To My Christian Friends

Perhaps this yet another post that was a ‘long time coming’ (That seems to be the start of a theme of posts for me.)

Things I yet again thought I had dealt with are still coming up and bugging me to the point where I finally have to start writing…AGAIN.  And while with this particular subject I would normally just start writing in my personal journal and not post publicly, I’m starting to believe the subject matter needs to be discussed more openly, and thus, has become another blog post.

The subject is Christianity.

I’ve written quite a bit about Christianity lately.  I’ve frequently shared articles on my Facebook page regarding the work of Pastor John Pavlovitz, more specifically, about some of the shared truths that he and other Christian pastors write about.  I’ve also gotten angry and written posts about how broken Christianity feels like to me (a post that upon retrospection, feels more like a rant than anything, but it still needed to come out at the time).

I was happy when one of my posts sparked discussion, and something from that discussion stuck with me.  It was a Facebook post where one of my other friends, a Christian gentleman, started to speak about how frustrated he was that he couldn’t speak about his religion and the comfort it gave him without being bashed about the ears by people who were expecting the next words out of his mouth to be ‘come to my church and see..’

So I guess I’m not the only one who feels oppressed.

I think the deep introspection of the past several months has caused me to realize that I need to speak my mind, but not just throw words at the topic to vent, like I did in the broken religion post.  I need to talk about how I still hurt, how I have issues thanks to someone’s interpretation of Christianity, but how I still recognize that Christianity as a whole isn’t that bad.  And maybe my being public about things might allow someone else who has some of the same issues to at least think about it.

Yes, you read that right.  I’m a non-Christian that doesn’t think Christianity is that bad.  Seriously.  The concepts of loving another as yourself, not judging another, taking care of the poor, even the discipline of going to a church and prayer are all good things.  In fact, the concept of faith is something I learned in Christianity that I keep with me even now.

But just because I don’t think Christianity is bad doesn’t mean that I don’t still have a lot of anger to deal with because of my upbringing in the church.  The fact of the matter is a great majority of people today were born into some semblance of Christianity.  Many of these people have issues because of that upbringing, and they still carry a lot of anger and resentment toward the entire religion because of said issues.  And I’m still one of them.

But – confession time – I don’t WANT to be someone who has issues with Christianity.  I want to be able to say that I can dismiss the stupidity of certain Christian followers and accept that which is good.  I want to be able to sit down with the gentleman I spoke about above, have a pint and enjoy a good conversation about how our lives are so much more enriched because we BOTH have faith in something more powerful than we are.  There is common ground here that I think is rich with opportunities for bridge building, and I’d love to have those conversations to see what specifics we do have in common.

Although I long for conversations like these, I wonder frequently if I will ever be able to have them.  A good conversation means egos, anger and any suggestions of ‘conversion’ need to be in check.  But still, many Christians I speak with find it their duty to convert heathens like me to the ‘one true’ way.

Come to think of it, now that I am someone who just opened myself to the possibility of sitting down with a Christian to talk about religious practice, or how I read the blogs of Christian leaders, did I just open myself up to people who think I am ready for conversion?  Possibly.  (And if so, I’ll give you the same response I’ve given throughout my life; No.)

Now I can’t do anything about people who feel like it is their duty to convert, but I do know that if someone whose underlying belief is to convert people because their religion is the ‘one, true way’, then you will never be able to have an open heart discussion with them.  The fact is that if someone believes truly in conversion, you will never know if what they say is from their heart, or if it is in the attempt to make you a convert.  And it makes everyone who opens their mouth to say the “C” word in any form or fashion suspect.

And the main sticking point of my anger is right around that ideal of conversion.  I call the root cause of that conversion issue the ‘fear of God’ syndrome.  People feel like they need to convert because the fear of God is something that is instilled in every young Christian in school.  You get raised with this idea that God is so nice, supportive and gentle until you do something wrong and don’t apologize.  Then this God becomes a vengeful being that shames you to eternal pain for the rest of the existence of the world because you dared to do something he didn’t like.  And when the young Christians get to the ripe age where they start to think for yourself – everyone goes through this crisis of faith and either learns to conform, or become like me and recognize things can be different. And if we truly believe in our heart that things can be different, we now get to deal with this fear of angering this vengeful God.  And that was the thing that screwed me up the most; This fact you could be doing the exact same things that the Christian God teaches AND STILL go to this eternal frying pan because you don’t do it in his name.

kenny-yolo_o_514748(Images flash in my mind of the South Park episode where the kids freaked out every time they did something they thought was a sin and had to run to church to confess it. Poor Kenny!)

