Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Same Old Argument, Another Day

Why do Pagans worry so much about who is a  "legitimate" Pagan and who is not? I mean, really, whose business is it anyway? I can see the point made by those who have been initiated into a specific tradition: if someone claims to be of a particular tradition and is, in fact not initiated in that tradition yet takes the name, then they are not acting within the established right to make certain claims within the accepted authority of that particular group.

Twenty years ago I was adopted by a community of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes and given a Native American name. It's a huge honor because I am welcomed as a relative and included in their rituals. But much as I am intrigued and respect Native American spiritual tradition, I am not in fact a Native American and cannot legitimately perform particular rituals that are the providence of birthright. So it is with some traditions of Witchcraft and NeoPaganism.

As much as we Pagans, Witches and other Occultists loudly assert that we are unique individualists and eschew dogma out of hand, the fact is that when one studies and is accepted into a group, we in some way share their unique dynamics and express it as what was identified  as far back as 1893 by sociologist Emile Durkeim as the 'group' or 'hive' mind. That doesn't mean Gardinerians, Alexandrians or any other formally structured traditions are The Borg personified. The tendency for individual expression is still there; it's a bit of an oxymoron to say that members of the group believe alike separately. Unless there is an element of brainwashing present ( which makes the group a cult), Members are free to interpret the material in their own way as long as the core belief is kept intact. It's all relative. People unconsciously attune to a particular vibration and project that in ways outsiders can't.

Beyond that, I still want to know whose business it is what anyone believes or why or how they go about it. Because what goes on between you and your gods, how you express your faith or what you believe is up to you. No one gets to tell you you're doing it wrong- with  the exception doing harm to another or an act that is outright deemed illegal. We don't get to incorporate minor children into adult activities they are too immature to understand or agree to. We don't get to touch others in ways that are offensive or inappropriate. We don't get to manipulate others against their will to do things they are morally or ethically against, or they flat out find in conflict with their own beliefs.We don't get to force our individual beliefs on others or condemn them for not playing in our individual sandboxes.

There are, In my humble opinion, far too many of us who are eclectic, solitary practitioners to make an argument about legitimacy authentic other than within the confines of a particular tradition. A lot of the argument appears to me to be nothing more than posturing and pissing in other people's cornflakes because someone can't get their own way.  Fyre Lyte made quite a few Brownie points with me when he created Project Pagan Enough:http://www.incitingariot.com/p/project-pagan-enough.html. PPE is not an end all by any means, but I think it's a good start. Each of us can flesh it out from there for ourselves to a point where we have something we're comfortable with, because here it is: it's impossible to make everyone happy. The best we can do is agree to disagree and be respectful of that without the name calling and middle school mud slinging that usually ensues when we have this discussion.Tolerance is not blind acceptance.Tolerance is allowing the space for discussion to exist. I'm not saying we should stop having this discussion-not at all, because I think every time we have it we learn something about ourselves and each other.

Having said that, let's move on...and tend our own gardens. I don't know about you, but I have a lot of rows to ho and work to do to keep my spirit fed and nourished.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Monsters Under The Bed

The word politics originates from the Greek politikos, defined as "pertaining or relating to citizens". At it's basic core, it is the practice and theory of influencing other people. Like the magic, it is a neutral term until you begin to add into it.

As intended by the Founding Fathers of the United States, politics was a form of diplomacy, where a negotiation of ideas was a dialogue to work out the most beneficial outcome for all. Diplomacy requires tact and common sense to find a mutually agreeable solution to broader problems; less you think the parties involved are being seemingly altruistic, keep in mind that they are also negotiating for a strategic advantage for their side of the subject at hand.

Politics and diplomacy, as practiced by those who authored our Constitution and other documents that govern the United States, was a scholarly discipline.Those first congressional representatives were experienced and learned individuals. I am not foolish enough to believe that all the political discourse that took place was civil; to the contrary, much of it was lively debated and passionately argued by those participants, as historically noted. Yet somehow they got beyond their individual preferences and personal beliefs and produced what has come to be know as some of the greatest written documents of civil law known to the modern world, even if the content is still up for interpretation. They came up with something they believed was the best and most beneficial to the citizens they represented. They took great pains to do this and were as careful with the selection of language to express their intention as possible.The important point is that the legal and moral tenants of those documents are a solid foundation on which we continue to build even to this day. We continue to tweak Constitutional Law on a case by case basis.

One of the wisest decisions, I believe, was in the specific wording of the  "establishment clause" and the "free exercise clause" which together form the First Amendment and is the textual basis for Supreme Court decisions on the separation of Church and State:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The wording here is pretty clear: There shall be no official state religion, however, you are free to practice your personal faith tradition. As an aside, all legitimately, legally accredited schools of theological education in the United States teach classes on Constitutional Law, which seminarians are required to take prior to ordination to their respective denominations and forms of religious tradition. So there is no legitimate excuse for any duly ordained member of the clergy to not have a grasp of what the Constitution has to say about the place of the Church within the structure of the US government-that is, that there is no place for it.

