Saturday, August 29, 2015
Yesterday in a news conference, Donald Trump stated that Americans pay "the highest taxes in the world", which could be true of one discounts all of Europe and Canada as not "part" of the world. This individuals loose grasp on reality and tendency toward exaggeration have endeared him to a conservative base that, lead by Fox News, gave up any attachment to reality long ago. Conservatives, over and over, state that they like him because he "speaks his mind"; frankly so do the drunks I work with in my job at a Detox Unit, which hardly qualifies them to be President of the United States. For now the clown show continues and the Republican establishment is loving it. As long as Trump eats up media time, Democrats are left with little hope of getting their message out.
Former Senator Clinton is also relishing the opportunity to engage someone so far out in his ideas and policies that he can hardly sustain a serious run at the Presidency. Conveniently, she avoids the credible candidates within her own party also seeking the nomination as long as the Trump show continues. She can run to the center all she wants, yet when the electorate follows the money, it becomes clear that she is the candidate of big banks, big money and the establishment. Lets be clear, her candidacy represents maintaining the establishment's lock on power and influence. While I respect her as an individual, she is so deeply immeshed in power politics that she herself cannot see how she violates the very values she espouses.
As the media feeding frenzy continues in response to Mr. Trump, left out in the cold is a serious candidate with ideas that seek justice, equality, fairness and environmental responsibility. Bernie Sanders is rapidly converting even life long conservatives to his cause. He just makes sense, speaks clearly and has policies that are routed in his long experience fighting for the average man.
My turn to speak clearly, I fully endorse Bernie Sanders. For anyone who believes in social, economic and environmental justice there is no logical alternative. I choose to ignore those who call on me to ignore my beliefs and values with their call to support "an electable candidate". Frankly if Americans stick to their values, Bernie Sanders is the only electable candidate now in the race.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Aggressive walls of flames roar across the landscape and 30,000 fire fighters stand their ground. Here, within the firestorm, there is heroism, individuals band together to achieve herculean tasks beyond mortal ability. First among them are the local volunteer Firefighters who with limited training, funding and resources face the elemental monster encroaching on their own homes and communities.
I am in awe at the efforts of my brother and sister Firefighters. Nature is so out of balance that the element of fire has become a behemoth storm of destruction and consumption devouring everything in its path, yet my comrades manage to save town after town. I am honored to stand among them to witness the very best of what humanity can manifest
Yesterday we lost three of our own to this hungry regional firestorm, we collectively grieve for a minute and return our attention to the task at hand, stopping the fire, saving more communities, standing as the last line of defense against an incredible power. Our grieving is brief, our determination re-enforced.
This is a historic fire storm, I can think of no better community to call on than mine, educated in elemental power, thousands of Pagans across the nation can collectively send their magic, healing energy and prayers to assist in this effort. This is my call, do all that you personally can to manifest safety for communities, firefighters and all involved. It is my plea that you do not ignore this request, pause even if only for a moment and send what you can in support.
From The Fire Line
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Dawn at the Hayfork Fire Camp
It is pitch black in Fire Camp and I am awake at 0415 a.m. All is silent; the firefighters sleep just as they were doing five hours ago when finally I lay my head upon the ground. In this space I can connect with the sacred, slowly and intentionally I am able to sense my place as just a single note upon a magical sheet of divine music.
Up early I sacrifice an extra hour of sleep but I am also able to focus on the powers that transcend the effort I am involved in. My mind is able to reconnect with compassion, insights well up and I am comforted: energized even.
When urgency for the mission at hand overwhelms my ability to connect it is critical that I find the time to seek the Goddess, sit with her in the darkness and refill my spiritual cup. It is not so much that the experience is profound; it simply returns me to a place where my actions and reactions are based upon my core values.
There are more than a thousand firefighters here, if I am to do my part in assuring their safe return to their families it is incumbent upon me to bring the best that I am to the table. It is the compassion that my morning time with the Goddess manifests that fuels my passion for service and ability focus.
Time for me to go, the fire camp stirs, soon the sun will rise and a multitude to tasks will distract me, yet she will be with me, ever my guide along this journey.
My daily practice is brief, yet critical to compassion based service to humanity!
In Her Service, from the fire line,
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
We awoke to great news The Boy Scouts Of America (BSA) have reversed course and have voted on a new policy that allows members of the LGBT community to be scout leaders. From far and wide leaders of social justice focused organizations have published statements in support of this profound change in BSA policy.
