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I had plans to attend the Wild Goose Festival this weekend. I was supposed to leave today, but then the money got tight.

Carl McColman at the first Wild Goose Festival, June 2011

As I wrote about in my last post I made the decision to forgo my studies at Marylhurst for at least a term or two, in part for financial reasons. In light of that kind of penny-pinching adjustment to plans, I decided to save my plane ticket to Portland for a future trip.

I would not have been the only Druid in attendance. Allison Leigh Lilly is going to be there, and I had a feeling we would have found many opportunities to speak about the pagan side of the conversation. I would also have been traveling with a good friend from Denver, who walks the line between Pagan and Christian quite gracefully.

But the gathering was decidedly Christian. There’s really no getting around that.

What was appealing to me about the Wild Goose Festival was the emphasis placed on social justice and ecological responsibility. Today on the Wild Goose Patheos blog there was an announcement of a number of free e-books, one called, A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good. According to the post:

“Written by authors, theologians, and instructors affiliated with the The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (NEP), A New Evangelical Manifesto discusses many “hot button” issues such as human trafficking, healthcare, race, abortion, nuclear weapons, war, global poverty, Christianity, the church, and theology.”

Can I just tell you how happy I am to hear that my gayness is not one of their hot button issues?

Seriously though — I find that the inclusion of human trafficking, nuclear weapons, global poverty and war in a list of Christian concerns to be quite refreshing. (I’m uncertain of what these authors will have to say about abortion; if they’re more likely to frame the topic as one related to the body of a woman or to the personhood of a fetus. No telling.)

I mention the book only to illustrate the way in which the Wild Goose Festival was appealing to me. I anticipated that I would encounter some real differences of opinion, belief and practice with most in attendance, but I wanted to be there simply to witness a group of religious people engage sincerely in discussions of progressive politics. I was hoping to be witness to Christians taking more stock in the eradication of global poverty than the eradication of homosexuality.

In my subjective opinion, ending poverty trumps keeping marriage straight.

I’ve known a number of Christians whose politics were borderline-radical, leaning quite far to the left. They were working to create safer work environments for trans-people, they were challenging systemic abuse of power in the prison system, they were calling on citizens to be more aware of how their buying habits affect the local economy and the environment.

They are still doing these things to this day.

There’s a quality of conviction that I see from many of my Progressive Christian friends that I deeply respect. For them, their faith is very much rooted in bringing equality and justice to the world. That’s how they understand the call of Jesus.

For them, their Christianity isn’t rooted in an obsession with blood atonement, or a strict adherence to rigid dogma. (We would be wrong to paint all Christians in this light.) Theirs is a more complicated faith, and one very much rooted in their engagement with the world.

Progressive Christian and Pagan communities have very different identities, and very different positions in relationship to mainstream culture. That said, I think it is useful for us to make note that these conversations are taking place at Wild Goose.

There may still be the presence of a Christian voice which is alienating, and we may have fundamental, irreconcilable differences with the predominant theology. But there may also be a conviction and passion for a better world (i.e. one without war, one without poverty, one that is clean and safe for our children) that we can get behind.

I’ve never been to a Pagan festival that was infused with this kind of conviction for social, political or ecological change. (Admittedly, I’ve not been to many Pagan festivals.)

Have you?

I’d like to know if you’ve had an experience at a Pagan gathering that was infused with the kind of conviction I’m describing above. Was there a time when you heard a speaker at a festival who lit a fire in you to take better care of the world, of your community, of your tribe? If so, please share that experience.

Do you think that modern Pagans — especially the young’ins — have it in us to be agents of change in society?