Walking In Between Witchcraft and Christianity

The hardest thing about being Wiccan and Christian is being both in a world that expects you to be either/or. Even for the most liberal minded, on either side, there can be a subtle, unconscious idea that someday I’ll just pick one.

On the Christian side, I can be seen as doing things that are “of the Devil” or it’s assumed that now that I “know Jesus” I’ll start to leave my witchcraft behind.

On the Wiccan side, my going to a Christian church means that I’m either a traitor, or that I’m going to completely convert and become some version of a Right-Wing Fundamentalist.

And on both sides there are many that proudly proclaim, as if they have all the answers in the universe, that Witchcraft and Christianity can’t possible be compatible, no way, no how!

What’s really difficult about all of this is that these ideas can manifest in unconscious ways. Even from people who know me and know that I’m not out to either curse everyone in sight or covert people to Christianity.

I get that there’s history to deal with here. Lots of bad history. I don’t deny this at all. I accept it.

And yet…

And yet…

I see the beauty in both the Moon and the Cross.

I feel the power of both the Dagda and Jesus Christ.

I hear the spirit in the Charge of the Goddess and the Our Father.

None of these things exist in a vacuum to me. None of these things are incompatible to me. They all resonate with a spiritual power that I can’t deny.

I don’t see either as the enemy of the other.

It’s humans that create enemies, and fear, and hate of the different. Which is a sad thing, because my vision tells me we can be much better than that.

But sometimes, when the doubt comes or I run up against the unconscious assumptions about me, that beautiful vision seems like a far distant fantasy.

And some days, it makes me weep.

Made of Fail

I was reading about Paula Deen’s announcement that she had Type II diabetes, and has been dealing with it for awhile. The comments I’ve seen have made me angry. It gets me that there are attitudes that put the idea forward that “Well, just look at the food she made! She deserved to get diabetes!”

Deserved? Because she cooked food she liked?

I’m not going to go into a thing about how correlation is NOT causation, and how genetics play the biggest role in who gets diabetes. I don’t deny the fact that food does play a factor in diabetes, because I know. Most of the adults in my family, way out to my grandmother, and I think further, have had this. I’m a former biochemist: I worked in pharma and healthcare for 13 years.

No, this isn’t about that.

This is about discrimination, privilege, and failure.

I get that I have privilege. I am a white, cisgendered, middle class woman. I’m extremely lucky to have my shelter, food, and clothing needs met. I go to seminary, and I’m lucky enough to have health insurance. I also fall into some categories that are discriminated against: I’m queer, I’m female, I’m Wiccan, and I’m fat.

I want to help in areas that I will never truly completely understand because I’m not transgendered, African-American, Muslim…

What’s frustrating is that it seems that even when trying to work for justice, I fail.

For example: When we went to the craft store, I picked up a book on crochet called “The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet.” The book was innocuous enough, and neither Sarah nor I really thought much of it at the time. When I was talking to her about all of this earlier this evening, Sarah said that the title was offensive because it riffed off of “Chicks with Dicks” and that the book itself assumed that only women really wanted to do crochet.

She was right. To be honest, I felt bad, horrified, really. It wasn’t intentional on anyone’s part, but there it was.

The frustrated part of me wanted to shout and scream:

I try and try to recognize my own privilege, to work for social justice, to not hurt people, and no matter what I do, I still fail. No matter what good I do, no matter how hard I try to prove that I am an ally, I still fail. When I speak up, especially around size acceptance, I still fail.

The part of me that speaks out, like when I saw nasty comments and fat jokes about Paula Deen, it wants to scream:

Don’t you hear yourself? Don’t you understand what you’re saying?

“She deserved it because she cooked southern food.”

“She deserved it because she was transgendered.”

“She deserved it because she was wearing slutty clothes.”

“She deserved it because she’s fat.”

“She deserved it because she’s black.”

“She deserved it because she’s a bitch.”

And the part of me that wants to help? To make things right? To work for justice?

That part feels made of fail.

Who am I to speak out? Who am I to do this work?

And what comes to me is that even Jesus wanted to give it up at one point. In the garden of Gethsemane, he begged God to take his burden away from him: “[H]e threw him‐self on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…’ (Matthew 26:39)” I get that. I get that it was just all too much. That he wanted to just give it all up and be done with it. But it’s the next words of that chapter that explain why he didn’t: “…yet not what I want but what you want…”

I can’t deny that there are seven deities (including Jesus) who have put me in the right place at the right time to do the work I need to do. I am the one to do the work because I am there, and I said to the universe that I would do it. I am the one to speak out because I am there and I have been called to do so.

I know that I’m human, and I am dealing with other humans. None of this is easy, and it’s a constant struggle to do what I think is right.

Sometimes I do good.

And, sometimes, I fail.

But I am there, and I try.

And I wish, with all my heart, that it is enough.

It never is.

Why? (#OWS #OccupySF #OccupyOakland)

I was going to sit and write an anecdote about a conversation I had the other day with someone who felt that charities could provide all the social services needed to help people out. I pointed out that, if it was a perfect world, and there was no discrimination (class, race, sex, gender, etc), then that might work.

But we don’t live in that society.

I don’t mind listening to opposing viewpoints, in fact, I love a good debate if the other person respectfully listens and thinks about what I’m saying.

Unlike the person I was talking to, most don’t. Most of the ones I’ve engaged with in some way have spouted things about “dirty, filthy protestors” or “well, they should just get jobs” or “they should come up with demands!” or “if they weren’t protesting they could find a job!” or “What are they protesting about?” They also spout things like “Oh, they deserved to be pepper-sprayed!” or “well, they shouldn’t provoke the police!” (when there is no evidence of provocation). My favorite is: “well, if they just worked hard enough, then they would be fine! I mean, I worked hard and have X, Y, Z, so they can do it too!”

Really?

I could give lots of examples about people getting sick and going bankrupt, or being denied services because they made slightly too much money to qualify for government assistance. Or people like my mom who was out of work for almost two years, who has a BA and MBA and got both while putting me through school and college as well. She’s lucky she found something recently, but there are many more that I know who are running into 2 or 3 years of unemployment. And those retail jobs that people tell them to get? Well, I tried that a few times after I got my degree, and I always get a “why are you applying here?” look, a pat on the back, and no job.

I could give all these examples, but I have a question for those who think I’m a cracked hippie seminarian: Why?

Why do you have no compassion for your fellow human beings?

Why are you willing to let people become homeless and poor just because they, supposedly, didn’t work as hard as you did?

Why are some of you so hot on claiming Jesus as your “personal lord and savior” and yet are so quick to spout hate at those who are different from you?

Why are some of you claiming to be doing the work of God and Jesus by claiming war and supporting violence against other religions here and overseas?

Why do you believe that your rights and privileges are better than those who are a different race, creed, sexuality, class, and gender?

Why do you think it’s ok to let people die by inches?

Why were tea party folks allowed to express their first amendment rights without issue, yet average people expressing their first amendment rights are somehow unpatriotic and un-American?

Seriously, do you really believe this? Do you really think that people are that expendable?

I want to know. I want to know why people think that even the rights of “dirty, filthy protestors” are somehow less than theirs? What makes your first amendment rights somehow superior?

Because, really, if you claim to have a morality of some sort (whatever religion you believe or don’t), the idea of people dying because of inadequate healthcare, or having to choose between food and rent, or food and heat, or food and medicine, or because they end up homeless, or being pepper-sprayed and beaten for their convictions, or being unemployed for no lack of trying on their part, or put in any situation where no matter how much they play by the rules, they just can’t keep up, SHOULD DISTURB YOU.

If it doesn’t, why?

