevity of the emergent movement remain questionable. During a Darkwood Brew live broadcast, one minister begged for advice since the conservatives had been scared out of her church and the congregation was on the brink of collapse. At the Alison lecture, a married lesbian from the Archdiocese of Detroit was struggling with “new, young conservative leadership.” Participants tended to be raised in the church; few if any converted from another religion (or cared to evangelize, since that is a “colonialist” endeavor). Ever the contrarian, Frank Schaeffer observed in one of his workshops, “The mission of progressive Christianity is odd. It’s a bunch of people who realized their wagon is hitched to something supremely uncool, and so they try to hitch their wagon on something cool instead. The problem is that what is cool today is determined by a s*** culture.” Emergents do hitch their cart to such falling stars as environmentalism, pacifism, the Moral Monday protests, wealth redistribution, and “laughter yoga.” Like liberal Protestants before them, the Evangelical Left may also slip into irrelevance and lost vitality. Ironically, for all their talk of misty uncertainties and multiculturalism, emergents remain assured that orthodox Christianity and conservative politics are erroneous. It seems that, in reaching out to theological misfits, the Wild Goose Festival has picked up all the heretics.
A small headline in the 2nd section of the Wall Street Journal last week told a bigger story than a lot of front page banner headlines. It said, “U.S. Firms Add Jobs, but Mostly Overseas.” Just as there is no free lunch, there is no free class warfare. Some people may be inspired by President Obama’s talk about making “the rich” pay their undefined “fair share” of taxes, or taking away corporations’ “tax breaks.” But talk is not always cheap. It can be very costly to those working people who are looking for jobs that the Obama administration’s anti-business policies are driving overseas. According to the Wall Street Journal , “Thirty-five big U.S.-based multinational companies added jobs much faster than other U.S. employers in the past two years, but nearly three-fourths of those jobs were overseas.” All these companies have at least 50,000 employees, so we are talking about a lot of jobs for foreigners with American companies overseas. If the Wall Street Journal can figure this out, it seems certain that the President of the United States has economic advisers who can figure out the same thing. But that does not mean that the president is interested in the same thing. In this, as in so much else, Barack Obama is interested in Barack Obama. Whatever bad effects his policies may have for others, those policies have had a track record of political success for many politicians in many places. To put it bluntly, killing the goose that lays the golden egg is a viable political strategy, provided the goose doesn’t die before the next election. In this case, the goose simply lays its golden eggs somewhere else, so there is no political danger to President Obama. Unemployment may remain a problem to many Americans, but that only provides another occasion for the Obama administration to show its “compassion” with extended unemployment benefits, more food stamps and various interventions to save home buyers from mortgage foreclosure. This can easily be a winning political strategy. Franklin D. Roosevelt won his biggest landslide victory after his first term in office, during which the unemployment rate was never less than twice what it has been under Barack Obama. The “smart money” inside the Beltway says that a high unemployment rate spells doom at the polls for a president. But history says that people who are getting government handouts tend to vote for whoever is doing the handing out. The Obama administration has turned this into a handout state that breaks all previous records. Lofty rhetoric about “stimulus,” “shovel-ready projects,” “green jobs” or “investment” in “the industries of the future” all give political cover to what is plain old handouts to people who are likely to vote to re-elect Obama. At the local level as well, history shows that some of the most successful politicians have been people who ruined the local economy and chased job-creating businesses away. Mayor Coleman Young of Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s was not worried when affluent whites began moving out of the city in response to his policies, because they were people who were likely to vote against him if they stayed. Of course they took their taxes, their investment money and the jobs they created with them. But that was Detroit’s problem, not Coleman Young’s problem. Barack Obama may win re-election by turning the United States into Detroit writ large. Something similar happened in earlier times, when James Michael Curley served 4 terms as mayor of Boston, and 2 terms in prison. As the non-Irish left the city, in response to Curley’s policies, that increased Curley’s likelihood of being re-elected. This kind of cynical politics is even more likely to succeed when political opponents fail to articulate their case to the public. And Republicans are notorious for neglecting articulation. The phrase “tax cuts for the rich” has been repeated endlessly by Democrats without one Republican that I know of saying, “Folks, I don’t lie awake at night worrying about millionaires’ tax problems. Millionaires have lawyers and accountants who get paid to do that. But I do worry about jobs being lost to millions of American workers because we make the business climate here worse than in other countries. That’s a high price to pay for rhetoric.” The case can be made. But somebody has to make the case. COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM