Archive for June, 2015
Does anyone make the connection between the lack of ethnic & socio-economic diversity in Unitarian Universalism and what amounts to a suppression and denial of religious ecstasy, mysticism, and ritual? This seems to get occasionally mentioned, but since we only seem to pat ourselves on the back for our theological/spiritual praxis diversity, but not actually discuss and engage with it. We might have to talk about touchy-feely spiritual “woo” stuff, that would be too gosh darned awkward!
OK, I get that we’re typically “low-church” based on our congregationalist & Puritan roots. And we’re big on Enlightenment-style free-thinking and rationality. But I’ve heard stories about U.U. fellowships/societies that made me scratch my head. A group that insisted that lighting candles at Christmas time was “too religious”. OK, even if it’s a purely humanist observation of the Earth’s axial tilt, you can still light candles to celebrate the winter solstice. Light in darkness. It’s not just a religious thing! And another UU fellowship that wouldn’t sing hymns- yes the even the “Yay, We are Privileged New Englanders and Reason & Religious Freedom Are Fabulous!” type ones. They were too worried that music would lead people to be emotional and be easily manipulated and they’d turn into a cult. Or something. So yeah, my favorites in the hymnal tend to be African-American gospel/spirituals, even though I’ve never been enslaved or anything nearly so bad, I feel a lot more connected to that musical tradition when I’m feeling depressed and sheepishly un(der)employed while trying to filter out perky “Get your pledges in!” speeches. Even when we sing a whole service-full of gospel songs, the minister usually has to cajole the stiff-upper lipped white folks into clapping and *really* belting out the Hallelujahs. And I’m pretty sure we’re in no danger of becoming a cult…
People have told me that Unity is the “conservative/traditional/Christian” Unitarian church in the Twin Cities, which my raised-fundamentalist Lutheran fiance finds especially amusing. Probably because of things like…we have a supplemental hymnal for Christmas for the songs that were kicked out of the official UU hymnal for being too Christian..and even those have some theological adjustments from the traditional versions! Atheists whine to me about being offended by references to the super-vague “Ground of Being”, Spirit of Love and Life and what have you…I have serious doubts that this essence is the same deity as YHWH, if it’s a deity at all…I’m sorry, but if you are an atheist (especially an educated white atheist) in the Twin Cities metro, your license to whine about oppression has been officially revoked. There’s the Minnesota Humanists, the Minnesota Atheists, and MN Atheists for Human Rights, the First Unitarian Society which is pretty staunchly humanist, and if that’s still not ungodly enough, the Sunday Assembly meets there once a month. I believe there ought to be space in UUism for a variety of religious viewpoints, including atheism. Problem is, UUs are too wishy-washy. When a UU criticizes New Atheists (i.e. anti-theists) people get mad and claim we’re “oppressing” all atheists. When I came in here as a Pagan & polytheist, I didn’t complain about the default monotheistic/Biblical language. I studied the history of UUism and understood its origins in deeply religious people. I didn’t expect it to meet all of my specific spiritual needs, I was mostly looking for a broader and more stable community. Now there are other Pagans with religious hangovers that act just as bratty as some of the atheists, and conversely there are plenty of atheists who play nicely with the liberal religious heritage of UUism, while carving a slice for themselves- contributing sermons, rites of passage, readings, etc. that fit with their values and beliefs.
I’d suggest everyone take a good look at the history of creating secular religions- whatever term you want to use- you’ll see that they’ve all appealed generally to a relatively small elite, and withered usually after a generation or two.
The Cult of Reason of the French Revolution is long gone. The Ethical Society/Culture isn’t radical enough for the atheist hipsters. Humanist Judaism remains a small movement, known almost only in the United States, (Alex de Bouton, a French secular Jew who proposed “Religion 2.0” seemed oblivious to its existence) Reform synagogues, which are also often pretty humanist friendly also face a decline as steep as mainline Protestants. Are secular replacements for religion mostly of interest to people with a religious upbringing? Will Sunday Assembly go the way of the Cult of Reason in another generation? On the other hand, there’s always sports- and fandoms of other types!
