Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hippie Tarot for Everybody

I've used tarot personally for over 25 years, taught tarot to Pagan and Christian groups, been the tarot reader for parties, used tarot for clients, family and friends. I have a multiplicity of decks, all that I love for different reasons and needs, and recently wrote some tarot articles to introduce cards to new readers.

And I have a favorite deck, which happens to be free, online, and easy to download. It is the Morgan Tarot, a hippie dippie deck that I consider my best deck for all around use. And it remains my favorite for its mind-blowing simplicity: no numbers, no funky, hidden symbols, no wierdo lay outs. Just great cards that challenge assumptions, connect readers to themselves and others, and wickedly accurate predictions that shock my most atheistic friends. (I do have clients who need me to explain magnetic forces and psychology for them to accept a reading. . . whatever faith stance ya need. . .)

I'm gonna blog on the Morgan Tarot, connect everyone with the links to this great deck, and just give some of my personal experience with the cards. IN NO WAY ARE MY INTERPRETATIONS CORRECT FOR EVERYONE!!!!!! The best way to learn tarot is to use the cards yourself, and find out what they mean for you. (If you insist on Ryder Waite decks with me, for example, don't expect me to tell you swords are "negative" as I never find them so in readings. . . ) Since I'm writing on, and have written before about, tarot, I obviously don't eschew writing about the cards. Yup, it can be helpful to hear what the authors of the cards intend, or what others have found when using the cards. BUT ULTIMATELY TAROT IS WHAT EACH READER FINDS AND SEES THEREIN.

So I write about tarot as invitation. Come play with cards.

They are such fun.

You can download the entire Morgan Tarot. Each card has an interpretation, usually delightfully funny and serious, as well. Anyone can easily start using the cards and the published interpretations. So go for it!

I'll start listing cards here weekly, and tell about them in my experience. This is a hippie deck, so I do find it sexist at times. I add a Dianic spin, because that is what I do. I also add LGBT spins, anti-racist spins, and of course a bit of socialism. Someone else working with the deck (like you!), should add their own views.

So for the first card:

"Your Mission Is Not Yet Complete"

This is an easy card in a reading. Morgan, the deck creator, offers these words on the card:

"The great archeological discovery is yet to be made. Traditionally the entrance to Shambhala (paradise) has been in Central Asia, more recently it has been found in Mexico, and right now it is here.

Actually you are fulfilling a divine mission by following your karmic path.

This is an opinion sponsored by entity X-1513."

For me, despite the fun of entity X-1513, the most important message is that your client is indeed on a divine mission. I like the language of karmic path, and use it in my daily life, and with the right client, that language works. However, for some Christians and atheists, karma has no meaning. For Christians I quote the bible here: GALATIANS 6: 7-9 (KJV) 7 works well, in the "you reap what you sow" kind of message. For a client wanting to reap a new career, sowing some classes might be useful.

The message that we all have a divine path is especially important for a client (or yourself) to hear. It is very easy for me to lose my own sense of holiness and importance when worrying about my greying hair or when looking at my bank statements. Middle aged, grey-haired hippies are not a top commodity in advanced industrial capitalism.

Most of my friends, by the virtue of wrong-colored skin or wrong sexual orientation, wrong physical or developmental abilities, or wrong careers, are not valuable in this culture either. Making one's way through the labels and stereotypes of this world is thus an endless form of psychic attack. It's hard to remember we are each of us holy.

Here is a great card to remind your client that they are divine. Their life has divine meaning. That growing and becoming the best we can be is God's or Goddess's or Bridget's or Buddha's or Jesus' or the universe's or the spirits' goal for each of us. Tell yourself, tell your friends, tell your family/ies, tell your clients:

You are on a divine path. Keep going!

I'll write on another card next week! But please, please, go explore the deck on your own!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Which Egyptian God or Goddess Are You??

Yup time for a new poll, after all our great solstice activism. (And huzzah, so far the International Whaling Commission is upholding the ban on whaling. . . well done all!)

But how about a new fun poll???

Which Egyptian God or Goddess Are You??

My result:

"Hathor is often depicted as an evil woman, one that attempted to seduce men and the take advantage of them. Although she is a goddess of fertility, Hathor was a very kind goddess. She protected women from men and their evil. She loved all very much and also enjoyed dancing. What a great goddess to be associated with! You are one of those people that everyone likes, that everyone wants to be friends with. Though you may overdo it at times, you are probably loved back as much as you love others, not that a mutual feeling would matter to you. You are one of those people that love all no matter how they feel back."

And all of you who know me in RL, quit laughing!!!! I'll take Hathor despite the teasing I know will ensue!

And thanks Sisters of the Rose for sharing this!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solstice Activism

I call on everyone today to celebrate this Summer Solstice with some spiritual or direct activism. From the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, to the pending meeting of the International Whaling Commission (who propose lifting the ban on commercial whaling), to the heat waves, monsoons, floods, hurricanes, tornados and storms that are taking over summer worldwide, we have plenty of work to do as Pagans or Christians or just as humans who share the planet.

Some activism ideas, all gleaned from various groups of mine locally and on line:

First of all, a petition to keep the ban on commercial whaling, please sign! Or write the President, urging his administration to oppose lifting the commercial whaling ban. And hurry, this vote is coming this week.

Here is a call to turn off your electricity on June 21st, and to pray for mother earth. Juliane Poirier interviewed Lakota Dakota Nakota Oyate Chief Arvol Looking Horse, who agrees with my great grandmother:

""A man or a woman without spirit is very dangerous," Looking Horse explained in a recent phone interview. According to this Sioux chief, the absence of spirit is causing suffering everywhere. "We are in a time of survival," he said. "But we don't want to believe it because we have forgotten our spirits. We have forgotten that Grandmother Earth has a spirit." Disconnected souls, according to Looking Horse, are "hurting others without even knowing they are hurting others." Those being hurt include animals, trees and waterways."

Poirier's interview goes on:

"Looking Horse seems surprised to be a global spokesperson for the environment. "It seems like it was just yesterday when a woman had no voice in this country, when our people were fighting for their rights," he said. "Just a hundred years ago, our people were in concentration camps called reservations. Our ceremonies were outlawed, and we were put in boarding schools. I never thought I would have the opportunity to go to the White House. Now today, people all over the world are listening to us."

And here's the message. "On June 21," said Looking Horse, "shut off the electricity and let's pray.""

Here is a prayer from Looking Horse for you to use today:

****** A Great Urgency ******
To All World Religious and Spiritual Leaders

My Relatives,
Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their
Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together
From the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.

We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the
World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing
Their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the
Sacred life of all things. As I am sending this message to you, many
Animal Nations are being threatened, those that swim, those that
Crawl, those that fly, and the plant Nations, eventually all will be
Affect from the oil disaster in the Gulf.

The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit. The
Catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the
Bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes
That we cannot afford to continue to make.

I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in
Prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these
Serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our
Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.

I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united
Prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I
Believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our
Thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that
Have been inflicted on the Earth. As we honor the Cycle of Life, let
Us call for Prayer circles globally to assist in healing Grandmother
Earth (our Unc'I Maka).

We ask for ! prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding , will stop. That
The winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be
Guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live
In harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we
Are on.

As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And
That what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer.
Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember June
21st, World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether
It is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your
Own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good
Decision making by our Nations, for our children's future and
Well-being, and the generations to come.

Onipikte (that we shall live),
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe

And here, from Druid Ellen Evert Hopman, a re-invisioning of the Carmina Gadelica, to pray for the healing of the Gulf:

I plan to use this on Solstice. I will apologize to the waters, thank the
waters and then make offerings to a stream as I intone this
blessing. My hope is that Druids and Celtic folk all over will do this too.
Go to the ocean if you can, if not then make your offerings to a stream. All
streams flow into the sea, eventually;

"O Gods of the sea,
put health in the drawing waves,
to enrich the vast ocean,
to liven the dying waters"

"I come here in prayer on this day,
Day to send healing on the vast waters,
Day to send health to fish and fowl,
Day to put right the web in the warp.
Day to put life in the briny waters,
Day to place health back in the ocean,
Day to cleanse, day to bless,
Day to put right a great wrong.

Day to put life back in the tide,
Day to send health to the life in the sea,
Day to make a most effective prayer,
Day of power, Gods bless the vast ocean,
Day of power, may the ocean be blessed."

(adapted from the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of traditional Scottish
prayers and invocations)

____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
Ellen Evert Hopman, author of "Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey",
"The Druid Isle", "A Druids Herbal - Of Sacred Tree Medicine", "Walking the
World in Wonder - A Children's Herbal" and other volumes
http://www.elleneve rthopman. com
Visit the Virtual Shrine of Brighid ~ http://shrineofbrig
'The Order of the White Oak' - World Druid Council Ord na Darach Gile -
Comhairle Domhanda na nDraoí
www.whiteoakdruids. org
Is maith cech dál dia ticc síd. Any meeting that produces peace is good.

Turning off electricity for part of a day and saying a prayer for our planet seems a good way to celebrate this midsummer. (Ok, jump a few bonfires, too!)

If you want to be more active, here are ideas:

(ok, half my friends are going to be jumping with joy at a pagan group with dragon in the name, and the other half will be moaning. . . bite me again!) is a UK environmental pagan network, with a yahoo group and a ritual directory! Worth checking out for environmentally activist pagans! (Yup, I'm a member.) (Nope, I will not argue about dragons.)

Another, and this time Christian web presence, is the Fund for Christian Ecology, with lots of links for getting active in your church community.

And if you want some kick-ass Christian theology on environmentalism and the sacred, check out Daniel T. Spencer's fabulous book, Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology and the Erotic. A little mix of LGBT theology, eco-feminist theology, and no-apologies Christian ethics. Why not do some heavy duty reading for the solstice?

At the least people, please sign the Avaaz petition. Say a prayer. Send some energy. This longest day of the year, our planet needs us doing something.

June 23rd Update:

BP is now burning sea turtles alive in the gulf. Ok, petition to stop this here. And while there sign up for Credo environmental alerts. . .

And my apologies: readers in Australia and now the UK tell me the Credo link won't work for them. Here is the link to BP's own comment form! Use it!

And another update: June 27th

The International Whaling Commission upheld the ban on commercial whaling.

Huzzah everyone!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Christian and Pagan? Not so new. . .

I grew up with a Christian Witch.

My great grandmother, always Mamaw to 3 generations of young children, walked paths many women and men are trying to trod today: her love of gardening, people and economic independence meant that at the turn of the 19th century she maintained a midwifery business, a bread baking business, and to the shock of her family, her own bank accounts and book keeping. For the Appalachia of the time, she was a "witch, a woman who helped others through birthing, and that type of witchcraft in no way prevented her active participation in the Green Shed Valley Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

I know of Mamaw mostly through conversations with my extended family. Like all southern families, every quirk and peculiarity of personality must be traced through one's ancestry, and my own independence was usually traced directly back to Mamaw. As was my visage, tendency to know every one of my cousins, and my interest in herbs and gardening, spinning and weaving, and later my interest in theology. "You get that from your Mamaw," was a childhood refrain. That by the 1970's whatever embarrassment Mamaw caused the family had eroded into the feminism of the time was never lost on me. "You are just like your Mamaw," was usually said to me with both exasperation and a certain amount of pride, thank you very much!

On another note, however, Mamaw changed my spiritual life.

The only conversation I remember with her was brief. Her acre sized garden was her pride and joy in her last years, after midwifery had lost out to modern hospitals, and grocery stores replaced delivering bread on mules. On hot afternoons I would sit at my Mamaw's trailer, with her porch covered in roses, clematis and wisteria, while she made tea from her garden. One time, and only once, she had no fresh cut herbs and she allowed me - oh precious and rare treat!, to go into that flowered sanctuary and harvest herbs. She explained to my both solemn and excited self that there was a method to cutting plants.

"All plants have spirit," she explained to me, while I am sure I struggled to convey my understanding. "Just like everything else, you have a spirit; I have a spirit; the trees have spirits; the mountains have spirits. You have to cut the right plant, with the right spirit, to make the right kind of tea." She snipped at mint and lemon verbena while, most honored, I got to watch. "If you want to heal with plants, you have to pick a plant with a healing spirit. To work with any spirits, you have to know your own spirit."

That was it.

She brought the herbs in, and I got to put the scissors away (another rare honor; Mamaw did not share her garden tools), and she went back to her afternoon soap operas. I don't remember any more conversations with her until her death, not more than a year later.

That Sunday, she, as usual, refused to go to church, as she had lifelong arguments with the many ministers that came to the valley, and no one saw that as any lack of Christian belief on her part. Mamaw was famous for her critiques of area ministers, perhaps her best contribution to her little church community. I still hear, 40 years after her death, of stories when she publicly argued with ministers on matters of doctrine and text.

I would, of course, come to love stories of her many theological disputes, as well as her commitment to temperance and her equally famous (and I am told horrifically sweet) blackberry wine. I also learned from her daughter, my grandmother, of how opposed my Mamaw was to integration, Martin Luther King, and the Civil Rights Movement. Mamaw's racism impacted my generation; if not for Billy Graham integrating his television ministry, I don't think my father's family would accept integration to this day.

(Billy Graham, if you are reading this, thank you!)

Yet her introduction of meeting spirits stayed with my young self. From that special time with Mamaw, I started introducing myself to plants and trees and mountains, to lakes and valleys, to creeks and animals, and eventually figured out how important spirit is for people. I still find myself learning who my own spirit is, the better to pick the plants - and every other path - of my life.

Mamaw shows how easy it is to be Pagan and Christian. And she was a critical and loud mouthed Christian at that! (Finest kind, of course!) I find it amazing, when I head to church, or when talking with other pagans, that we still see the Pagan/Christian world as so separate and divided. "How can I worship both Goddess and still be faithful to Jesus?" is a question I hear weekly, and since starting this blog, almost daily!

Well, it isn't that hard, really. Folk traditions of my Appalachian family are easy enough to find for me; yet when I work with people as friend or counselor, I find most of us come from families with traditions and folk ways that lend to a spontaneous and creative spirituality. Goddess and pagan worship abound in Biblical sources, but if cakes to the Queen of Heaven seem remote today, most families come with more recent pagan traditions that just need to be dug out.

My childhood Lutheran friends, of Scandinavian ancestry, all kept trolls and dragons about their homes, for luck and protection. My African American sister grew up with voudou and conjuring, despite a rigidly anti-Pagan Black church. My English friend has a father who danced Morris dances. My Chinese friend learned feng shui from her mother. A friend from Maine had a mom who planted their vegetable garden by moon signs, and my Irish Catholic friends all grew up with saints and prayers and rosaries that I have added, with no ancestral connection, to my own worship. Scratch most any family, and you find paganism. For those of us without Jewish ancestry, that paganism almost always co-existed with Christianity just fine.

Recently a church friend was raving to me about how great my blog is for him, and how he wants to be more fully pagan and Christian, and how great a role model I am. (And thank you for all the compliments very much! They are appreciated!) However I had to admit that, well, however much I seem to be charting new paths, if you look at my family I'm not such a trailblazer as all that.

My Mamaw was a witch and a Christian. No problem. And she lived 100 years ago.

May all these paths be easier for our great grandchildren, 100 years hence.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Dark and Playgrounds for the Soul

"You must fight for the light."

Thus starts a book I began last night, one much recommended by church friends - where for the past year a group of parents and I have loosely explored vampire/werewolf fiction, while searching for a positive "Twilight-equivalent" for some of our obsessed daughters. (I am blessed to have a daughter and son who, so far, have found Twilight sacharine and poorly written!) One of the disadvantages of my kindle, however, is that when a book is utterly annoying, one can't just throw an expensive ereader against the wall as one can a cheap paperback. How frustrating!

The book is yet another of these young adult mage/wizard/witch genre, following in the Harry Potter path. And it, like Harry Potter, gives into Western stereotypical and racist visions of magic as "light = good," and "dark = evil." Given that Black liberation theologians have been railing against these themes for several decades, you would think authors who care about social justice - and write for young adults encouraging them to fight against "evil," would erase these racist themes from their novels.

At the same time, in on line conversations with other Goddess worshiping Christians, I have joined in talks about seeing deity as "light" and "against dark." Clearly I oppose this dualism. Between Kali Ma and the Morrigan, and among God and Goddess and deity and the holy - all are ever dark for me, and the dark itself thus sacred. When I light candles for Bridget, I am not fighting back the darkness, and indeed that darkness is as much part of her hearth as any flame is. My candles are lit for the darkness as well.

And little did I know how profound that darkness can be! Spirituality is ever surprising!