BUT WAIT--- HOLD ON --- WE HAVE BEEN DUPED
Upon close inspection the new policy does not require troops that are excluding LGBT leaders to change their policy. By creating an exception for troops sponsored by Catholic and Mormon churches the policy re affirms the right of troops to discriminate. With more than 60% of BSA troops based at these churches the new policy allows the continued wholesale discrimination that has long been a center of BSA policy.
Essentially all the new policy does is say, those who wish to continue to discriminate have license to do so. The only change is that troops not sponsored by these religious organizations no longer face sanctions if they have a gay leader in their organization.
Progress is not made by reaffirming the right of organizations to engage in homophobia. Progress is not made by continuing to disallow LGBT scout leaders to assume their rightful place in more than 60% of scout troops. Progress is not made by engaging in a PR effort about BSA's inclusive policy while sweeping under the rug the continuation of hateful policies by the majority of scouting organizations.
Those posting their support for this new policy are well meaning people who want to see progress. They simply don't see how this effort is a sham designed to lesson the political pressure on the BSA while effectively making no changes in the core policy of the organization.
Simply stated scout troops are free to continue things as they always have been. My sisters and brothers in the LGBT community deserve better. It is my belief that liberal social justice organizations should reject this false "change" and continue to press for full inclusion as BSA policy.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Being in Alaska is disorienting, living with 22 hours of sunlight brings one to appreciate what feels like a relentless Solstice. Surrounded by boundless expanses of green it feels as if Gaia herself is holding onto the light; letting summer continue to hold sway upon the land in a never ending dance of joyous divinity.
All that grows stands at the foundation of mighty glaciers that remind those that behold the sight of a basic truth of nature, that the darkness arrives before the light in perpetuity. Here the divine expressions of nature wash over the observer in powerful undulations that nourish ones understanding of the sacred.
This land holds her people as minor expressions of creation upon a landscape of powerful spirits that exist within its’ herds and wonderers of extraordinary size and power. Here the bear is not simply a wild animal but the acknowledged master of a sacred expanse that stretches beyond the inner vision of even the most gifted shaman.
Rivers teem with water spirits ever engaged in an annual journey that ultimately nourishes all the expressions of the Goddess that walk the land. To journey by water is to reach back to a time when this earth existed as divinity intended to manifest it. Mountains stand century upon seashores that have existed since long before humans started to worship the achievement in grandeur that surrounds bountiful seas.
There is humility here for humanity. One is overcome with a sense that it is we who have distorted nature: repurposed it for our own destructive and immoral benefit. It is in standing among the dense forests of green that humans can truly grasp our small place as a single thread in the cloth of diversity that the Goddess has woven.
Here one can stand in full awe and awareness of one of the purposes of the UU community. “Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life”
Upon this landscape one understands that the “forces, which create and uphold life” are so expansive that a right relationship with nature includes an understanding of how humans must return to their intended place as just one of Gaia’s creatures.
I am Blessed
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Gazing around the circle in my local CUUPS group I see an amazing diversity of ages represented. Young people fully engaged in seeking truths that transcend the values of our over culture. My heart is warmed
Paganism is growing, with each generation more people become engaged in the many paths that encompass our collective identity. Young leaders emerge and set their sights on a spiritual life that has meaning beyond the experiences’ of their parents. These seekers embrace our non-hierarchal approach to relationship with divinity.
Fast Forward to Sunday Morning
As I sit in my local UUA congregation it is evident that the membership is predominantly retired individuals. Across the US churches are experiencing the same demographic shift in membership. It is not so much that membership is shrinking due to less young people attending but the fact that people become more religious as they age. As the Baby Boomers age the population of individuals joining congregations is shrinking.
According to ABC News “The biggest gap is between the oldest and youngest age groups. Sixty percent of people age 65 and older report attending religious services at least once a week; among 18 to 30-year-olds, just 28 percent go that often. Previous ABCNEWS polls, similarly, have found that religious belief and practice increase with age.”
All this got me to thinking about the tremendous responsibility that comes with being an emerging demographic within the UUA fold. If our institutions are to flourish and survive we collectively have a responsibility to become active, engage the wider congregation, bring to the table our ability to expand what full UUA membership means to include support of those who have so openly welcomed us among them.
Without CUUPS and other groups that attract younger followers UUA congregations will shrink while maintaining their established infrastructure continues to be more costly. Is it not our responsibility as spiritual sisters and brothers to support those who have provided us sacred space and honored our beliefs?
