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.

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, and conferences, and 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 protestors 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)

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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. Advance Tickets are available now – please come.

We’re stronger together than apart. See you next month!

Mike Morrell is communications coordinator for the Wild Goose Festival. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and daughter.

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  • audie

    How about some truth, WG?

    –The arrest came shortly before a planned civil rights rally led by the NAACP and HKonJ Peoples’ Coalition scheduled to take place at 4pm at the NC General Assembly Legislative Auditorium. In a flyer promoting the rally, the groups allege that the Republican Party has been taken over by “Tea Party extremists” and “declared war on African Americans, poor people and other minorities”. The rally took place as planned, around 100 people attended to listen to speakers talk about the proposed House budget which Democrats and civil rights groups say makes drastic cuts to education. Other issues that the group says are under attack by Tea Party extremists are voting rights, racial justice, health care and education.

    Kind of sounds like these people were engaging in pretty extreme rhetoric and actions. Nothing like vilifying the opposition to get old juices flowing, right?

    –As he was being taken into custody, Barber said they were protesting the “extreme, draconian” budgets proposed by legislative Republicans. Both the proposed House and Senate spending plans would make deep cuts to nearly every area of state government, especially education and social programs

    Oh, I get it–fiscal responsibility is evil, but spreading the wealth is good. Gotta keep throwing more money at the problems, especially if you can take it from the rich (but not the liberal rich, of course). Gotcha, thanks.

  • wildgoosefestival

    Thank you for sharing your perspective, Audie. The N&O and HKonJ links were shared in our original piece, and in our mind, the intentionality behind their protest does nothing to minimize its impact.

    We’re not suggesting that everyone needs to get arrested to voice their opposition to injustices facing our state, nation, and planet, but as Wild Goose friend and contributor David LaMotte says, “Whatever shape our action may take, though, we must act. It is hard for me to reconcile inaction and faithfulness.”

  • audie

    More truth.

    –State Senate Republicans said Monday their $19.4 billion budget proposal would cut all North Carolina individual income tax rates slightly and try to simplify tax forms, a move they argue will create tens of thousands of jobs when combined with the expiration of temporary taxes.

    Oh, no, lower taxes??? How immoral!!!

    –Rucho said the plan could generate 15,000 to 20,000 jobs in the next two years to help the slowly-recovering state economy and 50,000 jobs in the long term.

    –”This is a shot-in-the-arm proposal,” said Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, another co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

    More jobs. Isn’t that a good thing?

    –The second year of the two-year budget also will set aside a couple hundred million dollars for a pay plan that will reward teachers for student performance, Hunt said. Senate Republicans argue their plan will lead to better academic outcomes for students, citing studies that show student performance improves when they are in smaller classes with a quality teacher.

    Wait…teacher would be held accountable?Smaller classes and teachers who know their stuff? And that’s…immoral?

    Perhaps Wild Goose is appropriately named. They seemed to be chasing them.

  • wildgoosefestival

    Hi Audie. If you’re saying that the measures being debated and protested are debatable, we agree. The Wild Goose Festival welcomes Republicans and Democrats, Green Partiers and Libertarians, socialists and anarchists. We’re all about the larger debate. In highlighting the story of Rev. Barber and David LaMotte above, we admire their courage but do not suggest that theirs is the last or only perspective on things.

    Perhaps we’ll see you next month?

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  • audie

    –to restrict access to the polls by requiring photo IDs,

    Why is this even controversial? Really, why is requiring people who want to vote to be able to prove they are who they say they are something you are against?

    If I choose to exercise my civic right to vote, and find that someone who was not me has already voted in my place, I will not be happy, and rightfully so.

    Why do people think their agenda can only be pushed forward by illegal and immoral means like this?

    –to gut public education funding in favor of vouchers for private schools,

    public schools have had money thrown at them for years, and they FAILED. Why is offering parents the opportunity to put their children in good schools where they might learn what they need to learn something the people you support are against?

    –Perhaps we’ll see you next month?

    Sorry, but I’m a working man. You know, real job, real work, real hours I have to put in. And, anyway, I have better ways to waste my time and money, thanks.

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  • Laura

    I, too, am a long-time fiscal conservative and struggle for a reasoned reaction to what might be seem as extreme measures. But after five decades, I am not as sure as I once was of my “rightness”. While I’m not ready to abandon a lifetime of beliefs, I can see hopeful signs that the world is changing in a way that might allow for more optimism, a little less paranoia.