Perhaps some Christians are aware of how conceited it sounds that some put the Christian faith above others.  But many don’t.  Instead, they relish in it.  It’s a perfect place for their egos to thrive and grow; as NOW they have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to put everyone underneath them because only THEY and THEIR friends and family are CHOSEN ones.  And it’s those people that have poisoned it for everyone.  For me, who wants to reach out, and for others, like my friend who is tired of being punished for crimes he didn’t commit.

And people wonder why some of us go out of their way to avoid anything that has any Christian leanings.  It’s because the true reason for the speech or action regarding Christianity will never be known.  Are you one of the idiots trying to gain power?  Are you someone who’s trying to ‘hook’ more souls for your Christian God?  Or are you someone who is just sick and tired of the whole mess some people have made of the Christian glenda.jpgreligion and want to just have a good conversation about faith and how it can truly move mountains no matter what you believe in?

In short, “Are you a Good Christian, or a Bad Christian?” I ask, as I hold my ceremonial drinking horn. (I gave up the wand – and the athame might scare people.)

I jest.  But if I don’t jest I might get mad again.  And I don’t want to be mad.  Sure, I’ll have to talk about my hurt for a while longer.  And perhaps I’ll have that pint and hear about another’s hurt and how they feel just as oppressed.  But what is more important is that I want those good Christians to know that my anger isn’t directed at them.  There will be things I post – Stuff that needs to be said, to use the title of Pastor Pavlovitz’s blog – but I don’t do it to directly make someone else feel uncomfortable.  I do it to heal.  I do it to express how much anger I still have left within me.  I do it because someday, I don’t want to have that anger.  I want to shed that anger and pick up that pint and talk about how excited I am to share my practices with another person.  I want to share about how my faith in my Gods makes me feel connected to everyone around the world, how we all need to respect each other.  I want to talk about how when I make a mistake I have to do more than just confess it.  I want to talk about how I don’t bow to my Gods, just as I don’t bow to my boss, my mentors, my teachers or my husband, but instead I show respect in other ways.  I want to share how my vows to be a better person mean I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and force myself to do more to raise my energy and understand my fellow human being better.

Now, more than ever, I truly believe we need these bridges built between communities.  Bridges are the only way we are going to understand each other, and once the understanding is there, compromise is possible.  We see every day how non-compromise is causing trauma and pain and fear.  And if it means having more semi-open conversations before we can get down to business, then I am all for it.

The Work of Introspection

The past week or so has been rough for me again.  But part of it is at my own choosing.

A couple months ago I realized that there were some behaviors and beliefs I had that were bothering me, so I set out on some psychological and introspective work to figure out why I had them and how I could change them.   Now I feel like I’m a little over half way through that process for these specific behaviors, and it’s getting to the part where it becomes tedious as the process has me focus on deeper and deeper issues.  On most days when I do the work, I get very tired.  At worst, on those days I feel like I’ve been run over by a big, emotional truck.  Do this on top of a normal work day and you can see how many people would consider stopping because of the complexity.

But I still continue.  Because I know I will be a much better person on the other side of this process, not just for me, but for my spiritual community.

I have been told by several people that I do more work on myself from a spiritual and mental level than the average person.  In many ways I feel like I’ve had to; I had a lot to recover from over the years and doing this work was the only real way to allow me to become authentic to my true self.  But because I held true to the belief that I could do this work, and pushed myself through it over the years, not only have I become more true to myself, I have also raised my energy levels to the point where I can now be of more service to others.

Introspective psychological work is very important and it is a key part of spiritual work.  However, especially because of the significant conflict I see in the pagan community, I wonder if there is a lack of this introspective work being done today.  My belief of this stems from the myriad of posts from people willing to tell others how their thoughts are wrong; or how we are moving in a wrong direction, very rare are the posts that discuss any compromise or any discussion or offer understanding as to why there is such polarization.  We are too quick to sprout facts for or against issues, but never take the time to understand why someone else believes differently.  So instead of building bridges by reaching understanding, we become even more polarized; much like how politics has become.

Perhaps this lack of introspective work in the Pagan community isn’t on purpose.  Many people in today’s pagan communities find the internet or a book as their first teacher.  That isn’t a bad thing – the very nature of paganism offers significantly different beliefs and systems, and I believe everyone has a place under this umbrella of belief.  But how many ‘how to’ books speak about how shortcomings and outdated beliefs could affect your magical work?  Sure, many speak about discipline of the body through proper diet and exercise as well as discipline of the mind through meditation; those are very important things to know when following a spiritual path.  But knowing why we have those shortcomings, those bad habits and why we carry the issues we do are just as important.

