A Response to a Comment…

Dear Friends,

The interactive nature of a blog is sometimes a fascinatingly time delayed thing.  I recently received a comment on my post Musings on Flag Day, Religio Americana, and the Power of Words from the 2009 International Pagan Values Blogging event, that has spurred a lot of thought and this particular post…

Pan wrote

“I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws”.

I have found what you said to be horrifying! In Germany, during the 1930’s and 40’s, a law required all Germans to report the whereabouts of any Jewish acquaintances, friends, or neighbors so they could be taken off to death camps and killed. Failure to do so meant violating a law.
Do you actually think that people should obey all laws on the books? Please comment on this.

PAN, A PAGAN IN LOUISIANA

Well, first off Pan, thanks again for your comment!

Next off, I feel the need to ask if you really feel that there is a law on the books here in the United States that honestly compares to those of Nazi Germany?

The most obvious and, admittedly knee-jerk, response I have is to grumble that we aren’t in Nazi Germany of the 30’s and 40’s for Goddess sake!   We are in the F***ing U.S. of A, as Joe Biden might say…

You are making an excellent point though, and it deserves a well thought out response.

To start, please indulge me in a recap of the relevant part of my former post, both for the other readers and to frame out some thoughts I’d like to develop in my response….

I was attempting to compare and advocate for the use of America’s Creed, written by William Tyler Page in 1917 in response to a patriotic writing contest, and adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 3rd 1918, as among other things, a useful liturgical piece for Pagan observances of U.S. Civic Holidays…

America’s Creed

“I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”

~William Tyler Page

I think that the Creed is preferable to the Pledge of Allegiance, authored by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and modified over the years.  As currently recited by U.S. school-children daily, by Tradition not by legal requirement, the Pledge goes…

The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

As I wrote at the time…

Actually though I am a little dis-satisfied with the Pledge, and not for it’s outright monotheism, although that does rankle a bit!

It seems to me that as an oath or statement it binds me to the Flag and the Republic, but not to my nations core values.  Now the Pledge does discuss the ideas of Liberty and Justice, but only as presumed and inherent qualities of the nation, not as the ideals or goals of the nation.  The Pledge assumes that the Republic is always enacting Liberty and Justice for all, which while it is our goal, well, we have not always succeeded.  We can look at the history of the United States and through lenses like the Civil War, and the Trail of Tears, and even the Iron Jawed Angels, we can see that our Nation continues to struggle towards perfecting the union. The pledge seems to ignore our continuing stuggle  in favor of a jingoistic “My Nation Right or Wrong” attitude that to me seems at its heart terribly un-American.

(to delve into the patriotic post-Bicentennial patios of my youth…)

Side Note:  I rather love the observation I have heard that “My Country Right or Wrong!”, is rather like saying “My Mother Sober or Drunk!”: one simply has some deep and natural preferences in the matter!

I think that the Creed is a preferable oath/statement to the Pledge because it discusses the nature of our Nation in depth, its structure, the ideal of the U.S. as a participatory government, it invokes the potentially sacred aspects of our Nation and its ideals having been objects of sacrifice, the ideal of being truly representative of the governed; and the Creed invokes the National ideals of justice and equality, and freedom and humanity

This last one, humanity, is important.  Humanity as in humane, being marked by compassion and sympathy and consideration for others; AND characterized by or tending towards a humanistic culture.  With the word “humanistic” we are getting into some meaty and philosophical and historical territory so I will quote the Merriam Webster dot Com entry for it…

1 a : devotion to the humanities : literary culture b : the revival of classical letters, individualistic and critical spirit, and emphasis on secular concerns characteristic of the Renaissance
2 : humanitarianism
3 : a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially : a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason

If you are a student of history, even an amateur one such as myself, you will notice that despite being first coined in the 1830’s many of the Renaissance and Enlightenment ideas that were swirling around our Nations founding are packed into that little word.

That is the core of my response, Pan, because in your comment you are taking the last line out of the context of the rest of the Creed.  You can’t do that with oaths, or with history, or with patriotism.  You can’t take the obedience to the law out of context of the fact that our goals and ideals as a Nation are to create laws that are Just, that are Humane, that encourage Equality and uphold the ideal of Freedom.

In my short response to your post I said,

“Depends on the law, is it Just? Is it Fair? Is it Reasonable? Does it mesh with the ideals of our Nation?”

I don’t think we automatically have a right to ignore or disobey a law we do not agree with despite that the experience of driving on U.S. Interstate Highway’s might lead us to believe that many of our fellow citizens and drivers believe otherwise!   In the United States we have the right to stand up in protest and Free Speech.  We have the right to work for the change of laws we consider truly unjust.

If a law is truly unjust, we can work to change it.  If the system is broken We The People can work together to fix it.

Peace,

Pax

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New Charity added to the Online Pagan Resources Charity Section!

Hey folks,

Iam adding a charity to the Online Pagan Resources page, in part in response to this news story from NPR, wherein a grieving father of a fallen soldier is being required to pay the Westborough Baptist Church’s court costs in a lawsuit where the father challenged their freedom of speech to demonstrate with signs such as “God hates Fags”, “Thank God for Every Dead Soldier”, and “God Hates America” (they feel that the death of U.S. Soldiers is their God’s way of judging the U.S. for GLBT Civil Rights) outside his son’s funeral.  He was putting forth his families rights to privacy against the protestor’s freedom of religion and speech, although I would think that the father’s family freedom of religion would also enter into it.

Anyhow since the Charities section lists both Pagan Specific and Non-Pagan Specific charities, I have decided to add The Patriot Guard Riders.

Peace,
Pax

Project Pagan Enough

Dear Friends,

Fire Lyte, of the Inciting a Riot Podcast and Blog, has started a marvelous new project that is weaving it’s way through the Pagan Internet!  Project Pagan Enough seeks to encourage tolerance and build community within the Pagan movement.

So, Project Pagan Enough is a movement, a cause, a Harmonious Riot that includes bloggers, podcasters, pagans, non-pagans, me, you, and the whole pagan community. It is my hope that the Project Pagan Enough logo becomes a beacon of progress and change for those of us living a magical life. By putting the Project Pagan Enough icon on your podcast’s site, blog, or other website, you’re making a set of promises:

  1. You are pagan enough, despite how you look, act, smell, dress, believe, or are.
  2. You recognize that others are pagan enough despite their appearance, smell, manner of dress, belief, practice, or other aspect.
  3. You recognize that you can have an academic debate on the finer points of belief or practice, but that it does not take away from someone else’s level of being pagan.
  4. You welcome, befriend, and encourage others in the pagan community despite their appearance, dress, or other physical or superficial characteristic.
  5. You promise to treat members of other faiths, despite the faith, with honest-to-goodness fairness, equality, and grace, not judging them or their faith based on the actions of fringe members of their same faith.
Like the points of the pentacle, these 5 tenets of Project Pagan Enough work together and will, I hope, launch our community into a new era of tolerance, love, and all of the qualities we like to think we have.
You may copy the Project Pagan Enough logo for your own website – below – but please make sure to link back to this page to allow others to know what promise you’ve made to the community at large.
Rather a noble goal I think!
Peace,
Pax

The Equinox…will he or nill he…

Hello Dear Friends and Readers all,

Spring has sprung once more.  I didn’t do any ritual for it, timing and schedules, and a half-formed decision to hold to the moons for a while and just sort of observe and experience the workings of the world and the seasons and the mysteries at work in the world around me, all contributed to this.

Yet the Gods and the Mysteries will not be denied.

I went to Services at the U.U. the other day and one of Ostara’s essential mysteries, rebirth and renewal and the first stirrings of new growth, played itself  out in a surprisingly Pagan fashion before me with only myself and perhaps a few others being the wiser about it at First Unitarian.  The Service itself focused on Spiritual jouney’s and development as individuals and groups and Religious Education’s role and relationship with the life-long spiritual journey.  As a part of this, and an ongoing feature of our Services, one of the Children’s RE classes presented the Words for All Ages section of our Service.