I've been realizing today that the dark can be a holy playground. I have ever approached darkness as a place where seeds and life begin, where dreams begin in the night, where hope and aspiration find sustenance. Yet over the past year I have been playing in the dark as well, in many ways exploring pretend play for the first time in my life. That play has been so creative and explosively spiritual, that I remain in utter awe that so much growth is possible from the most simple of childhood games. In my role as an early childhood caregiver for so many years, I have over and over stood up for the importance of play for children, and yet that same play is also good for adults. I have only just learned that.

Such learning is a gift. A friend has written me of his different sides in his role playing game life, and clearly sees pretend play as something that helps him grow. Which leads right back to that playground. The dark becomes more than holy ground and holy sustenance and holy night. Play becomes holy as well.

Defending play as necessary for children is something many parents from every religious tradition are doing. My own school district long ago eliminated recess, and schools all over the country are slashing art, music and science programs. Kids get little play time anymore. Adults, working two and three jobs, get even less. Yet part of the growth all humans need is time to play. Sacred and holy playgrounds have to be maintained.

I think here we find a service pagans do better than many Christians. I think of the rituals I have attended when pagans dress as everyone from the ubiquitous Cerrunnos to Jedi warriors and male and female goth bellydancers. Churches aren't typically places for guys to explore dresses (unless you are a priest or choir member, and then the exploration is far from playful), or anyone to dress in Harry Potter robes. My own church, fortunately, does provide such a playground for children with its wonderful arts and theater program - open to all of every faith. The kids, at least, are dressing up and donning roles and pretend play. Perhaps the long and lasting memories of Christmas church pageants reflect not only the wonder of Christmas, but the joy of dressing up.

In other hats, I often get to talk to other parents whose kids love pretend and dress up. As capitalism forces our kids to be more and more adult at younger and younger ages, I know many parents all over the world who have fought to preserve pretend play and dressing up in safe places for our children. Despite its racism, Harry Potter book release parties long provided my own children with a safe place to dress up (I have compared the many parties for the Harry Potter book releases to superbowl events for readers). Ren faires, science fiction and fantasy fairs, the Society for Creative Anachronism, and pagan and fairy festivals have all figured in my children's life. Clearly, given that adults outnumber kids at most these events, adults need pretend and fantasy as much as kids!

All of these places are playgrounds for the soul. As are online book groups, support groups, RPG games, and plenty of pagan rituals. Finding creativity and play is counter to the goals of human life as profit, and finding that creativity and play can lead to the divine.

So wherever you stand on childhood and adult play, on racist stereotypes in religion and literature, on the soul murder that Western dualisms have fostered on us all, part of religious exploration is embracing the dark. Challenging racism. Embracing the night.

Here I offer my own song, sung for my Sunday School attending kids, and in honor of all their skin colors. I've sung this at church, at pagan circles, to sleepy kids. Take it and share as you see fit.

To the tune of "This Little Light of Mine"

The dark inside of me,
I'm gonna let it grow.
The dark inside of me,
I'm gonna let it grow.
The dark inside of me,
I'm gonna let it grow.
Let it grow, let it grow,
Let it grow.

I used to sing this to my kids, other Sunday school kids, to others exploring religion and anti-racism. I am only just realizing that wow, that dark really is inside of me, and it is wondrous.

It is Gay Pride over in Pittsburgh today! And I keep learning how many, many ways there are to come out! Yet for this pride day, where I've marched as a bi woman and lesbian mom for decades, I think I will march as a child at play in the darkness of God, a new world for me, and a holy one. I pray that whatever dark playgrounds I lose, I will find new ones.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hebrews 13:2 Revisited: No Humans are illegal

I've wanted to re-visit the topic of Hebrews 13:2 ever since Arizona passed an egregious law requiring police to ascertain citizenship status of people in that state. Police across the country oppose the law; anyone concerned with racism opposes the law; the Obama administration is investigating the very constitutionality of the law.

But what about the law and spirituality? Mystic Blue Rose, on her great blog, posted a wonderful piece by a Christian friend of hers that she has given me permission to re-print here:

"I've been avoiding jumping into this conversation, but I think I'm going to just...not debate anything or argue with anyone, but just state a position as far to one side of the spectrum as I can go, and let it be part of the soup. Sometimes I find myself rationally pondering the U.S. immigration issue; and then I say to myself, "Wait a minute...what I really believe has nothing to do with these rational and practical considerations." So here's what I believe at the bottom of my very best heart.