A few short years ago I wrote in this blog about an event held on the campus of a well-known university sponsored by a student group; it's the backstory for this particular post:
I've been watching the Dominionist movement for a few years now. They're kind of like the proverbial  monster hiding under the bed. We forget about them until they crawl out. They've been a constant in the background of media coverage, mostly chiming in during the Winter holiday season to assure us that the faux 'War on Christmas' is still being waged by the Hoard of the Damned; that would be the rest of us, in case you haven't been paying attention or fell asleep during the sermon. Yes, according to their collective paranoia, we are most certainly out to get them, to take away their Bibles and guns and rape their wives and sisters and steal the vanilla ice cream off their apple pie before eating it. And the decline of America as the Greatest Country in the World is due not to corporate and political corruption romping rampantly through our midst, but because our society has steadily fought against their religious hubris and attempted to lay down ground rules for a kinder, gentler ( or at least more tolerable) society by discarding their penchant for vengeance and blood lust in the name of the God whom they have formed in their own twisted image. Just listen to some of the men currently hoping to become President of the United States. If this is the best our political system has to offer, it is truly a frightening. According to them, everything wrong with America boils down to not following their idea of God. And the biggest bone they have to pick is that they aren't allowed to stand on the street corners paid for by Caesar's taxes and preach, or indoctrinate children in public schools in their particular version of religion, and that there is now an entire generation that has rejected their mean spirited brow-beating outright by staying home on Sunday morning or out of their temples altogether. Because, you see, rather than using the free will given to us according to their Creation story, we have turned away from the teachings they have so carefully revised and crafted to support their position ( a sin, according to Matthew 5:19, the verse that admonishes devotees to not change the smallest letter or stroke of the Word of God). They are disturbed that some of us see them for the hypocrites and

Pharisees they are. Worse yet, we have the audacity to  call them out and hold them up to the standard demanded by the God and the book of their choosing. We have viewed the Emperor and he is not only sans clothing ( and substance) but naked. What is exposed is ugly, and beyond anything created by the Divine. This type of ugliness is only created by the lowest common denominator of humanity.

The Dominionist movement is a fundamentalist, extremist cult that would love for the rest of us to follow their teachings blindly, without question. Say it again: they are a cult, a sect of renegades who have twisted anything positive that comes from the teachings of Jesus. They exude the evil they project on others. Let's just call them what they are, shall we? They are societal bullies bent on subversive manipulation of the masses though fear. They know exactly where to strike the under-employed and under-educated in parts of this country that are prone to what physiologists and sociologists call 'magical thinking'. ( Which has absolutely nothing to do with the art or practice of magick as defined by Pagan or Occult traditions. In this sense the phrase 'magical thinking' is defined and used to describe a form of wishful,self delusional fantasy.) The Cult of Dominionism, with it's seven-mountain theory of mind control, preys on those in our country most marginalized, disenfranchised and disenchanted with their lives. It soothes their wounded collective egos and boosts their self-esteem with hollow promises of prosperity and greatness, in the hope that they will leap off the cliff like so many lemmings at the polls when they vote. This is exactly why religion and government must be kept separate in order to benefit the majority in this country. We must not listen to the manipulation and hubris. To ignore what is currently happening in our country is to be ignorant of the historical lesson so painfully learned with the rise of the Third Reich and the resulting Holocaust. History repeats itself until the lesson is learned.

As the late Frank Zappa so poignantly and bluntly stated," There is a difference between kneeling down and bending over."

It all depends on which position you are willing assume. The Founding Fathers, as it turns out, preferred neither and to remain standing. Let's stand with them. It's ironic that freedom to practice the religion of choice for the individual depends on the maintenance of freedom from religion in our larger corporate life. And lest you believe all this political posturing is just so much smoke in the wind and will blow over eventually...it won't. This is not a fad; it's a flat out war declared on our Constitutional Rights, and it will not, unfortunately, end well for us if we don't pay attention to what is being said. Despite what social media would have us believe, this is not a reality show. It's our reality, and if we don't take control of it, then someone else will.

We will not be able to comfortably hide in the broom closet when the house is on fire, and that is what will happen if the Dominionists are allowed to win. They will come for us with their torches, and it will be the fabled Burning Times all over again. We will not be safe in our circles because there will be no place to safely cast a circle.Our physical safety will not be assured because any form of  acceptance we have gained for the Pagan Community in the last few decades will be forcibly taken and lost. Those of us who have struggled out of the broom closet will be endangered. And if you think it cannot happen, just ask a Jewish elder who lived through the Holocaust.

In this election, vote as if your life depended on it because it does. I don't want to just keep the monster under the bed, I want to kill it and throw it into the abyss. I am not giving up my rights, nor going willingly nor silently into the night. Are you?