Words for All Ages is a part of the F.U.C.O. Service where the young or young at heart are invited up to the pulpit area.  This is often for a story for the kids that relates in some manner to the theme for the Service, then we as a congregation sing our Song of Dedication and the kids are sent off for some supervised play and the main Sermon takes place.  (Children’s RE, or Religious Education often happens before Services at the same time as Adult RE, so that the kids can enjoy part of the services with us)

So the Middle School Class, in line with the themes of the Service took some turns sharing their spiritual and religious beliefs.  I found all of the shares both welcome and fascinating, and could empathize with the difficulty that some of the kids had in articulating their beliefs… it can be a tough thing to talk about when the religious and spiritual experience is such a personal and intimate and complex and deeply felt thing as the religious experience, even as an adult or as someone who has written of such things for years.   One of the kids spoke haltingly about having gone to other Churches in other faiths before and finding a religion in Unitarian Universalism, he was quite overcome with emotion.  One young man reported that baseball was his religion.  Another talked about having done a thinking and reading about and deciding that he would like to be a Wiccan!  Two of the middles chool youth  labeled their faith as Greek Paganism!  A particularly musically talented young lady shared that music was her religion, and that she believed she was made up of music and light and love and that she tried to spread those with her own music.

Just before the singing of our congregations Song of Dedication, one of the young girls who was not part of the middle schoolers asked for the microphone….

“My mom and dad were married in this Church and I was baptised in this Church and May All The Gods Bless This Church!”

There was a great deal of applause and then we sang the Song of Dedication.

The kids left and the Sermon started, but I ended up excusing myself for a few minutes because I needed a minute or two to step outside utter a private prayer of thanks and joy to the Holy Powers, and to get a bit of control or I was going to be a weepy sentimental mess….

Blessed Spring All!

Hate is NOT a Pagan Value

(note simul-posted to the Pagan Values blog)


Sadly, prejudice and bigotry are nothing new within the Pagan movement.

Over the years we have, in our many Traditions and communities, wrestled ~sometimes quite publicly and messily and nastily~ with racism and misogyny and misandry and patriarchy and religious intolerance (aimed both at other Pagan faiths AND at religions outside the Pagan community) and with homophobia and with radicalism at both ends of the political spectrum.

I remember a discussion with some friends once where we had been discussing the history of the U.U. congregation I am a member of.  We had discussed both the Sexual Revolution and the current struggles around GLBT rights and we had also discussed the U.S. Civil Rights movement and ‘America’s’* struggles with racism and sexism. In the U.S., as befits the once boundless optimism of our Nation, the dominant discussion or idea is that “we dealt with that….”. My friends and I came to the consensus in our conversation that bigotry and homophobia are not things that you wrestle with once and are done with. These are things that peoples of conscience must continually look at and wrestle with and that each generation must have its own showdowns with.

So too must Pagans continue to wrestle with the hostile spirits of intolerance and fear and bigotry and hate, again and again.

Lately I have been encountering, within some forums and blog comment sections, some Pagans being extremely vocal regarding the “evils” of Christianity and Monotheism.  Now, I would and do not mind criticism of Christianity or other religions.  There is no denying that any religion, ANY religion, is capable of injustice and fanaticism fueled evils.  Especially when those religions are tied to a State or are wielding social and political power akin to a State.  A reasoned and reasonable critique of any religion is not out of order.

But these so called ‘defenders of polytheism’ have been crossing the sometimes hazy line from criticism into bigotry with the advocacy for violence against Christians, with the active and regular denigration of other faiths if they are Monotheistic, and the extremely toxic levels of condescension and insult that those who voice objections to the above are subjected to.

Our Pagan ancestors were, by and large, extremely tolerant of other religions.  Some of these same voices of intolerance look to the history of Pagan Rome and mutter “too tolerant…”

When one tries to point out that there are Christians and Jews and Muslims who are active in Interfaith work and doing good in the world and working for a fair and just society for ALL regardless of religion; these ‘critics’ will immediately try to equate all Christians and all Catholic Priests and all Christian Clergy with child molesters, or all Muslims with terrorist extremists or the Taliban, OR they will try to suggest that when monotheists are engaged in good works and in Interfaith work and work for justice and tolerance that they are somehow FAILING as monotheists in accordance with Christian or Jewish or Muslim doctrine?!