Many spiritual teachers that I’ve discussed this subject with over the years have told me how they do incorporate some sort of psychological work into their student’s magical studies.  It only makes sense to do so.  We need to know ourselves before we can take possession of the energies of the world and wield it to that which we desire.  And by not doing that work to truly know yourself and yet progressing with more advanced studies and spell work, you leave yourself open to unintended consequences.  And those consequences won’t be just for you, but for those around you and the community as well.

Although psychological work is a huge benefit from a metaphysical perspective, it is also beneficial in other ways.  The understanding you receive about yourself from introspective work moves throughout every aspect of your life.  You become a more solid person, not only in magical understanding, but in your career, in your relationships, in your family and in the community.

At the very least, doing psychological work will allow you to better tolerate those that intentionally try to carve up the pagan community , as that type of work provides tools for yourself when dealing with those that intentionally divide.  But depending on how deep you decide to go with this work you might find the other, deeper benefits that come from it.  For example, thanks to the significant amount of work I have done over the years, I can now understand better where some of the negative beliefs that people have come from.  This allows me to respond with empathy and put up firm boundaries with those that wish to bring the challenge to a more of a personal attack.  At the very worst, I am protected, but what may also happen is that my empathic response could deescalate the situation.

An even bigger benefit that I feel I have achieved through my own psychological work is being able to see what specific energies are at play in different conversations and situations.  Perhaps it is simply the Lokian perspective to which I subscribe, but I feel like because I was willing to look into those things that were destructive in me and learn to work with and through them, I can now see that energy better in the world around me.  I have a deeper understanding of the creative and destructive energies around me; how they move, how they react to stimuli and how they balance themselves out.  This understanding has given me a bit of comfort in this polarized world, and I am very grateful for it.

So back to the grindstone of the introspective work I go.  And I don’t plan on stopping this particular work until I am at my goal of at least understanding where these particular issues came from and why I still carry them.  Yes, it’s hard.  But good things never come easy.  And there are too many benefits to me, the energies around me and for my community to even consider stopping.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

To Carry a Pipe

It’s been about two years since I was gifted a personal prayer pipe.  And in all that time I’ve had a pretty healthy fear of it’s power.

Well, at least I thought it was a healthy fear.

As someone who can’t document my Native American ancestry, some may consider my want to carry a pipe as sacrilege.  And others may say that even though I’m native, because I didn’t grow up within the native culture that I am disrespecting the pipe by even owning it.

This is something that I have fought against for a great deal of my life, and I know I’ve spoken of it here many times before.  Growing up, when I would find new information on my spiritual heritage I became very excited.  A new book, contact through friends with tribal elders, a new nugget of wisdom to ponder and treasure was something that comforted me.  But continued searching would most inevitably lead me to others within the native community who would bash what I had found; claiming either that the teachings were watered down or not true teachings at all.  I went round and round like this, until early in the 1990s when I finally just gave up and tried another spiritual path. But the native ancestry always called me back, even though for many years I was afraid to answer the call.

Fast forward to several years ago when the pipe came into my life.  Here is where I thought I would finally get somewhere; that I would finally be able to fit the pieces of what I learned so long ago into my current practices.  Here, I thought, through working with the pipe I would find more about my ancestry and how I could become a part of it. The naysayers and limited information still remained, however, the root cause of that problem changed.  When I thought it was the naysayers that still held me back, it was something different.  It wasn’t because they judged me as unworthy.  I was judging me as unworthy.    I didn’t find myself native ‘enough,’ or worthy and strong enough to hold such a valued item.  All of the talk from those that I looked up to years and years ago stuck with me, and not in a positive way.

I didn’t realize this problem until this past evening, while on a phone call with a friend who is dealing with the same issues.  My friend is someone who I trusted, and who gave me advice about the pipe before.  So when I asked him more specifics about how he worked with his pipe, I think he realized what it was I was dealing with, and therefore he opened up to me more than he had in the past.  He told me about his own fears; that in the past he never felt like he was ‘enough’ of the blood for his pipe.  He spoke about his fears of being judged by peers in the community, or his fear of being called insensitive and unworthy outright.

When I heard about these fears, I was shocked.  This is a man who is respected in our local native community, someone whose mother is full blood, and here he is telling me he didn’t feel like HE was enough?  I have seen many things that this man has done for the native community.  I have seen this man rescue older pipes that have fallen into hands who did not know what they had.  I have seen him lead spirit fires.  Yet here he was, saying he felt like he wasn’t enough to hold a pipe.  How could this be?  Even now, after the conversation I’m still in a bit of shock.  But now I understand why he and I have felt this way for so long.

The whole issue that repeats itself for many people like me (and for him), who are called to do the work of a pipe or to walk the ‘red road’.  We become afraid of doing so because in some form or fashion we have been told that we do not carry the proper paperwork that we are told we need to allow us to walk within Native spirituality.  Or we are told that we can walk some of the road, but we will never be allowed behind the ‘buckskin curtain’ to know the true ways that we seek so desperately in our hearts.

I am not saying what full blooded Native Americans do is wrong.  What I am suggesting is that there is more malice towards some of us that are mixed than perhaps there should be. Those who love their traditions dearly and want to see them continue just as they are may not be looking at the full picture of the world becoming a global community.  Or perhaps instead of wanting to embrace that global community, they feel that they need to protect the purity of the teachings to ensure they are kept alive.   And while I fully understand some teachings are only meant for specific people, some teachings can be shared – NEED to be shared – for the good of the global community.  This means that those who have pressed for so long to keep these teachings under wraps and only available to a select few may need to reevaluate some of the things that they hold as secret.  And perhaps, in their zeal for keeping things secret, they may be doing more harm than good, as they have done in the past with me, and with my native friend.

I am going to say again, I don’t feel like going to the other end of the spectrum would be of any benefit.  Opening up ALL of the teachings is also not the solution here.  Already we have seen people use even small pieces of the teachings for personal gain, something that I doubt the elders and spirits ever wanted to happen.  And worse, others have used the teachings to invoke power over others.  The teachings must be protected from this just as much as other people must be protected from this abuse.

Another point to consider – the ceremonies of the pipe are very sacred.  The knowledge needs to be treated with the same respect that the pipe itself is treated with.  Flooding the world with this knowledge would not be respecting either one, and would only make the entire ceremony and pipe useless.   And with as dire need as the world has right now, by putting these things out there for everyone to see is to remove some of the sacred from this world.  We would also lose another very important tool of community, healing and strength. The pipe goes to they that treat it with respect, and those who are willing to stretch themselves to do good in the world.  This I understand now.

My native friend talked to me about his own fears for a long time.  Then he told me how he how there was a reason why I was called, just like there was a reason I was having the conversation with him.  There are reasons for why things are as they are.  It didn’t matter whether or not I was full blooded, or even if I didn’t have any native blood.  The reasons for the pipes coming out into the world can only really be guessed at.  But they ARE coming out. That is the truth of the matter.

And he went deeper with this truth:  The pipe came to ME.  The call was there, and I answered it.  And because the call was there, and this pipe came to me, I was meant to carry it. And as long as I give it the proper respect and do my best to continue the tasks I have been charged with, that is what truly matters.  And that was what I was not doing before we had the conversation.   I THOUGHT I was giving it proper respect, But further introspection made me realize that the ‘respect’ that I was giving was actually fear.  For too long I had confused ‘fear of’ with ‘respect for’ the pipe.  So instead of respect empowering me to utilize what I had been given, I was frozen in fear of the pipe and its powers.

Regarding the entire situation, with mixed Natives and full blood Natives, I don’t know the way forward.   I am not in any place to suggest any path for the tribes to follow.  But I do think that we have to learn to understand situations where Native teachings are being given on a case per case basis. We need to learn to stop condemning that which we come to learn about in a respectful manner.   But more importantly, and for me personally, we need to learn to look inside ourselves and undo the damage that was done.  It doesn’t matter if the damage was done 20-30 years ago or just yesterday.  If we feel called to learn to carry the pipe, we must consider that pull seriously, no matter what lineage we have in our DNA.  And we must not be deterred from that duty should we choose to follow our hearts.  To carry a pipe is to bring hope to people, to bring blessings and to bring a powerful vehicle of prayer and intersession.  We cannot turn away this call lightly.

After the phone call with my friend, I felt compelled to journey.  So after the appropriate measures were taken, I journeyed to meet my Gods and to discuss with them what it was that I had learned.  I discussed my fears, my hopes, and their expectations for me.  I was given cleansings and some appropriate trials.   Finally, I was allowed to be a part of a pipe ceremony where I was spiritually given the pipe whose physical form laid beside me as I was doing my journey.  I was also given more instruction on the pipe ceremony itself and how I was to utilize that ceremony.  Today, the fear has subsided some, but I know that I may still have work ahead in order to deal with it better.

Moving forward, I have been given plans on when I am to keep ceremony, and how to work with the pipe outside of ceremony.  And most importantly, I have accepted it much more deeply into my life than I had before.  Now my hope is that someone else may read my words and get some solace out of what it is that I have gone through.

Picture from Deviant Art

The Awe of God

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on my growing up lately.  I think it’s necessary to do at times; you need to re-remember the good, and deal with the bad so that it doesn’t affect your life moving forward.

And as I remember my life as a child, one of the things that pops out to me the most is how awed I was of the concept of God.  Even at a young age I could feel divine energy all around me, and it was fascinating.  I remember being in church at a young age, wanting to do so much more than just sit in a pew and sing to honor the God that I felt so strongly.

