Back from the Wild Goose Fest

This past weekend I was in Shakori Hills, NC. Until a few months ago I had never heard of Shakori Hills, and apparently, neither had a number of North Carolinians. In any case, Shakori Hills is a little farm town in North Eastern NC that is complete with pigs, well-water, Wi-Fi service, and at least for the weekend, and bunch of pinko lefty practitioners of Christian Spirituality. We slept under the stars and didn’t shower; we sat around camp fires drinking cheap alcohol and playing songs that we’d written in critique of the church followed by two-hundred year old hymns; we made statements and asked questions about the church creeds that would elicit fire from the eyeballs of the guardians of “orthodoxy.” David Bazan sang us to sleep with his perfectly-broken, low-range melodies laying forth haunting inquiries of our God:

when job asked you the question
you responded “who are you
to challenge your creator?”
well if that one part is true

it makes you sound defensive
like you had not thought it through
enough to have an answer
or you might have bit off
more than you could chew

These were my people! For four days, Shakori Hills, NC felt like Heaven with a broken AC unit … and maybe it was. At the very least it was a glimpse of hope for the future of the Church in an increasingly post-denominational, post structural America.

It took me a while to get over the initial sense that I was at a Christian conference; I couldn’t help but scan the crowds for goatees and fanny packs … and while the stereotypical Christian conference elements were there, the fanny packs were touting things like organic, local-harvest bread, and the goatees were spewing fiery declarations that equal rights around sexual orientation should be understood as a justice issue, in line with racial discrimination and gender inequality.

We wandered around the campgrounds together, meeting new friends and running into old; having our minds stretched and prodded by the likes of Irish theologian, Peter Rollins, and Episcopal Priest, Paul Fromberg. Conveniently enough, Peter and Paul were my two favorite presenters of the weekend (totally a coincidence). Collectively, though not together, they explored ideas about Christology, the Eucharist, Belief, and Doubt.

What does it mean when we say things as part of a ritual that we actually don’t agree with or believe? If God is Love … what is God not? Are we simply trying to seduce a god who is revealed to be a fake when the temple curtain is ripped in two? And if so, what implications does that have for our worship? My mind is taken to the fifth chapter of Amos:

21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

If God will not be seduced, but rather, is Love … this text seems like it has a lot to teach us … like it has a lot to teach me.

This is the beginning. I process my experiences at the pace of a three toed sloth, and those questions are the ones I have been sitting with (along with Bazan’s lyrical genius). And to tell you the truth, I’m left with doubt. Upon climbing into bed last night, it felt as if the existential prosecutors had planned an ambush under my sheets. As I listened to David question God over and over I started (or rather, continued) to question God. I even believed that this was all a farce … a human need that we fulfill by creating god in our brains … that real enlightenment ceases to need the self-motivating creation that we mistakenly name “the Creator” …

This doubt will upset people. It will not be exciting for my Committee on Preparation for Ministry to read. It will make my mother and father sad. It will discredit Peter, Paul, and David in the eyes of much of the Church. This doubt really terrifies me … and this doubt really is me.

And it really is you. Believe it or doubt it, you can’t have one without the other.

In my opinion, this is why the Wild Goose Festival is critical to our future as practitioners of Christian spirituality. Because if true faith in the God of Israel, who is the God of all people and all things, is going to continue, it must continue amidst great doubts. Indeed, faith can only be true if it is holding hands with doubt. May we never be ashamed of our doubts.

A great thank you to the appropriately named Peter, Paul, and David, and to the rest of the crew of people who made the 1st annual Wild Goose Festival a reality in such a way that our true reality was laid naked before our very eyes! May we never again be ashamed of our nakedness!

Grace, Peace, Love, Faith, Hope, and Doubt to ALL

~ by Will Norman on June 30, 2011.

17 Responses to “Back from the Wild Goose Fest”

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