Please, explain to me why you feel this way. Don’t give me the Fox News platitudes, or anything like that. Explain to me from your heart.

Explain to me, as a fellow human being, why you feel that these things are ok.

What’s so hard here? #OWS

I should be writing at paper right now, but I’ve been reading and watching a lot of the media in the wake of the Occupy Oakland protests the other night. I’ve been following a lot of the Occupy media on Twitter and Facebook. Clergy and seminary students from my school have been going to the different area protests. I’ve seen pictures and read about war veterans going to protect protestors. It’s been rather amazing and scary all at once.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of music, and Linkin Park seems to top the list right now. Their lyrics seem to match what I’m watching and feeling:

Try to give you warning

But everyone ignores me

[Told you everything loud and clear]

But nobody’s listening

Call to you so clearly

But you don’t want to hear me

[Told you everything loud and clear]

But nobody’s listening

— “Nobody’s Listening” by Linkin Park

The reason that this song is stuck in my head is that no matter how much the Occupy movement grows, it seems that all we hear from Congressional leaders and pundits is: “What do they want? We don’t understand why they’re protesting! They don’t have any clear demands!”

Really? I don’t think it’s that hard to figure out: The economy has tanked. People are losing jobs left and right. Legislators on both sides of the isle have pretty much ignored job creation in favor of creating false crises. Job bills that should have gone right through are being halted in the House by legislators who bow to corporate interests and can’t deal with a black guy in the White House. We have soldiers doing multiple tours in a war that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The list could go on, but I don’t think this is that difficult: People are angry. People are tired. People want fairness and equality in jobs and finances. People want legislators to listen to them and not the money in their bank account.

I suppose I could recount tales of my own job experiences, but, well, while it was a pain in the ass, I was very lucky. I got paid (more or less) decently for what I did, and I had a roof over my head. But, even with that privilege, I still lived paycheck to paycheck. The only savings I have is my 401k, and there are a lot of people who don’t even have that.

And like I said, I’ve been lucky, both by the fact that I was born white and by the fact that I went to college at all.

A couple of years ago I was doing some divination work, and part of the divination started talking about the elections of 2010. What came out of that is that they could go either way: the first path was that those who were elected would be good for the country and things would improve. The other path was that the election would be a disastrous turn for the country. In the second path, it would get ugly before it got better, and it would cause a great change. It was a knife’s edge, and seeing how things are going now, well…

How it all ends is still up in the air, since those in charge have money and power at their disposal. It also depends on how we, as the angry 99%, approach this: We can take the high road, stay peaceful, and allow them to make fools of themselves, or we fight and prove their pundits right.

Either way, change is happening…

We all died a little this week.

I’m watching as the tweets and posts come in about Troy Davis, and it makes me angry, that, yet again, government has decided that it is acceptable to kill someone.

And then I read this.

For the record, I have always been against the death penalty. It has never made any sense to me. Theoretically, it’s supposed to deter people from killing other people by killing a person. To me, this doesn’t add up, and never mind the fact that it has never stopped people from committing murder, or any other crimes for that matter.

This isn’t about stopping crime. I don’t think it ever has been. I think it’s only been about revenge. About victims being so angry that they want someone to pay. Even if the evidence is flimsy at best. Even though they know that killing the other person will never bring their loved one back.

It is very easy to think of the criminal as a non-entity. The common attitude towards prisoners is “oh, well, they must have done something bad, so they deserve what they get!” In the case of murderers (alleged or otherwise), it is decided early on that, since they killed someone, they are not human.

The system as it is now treats prisoners as things and objects. There is no reform. This are no second chances. You get labeled a criminal for life. It’s near impossible to get a job, and for some crimes, you are even restricted from living in specific areas.

I don’t like what people do to each other. I do feel for the victims and their families. But I can’t get past the idea that killing someone to prove that a very broken justice system is doing something about crime when it isn’t. For some, it’s easy to talk about compassion for the victims, or for those who live far away, or for the poor or the homeless, but compassion for criminals? It’s unthinkable.