So I urge you my fellow CUUPS members, become active within your hosting church, demonstrate that we collectively understand how important we are to the future of Unitarian Universalism.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
My mind is muddled with images as I drive through Willow Alaska on my way to a new assignment. Images of lost Pagan land and all the energy expressed there affect me deeply. While I never visited what local Pagans call "the land" I know well the deep and sacred connections our communities develop with these sites that are filled with the energy of rituals and drum circles manifested by our honored ancestors and current community members. The sight of the burned trees reduced from proud centurions of nature to burnt toothpicks brings tears to my eyes. I have seen many such places in my life, yet this stand of trees, being connected to sacred space stirs emotion.
The seven hour drive from the Yukon to Anchorage was a long one. After two weeks as part of the effort to suppress the Aggie Fire, now 20,000 acres, I am exhausted. As of today the fire still burns and another team has taken command of the effort. The tasks undertaken in support of our firefighters have been complex, the dynamic changing environment of wildfire makes logistical support of the effort like trying to fit together puzzle pieces from a vast array of pieces left on a preschool floor. Even determining where it is safe to feed the firefighters on a given day is a moving target dictated by fire behavior. The Aggie Fire ran another 5,000 acres two days ago, homes were evacuated and fire resources were stretched to their limit.
Fire behavior in stands of Black Spruce is extreme. Even after days of rain, with just a few hours of drying, the inferno explodes and consumes more of the dense and lush forest. It is always humbling to witness the power of fire and the heroism of those who respond. Yet, there is always sadness and a flood of inner tears for those who lose homes, places of employment and sometimes entire villages. This work both nourishes my spirit and erodes my ability to focus on other aspects of my life. Driven by compassion for the land, it's people and the broader impacts of fire, I often find myself mentally and spiritually exhausted. There is something unique about being a Pagan firefighter. it is almost as if I can hear the land crying out, demanding that humanity collectively do something to address the damage we continue to do! Gaia weeps and my desire to act is watered by her tears.
The smoke plums are intense, each night the smoke settles in fire camp and we all attempt to sleep in an environment of 24 hour light and choking smoke. My passion for this life is intense, yet the shared hardship bands us together in an effort to accomplish something beyond individual human ability, tame a miles long swath of fire manifested as if from a dragons mouth.
My drive ended with a new assignment working for the state wide logistical command center. For now, I am away from the flames, yet last night I fell asleep worrying about my sisters and brothers still on the fire line. Won't you join me in sending energy and prayers their way. This fight is long from over and any and all spiritual and magical support can only help!
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Once again our nation is hit by a violent terrorist attack with clear racist motivations. The perpetrator is a 21 year old white resident of South Carolina. The internet is alive with debate about the root nature of the attack. Conservatives attempt to paint the incident as an attack against Christianity. Post after post refer to the attacker as a "troubled youth". The clear dialectic between how our nation views whites and people of color is clear.
When a black youth is arrested the media refers to them as a "thug" or a "Man," yet when the offender is white the language used clearly paints the offender as "mentally ill,' troubled, or a misguided youth.
As I read the plethora of stories it occurs to me that there is a personal "Mea Culpa" in all of this. You see if I honestly examine my own reaction, I am as guilty as the media is. In my private thoughts this offender looks like me, my brain seeks an explanation, my compassion is triggered by recognizing the individual as similar in appearance to myself. Frankly these thoughts sicken me!
This is privilege, insidious, always present and in need of being confronted. Our nation will not change until people across the country are able to look at their own reactions and have an internal conversation about the thought processes that occur which lead to racism, discrimination and unjustified systematic violence directed at people of color.
Collectively people have greater empathy for people we perceive as somehow like ourselves. This is a part of human nature that needs to be confronted. If we ignore these feelings we move from a person with privilege to a perpetrator of adverse racism. Ultimately, the idea that people are blind to color is a cancerous concept that allows the continuation of a racist culture that has no hope of becoming just, equitable and based on reality.
Yes, when I look at photos side by side of a young black man and a young white man my unconscious tendency is to have more empathy for the individual who looks like me. It is in my personal awareness of this that I am able to balance the scales and develop a realistic view that does not oppress people. Racism and privilege live in every Americans psyche, our collective challenge is to admit and confront such thoughts.
Our nation has a cultural sickness as a result of decades of racism, we who profess to support justice and racial equality will never be successful unless we are able to confront our own part in this oppressive system.