When attempts are made to point out the injustices and deep wrongs committed within the Ancient world when various forms of Paganism were the dominant cultural and political forces, these wrongs are brushed aside by these fanatics as merely the result of complex historical and social and political forces as having nothing whatsoever to do with the religions or religious values of the Ancient Paganisms;  whereas when someone tries to use similar arguments about more recent history or current issues as they relate to Monotheistic religions these same fanatics brush aside such arguments as missing the point or as fueled by their critics ignorance of the true evils of Monotheism or the particular Monotheism under discussion.

The tragic irony here is, of course, that in embracing such an Us Vs. Them mentality, they have embraced some of the very same and very worst of the Dualistic mindset that is admittedly of monotheism’s problematic legacies in our world.

Many Pagans, and many of the ones I most deeply respect, would tend to agree to varying degrees with Deborah Lipp’s excellent essay Putting the “poly” in polytheism

Fundamental to our values, I believe, is pluralism. Everything we believe, even the lines we draw in the sand, must be rooted in plurality. There are many gods, many paths, many truths.

Monotheism has “mono” as a root value. One God, one Truth, one Right with all other things Wrong. This is a net negative for culture, I believe.

Polytheism allows us to worship many gods, few if any of whom are “jealous Gods.” None of them seem to demand that we worship Them and Them alone. Kali has never asked me to cease worshiping the gods of Wicca, and vice versa. Doing one thing fervently, wholeheartedly, with body, mind, heart, and spirit, does not prevent Pagans from doing another, very different, thing with the same wholeheartedness.

One can disagree with some of the more extreme and fundamentalist forms of monotheism WITHOUT wishing them ill, and without painting all Christians or monotheists as being either fanatics or fools, one can criticize Christians without cheering on the prospect of violence against them, and without constantly trying to stain ALL of a particular form of monotheism with the blemishes of one portion of the whole.

If some group of Pagans were to employ some of the same tactics and attitudes about another of the current Pagan religions that these critics employ against the monotheistic faiths, especially Christianity, one would probably be banned from lists and comment sections quickly and the posts would be widely decried as intolerant and bigoted and not even worth discussing.

Hatred, unlike anger, serves no useful purpose.

Anger can give one energy to get something done, provided you actually engage in some careful thought how to harness it, and provided that you are actually doing something useful and productive with it.  Hatred just lashes out, repeatedly and endlessly, often at the nearest available target with no regard to reason or logic.

Why then should we continue to dignify with our attention the venomous ravings of people who have nothing better to do than spit on another faith tradition rather than speaking and singing praises to their own?  When this spleen venting is the only response they can come up with to the injustices of the world and they cannot come up with so much as ONE useful, or constructive, response, why should we as communities continue waste our time  upon them?


* (as we U.S.-er’s of a certain generation are still wont to refer to our nation… sorry Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America old habits die hard…)

Liberation VS. Escapism

Religion and Spirituality can be a powerful and empowering part of our lives leading us into a greater relationship with the Divine-as-we-comprehend-it, and with a greater and healthier relationship with our truest selves and with the world around us.

Religion and Spirituality can be a running away from our lives, our unhappiness, our personal responsibility; escapism of the most dangerous and seductive sort.

The Choice is ours.

The idea that religion and spirituality can be either a Liberation or Escapism is not particularly new, but I think it is an important one to discuss within the Pagan faiths.  One of the toughest lessons for me to learn early in my own journey as a Witch and Pagan was that folks come to religion for a wide variety of reasons, some of them having little to do with faith or religious devotion/experience; and I had to unlearn my own half-formed idea that Paganism was somehow insulated from this phenomenon.

It is not.

There are so many folks who seem to dive into the more mystical or magic oriented ends of the contemporary Pagan spectrum blinded by the shiny ideas of magic, and especially spells, and power over ones world without seeming to acknowledge that magic is 25% learning the connections between self and symbol and reality,25% learning and growing into a new perception of the world around us through understanding those connection, 25% changing our relationships and interactions and growing in personal power and will and coming to a greater understanding of ones True Will as a result of these new understanding and perceptions, and 25% miracle and mystery.

All too often Magic is reduced to spells and sparkle; rather than the powerful folk parapsychology that it can be.