Now that I am in my fourties, I am thankful that I feel this spirit of awe even deeper.  I am free to understand and worship on my own, and because of that I have done a significant amount of research into what type of devotion to God is right for me.  And I’m very glad I have done so.  I remember my father being upset with me asking questions so long ago.  It was almost as if he felt that if I learned too much, if I studied religions too deeply that I would lose the faith I had in God.  

But what really happened was quite contrary to that.  I’ll give an example to explain.  

As I sit here, typing this out, I’m watching my cat walk back and forth across the floor, picking up the bits of bacon my husband put down for him from our breakfast.  I understand how he walks, the connection of the muscles connected by tendons to bone, the nerves firing, making the muscles contract and relax.  I know how he exists, and I’m awed at the marvel that is the life going through his body.  That life, in my belief, is there by divinity. And even if I no longer believed in a divine force, my cat is still a marvel of ingenuity that is worthy of awe.

I think those of us who forge our own religious path sometimes lose the spirit of awe, and that is sad.  We are more apt to focus on specifics about pantheons, ancient writings, specific practices and disciplines to grow our own awareness and energy that sometimes we done stop to think about the fact that all of this creation just…exists, and it does so without us.   And that is worthy of looking at things with awe.  

Awe to me makes things holy.  It gives me a reason to continue to learn, and strive to be the best person I can be.  If I am worthy to live in a world that was built with wonders and energies and life, then I must learn to be the best person I can be in this world in order to give back – to say thank you for the awe that I feel.  

Issues with A Broken Religion

Pandora really pisses me off sometimes.

I started building a new radio station to listen to at work based on one of my favorite bands, Breaking Benjamin.  I’ve been in a bit of a melancholy mood for a while now so it fit to create a station around them.  (For those that don’t know, the lead singer of Breaking Benjamin has been pretty public about his personal issues with anxiety and phobias, and to me you can feel that in his music.  You can also feel the strength he uses to fight those illnesses, and that is what appeals right now.  Times are tough, and we can be upset, but we also have strength in spades to get through).

So everything is going pretty well, and of course, as Pandora is designed to do, new music pops up.  And it’s from the band Skillet.  This is a band I wrote about awhile back.  They are Christian, and don’t shy away from speaking about that.  In fact, the reason they are still together is because one of their pastors counseled them to keep pushing forward and continue to speak about the “Glory of God”.   In other words, keep that recruiting up!  We need the revenue! (Yes, I’m aware my bias is showing here).

So that song got the Pandora thumbs down.

Then Ashes Remain came on.  Again, another Christian Rock band.  I looked them up, and they are too much like Skillet for my tastes.  So another thumbs down logged.  After the third Christian band popped up, I just decided to start looking up a list of “Christian” rock bands.  I found out there are quite a few.  The Color Morale, Red, Beartooth, Thousand Foot Krutch and many others I listen to identify as Christian.  And that really bothers me.

So my choices now were that I’m going to have to either keep logging thumbs down on songs a lot more than I thought, or I’m just going to have to accept that there are a lot of Christian bands out there and pick and choose what I like.  And if I just listen to them anyway, I get to do this despite the fact that I feel like most of these bands are out there specifically to recruit people to a religion broken by the people who identify with it.

Believe it or not, this is a pretty hard decision for me.  I’ve done my best to steer clear of Christianity for many years.  Christians can go live over there, and I’m here in my own belief system that suits me just fine.  And occasionally, on my own terms, I’ll seek out those that I know don’t ‘recruit’ and see what they have to say.  Speak to me about learning to become a better person, helping the planet or helping others gain their basic human rights and we will have things in common.  Talk to me about how my religion is somehow wrong or beneath yours, and the conversation will very quickly be over.

However, times are changing, and perhaps the mix that Pandora chose for me is just a catalyst for the realization that I have more lessons to learn.  Sooner or later, I’m going to have to accept that those of the Christian faith who look at me differently are integrated around me more than I feel comfortable about.  Right now I just keep that out of my mind.  However, perhaps that habit is a negative response, especially because of the amount of anger that comes up when I think about it.  And sooner or later, I’m going to have to deal with that anger; the real reason my bias exists.

So here is the crux of the matter: I have more issues with the Christian religion than I thought.  And now, I’m going to have to get off my gluteus maximus and figure out what those issues are and deal with them.

I talked about the fear of God syndrome once before.  And I thought that once I wrote that post, that I had dealt with my issues regarding Christianity, and that was that.  I thought I was doing a good job separating the religion from the people.  Because honestly, the religion itself isn’t THAT bad.  Love one another.  Judge not lest ye be judged.  Be still and know that I am God.  Let him without sin cast the first stone.  All of these things have profound meanings.  And they are meanings that transcend the Christian religion.  To me, it’s the PEOPLE who claim to be Christian that cause 90% of the problems with that religion, maybe even more.