It is difficult when addressing racism to confront our own unconscious contributions to the collective racist culture, yet there will be no progress until this becomes a personal issue for white Americans across the country.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Maybe the word that best describes my reaction upon reading the recent statement from Pope Francis entitled “ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME” is stunned. The statement is laced with the language of progressive social, environmental and economic justice. Reporting on such a profound document and its’ implications upon future inter religious dialogue can at best only scratch the surface of this game changing statement. Let me urge everyone to set aside time to read the entire document:
Upon my first reading I was struck with language that seemed to denounce the long-standing doctrine of the church that has fuled extremist environmental dominionism over our planet. It was this passage that got me to thinking about the profound change in church thinking
“If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.”
Pope Francis further cites the eastern orthodox churches leader in support of his stance:
“Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”. He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation”
This departure from conservative religious dogma is enough all by itself to convince me of the importance of the document; but there was more to come. Pope Francis goes on to acknowledge how acceleration of change affects us all and coins a term to describe his opinion. In support of his point he goes on to implicitly recognize “biological evolution”, my eyes became very large while reading is:
“The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”. Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution.
The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity. These are signs that the growth of the past two centuries has not always led to an integral development and an improvement in the quality of life. Some of these signs are also symptomatic of real social decline, the silent rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion.
As I read further it becames clear that this Pope understands the role that consumerism and unbridled capitalism plays in oppression around the world
“It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought,
To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some is one way of refusing to face the issues.
Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination. When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all”
“Just as I begin to think that I have grasped the totality of this statement Pope Francis goes on to embrace cultural sensitivity and denounce the cultural and physical destruction of indigenous cultures. My sense of what the Roman church stands for has been decimated. I am stunned!
A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor.
Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest sense. More specifically, it calls for greater attention to local cultures when studying environmental problems, favouring a dialogue between scientific-technical language and the language of the people. Culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality, which cannot be excluded as we rethink the relationship between human beings and the environment.
In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.”
In an acknowledgement on the responsibility that western consumer societies have for the damage being done to our collective home he makes a good point about our cultural attachment to consumerism.
In those countries which should be making the greatest changes in consumer habits, young people have a new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some of them are making admirable efforts to protect the environment. At the same time, they have grown up in a milieu of extreme consumerism and affluence which makes it difficult to develop other habits. We are faced with an educational challenge.
A number of pages are devoted to making his case to Catholics via Christian doctrine and biblical passages. Just as I begin to sense that I have grasped the totality of the statement he adds this description of Mary that is as eloquent an acknowledgment of the divine feminine as I have ever encountered coming from any Christian, much less a Pontiff.
Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness. She is the Woman, “clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars
Am I going to run out and become Catholic? Not a chance. There remain wide areas of disagreement that prevent me from fully endorsing the beliefs of the Roman Church. That being said, this is a profound document. When an ancient institution culpable in the worldwide spread of Patriarchy, and environmental and social genocide reverses course it is a victory for rational thought among our planetary community. The intersections of mutual interest with the Vatican have just grown ten fold. I look forward to working with the church in seeking environmental, social and economic justice. Just the mere fact that the church now sees these things as connected may establish this as the most important religious publication of our lifetimes.
There is so much more to this document, these are the things that impacted me upon a first reading. I would love to hear how it impacted others in the community. Please let me know in the comments section.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Flooded ritual greens at PSG [Photo credit: L. Dake]
The photos are dramatic, This years PSG has been subjected to a flood. As a disaster responder I have witnessed many such events. Following the posts of those present and those witnessing from afar has been insightful. How does a Goddess centered community respond when disaster strikes? Simply stated, the response reflects the beliefs that we hold scared.
Post after post talks about the efforts of established infrastructure like the Guardians and PSG staff, but even more is reflective of our communities natural instinct to engage in mutual aid when disaster strikes. These events, while dramatic, make clear that the very essence of the PSG gathering is real community that pulls together in the face of challenges.
Online posts from those not present offer support ranging from places to stay on the journey home to financial assistance to those most impacted. All these efforts reenforce for me how important the PSG event is in demonstrating the collective values of our community. From offers of spiritual support to the more practical corporeal efforts this community is demonstrating how effective mutual aid is in the face of challenges.
Even more heartening are the reports coming out that reflect a positive experience in the mists of chaos. A little part of me is sad to be missing this chance to be of service and the outpouring of the love of the Goddess. May she bless all those affected and continue to bless them with the spirit centered mutual aid that is supporting hearts, spirits and the more logistical based needs
Selena Fox stands as a collective example of the hundreds of great Pagans in this community and their heart centered approach to collective magic when the community is affected by the power of the elements.