    Folks of whatever political persuasion I hope can agree that the world we live in could use some positive changes. I will be at the festival and will do my best to keep an open mind and an open heart.

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  • Lyndsey

    A little something I wrote up for my blog:

    Mike, if you think this bit of PR will draw attendees to The Wild Goose Festival, you may want to reconsider the type of attendees you would like to see gathered in the first place.

    Sure, a spark of controversy in Jesus’ name can and will draw the progressive Christian hipster masses (all in their early 20s, worn copies of The Irresistible Revolution or God’s Economy raised high) out of their cozy coffee shop hides. But I had thought the purpose of the Wild Goose Festival was to draw Christians who disagree on political, social and spiritual issues together in order to dialogue and resolve differences — NOT to attract like-minded folk in order to celebrate how “right” their opinions are.

    This bit of biased PR automatically excludes those who are politically conservative from the discussion (and, in doing so, many members of my parents’ generation). The article also lauds these gentlemen as heroes instead of presenting facts and allowing readers to draw conclusions for themselves. David LaMotte and William Barber are my brothers in faith, but I do not support their actions. I want to hear their explanations, but after reading this article, I feel that my own opinion may be unwelcome.

    It seems to me that this article accuses those who disagree with Barber and LaMotte of acting “contrary to the teachings of Christianity.” Quite frankly, it shuts the door to healthy dialogue and difference of opinion within the Church. It also puts people like Audie on the defensive, though that is no excuse for his condescending rhetoric.

    I want to strongly encourage those working on the Wild Goose Festival to write articles that would spark curiosity and eager conversation rather than draw lines of demarcation between “us” and “them.” After all, if I wanted to attend a festival where everyone thought the same way I did, I would attend Creation instead.

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  • Geoff

    If a good education could be secured by spending lots of money, we should have the finest public education system in the country. It doesn’t. Please go to Camden, NJ to see the truth of my comments.

    They are confusing leftist politics with the cause of righteousness. This is what I see often on the political left: They so believe that political left solutions work (I don’t think they do) and that their aren’t any other moral problems with them, that any disagreement with those policies or economic assumptions is based on something evil.

  • Eric

    rap sheet = badge of honor?

    Ah, the upside-downness of the Kingdom of God…!

    Reminds me of Paul….

  • Rob Miller

    Spot on with your post Lyndsey and I feel the same way about the purpose of Wild Goose ( a safe space to discuss and dialogue with those of varied and differing mindsets ), and in order for it to work it does need that plurality of voices.

    I have been hoping for some more conservative voices in the mix, especially having become a recent convert to the likes of Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. Of course not having a real awareness of who may be from the right of center, perhaps though I’m missing something.

    In the context of dialogue and discussion on line – ( and I may be showing what a technophobe I am ) – does something like

    RT @TopsyRT: Two Wild Goose Contributors Spend the Night in Jail

    really constitute discussion and dialogue on a blog?

  • wildgoosefestival

    Hi all,

    Thank you for continuing this conversation. Your questions, critique, and push-back are welcome – here online and in the physical Wild Goose space in three weeks.

    We posted about the arrests because two of our contributors took a principled stand – against apathy and for the poor. Some readers and attendees (and contributors!) may disagree with the policy being advocated, and/or the methodology employed, but we hope that everyone can agree that we can’t stand idly by and do nothing when the most vulnerable members of church and society continue to be ignored, marginalized, and exploited.

    We appreciate the concerns of those fearing that the atmosphere of the Wild Goose might seem to be coming monochromatically from the Left – or from “progressive Christian hipster masses (all in their early 20s, worn copies of The Irresistible Revolution or God’s Economy raised high) out of their cozy coffee shop hides.” (That one made me laugh. And I’m sure it would make Jonathan and Shane laugh too.) This is understandable.

    Rest assured that among our speakers and musicians we have representatives from across the political and spiritual spectrum – everyone from Republican agnostics and born-again evangelical Democrats; moderate Pentecostal-Catholics to Calvinist Libertarians. One thing we do not have is uniformity, and you have my word that if any Republican contributors get arrested for civil disobedience between now and June 23rd, you will hear about it here. :)

    - Mike Morrell, for the Goose

  • Lyndsey

    Mike, I will believe it when I see it! : ) See you at Wild Goose!