I don’t need to go far to come up with excellent examples.  Look at those who are against abortion.  Sure, they are pro-life while the child is in the womb, but the minute the child is born there will be very little support it if the child was born outside of a strong family unit.  Look at the prosperity gospel and how many people who have given up their entire life savings hoping for a miracle.  Finally, and what angers me the most, is the issues in the current situation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘Christians’, in the current political climate argue against verses from the book that they claim to follow.  “Oh, that verse is just hyperbole.  Verses like that are throughout the entire bible.”  Or, “Sure, it says turn the other cheek, but at the same time, Jesus wouldn’t want me to stand by and watch as my family gets robbed and killed.”  Plainly put, these people will twist things to match what they want to believe, and they don’t give a shit about the true meaning of that religious text.

Perhaps I’m tired of seeing how people twist religion to make it fit what it is they want to do.  It’s the same with the racism in Heathenism.  There are interpretations of many religions that inflict more harm than they do good, and when that happens, there is something seriously wrong with the people that profess to be following that religion.  Perhaps it wasn’t the case in older times, but in the current age I firmly believe that religion is meant to help us understand the world around us and how we fit in with that world.  I firmly believe that the times where religion divided us should be over.  We have evolved further than that.

But unfortunately, power over people is still something that is strived for by many.  And religion is a tool that has been used for thousands of years to do just that; get power over people.  And for the most part, people are programmed to accept that when it comes to religion, you are expected to relinquish your power to get anywhere.  And thus you have the strife and conflict that we see today.  And that leads me back to my current dilemma.

But at least now I can speak to the issue more clearly.

I am pretty damn angry at people within the Christian churches.  I’m angry at how they failed me in my upbringing, how they didn’t answer my questions and how they forced me to follow along in a religion even though I felt so very different in my soul.  I’m angry at the strife they caused me and so many other people like me that felt different.  I’m angry that they made us feel like outsiders unless we conformed.  I’m very angry they caused us to be afraid of the very Gods that were there to help us the entire time.  And I am mad as hell that I have to deal with all of the leftovers of this upbringing.  I get to deal with all of the confusion and pain as to why I can’t understand or fit with the people who call themselves Christian.  I get to deal with them time and time again telling me that I still am wrong and that I need to ‘get with the program’ in order to save my soul.   I get to deal with the embedded ‘fear of God’s wrath’ if I dare try to be myself.  I get to deal with how I felt back then because I dared ask questions that people couldn’t answer.  And last but not least, I get to learn over and over again how to be a survivor in a country that claims to be Christian, yet refuses to treat people the way their own Jesus said to.

And I’m allowed to be mad.  I’m allowed to be mad as hell.  I’m allowed to be so mad that I can spit nails anytime anyone asks me if “I’ve found Jesus” yet.  Yeah, I found him, and he’s over in the Middle East doing what he can for the refugees that are dying.  And now that you mention it, I saw him the other day in your church, bent over the altar weeping at those using his house for their own personal gain.

Obviously I’m showing my anger.  I’m trying to get it out; to get a name to it.  I need to identify and deal with it.  I need to deal with it because of people like John Pavlovitz, Rob Bell, Michael Beckwith, Revered Ed Bacon and many others.  Although these people are only a few of the vast number of Christians out there, they believe differently.  They believe like me; that God is large enough to be involved in many different religions.  They believe we are stronger if we support and take care of each other, no matter what religion you profess.  And their beliefs contain the possibilities of what Christianity could become.  So there is hope.  Further, and thanks to the current political climate,  I’m reminded that I, someone who is in a religion in the minority, needs to learn to work with others who are in the minority.  Get enough of us together and we will become the majority, forcing change throughout the country.

Even if it is for that last reason alone, I need to deal with this anger.

I’m not sure where this thinking is going to lead me.  I hope it’s someplace positive.  I don’t want to dismiss good people trying to do what is right.  And I know the people I mentioned above are trying to do just that.  But the tenant of my faith says that I must work on myself; that I must overcome my own shortcomings and strive to be a better person.  This is what it means to me when I say I stand with my Gods.

So I guess because of my faith, my religion, I need to figure out a way to be more accepting to those that truly profess theirs.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to feel bad for not listening to Skillet and bands like them that profess the current status quo of this currently broken religion.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Remember – There Are Four Lights

As I reflect on what has happened since the inauguration, I realize that the next four years are going to be harder to deal with than I had ever imagined.  The first several days in office, and we are already introduced to things like the new presidential cheering section that follows the President to force other people to laugh and applaud at what he says.  We are also forced to deal with the new lovely term ‘alternative facts’ and the danger they can pose when people start believing them to be true.  And of course, this is just the icing on the cake; he’s already working to dismantle policies that could have detrimental effect on American citizens and our environment.  I hate to say it, but all of this has just made my mind spin.