I am deeply saddened by these events, Yet, witnessing the response re-enforces for me why I consider PSG and Circle Sanctuary a spiritual home that reflects the best of what the Pagan community is.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
There are those moments in life that are so ingrained in a persons perception of divinity that they become central to their spiritual path. For me one of these seminal moments came on January 16, 2010. On my knees under a mango tree I was treating victims of the earthquake in Haiti. There was the sense that I was doing the work of the divine, fully engaged in compassionate service to humanity. This was no personal accomplishment but a result of my belief that service is the most direct reflection of divine principles.
The years since have been filled with an overwhelming desire to participate in a community that features service as central to its principles. Webster’s clearly defines my desire as: "to serve" as "to be of use, to furnish or supply with something needed or desired" and service as "to be of help, use, benefit, contribution to the welfare of others."
For me personally, service is a vote for compassion, justice and equality for the entire human race. Finding CUUPS and learning about the UU principles provided an opportunity to participate in an organization that most clearly reflect my understanding of divinity.
In researching my possible membership the 6th UU principle “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all” cemented my commitment to this spiritual path. My reading about the UU service committee “founded in May 1940… with the intended purpose of assisting European refugees endangered by Nazis persecution” further established that my spiritual path lay with CUUPS.
Five years ago I had an experience that felt like I had directly crossed paths with divinity, at the time I was so busy in service that I had little time to consider this experience, with reflection however, it has been become clear that it is a theology of service that most fully expresses my desire to make a meaningful difference during my lifetime.
My gratitude resulting from having found a community that embraces full expression of my desire for service is abundant. With more than 20 years experience in various Pagan traditions I have finally found a spiritual home; a place where the values I embrace are reflected by an entire community.
I am Blessed!
Sunday, June 7, 2015
I sit, observe and am overwhelmed by the sense that here in this moment my entire life is whole. Conversations are animated, mutual respect and love are palpable and I am filled with an overwhelming joy. My innermost heart is awash with a wellspring of satisfaction. In this circle I am whole in a way I have never experienced before.
So some may ask where does someone experience such complete joy and self-actualization; among a group of accomplished elders maybe or possibly in service to humanity? Well no, over this past weekend I have essentially returned to my first circle. I have had the pleasure of witnessing generations of my family interact and learn about each other.
More than five decades ago I was born into this circle, the years have seen my core family unit spread across the nation. This weekend we gathered in Saint Louis and 26 of us re connected. In the faces of small children I could see the legacy of my parents. My sense that this is one of the seminal events of my life is strong.
There is no stronger or more spiritual circle then this one. With 11 children attending it has been hectic, yet with each hug I am grounded, reminded that the circle of life from which we all spring is the very basis of my beliefs. My personal experience is nearly ecstatic, compassion, love and insight flow like the waters of a great river ever seeking its destination and I am blessed.
This weekend my practice has been to return to the circle of my emergence, reflect on the sacred circle of life and wallow in my first community. Surrounded by others who have vastly different beliefs than mine I am blessed by our collective diversity and remained that the wheel turns and ever replenishes its self.
In my family's faces I see the grand dance of creation and am honored by their presence in my life. Filled with love I am blessed an unable to find the words to fully express my emotions.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Activists shout from roof tops, lead emotional protests, confront government oppression, organize the mass feeding of the homeless, lobby Congress, confront animal shows for their treatment of their charges. Consistently those who engage are in our collective consciousness.
Within our faith communities we are urged to organize and implement actions that reflect our common vision of social justice. Our leaders demonstrate passion in their efforts, we are inspired and join in seeking change in the world.
Let me, however, propose that the most effective activism springs not from our collective efforts but instead from our own first steps in confronting hatred, inequality, environmental destruction and economic disparity.
Your actions in buying a meal for and sitting with a homeless person have a more profound effect on hunger, homelessness, and recognizing human dignity than all the committee meetings you may attend.
Your confrontation of hate speech you witness in the community will do more to eradicate bigotry than attending weekly Black Lives Matter marches ever will.
Your actions in announcing that you will not go to Sea World on your vacation will do more to save the whales than any dozen blog posts you may write on the subject.
Your decision to hire an individual with a criminal record will do more to stop the school to prison pipeline than all the petitions you may sign.
Your admonishment of someone you see littering will do more to save the environment than any vote you may cast to establish a recycling program.
Activism is about taking the first steps; engaging locally where we take some risk for our positions, where our actions help to establish new community ethics concerning social justice. These "First Steps" are the hard ones, we are alone, no committee of like minded individuals, no mass of protesters at our backs, no congregation of supporters, just you confronting that which offends your sense of social justice.
