30 Years Later: “Controversy” at Wild Goose

Wild Goose: a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. I just returned from the Wild Goose Festival in Shakori Hills, NC: a four-day festival inviting people of all backgrounds and faiths to have conversations on justice, spirituality, music and art. My friend Jason invited me and I decided: sure, I would go. I had no idea what to expect, perhaps some kind of Christian Woodstock? But I have returned with an even greater sense of identity and spirituality. It opened my eyes to an incredible range of people and backgrounds, each telling a unique story.

I am a very media-driven person. I embrace creativity and design, and am often obsessed with the relationship between music and culture: both its reflection on society and the impact it has on changing society. One song that came to mind: Prince’s Controversy (1981). Thirty years later, these same lyrics drive controversy and societal issues of our time.

Am I black or white? am I straight or gay? — controversy
Do I believe in god? do I believe in me? — controversy
I can’t understand human curiosity — controversy

Wild Goose was not a summer church camp. It was not a bible study with praise and worship. It was, however, fellowship. As I believe the Christian faith is all about, it created a safe place, an inviting place for all to come, for all to feel welcome and discuss the issues that we’re dealing with today. It was a place of love and of belonging, allowing all to come, and to simply engage in conversation.

There is no way I will be able to cover every topic discussed at the festival. I will touch on today’s controversial societal issue of gender and sexuality, the topic that intrigued me the most, and one that is at a very critical state in our culture. New York State just became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, and it’s the most populous state to do so thus far. This is not a matter to be ignored. It is about family and legal equality, no matter the beliefs or decisions of our fellow Americans. We should love and respect all, never judging others; the Bible says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV).” There are, indeed, countless verses being thrown back and forth on both sides of this argument, but I believe we are to lead lives of love, following the path of Jesus. He loves all, and invites all into his open arms: all who have been persecuted and belittled as “sub-class” citizens are welcome in his arms.

That being said, Wild Goose was a place of conversation. I had the privilege to meet several in the LGBTQ community, and hear very personal stories. It was a place where I could share my story, and where I could engage in dialogue with others. I have made several incredible relationships, and am confident in the spirituality and love of Jesus Christ that many in this community hold. I met Peterson Toscano and his partner Glen Retief. Toscano describes himself : “Quirky Queer Quaker.” He is the creator of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House & Transfigurations, a play about transgender Bible characters. After hearing Toscano’s story — he had spent 17 years submitting to reparative therapy through counseling, ex-gay support groups, and even three exorcisms — I saw no way anyone could deny this man or any other the love of Jesus Christ.

There is much, much more I could go into, but I will close with this comment. Every individual, no matter his religious belief, has the free will to make decisions for himself. Absolutely no one should condemn or judge others. It is between that man and the divine being in whom he believes (if that be the case). As loving human beings, it is our duty to love, value and respect all. I believe that this is the message Jesus would have for us today, not one of condemnation and warfare against the LGBTQ community.

As Phyllis Tickle said, this is the next great issue we must overcome. God seems to have a way of coming in every 500 years and guiding the progression of the Church. We are at a time of great change and spiritual growth and, just as we have (in progressive order) changed our views on slavery, women’s rights and divorce within church leaders, we now face LGBTQ rights. This festival opened my eyes to the stories of others and the intense need for those in the Church to love and respect all people. I ask for all to challenge themselves to see not through their own eyes, but instead through heaven’s eyes. Look to love: embrace love and live in love. In the lyrics of Brandon Heath, it is my prayer to God: Give me your eyes so I can see / Everything that I keep missing / Give me your love for humanity.


This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Thanks for adding your voice to the mix of reflections on the Goose. As I read this, and other, reflections I find myself going even deeper into my festival experience, learning more about the time I spent on a farm in North Carolina.

    I think Wild Goose Festival may end up being one of the most transformational events of my life thus far. Thanks for being part of that.

  2. Mindy says:

    I have never felt so free to simply be with my partner as I did the four days at the Wild Goose. The constant subconscious awareness of others’ eyes on us was simply absent. Amazing. Life giving. Glorious.

  3. Kyla says:

    Ryan, This is a great summary of the weekend! I am so glad you have a video clip of that presentation. You are right, that the Wild Goose was not a summer church camp. It was a space for honest conversation and personal growth. Each person in attendance gave and received, as if Jesus himself was walking in our midst.

  4. Ryan! Great to meet you at The Goose. Thank you for taking and posting the video of my Identity Monologue. I am so glad you attended the event and pleased about the conversations we shared and heard together. I put my first blog post up about the event here:

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