The Religious Left’s Top 5 Distorted Teachings at Wild Goose

Annual gathering promotes teachings which stray from Gospel truth.

By Chelsen Vicari Published on July 23, 2018

Picture Woodstock, Birkenstocks, and unorthodox Jesus references. You have an image of the Wild Goose Festival. It’s an annual summer gathering of the Religious Left on a campground in Hot Springs, North Carolina.

Last weekend’s sweltering heat did not deter the overwhelmingly white, older Mainline Protestant participants from convening under scattered tents to acknowledge their own privilege and power. I was huddled among them.

Year-by-year, Wild Goose Festival speakers grow more dissident and unpredictable. Their teachings align less with Scripture and ever-closer to the political left. Considering this, it’s no wonder I learned a lot of fascinating, albeit deceptive lessons this year.

Here are the top five distorted teachings I learned at Wild Goose:

#1 ‘Abortion is a Life-Saving Thing’

Two Planned Parenthood workers were invited to host a session titled, “Reproductive Justice is ______: Moving Beyond the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life Binary.”

Mary Button and Emilie Bowman are abortion doulas for Planned Parenthood of Memphis. They describe the job as offering “support” to women during and after abortions.

Button belongs to the old-line Protestant Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). A proud pro-choice Christian, she admitted to previously believing “all abortion is a tragedy.” But thanks to her Planned Parenthood work, she has come to another opinion.

“For a lot of people,” she said, “an abortion is a life-saving thing.”

Bowman is a childcare advocate who used part of her time to advocate for abortion. “There are so many reasons why this person is making this choice for themselves,” Bowman said. She then encouraged us not to judge a woman who has an abortion, but to keep “supporting and trusting them in that.”

Among the most upsetting comments: Button describing her favorite abortion scenarios. “It’s weird to say,” Button admitted. “But my favorite abortions are the ones where women have made a decision and they’re okay with the decision. And as Rachel said, ‘birth control fails.’”

#2 Jesus Suffered ‘Because He Was Mucking Up What the State Was Trying to Do’

The historic and notoriously liberal Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., hosted a Wild Goose session titled, “A World Without Walls.” In typical progressive Christian fashion, the conversation called for open borders. It asserted: “All of Scripture is one big story about immigration, displacement, and return.”

Maria Swearingen is a married lesbian co-pastor of Calvary Baptist. She ran a panel where immigrants — both legal and illegal — shared their stories. Towards the end, Swearingen made the provocative claim that illegal aliens suffer just as “Christ suffered because of the state.” She further said Jesus suffered “because he was mucking up what the state was trying to do.”

However, equating illegal immigration penalties with Christ’s suffering on the Cross does not measure up. Desperate to promote a left-leaning political objective, Swearingen dismissed Christ’s fulfillment of God’s eternal plan as our Redeemer.

#3 ‘Solar Panels on Your Church Might Help You Attract Young People’

Mindful of Wild Goose’s emphasis on environmentalism, I proudly sported my eco-friendly, BPA-free, recyclable water bottle. Imagine my shock at seeing an alarming number of Wild Goose participants carrying plastic water bottles. And littering them across the campground.

This observation came during a lighter workshop titled, “Creation Care: Practicing Love.” It promised practical ideas for achieving “environmental justice.”

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One amusing tip came from a speaker who encouraged us to install solar panels on our sanctuary rooftops. “Solar panels on your church might help you attract young people and young families,” she said. “They will see you share their values.”

Want to attract millennials to your church? Solar panels. Not sound doctrine, apparently.

#4 References to Light and Dark ‘Reinforces Whiteness and the Hierarchy of Race’

Liturgy is holy, uniting, and “written from a place of unacknowledged privilege,” according to one Wild Goose session. ELCA members Ray Gentry and Elizabeth Rawlings led a session titled, “Disruptive Worship: Liturgy for Justice.” The two targetted the downfalls of traditional liturgical worship.

“The words we use are problematic,” Rawlings told our group gathered by the river. “They reinforce patriarchy. They reinforce racism. They reinforce gender stereotypes and gender normativity.”

Liturgical references to light and dark, Rawlings warned, can oppress people of color. “The word light can be associated with skin color in English — it’s not in Hebrew,” she claimed. “But when every week light is lifted up as good and dark is lifted up or thrown down as bad, that just reinforces whiteness and the hierarchy of race.”

#5 ‘Embrace Some Good Northern Spirit’

Roger Wolsey, a United Methodist campus minister, led a session titled, “Mystic or Bust!” Wolsey encouraged progressive Christians to embrace mystic practices as part of their daily spiritual expression. As an example, he invited us to stand, face North and “embrace some good Northern Spirit.” He then prayed to the “blessed spirit of the North” asking “to receive your compass, your guidance, your shining star that guides us.”

Next, he instructed participants to turn and pray to the East, then the South and the West. Each cardinal direction, or “spirit,” received its own unique prayer.

Monitoring the Wild Goose Festival is a tough assignment, even for me. For the past five years, I’ve monitored and reported on the Religious Left on behalf of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. My job is primarily to discern distortions touted by the progressive Christian crowd. However, the Wild Goose Festival is a whole new level of dysfunction.

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