Like a lot of American celebrations with more radical roots, as GLBT Pride festivals & parades across the country have grown over time, they have become more mainstream and commercialized. (Great critique of Pride here) Some folks of a more radical bent wring their hands over this, longing for more overt expressions of sexuality, anti-capitalism, and pointing out trends with obscure academic sounding terms like “homonormativity” and pinkwashing. While I think there are many valid criticisms that can be made especially of larger Prides and the movement as a whole, these are internal community debates. Prides, while remaining GLBT-centered, are also a reflection of continued acceptance and integration into broader communities- much as ethnic celebrations like Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and so forth have become not just for Mexican and Irish-Americans. At the same time, there’s a balance to be struck. Straight & cis allies can enjoy Pride, while understanding that they are in a queer-centered space, so they can’t be complaining about being hit on by someone of the same sex, or guys parading around in leather chaps and such. There’s space for both the conventional lesbian soccer moms as well as the wacky drag queens.
This year of course we have even more to celebrate, as the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of marriage equality. Of course, I’m quite excited, though I realize there are many more issues we need to work on, both domestically and around the world. I do think we need to give folks a chance to celebrate before lecturing about gloomy statistics about queer youth suicides/murders and the continuing AIDs epidemic. Anyone who thinks the entire GLBT rights movement was just about marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell obviously has a pretty superficial understanding of it (and probably is only really thinking about the G and L parts) But I think this is part of why it’s a good thing that a more diverse range of people attend Prides- we can get the chance to educate non-activist GLBT folks & allies about these issues and convince them to do more than wear rainbow beads and dance to ABBA.
One of my fellow Unitarians- reflecting on the General Assembly- our national conference held that same weekend- points out two other important Supreme Court rulings that we should be celebrating– the one upholding the Affordable Care Act* (yes, I’d like a single payer system, but I’m still glad we have this one!) which I did hear about, and another the makes it easier to prove implicit discrimination in housing– proof of explicit intent to discriminate based on a protected status is no longer required. (I may have described that wrong- it’s hard to summarize legal stuff- so read the article) This is huge, because for decades the Supreme Court has been getting pickier about how obvious discrimination has to be before they will accept that it’s happening.
(By the way- if any “No pre-existing conditions/I’ll magically never lose my cushy job with benefits, so screw you” people want to bitch to me about how it’s soo unfair they are being forced to pay for insurance they don’t need, don’t bother commenting, you can cry me a frickin’ river.)
We are the Queens and Kings of the Polytheists- a word we act like we invented and have redefined for our purposes
Those silly Pagans only wanted to play- But rest assured, we’re here to Do the Work!
Surely those impious Humanists will soon be struck down by Zeus,
Who needs rights or human dignity? I’m a God-slave!
Born to serve a Higher Purpose, above those mere mortal fools!
Their hubris is not my own.
Silly feminists, getting upset over rapes in myths. Go back to college and take my class if you’re *really* serious!
We must smash the Monotheist Borg! So come join the Polytheist one instead!
Smash capitalism! I already have my Properly Spiritual artsy/academic/activist career. Have you given in to mainstream corporate fear? I’m a full-time mystic in the woods looking down at your plebeian ways. Care for an oracle reading? I’m only a vessel for the Gods, a puny insect they’d squish if I dare disobey. Still, I must be Their favorite!
Puck tells me the moral of this tale-
Discordians, experimental mages, Zen Druids, atheist witches, Radical Faeries (his favorite of course!) all have their role to play in this spiritual ecosystem…don’t forget all those beasts and plants that were not adaptable, that were too choosy in their niches or in finding a worthy mate- they are no longer here. Will that be your fate?
(Oh, does Puck from Shakespeare count as a pop culture being? He is older than Columbia…)
Not much of a poem, and not quite spoken word..but better than a prose rant I think!
My non-linear brain prefers to answer these in a random “what appeals to me today” order, some repetition may ensue.