Nations and their boundaries are an utterly human concoction, a development of our tendency to self-centeredness and sin, and are in no way, shape, or form part of the divine reality and divine goal for the human race revealed in Jesus Christ. God did not create a world of nations. Jesus did not die and rise for this or that nation. The church from its very beginning knew no national boundaries, welcomed people of all nations, and has been and is a trans-national body owing allegiance to no nation on earth. A Christian is a member of the human race whose allegiance to God through Jesus Christ is untainted by allegiance to any human entity. A truly Christian response (you can tell a truly Christian action because it has a fair chance of being fatal) ... a truly Christian response to immigration would be to stand at any border anywhere on earth, and lean across it and say, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

I believe I'll stop there. That sounds sufficiently breath-taking in its arrogance and naivete -- or, perhaps, sufficiently childlike in its simple-minded devotion to the One who made, redeemed, and cherishes all human life, and all creation. Again, this is not meant to be an argument against anyone else's position. I doubt that I think and act consistently with this myself all the time (another test, in my own mind, for when something is true!). I'm just putting it out there.

Peace and blessing,

David R."

Thank heaven, many have Christians have followed David asking similar questions, and most Christian denominations across America are vehemently against Arizona's law.

I am going to assume most Pagans are, too, though I have seen less on-line from Pagan viewpoints. I expect Starhawk, intrepid political witch that she is, to speak out with her Reclaiming group (sometime soon remind me to re-print her anti-racism statement on here); I know that LGBT Pagans have also spoken out. Yet in keeping with my former post, I want to encourage everyone, regardless of spiritual orientation, to ask how one can host angels unawares if we treat other humans as legal or illegal?

And I want to add some fact to the discussion (something rarely seen in newspapers around the country right now. . .)


"This data, compiled independently by both the F.B.I. and the University of Colorado-Boulder shows that, contrary to political rhetoric from the right, immigration, and even illegal immigration, does not make communities more dangerous. The research, which appeared in a peer-reviewed paper in the June 2010 issue of Social Science Quarterly, specifically avoids mistaking correlation for causation, instead providing the most compelling data to date to back up claims that the anti-immigration sentiment in this country is rooted not in fact but simply in fear.

The data is even more compelling than simply rebutting the ideological argument that immigration is connected to crime. The evidence suggests that immigration appears to make the cities immigrants call home safer. According to Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson, that's because immigrants often move into neighborhoods abandoned by locals and often have tighter family structures which can stabilize urban neighborhoods on the brink.

And a crack-down in immigration may just have the opposite effect, much to the dismay of SB 1070 supporters. Law enforcement officers like Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck notes that when immigrants fear being arrested for immigration offenses they stop cooperating with law enforcement. These communities will withdraw further into themselves, making those immigrant ghettos ripe for exploitation and abuse and further marginalize, rather than integrate, immigrants into the American experience. Not only does this make getting information more difficult for law enforcement, it increases the amount of crimes law enforcement needs to respond to."

Welcoming angels means welcoming immigrants, who actually improve our country. Since most of us are immigrants, you would think we as USA citizens could make the connection. (I keep writing letters to the editor asking the so many vocal opponents to amnesty just how many of their families had greed cards from the Wampanoag??)

And welcoming angels unawares, means allowing angels access to all doors. At the least, I hope anyone following Bridget - she who welcomed all to her hearth - will write their newspapers or call their representatives, and demand the country repeal Arizona's law.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Brand Free Religion

I finally took the kids to see one of our oldest family friends, a conservative, Republican, Southern Baptist family we met in Campfire Scouts - the first scouting organization in the US that welcomed gay and lesbian families, by the way. Our friends from scouting moved two years ago, down to Virginia and the gorgeous Shennendoah Valley, and after two years they are still searching for a church home.

Now I thought a conservative family would find it easy moving to Virginia, home of Jerry Falwell, fox hunting, and a recent election wherein the Governor declared the entire northern part of the state "unvirginian." But no.

Of course, family friends of mine have to be somewhat, um, inclusive, to put up with my alternative family and life. Even more, the two home schooled girls in the family both plan careers in science - marine biology and microbiology/archaeology respectively. As home schoolers, they can indeed plug right into the right wing Christian home school groups in Virginia, but, given their goals, they don't want to. Christian kids planning science careers, outside of Liberty University or Bob Jones University, need a grounding in modern science including evolution. So these kids and their parents found themselves shut out of right wing Christian home school culture. (Not to mention my wonderful friend's rant to the group for declaring women's role in marriage to be one of obedience and assistance to the hubby. You go girl!)