Part of me wants all of this to stop.  Just days after the new government was installed, part of me doesn’t want to listen anymore.  My social medial feeds, already full of political posts are also now full of arguments between friends on what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ for our country.  And while some of the conversations are civil, many get out of control pretty darn fast.

I thought I had put down enough of a plan of action in my post just after the election.  But now I realize I what I said I would do is not enough.  As I said in that post, I don’t want to be political.  I don’t want this blog to become a political activist page.  Certainly standing up for what you believe in is a spiritual pursuit, but it is not my role to be a politician or political activist 100% of the time.  And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  I know there are others that are just so fed up with it that they are ready to ignore the entire government and any action they take in the next four years.

But that’s what the current administration WANTS us to do.

I am betting that one of the reasons there is so much media coverage on the numbers of people present at the inauguration vs the Women’s March this weekend along with the other hotly debated items is to push people to do just that – stop.  Stop considering about becoming part of the democratic process by letting their voice be heard.  Stop pushing forward because no matter what you believe, the polarized social networks are now just so in-your-face about things that it’s just too hard to have a dissenting opinion.  The more the pundits speak, the more zinger tweets that get shared, the more spin gets out there and the more the real issues get buried.

A meme I saw last night put everything into perspective for me.  It took me a moment to remember the episode (I’m not as strong on Star Trek as I am Star Wars), but it was a meme based on an episode of “Star Trek the Next Generation.” In the episode, Captain Picard was being tortured by a Cardassian.  During the torture, he was shown four lights.  But he was told that his torture would stop if he would only agree that there were five lights that he was being shown, not four.  All he had to do was say there were five lights, and he could live in luxury for the rest of his life and all the pain would end.  The meme speaks for itself what the conclusion of that episode; he was rescued, and as he was leaving, he yelled at the Cardiassian that there were four lights. bbtio4l

And thanks to that meme, I realize that it’s time for more evasive action.  I needed to do more; to reevaluate my plans in how to deal with the issues coming up in these next four years.

While thinking about these things, I came across two posts from John Beckett on Patheos.com.  The first was about maintaining the Sovereignty of your Mind.  In that post he spoke about what I realized when I saw the above meme.  This truly is going to be a fight for the hearts and minds of the American People in the next four years.  And many people are going to give up; they are going to see all of the chaos caused by the media about the minuscule arguments, and it’s going to take its toll.  We need to be aware of that, and we need to be aware of that now.  We have to set our minds up to filter through the noise so that we can see the real issues that will need to be addressed.

Secondly, John spoke about having an agenda for the next four years.  And again, he is spot on.  Even when we start removing the noise from the media, we aren’t going to be able to save everything.  We are going to need to have our own agenda.  No one can make these decisions for us.  We are going to have to think deeply about what decisions we want to voice our opinion against, and what ones we can live with.  We need to also ensure that we remain healthy.  We still need to maintain a healthy balance in our lives, or else we will just burn out.  This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we haven’t even completed the first mile yet.  Pacing is going to be key, and having that balance between activism, spiritualism and other efforts in life is going to be our pacer.

Thanks to an app called countable, I will be more up to date on what congress is actually doing without relying on media news feeds or listening to social action networks.  So my words will be more in line with what is actually going on, when it is going on, and will be appropriate responses.  I’m cutting down my intake of social media even more, and plan to keep my news intake to a minimum (10 minutes on NPR during a news update should be enough.)

I still firmly believe that human rights are not something that should be a political football; that they transcend politics, no matter what your race, creed, religion or your sexuality.  I also believe that we still need to be caretakers of this great earth of ours.  She is a giver of life, not a resource to be mined uncontrollably.  At this point I don’t care if you call me a liberal, a conservative, or whatever.  These fights transcend politics.  They are things that should be embedded in our hearts, and our actions day in and day out should reflect them.

I wish sometimes that I wasn’t the type of person that pushes through conflict.  I sometimes wish things were easier than what they have to be.  I wish for it, but I already know that this is one wish I shouldn’t have granted.  It’s the one thing that won’t change.  We live, we struggle, we grow from the struggle, and the growth allows us to get ready for the next struggle.  I guess this time the struggle is simply something outside my comfort zone.  The cycle sounds simple enough, but it is the basis for all of the growth of this planet.  It is so embedded in our DNA that it’s a part of growth itself.  And even though it’s a hard cycle to continue, by doing our best to honor it we also honor those that were a part of putting this cycle into motion.

