Archive for June, 2009
Hey folks- I’m going to be travelling for the next couple weeks. Feel free to comment, and I’ll reply when I get back. I won’t return until July 1, but I’d like to continue the values/ethics discussion, even if June is over.
Democracy, the revolutionary idea of choosing ones’ own leaders as a community, originated in polytheistic societies. The most obvious of course being Athens, Greece but Iceland had the Althing, and the Founding Fathers of the United States took inspiration from the Iroquois Confederacy in forming a system of government and writing the Constitution. Now, technically, democracy refers to directly electing leaders, and representative democracy is called a republic.
I think democracy needs to be reaffirmed as a modern Pagan value. Both as citizens of countries who happen to be Pagan, and as a way of governing Pagan organizations. From observing groups in our community I’ve seen the pros and cons of different forms of leadership.
In Traditional Wiccan covens, and other initiatory systems, members rise in rank and power with time, effort and study. This system insures that the coven is led by a cadre of experienced elders who can impart the traditional knowledge to the next generation of seekers. There is value to be found in this kind of system, there is a lot of potential for abuse in it. While certainly there are many hierarchical groups which are quite ethical, they need to tread carefully.
For other examples among Druids- both OBOD and AODA are run by leaders, a Chosen Chief and Arch Druid respectively who hold these positions for life, barring resignation. These leaders are at high danger of burnout, and how can they be answerable to their membership if they keep their position, no matter what? Hence why, even though I think these groups have some interesting ideas I could learn from, I don’t think I would join them.
One of the things that appealed to me about ADF was that it is a democratically run organization. Not completely so- the Clergy Council is not elected. But the Mother Grove (Board of Directors) which I’m on is, including the Arch-Druid (President). There is also a Council of Lore made up of officials elected by Guilds, and a Council of Regional Druids who are elected by their own regions- rather like the House of Representatives.
That said, democracy does have its pitfalls. Sometimes people run for office for the wrong reasons. Granted, people may try to get their Third Degree for the wrong reasons too. In ADF, we sometimes have trouble finding enough people to run for all the leadership positions we have!
To avoid a “tyranny of the majority” a mechanism needs to be build in to a groups’ by-laws so that the minority is protected in some way. In ADF, one of the ways we protect the minority is by having a Members’ Advocate who can hear individuals’ concerns and take them to the Mother Grove.
In a smaller group, some form of consensus-based decision-making could work, though it seems impractical in a larger group. But there are Friends (Quaker) Conferences who make decisions this way from what I understand!
Post for International Pagan Values Month
I just found out that June was declared International Pagan Values Month, unfortunately rather close to leaving on vacation. Ethics is something I enjoy writing, discussing and debating about, so I’ll see if I can squeeze in a couple posts before I leave.
First, I thought I’d take a step back and look at the sources for my values. There are simply, values I’ve always held, that were instilled in me in childhood, as well as those I’ve learned from experiences. In an earlier post I owned up the Christian/Jewish influence on my values. There are also the values of religious organizations I belong to:
The New Order of Druids has Nine Ideals:
- Approach nature with reverence and respect
- Always uphold the truth
- Walk the way of balance
- Preserve the harmony upon your actions
- Always abide to the laws of nature
- Use wisdom in service to the universe, not to promote selfishness
- Never profit from knowledge or the use of powers for the sole purpose of monetary riches
- Respect all others, even if their opinions are different
- Never break a sworn oath, lest you be forsworn
Unitarian Universalists uphold the Seven Principles, and other values are set forth within their Religious Education programs and other places.
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
- Free and responsible search for truth and meaning
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Hellenists find moral guidance in the Delphic Maxims, (way too many to post here!) and from philosophers such as Socrates.
My, that’s a lot to study and consider! A question I often ask myself is with all these varied sources, do any of them conflict with one another? So far I haven’t found any direct conflicts but there are different values each ethical system emphasizes. Some common values I’ve found in several of these systems are: integrity/honor, courage, perserverence, wisdom, hospitality, and respect for nature.
Today is Flag Day here in the United States. So, what does that have to do with Paganism? Well, I am part of a small movement called Religio Americana or American Paganism which grew out of a discussion on the Beliefnet Hellenismos & Religio Romana forum sometime around 2002. Erik Dutton and some others were talking about how in ancient Rome there was a state religion, the Religio Romana, and how even though in the United States we have separation of church and state, we have a kind of Judeo-Christian flavored civic religion- a Religio Americana. That we might further develop a pagan form of this- religious celebration of civic holidays, pilgrimages to sacred sites like state capitols and honoring heroes like George Washington and Lady Liberty as our goddess. Some of the participants of this discussion went on to start the Religio-Americana yahoo group and the American SIG in ADF. Pax, a member of the list suggested doing synchroblogging on civic holidays- here’s his take on Flag Day.
While there are other civic holidays, like Independence Day and Thanksgiving that have more meaning to me, Flag Day is one that I tend to overlook. I admit that have some mixed feelings about my country’s flag, that I’m working on getting over.
I remember in Girl Scouts when we’d raise the flag and salute it. It made no sense to me. Why salute a piece of cloth? Why show it respect? After getting into the more traditional forms of polytheism I realized the treatment of the flag is a form of orthopraxy (right practice) The flag is treated as a sacred symbol of the nation. “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” – Section 8.j. The Flag Code, a list of rules governing the proper display and disposal of the flag, is vaguely reminiscent of Kosher laws. Outside of the military and perhaps the Boy Scouts, post-Baby Boomer generations are pretty oblivious to this protocol. The website I linked to above has a “Wall of Shame” with photographs depicting violations of the Flag Code. Ironically, quite a few of these took place after September 11 when people were trying to be patriotic!
So what’s the problem? The liberal discomfort with the American flag probably goes back to Vietnam, with burning the flag and re-hoisting it upside down as acts of protest. There were various efforts to ban flag burning. While I oppose these bans as violating freedom of expression, I wouldn’t participate in flag-burning myself. Not only would this be unpatriotic, but also an ineffective form of protest, too divisive.
There’s been a tendency to see display of flags as implying conservative and pro-war views. The flag should transcend all these political divisions. It does not represent the government, but the country itself. Patriotism is not about blindly following ones’ government. In fact, dissent is quite patriotic, if intended to improve or help ones’ country.