17) Have you experienced discrimination because of disabilities? Discrimination comes in many forms, from refusal to employ or accommodate a person with a disability to treating that person with disrespect because of it
Possibly, but it’s hard to tell for sure (let alone legally prove!) since my disabilities are hidden/invisible. I do tend to strategically reveal them to employers *after* they have hired me, (often after scoping things out, and possibly allying with a co-worker who has a learning disability, or a kid with one) but before some social, emotional or sensory issues pop up that might endanger my job if I don’t develop a strategy to cope with them. I often figure out these strategies and coping mechanisms on my own, without consulting with anyone, but my ability to do so may depend on the structure and expectations of the job, and how flexible and open-minded the supervisor and co-workers are willing to be. I’ve felt rather annoyed with the conventional disability services complex because the professional helpers seem to have this naive faith that the ADA- Americans with Disabilities Act will always magically protect you from discrimination, and you should just go ahead and reveal your disabilities. I think this is due to shortcomings and assumptions from how they are trained, and professionals who actually are familiar with Asperger’s and ADHD are far more helpful. With more generic disability professionals, I end up spending as much- or more time educating them about my disabilities than actually getting relevant help and suggestions from them.
18) Have you experienced preferential treatment because of disabilities? —By preferential treatment, I mean situations where you were treated better or differently from your peers even though there was no valid reason.
I’ve gotten the condescending kindergarten teacher voice from people- and being treated as if I were “slow” after people found out about my label(s) or picked up that I was a little “different” or “special”. I wouldn’t consider any of that preferential! Honestly, if there were more companies that practiced active recruiting of people with disabilities- and didn’t limit that definition to only certain conditions (as the federal government does) I think that would be fantastic. I know that doesn’t fit with the mainstream disability rights movement’s “we want to blend in and be treated like everyone else” agenda and raises the oh-so-scary specter of affirmative action that makes middle class white people run away screaming, but I don’t really care. Their strategies haven’t been working very well, its time we tried something else.
14: Have you ever experienced stigma?
Yes- mostly from people making cluelessly insensitive comments in front of me about autism and mental illness, often while not realizing I have either such experience. Sometimes I challenge them while staying “in the closet”, sometimes I come out if it feels safe and appropriate to do so. Often it’s a “Eeeww, I don’t want to be associated with Those Crazy People!”. Maybe this relates more to the pseudo-preferential treatment discussed above, but I’ve especially noticed this stigma when mentioning my past seizures/epilepsy. Sometimes with mere mortals, sometimes with doctors and other Experts ™ who should “know better”. I’ve gotten “back away slowly before she explodes!” style reactions, being treated like I’m a porcelain doll, need to be told what I’m capable of doing and how to take care of myself and “Oh, you poor dear, there but for the grace of God/the Universe go I” and other crap. This is very similar to a lot of the complaints I’ve heard my friends with more visually apparent physical disabilities talk about how they’ve been treated, and I’ve also witnessed some of that nonsense myself while around folks with physical disabilities.
It’s common in Pagan communities to hear people talk about their patron or matron deities. Within Neo-Paganism this could have a couple of origins- patron saints- who are regarded as in being guardians of a particular profession, family, area of life (ex: a type of illness) place, or specific person. Another origin may be the Holy Guardian Angel, who is called upon in Thelema and some types of ceremonial magic(k) more generally. The concept of a personal guardian spirit that watches over someone all their lives is found in many cultures, but I feel that is a different, though related topic to that of patron deities.
An important thing to remember, however is that the term “patron” is used many different ways and may even have more specific meanings for particular traditions. Therefore, it’s best when in a pan-Pagan community space- be it online or in person, to think of “patron” in the broadest possible sense, and narrow down from there as a person shares more about their practice and theology. Having a patron (or patrons) is not a requirement to be a True Pagan ™ though it may be encouraged, recommended or required in particular traditions.
Common Uses of Patron
A- Deity that a person feels closest to, and is their all-purpose “go to god” (this what I have with Brighid)
B- Deity that a person has formally dedicated themselves to serve, typically by swearing an oath- either temporary as for a year and a day like dedicating to a coven, or for life.
C- Dedication or devotion to a deity that involves being a priest/ess or monastic-like lifestyle. In this case, the person may still use the term patron, but typically more commonly call themselves a priest or devotee of X. The relationship is often seen like that of a parent and child, or a spouse or lover.
Assumptions and Misconceptions
There is often debate about whether a person can choose a patron or must wait for “signs” that a deity has chosen them. I think either side can be taken to an extreme with people assuming that is someone chooses a deity, then they must have randomly chosen one out of a hat for shallow reasons or at the other end, people worry about not having had enough of a dramatic “Burning Bush” type experience.