Roles and Titles

Roles are a hard thing for me.  Even with my comments in earlier posts about titles being something that can cause significant hardship, I still have a hard time trying not to assume a role of some sort.  Let’s face it; no matter how much we want to identify ourselves without some sort of title or role attached, we live in a world full of roles.  We have to therefore agree to have SOME sort of title occasionally.

The role that fell to me a lot during my early years in the pagan community was that of a facilitator in some form or fashion.  I led groups, answered questions, put together rituals and overall was heavily involved in my pagan community, not just in the state that I lived in, but also in the state I was born in and had family in.  After getting tired and frustrated with a great many things, and having lots of many other personal issues that I needed to work on (including getting back to college, finding work, getting married and divorced, you know, all of that stuff of life), I stepped out of the limelight, so to speak, of my local pagan communities.  I went ‘incognito’, for many years.  I didn’t fully leave my practice; my gifts were always there, but I didn’t rely on them as much anymore.

Fast forward to several years ago, and I found myself getting back involved.  And while many things never changed, quite a bit did.  And with that change, my original role of ‘facilitator’ went away.  Sure, I can give you all of the detailed information you want about how things were done and why back then, but with the invention of the internet (yes, I’m THAT old), changes started coming fast and furious, and there was no way anyone could really keep up with those changes in practice, in worship, heck, even the terms themselves changed.  This left me struggling for a long time.  The same position that I was in so many years ago was now something that I didn’t feel comfortable enough taking anymore, yet I was absolutely not a newbie to any of these forms of worship, ritual or magic.  I found myself stuck; feeling like I didn’t belong, was constantly ‘sized up’ or was pushed away from those of higher lineage in Wicca.

Trying to find my own role within this new pagan community also was made even harder by status.  Many times I also felt looked down upon by others of the same belief structure that I followed, whether it was my Native practice, the Wicca, or even by some Heathen Shamans.  I realize now that I was not the only one feeling these times of rejections; or sizing ups.  Many people in face to face pagan communities feel this way.  And perhaps the people who are doing it don’t even realize they do.  Perhaps they are looking for a ‘peer’, but are unsure of how to do it without belittling.  Or perhaps they are so tied up with defending what their beliefs are that they decide that is more important than making feel welcome.

Another concern of mine are the ones with good intentions, but expect that they are going to now make a living off of taking a title of “shaman” or “Witch” and use it to sell their goods and services.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic people out there who make fantastic products, but there are also those who don’t have the greatest of intentions, are interested in a ‘get rich quick’ scheme or don’t expect to put the long hours into building a clientele or making a product.  Unfortunately, those who bring negativity to those roles only belittle the ones whose intent is true, making it much harder for the legitimate businesses to actually get anywhere.

However, the more that I blog and the more that I pray, the more I realize I still have to figure out where I fit.  “So, what’s it going to be?” my Gods ask; “Are you going to be what is that we we know you are, or are you going to keep trying to find a human term for all of this?”  That question basically was the entire dilemma summed up in a nutshell.  And perhaps it tells more truth about the entire pagan community than they wanted to let on.

Using a Role or title like “Shaman”, “Witch”, “Priest” or the myriad of other titles out there brings up certain assumptions within the pagan community.  When looked at as an aggregate, the community is not nearly as structured as many other religious communities either; we are lucky if we fit in a structure of a scatter diagram much less any hierarchical organizational chart.  This means that many who take on a role might end up also having to take on countless other roles, such as ‘counselor’, ‘advocate’, ‘role model’ and many others that they may or may not have the training to do.

Maybe some might think it a rite of passage in the pagan community nowadays to not fit into one specific spot.  Perhaps we aren’t meant to.  Perhaps instead we are meant to create our own place; a place where we can help others in need when we have strengths that can provide service, and refer them to others when we cannot help.  And perhaps that referral could be somewhere else, thanks to the internet we could refer someone to an author in another state, or even another country to get the information that they need or desire.

So what have I learned about my role from all of this?  I am all of these things, and yet none without the other.  I am a shaman or spirit woman, a witch, a healer and a heathen.   Perhaps that was what I needed to know all along.  Perhaps it wasn’t the role that I needed to find, but instead I needed to find (even more) courage to just accept what it is I am.

I am of the firm belief that this community and the world today are both on unprecedented ground.  The only things that we have of precedence is that things will change, our spirits will leave for other places while some may return here, and that if we don’t treat her well, this beautiful Mother Earth that we live on will begin to shake us off like a bad cold.  And perhaps figuring out new ways together, including figuring out new roles that may not have a simple word to describe them, may be all part of building that new community, and perhaps that new world.