Friday, September 23, 2016

Paganism and Politics 2016

I've always like Heinlein:
"Politics is the only alternative to violence"

It’s a divided and divisive year in the ol’ USA. Political feelings are running high. The hottest feelings are driven by concerns well beyond commonplace politics. Simple fear for one’s life and safety drives the organizing efforts of both people of color and women in general.  More traditional political positions – taxation or not, firearms and freedom, can we “get tough on crime” to any effect – have also become heated, and uncivil rhetoric and demonization of fellow citizens is common. I’m guilty of it on occasion myself, finding it difficult to understand or sympathize with traditional social arrangements of power and privilege, and using barbed language to their advocates as a result. Generally no good is served by such behavior beyond that nasty little satisfaction one gets in hurting a bad guy.

Our Druidry (ADF) has mainly been politically quiet about our predominantly left-of-center ethos. No political litmus test is applied for membership, and we do have members who probably vote Republican, or whatever. We would feel like unAmerican scum if we policed such a thing, I suppose. Groves are encouraged to do ‘community service’ which may be anything from food-banks to stream-cleans to donating to causes. The volunteer top-end board has generally been busy running as fast as they can to keep up with an org with 70+ local chapters, etc. Recently there has been a call for the organization at large to begin responding to current-events causes. Our core documents make our progressive positions on environment, race and gender inclusion explicit. The call for immediate responses to this week’s news caused a bit of a dust-up.

Modern social-justice advocates took stands in favor of the org becoming a public supporter at least through statements and teaching. Those who found reason to dispute the positions of this specific effort or that organization took issue. Most notably, a seeming majority of respondents (whatever their wing) simply wanted their spiritual organization to focus on the work of spirituality, and did not see social-justice advocacy as part of that focus. It's interesting to me that this week's discussions have produced anger in both progressive *and* conservative members. We are, in fact, a politically diverse group.

I take some comfort, even pride, in knowing that the org values tolerance of diverse ideas more than any specific cause or socio-political position. To me there is a primary ethic of the sacrifice-ground – that tribal and personal enmities be set aside for the sake of the Blessing. Despite my own concern for social issues such as racism, sexism and environmental protection I am willing to share the sacred fire with those who feel differently than I about the nature of and solution to those problems. 

The old charm says "Without malice, without envy,
without jealousy, without fear, without terror of
anything under the sun..."

That's because the restoration of polytheism, and multivalent worship of the Gods and Spirits, is my primary socio-political goal in life. I consider the defeat of the notion of One Truth and One Way the single most valuable tactic we can employ in the fight against oppression. We can break the hold of the idea of One God and the heritage of its institutions on our culture. We can restore not just respect for nature, but love for its very mud, and delight in its sensual reality. We can help modern people build personal spirituality not just in the public square, or even in the public church but in hearths and hearts, where it can have deep enough roots to withstand public weather. We can expose mortals to the presence of the Spirit(s), which cannot help but deepen their compassion and brighten their lives. Maybe we can help to restore the element of Mystery to a western society subject to the machines. Not everyone who devotes themselves piously to our works need have these goals as their Grail, but I do. I have remained with ADF these decades because ADF has clung closely to work that supports these goals. I suspect that many of those drawn to the organization do as well.

The thing is, there are a lot of organizations and coalitions that work for public socio-political goals. Those whose passion directs them there have many choices for where to put their efforts. Some people can manage intense involvement in both spiritual and political work (which I do not think consist of the same actions, generally) but many must choose where to commit their resources. I think that our most valuable job as a national Pagan church is to make a house of the spirits available to regular modern folks who live in apartments and get by. One that is home-grown in the culture in which it operates, and thus actually can belong to any modern citizen of a developed country. We have come a long way toward that goal in 35 years. I see it as the only seriously valuable institutional thing a church like ours can do to move the planet onward toward peace, joy and happiness.