Some polytheists (especially some Heathens and Hellenics) argue against the idea of patrons, claiming that they are not historical and are influence of monotheism, particularly American evangelical Christianity a la “my personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. I do think there are some folks who have rather immature relationships with their patrons, especially when they seem to expect them to swoop down and rescue them from any screw-up they make- I call this phenomenon “My Little Loki/Hermes/Bast”, et al or My Little Totem for that matter. But there are historic examples of close personal relationships with deities in many cultural contexts- for both priestly and lay practitioners. Having a patron also does not mean the person stops being a polytheist, they generally will worship a variety of spirits and gods, with particular focus on the patron(s). That said, henotheism- the worship of only one deity (or form of deity) while acknowledging the existence of others- or even occasionally honoring them for festivals is an acceptable norm in certain traditions such as Kemetic (Egyptian) religion and Hinduism.
Culturally Specific Terms
Heathenry & Asatru: Fulltrui– in Icelandic fulltrui means trusted friend or fully trusted one
Hinduism: Ishta devi or ishta devata– in Sanskrit this means cherished or beloved deity- an individual chooses a form of God to focus their devotion. Looking for websites about this, but I’m not sure which ones are the best sources on Hinduism…
Kemetic Orthodoxy- in KO (note that this is a specific organization, not all Kemetics belong to it) there is a rite of Parent Divination which determines which of the Netjer- the Gods that the person will serve.
Note: I consider the topic of patron deities to be more of a 201 level, especially I haven’t gotten much into theology yet, but this is a very common topic beginners ask about on fora, and they often get many mixed messages! So I thought I’d sort things out a bit here. Not all forms of Pagan practice and belief necessarily involve deities, and some info here could also apply to relationships with other types of spirits such as totem or power animals/plants/fungi, ancestors etc.
At our Druid Meet n’ Greet, we had several people with an interest in Buddhism, or who already had a dual path or syncretic practice including Buddhism & Western Neo-Paganism. Over the years, I’ve known many Pagan folks who either included Buddhist “bits” of philosophy and practice (especially meditation) or identified as Buddhist Pagans (or insert your hybrid label here) I’ve also known of people who left Buddhism to become Pagan or left Paganism to be more focused on Buddhism (Deo and his wife of the former Deo’s Shadow podcast come to mind for the latter) Since I feel that I know just enough about Buddhism to “be dangerous” as it were, I will leave judgment of what are good and not-so-good methods of syncretism to Buddhists and Buddhist Pagans themselves, but this gives you an idea of the diverse viewpoints and resources out there. I’m also including a section- or maybe a seperate post of links of viewpoints from both Pagans & Buddhists who think the two don’t mesh well together- though this can be reflective of what types of Buddhism and Paganism they are familiar with, have practiced etc. Note: I do not consider Buddhists or Buddhism overall to be “Pagan” it is classed as a Dharmic religion, along with Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism.
Dharma Pagan (not sure if this is the same website reincarnated?) Great website, lots of resources!
“Spiritual But Not Religious” in Paganism & Buddhism– interesting suggestions on how to adapt Wheel of the Year holidays to Buddhist practice on the related blog for ex: here’s Summer Solstice
Reflections on “Why Buddha Touched the Earth: Zen Paganism for the 21st Century” by Tom Swiss by Trellia, a British eclectic Pagan who includes Shinto (with Zen influence) in her practice.
Another review of “Why Buddha...” on Blog of Baphomet
Zen Paganism group on Facebook
It All Just Is– Pagan Buddhist blog
Secular Buddhism- an interview on Humanistic Paganism
Fake Buddha Quotes– Make sure those Buddha quote memes you see floating around are actually legit!
It’s not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males
Blaming “mental illness” is a cop-out — and one that lets us avoid talking about race, guns, hatred and terrorism
“I get really really tired of hearing the phrase “mental illness” thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like “toxic masculinity,” “white supremacy,” “misogyny” or “racism.”
We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don’t have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.
But it’s also bullshit when used to discredit the perpetrators of crimes. Mass murderers frequently aren’t particularly shy about the motives behind what they do — the nature of the crime they commit is attention-seeking, is an attempt…
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