So during our visit, mom and dad and both girls talked with all of us about finding a church home. With their eldest in Iraq, they need some place for spiritual support, and were thinking about investigating some churches outside the Southern Baptist world.

And I encouraged them to do so as well. And I advised them to forget about brand.

At some point, church is about a specific community that can support you and your needs. For this family, they need support for a planned adoption, support for their daughter's career goals, and support for being a feminist family with strong daughters (and one strong mom). In addition, they need a place to feel connected with the holy, to feel accepted for their views on baptism and faith, and a place where they can be accepted for home schooling.

It is impossible to pull these things from any denominational hat. Whatever doctrinal messages a denomination posits, each congregation has its own culture, and you can't find a supportive faith by looking at faith statement alone. So I encouraged my friends to ignore pesky things like denominational label, and to visit churches until they found one they felt matched their needs.

In many ways, this is comparable to shopping in a store. Name brand labels at Costco can help one find a good product, but not always. Generic labels can be good, too. Trying a new brand can be a good thing.

Religion in America is much the same. Over the years I have attended Unitarian Universalist churches (no longer possible for my multiracial family, given the overall white supremacy of UU churches), the Society of Friends (again a very white choice, that is no longer an option with my kids), the Methodist church, and now happily attend a wonderful Presbyterian home.

On the pagan side, I've been to Dianic covens, mixed race Wicce groups, neo-Celtic groups, African American voodoo groups, and shamanic groups. Of late, thanks to this blog, I've been asked to some wonderful druid and Celtic Christian groups as well. All have had their plus and minus sides, and so far not one has been a group that fits my whole family. I know of few local groups with a weekly pagan children's program, for example.

So I keep shopping around.

Because after all, whatever the religious brand, it is the people who make a church or group. Unitarian Universalists talk about tolerance, but I don't think they would happily welcome my Southern Baptist friends! Dianic groups, likewise, have objected pretty vocally to my dating men. I know other pagan groups who have been unhappy when I date women. Sigh. Obviously Christian groups weigh in on the affectional orientation stuff, too.

If you, like I, have a multiracial family, you then add another layer of spiritual needs. I attend churches that have adults of color in leadership positions, a must for my children. My Southern Baptist friends don't need a multiracial church, but they do need one comfortable and aware of adoption issues. (It is so annoying to send one's child to Sunday School, and have them talk to the children about their "real parents" as being "birth parents." Yet it happens all the time.) My Southern Baptist friends need acceptance for home schooling, as well.

My advice to everyone is to visit around. Churches, covens, synagogues, spiritual support groups, temples, mosques and the like all depend upon the people who attend them to shape their culture. Worship times, adult and children's programs, political activism, acceptance of diversity, heck, even something like accessibility for a wheelchair are all going to determine if a religious group meets your needs. Name brand alone won't identify any of those needs, and only visiting will.

My Southern Baptist friends, actually, were fairly aware where they wanted to worship and find community: "Do you think we can go to a Catholic church?" was a question almost all asked me at one time or another. That may seem a surprising choice for Southern Baptists, but for this family it made sense. The Catholic church in their area had devout Christianity, plus an open view of learning science and evolution. That may be the only choice my friends find. As the mom pointed out to me, she can still keep their family views on baptism in all of their hearts, and still find worship and community in a different doctrinal package. And why not?

I encourage people to go to church/coven/synagogue/mosque/temple/cove/group. Building concrete religious structure is necessary if anyone is going to go seeking and find those faiths you hold dear. Sometime you may need that same group when you have a child in Iraq, are adopting a child, going through a crisis, needing a group in your faith search. Just as you need, for your own spiritual growth, to do the same supporting for others.

But brand doesn't have to define your group. I know pagans attending church all across 3 continents, and I know Christians attending pagan groups on 2 continents. I have Jewish friends attending church and Christian friends attending synagogue. And of course I do, since I like my religious happily mixed up in a doctrinal stew.

But if you are searching for a religious home, that is my bottom line advice. Find giving people and go attend there.

The best religious brand is a loving one.