While all the collective actions listed above have great social value, it is our willingness to "Take the First Step" that establishes social justice as central to our identities, making us valuable and available to engage in broader action.
So today my friends I urge you to adjust your view of Social Justice, bring it a little closer, engage in your home, your work place, your community. The first steps will be the hardest, attempting to skip them, however, only leads to hollow efforts at reform.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
It is a Sunday morning and my entire being is resistant to the situation I find my self in. This Pagan who has circled thousands of times in celebration of divinity is sitting in a pew, row after row of individuals surround me. I see a hymnal in front of me and all the memories of why I left organized religion flood back serving to further enhance the temptation to flee.
This Sunday morning I sit in respect for the local UU congregation that makes space for the CUPPS chapter I have joined. It seems only right that I grant a measure of respect to those manifesting a space for my community to circle. I have done hours of reading about the UU church and intellectually am in agreement with their ethics.
My Pagan identity is so strong that I wonder if this is the place for me, how can I engage in this service that looks and feels so much like that which I rejected in my youth? As the service starts a chalice is lit and a song is referenced, I reach for the hymnal and am awash with memories of my youthful disconnect with divinity and meaning.
In this moment something happens, I focus on the words of the song and recognize the earth-based theology at its core. As the congregation sings, my hardened heart softens and I find my self singing , the sense of divinity is palpable, I am confused, here among the trappings of organized religion I am connected to divinity.
As the service progresses it is evident that the words spoken from the minister value diversity, compassion and social justice. I am engaged, the sense that the Goddess is present is nearly ecstatic, and my confusion deepens.
As the service ends and I enjoy coffee and snacks with the membership, I am warmly greeted, informed of the many efforts the church is engaged in and made to feel welcome.
As I walk away I have one of the moments that I so cherish in my life, insight into my own preconceptions about religious identity flow from my core self. The questions are profound. For how many years have I excluded the worship practices of others from my personal practice? Why has my engagement in interfaith activities always centered on “working with” people of other faiths instead of “worshiping with” those that simply call divinity by another name?
After a number of services I now feel part of this church, something I thought I would never say. I cherish my Pagan circles but I will no longer see exclusivity of sacred space as a refuge but rather an artificial construct erected by my own desire to establish a self-limiting religious identity. Secretly in my heart I consider the entire congregation I have joined as “Secret Pagans” embracing divinity with the same fervor and focus on social justice, as do I. They simply have a different vocabulary for celebrating all that I hold sacred.
Today I embrace both may Pagan identity and my membership in the UU church. It has always been my belief that all paths lead to divinity, I was just never aware how walking more than one path at a time can so clarify the divine's intention to hold all humanity as sacred.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Recently I posted an opinion on a Face Book post that expressed my solidarity with the movement to hold police accountable for their actions. Immediately an individual responded that I should “preach elsewhere”. The following thread made it clear that some in our community feel that of you advocate for police accountability you are anti police.
This line of logic tempts people to believe that if you support accountability you are one of the bad guys. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I consider my position as pro police. After viewing dozens of videos of police abusing restrained subjects who pose no threat, the very idea that confronting such behavior is “anti police” is misleading at best.
In my professional life I am often in the position of supervising a great group of federal officers, to a person they are professional, respectful and focused on the safety of the community. Opposing police violence is about supporting the great officers in our communities. Daily, officers are faced with the toxic choice of supporting fellow officers who behave badly or loosing the respect of other officers for their choice to report abusive behavior. This “thin blue line” ethic is destructive to other officers, our community and the overall reputation of police officers nation wide.
Each of us should guard against the kind of logic that urges us to disregard the facts in favor of an approach that blindly advocates for maintaining a system that is clearly in need of repair. Answers are available, body cameras for police that have a 2-minute delay when turned off, support for officers who come foreword with reports of abuse and outside review boards that have no connection to involved departments are great places to start.
To those who oppose accountability I would say the same thing police officers say to suspects,” if you have done nothing wrong, there is nothing to fear from accountability.”
The current situation in which honest officers are afraid to report abuse must change. When the day comes that dishonest officers are afraid of honest officers reporting them we will have established a policing system that reflects the values that our nation holds as important.
Today I stand in support of all the great police officers out there and will continue working towards the day when they have nothing to fear from a system that allows abusive officers to put them in situations that compromise their values. It is my hope that, within our collective community, others will also acknowledge that what they are working towards is a day when interactions with the police stir no fear on the part of the community, only respect for the job they are doing.