The Common Good

Why Did Two Wild Goose Contributors Spend the Night in Jail?

North Carolina, host state for the inaugural Wild Goose Festival, has many things going for it. We're beautiful with our trees, mountains, and beaches. And we're one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S., attracting a host of artists, doctors, technologists, educators, and entrepreneurs.

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But not all is well in our great state. Homelessness remains endemic; re-segregation of our schools is a looming threat, and now budget cuts to our most vulnerable community members threatens to plunge us into the dark ages.

Amid such daunting realities, what are people of faith, hope, and love to do? Many churches -- and ministry organizations, conferences, festivals -- are content to sit on the sidelines of these crucial public conversations, burying their heads in the sand while continuing their "in-house" discussions on church growth or the theological controversy du jour.

But not Wild Goose Festival participants. Yesterday afternoon, seven people were arrested and hauled off from the North Carolina State Legislative Building after disrupting politics-as-usual on behalf of the poor. And two of them are Wild Goose contributors -- a speaker and a musician.

"Budgets are moral documents," Jim Wallis has said, and radical North Carolina Christians are inclined to agree. As the Raleigh News & Observer reported:

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP, was removed from today's session of the N.C. House this afternoon by police officers after he and others shouted at legislators from the gallery.

Barber and the six other protesters were placed in handcuffs after they chanted, "Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly With God." The words are from a Bible verse, Micah 6:8.

They also chanted, "Fund education, not incarceration," and "Save our children, don't cut education."

Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church Disciples of Christ and head of the North Carolina NAACP, will be sharing at the Wild Goose Festival next month on his work for nonviolent change in North Carolina. (See also this first-person report in the Independent Weekly)

Also arrested was David LaMotte, a major supporter of the festival and a top-notch singer-songwriter. In a blog post written hours before his arrest, David says:

The current legislature is making a host of decisions which are contrary to the teachings of Christianity, and I feel called to resist those actions with my very body.

While he and the others knew that their planned disruption was technically illegal, they couldn't be silent in the face of what legal machinery is doing across North Carolina. David continues:

What is right and what is legal sometimes come into conflict, and when they do, our allegiance to God's teaching should be stronger than our allegiance to the state. To repeal the Racial Justice Act, to gut public education funding in favor of vouchers for private schools, to prevent federal unemployment money from reaching needy state recipients (when this has no impact on the state budget), to restrict access to the polls by requiring photo IDs, to stop a whole host of services to the poor, from disability funding to health programs to legal representation, stopping same-day registration, stopping Sunday voting, etc. -- these things are unconscionable.

Jesus began his ministry with the words "I come to bring good news to the poor." The direction of the current legislature is very bad news indeed for the poor, and as people of faith, it is our responsibility to oppose it. There are many ways to oppose it, of course, and I encourage others to explore how they are called to do so, whether it is a phone call to the governor to encourage her to exercise her ink well and veto bills that are morally unjustifiable, a letter to your legislators, or marching with HKonJ. Whatever shape our action may take, though, we must act. It is hard for me to reconcile inaction and faithfulness.

At the Wild Goose Festival, passionate worship of God will be combined with practical love for our neighbors. And if that doesn't get us into at least a little trouble, then we're doing something wrong. After all, Jesus didn't get executed for playing it safe and teaching private piety. Faith is personal, but never private. And there is resurrection on the other side of death!

Change is in the air -- and not the empty kind that politicians promise. Grassroots, Spirit-led, dangerously life-giving change is being birthed across our continent. Whether you're a veteran worker for peace and justice, or someone wanting to take your first tentative steps outside the realm of comfortable religion-as-usual, come to Wild Goose to be refreshed, encouraged, and challenged. Come to learn from our modern-day rabble-rousers, community-healers, and change-agents.

Mike Morrell is communications coordinator for the Wild Goose Festival. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Learn more about how you can attend the Wild Goose Festival.

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