Then you have folks for whom some piece of their own particular paths narrative is an escape from the current day or their own unhappiness.  The ones who dive into inaccurate history and a wildly a-historical personal mythological narrative; AND  the ones who zero in on one particular era of history in their reconstruction and decry any other interpretation of the Gods and faith from before or after that particular era, or who embrace even the most repellent prejudices or bigotries of that specific culture at that specific time.

In my own spiritual journey I had the recent realization that a big part of why I ended up wandering off the Witchy and Pagan path for some years was related to the issues of Liberation and Escapism.

Even though I could see and perceive and experience the many ways in which the practice of my spirituality and faith as a Witch were leading me to greater personal strength and a deeper understanding of myself and a healthier relationship with the world around me… at the same time I was not dealing with the mundane issues at work in my life, like dissatisfaction with work and living in a bad housing situation and so many of the other planes of stability as Thorn has labeled them in her writing and teaching…. so even as I pursued the Liberation of my self and spirit, I was also using that pursuit as an Escape rather than confronting those things that I was seeking escape from!

Liberation and Escapism, embracing and wrestling with one another, like the Divine Twins from the Feri Tradition lore.

My mind turns to the Yin-Yang symbols, or to the DNA double Helix two strands interwoven and interconnected.  Liberation is not all good nor is escapism entirely bad.  Without a strong and stable and healthy grounding in the everyday and mundane all the spiritual and magical and religious Liberation in the world is only going to send you into some far off extreme of disconnection and fantasy…right into the arms of Escapism.  At the same time, Escapism is the thinnest of lines and the shortest of steps difference from the Refuge or safe harbor that one can find on the spiritual path in the tumults of the world.

I think the key is in there somewhere… Is my path to Liberation grounded in stability?  Is my spirituality a safe harbor from the tumults of the world, a safe place to go to for a time, or is it mere Escapism – a running away from things that scare or worry or intimidate me that I must turn around and face?

I keep asking myself that and keep doing my spiritual work around that.

Returning to Life

Hello Dear Friends, and Pagani, and U.U’s, and Dear Readers of All Sorts!

I am back from a week or so of not blogging, and slacking on my spiritual practices as I just take some deeply needed downtime to think about things that needed thinking about.  I have eaten junk food, planned healthy menu’s, bought and read a half-dozen novels and a nonfiction book, I have thought about my relationship with the Gods, I have bought myself a futon and will be assembling the frame in the next day or so, and otherwise worked some things out.

In the aftermath of the Big Guy breaking up with me, I dove into my spirituality and Faith looking for strength and grounding and sustaining practices.  I have, to a degree, found some of that, again.

But in the last couple of weeks I have felt this lack of creativity and struggled to do my regular practices and in a conversation with the ever-fabulous Feithline, I was forced to face the fact that I needed to stop and listen to the deepest parts of my heart and soul, and that that can be tough to do when you are bustling about.  So I stepped back a bit from practice and from Work and writing and just sort of let myself be a while.

The first thing I have realized is that I have a LOT of feelings and confusion and doubt within me as a result of that break-up, and that on one level I have been running away from these bottled up feelings in my spiritual seeking and practices.  This does NOT mean I should give up entirely on them, now should any of us, but that I need to be aware of these deep and distressing feelings and doubts.  I need to BE with them and uncap this deep well of grief and unhappiness and begin to draw the icy and cloudy waters of grief out of the well of my soul.

The next realization is that I need to work some on my everyday life, in particular my diet, my body (and alarming lack of exercise), and my physical space.   I was still living largely out of boxes and on an air mattress nearly 6 months after moving into this new room-mate situation of mine.  Now, admittedly, part of that was due to $2,300 in unexpected December car repairs… but STILL, get a friggin desk or something already!!   (I am currently writing this with my faithful computer perched on some plastic totes as I sit on a couple of cushions…)  So I bought myself a futon and spent a morning wandering IKEA for ideas for my space and how to incorporate them into my Neo-Victoriana / Retro-Art-Deco / Steam-Punky decorative fantasies.

Our practices cannot be truly sustaining if our life outside of our spirituality or religion is not also truly sustaining.

All of this has spurred some thoughts on how religion and spirituality can be either a Liberation or Escapism, and so I find myself returning to writing and to practice and to myself and to life…

Peace,

Pax