In remote Appalachia, liberal Christians gather at Wild Goose to pray — and plan

Religion News Service | 7/15/2019 | Staff
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HOT SPRINGS, N.C. (RNS) — For years, liberals — even liberal people of faith — have been wary of fusions of faith and politics, careful not to pierce the boundary between church and state.

But at this year’s Wild Goose Festival, an annual Christian gathering that convened July 11-14 in a campground along the French Broad River, many attendees asked the same question: What if my beliefs are by implication political?

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This year was Wild Goose’s eighth iteration since 2011, when the first gathering was organized as an American version of the Greenbelt festival in the United Kingdom. It is a curious blend of music festival, activist strategy session, and spiritual revival, all swirling below the Mason-Dixon Line in a mountain retreat where mud is plentiful and cell phone signal is not.

The atmosphere may seem foreign to top Democratic Party operatives and even many liberal religious leaders. But as the religious left exerts an unaccustomed influence on political rhetoric, Wild Goose has begun to draw recognizable names, including presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.

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It’s hard to miss the festival’s political bent. The dirt road from the entrance to the conference’s main stage was a gauntlet of booths belonging to liberal activist groups such as Sojourners, the Washington, D.C. liberal evangelical organization; Creation Care Alliance, a network dedicated to religious environmentalism; and NETWORK, a left-leaning Catholic social justice lobby whose leader, Sister Simone Campbell, spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Alongside them were other booths advocating for left-leaning, mainline Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ or the Episcopal Church. Both are listed as partners of the gathering that ranges from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Human Rights Campaign.

Crowd - Shirts - Black - Matter - Make

The mostly white crowd was clad in shirts adorned with “Black Lives Matter,” “Make America Native Again,” and other leftist slogans. One...
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