Monday, January 30, 2012

What if Pagans Proselytized?

Walking into downtown Chico today, I noticed a small card sitting on the corner trash can. It was a solicitation from some enthusiastic Christian, inviting people to join him in loving and serving Jesus Christ as the Savior and Son of God.

At one point in my life, I might have tossed it into the trash. However, I want respect for my spirituality, so I choose not to throw away these little ads (which sometimes manifest as flyers or pamphlets instead of note cards). Sometimes I add to them instead, writing notes about where and why I disagree. I got this idea from someone writing about conversation instead of censorship. Anytime you disagree it is an opportunity for conversation.

One of my standby arguments for why proselytizing Christians are exactly what we should stay away from in terms of religion is that they try to convert others. How insecure does someone have to be in their spirituality to have to push it on others to feel good about it? As you can see this attitude comes from a strong value of respect for people's personal freedom. However, I can understand being so excited about some new perspective that you want to share it, believing that this perspective will benefit anyone who embraces it.

This, along with irreverent sarcasm, is why I have often imagined going door to door with some other pagans, handing out pamphlets about the benefits of worshiping the Sun and Mother Earth. I've worried that it would only be taken mockingly though, perceived as an insult by Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. I don't want to turn people away from Earthly spirituality, so, following the Golden Rule, I don't proselytize them about it.

Considering the state of the world though, I wonder if it wouldn't be worth a try to set up a little Witches' table on my campus free speech area, with information about the social and psychological benefits of an animistic world-view. What would my quarter-sheets read?

     "You may have been taught that Witchcraft, or any form of Paganism, is idolatry and devil-worship. Or, you may have been taught that it is superstition, old-fashioned cultist beliefs coming from a time pre-dating the modern scientific era. In actuality, Paganism and Witchcraft are life-affirming spiritual paths, sharing many values that religious traditions worldwide profess, and offering many insights into the world that science has not yet and may never give us, due to its limitation of only reporting on that which is quantifiable.

      In a time when our planet's ecological integrity is jeopardized, and our lives are dominated by the unnatural schedules of school semesters and work shifts, Paganism can be a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Most Pagans learn to attune themselves with the cycles of the cosmos, honoring the phases of the Moon and Sun, by setting intentions, working in their gardens, or gathering in parks for rites to connect with the spirits of nature. Many also choose to become active socially for the health of our shared biosphere - something participants of all religions benefit from, since we all depend on this Earth for our existence and survival, however She came to be here.

     Although some Pagan traditions, such as Wicca or Druidism, often have elaborate dedications involved with them - a plus for those who enjoy structure in their spiritual communion - Paganism in general is quite compatible with other world-views and traditions. We acknowledge the basic archetypes of God and Goddess, which can include deities or figures from many cultures. Mother Mary, for example, is often seen as a Goddess figure. If you are interested in finding deeper connection with yourself, the Earth, and a community of grounded individuals, we invite you to explore Paganism further by...."

And it would list some websites or meeting times. So, what do you think, if you passed by a table with this kind of propaganda, would you dismiss it as a joke? Appreciate it as a balance to the conversion attempts of other religious communities? Or something else? Please share your response and any suggestions for my Pagan table below.



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why Not Review A Book?

I can't think of any good reason. My art history teacher this semester has a blog devoted entirely to book reviews. And the book I just finished gave me enough to write about.

It's called The Brave Cowboy and its by Edward Abbey, most famous for his rebellious novel The Monkey-Wrench Gang (which my mom ceremoniously presented me with at age 13). This book is quite different from that how-to guide on tripping up the system, although it does involve a jail break and subsequent manhunt.

Cowboy starts in the desert, with protagonist Jack Burns cooking a simple dinner over an open fire. The first chapter struck me with its attention to describing the environment, more than action or dialogue. Abbey knows his wildlife, plants and animals and geology alike. It's like reading a field guide converted to free-verse poetry.

Once Burns rides into town (on his easily-spooked horse, a young mare named Whisky), I could tell that tragedy was on its way. His old college pal, Paul Bondi, is in jail for draft evasion. Jack's mission: bust him out. However, this is not the Old West, as one might imagine from the horse. It seems to take place in roughly the '50's, or at least the book is copyrighted in '56.

I don't want to spoil too much, so I won't give any more details here. I will say this though: if you decide to read this book (and if I know you I'll be happy to give it to you with your agreement to pass it on), you may want to seriously consider skipping the last chapter. I know, not many people have the will power to do such a thing, but if you are a sensitive soul (like me), and you don't need any more reminders of how f*ed up the world can be, just stop at the second to last chapter, and be happy. Really. I was seriously disturbed until I just started pretending the last chapter didn't exist. I contemplated taking my feelings to EFT circle. However, if you think civilization is just peachy keen, maybe the last chapter would be a good wake-up call for you. I imagine that was Abbey's intention in writing it.