A progressive Christian festival last week featured overt support for Planned Parenthood and abortion, with Christian speakers and attendees speaking of their "favorite" kinds of abortions and how they can be "morally correct" and "life-saving."
This year at the Wild Goose Festival, an annual open-air gathering in Asheville, North Carolina, of progressive Christians, a breakout session called "Reproductive Justice is _______ : Moving Beyond the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life Binary."
Chelsen Vicari, who is the evangelical program director at the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy and author of Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith, attended the festival, which occurred last Thursday through Sunday.
Writing on the IRD's blog Tuesday, Vicari recounted that she went in expecting to hear a "'consistent life' message of advocating for human dignity from 'womb to tomb.'"
But the session turned out to be a whole hour of promoting abortion, framing it as a beneficial thing for women. Of the three panelists, two worked for Planned Parenthood as abortion doulas, the other for a left-wing nonprofit group that often aligns with abortion rights organizations. Only one of the panelists, Mary Button, claimed to be a Christian, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America denomination.
Button explained during her remarks that she no longer says "all abortion is a tragedy," and has learned from her employment at Planned Parenthood that "for a lot of people an abortion is a life-saving thing."
"It's weird to say, but my favorite abortions are the ones where women have made a decision and they're OK with the decision," she said, when an audience member asked the panel if they supported abortion for reasons not rooted in traumatic stories, noting that "birth control fails" sometimes.
Vicari elaborated in a Thursday phone interview with The Christian Post that she attended Wild Goose two years ago and noticed a remarkable shift since her previous visit there, maintaining that it would be foolish to consider what happened there as merely fringe. What seemed extreme then was now normalized, she said.
Two years ago, she observed several breakout sessions urging for acceptance of transgenderism and at one of them she had what she described as "one of the most discouraging moments" in her career while out reporting. At one such meeting, a man who had transitioned to female invited his son onto to the stage as he talked about how great it was that he was now transgender and following Christ.
"But [the son] was crying. He was obviously going through this grieving process. He talked about missing his dad," Vicari said.
"I left that session and sat in my car and cried," she said, grieving with him.
Yet this year, that same transwoman was a one of the speakers featured prominently on the main stage, Vicari told CP.
"What was once, two years ago, kind of hidden in a tent in a breakout session was now brought out front and center."
"Some progressive Christians will try and say 'Oh, Wild Goose is bizarre and wacky and we don't really affiliate with it.' And they may not affiliate with the ideas or the conference itself but the ideas filter down into the mainstream churches," she said.
The Christian Post reached out to the event organizers of Wild Goose Festival for comment, specifically inquiring about the promotion of abortion, but did not hear back by press time.
Other sexual issues were prevalent at this year's festival, Vicari told CP, mentioning that some speakers openly advocated for polyamory and multiple sexual partners.
But even if the attendees disagree with some of that, they have boxed themselves in given the prevailing view of "truth," she explained.
"Progressive Christians, many of them, have said that truth is 'whatever your truth is.' And they therefore can't even argue with themselves. So if someone among their group says 'Well, my truth is I see abortion as life-saving,' they can't argue with that. So they have to invite Planned Parenthood abortion doulas. They then have to invite progressive Christians who see nothing wrong with polyamory."
"For those progressives who will say 'Well, that's not what I'm advocating for, that's not what we are advocating for,' what Wild Goose was advocating for five years ago is the norm in progressive circles," she said.
Vicari also reported Tuesday that during Q&A, an older woman stood up and said that she was an elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), an OB-GYN, and an abortion provider, an announcement that earned her applause and praise from Button.
"The Presbyterian Church for a very long time has been pro-choice and [abortion] is considered an absolutely correct moral choice," the woman said.