Let me put it this way:

If a murderer was dying in a prison and I got called to go and sit by their bedside, I would. They are no less human than I am.

My compassion isn’t dictated by the will of others, or the will of the state, or by what the person has done.

My compassion is for all beings.

I will serve the will of the Gods by caring for all beings who cross my path and are in need, regardless.

The Towers

In Tarot, the Tower represents great change, and sometimes catastrophic change that will change one’s life forever.

Ten years ago, two towers came down and changed our lives. Was it catastrophic change? Looking through the lens of the present, I think so. It’s changed the way our government works. It’s led us into wars we can no longer afford to be in. We’re in a depression and people are suffering, at home and abroad, because we’ve elected people to represent us out of fear of the other instead of doing what’s in our best interest.

Public figures have treated this crime, this blood sacrifice, as if it was a political rally, or a political event that was staged just for them. They use the deaths of over 2000 people as a political token, saying that if you don’t think like they do, especially about security, then you’re dishonoring their memory.

And every year the media plays, over and over and over and over, video of the towers falling. They play over and over people talking about their feelings, as if ten years hadn’t passed.

We are kept in a perpetual state of grief. This is not healthy, nor is it honoring the dead.

I remember that morning. I lived outside of Boston at the time. It was kind of surreal walking into work and seeing my coworkers around the television. I remember asking what was happening, and someone told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I went to my desk and got on the internet to read the media reports as they came in. After awhile, the CEO told us all to go home. I don’t really remember the drive, but I do remember being home and watching TV. At first, like most people, I just watched because I was in shock. I kept flipping channels. I’d go outside, or open the windows in my house, and it would be eerie because you couldn’t hear the sounds of planes or helicopters.

But, after a few days, I got angry. Not only because the whole thing was senseless to me, but because the media was just repeating the same messages over and over. Talking to people who were trying to find their loved ones, and people who had confirmed that their loved ones had died. Hounding the ones who were grieving to “get their thoughts” on what this could mean.

They were grieving. I was grieving. Dammit, why couldn’t they just leave us in peace?

That night, I sold my TV to a neighbor for $30. He came and got it (it was an almost new TV) right away. Finally, I had peace. Finally I could sort out my heart and mind.

Every year since, I’ve avoided mass media almost entirely around September 11. For those who lived in New York, or knew people who died, this is a hard time of year. They get pestered by reporters to describe, yet again, their feelings about that day. Politicians ramp up using this tragedy as a political football, posturing and posing for the cameras, sporting flag pins on their collars in a contest to see who can be more “patriotic”. The media replays footage over and over again of the towers falling.

Enough. I say, enough.

I have mourned for the dead. I have lit candles. I do think about those who have passed every year. But enough already. I am tired of being bullied by the media into being in a perpetual state of mourning. I am tired of politicians using a tragedy for their own political ends.

Instead, I choose to turn off the media and say a prayer for those who have passed. I choose to honor the lives of the dead by working for social justice and world peace. I choose to honor the lives of the dead by doing interfaith work that counters religious extremism. I choose action and service over perpetual grief.

I choose to celebrate their lives and honor their memories by making this world a better place to live in.

I choose to celebrate life instead of glorifying death.

I choose.

Walking into Oblivion

I’ve been overwhelmed a bit lately with what is going on with the government these days. I listen to the news and it boggles my mind. A group of people are perfectly willing to let people suffer for their own perceived notion of political gain.

And in the name of God.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

The same people that are quick to blame Muslims for the world’s ills are the very same people that are, at this very minute, holding our country hostage by a completely manufactured crisis. They are the same people that are compromising on the backs of the poor, the elderly, veterans, and the middle class by severely cutting government programs, yet are perfectly willing to keep waging war in the middle east.

Many of the people who are doing these things claim that God sent them to Washington to do this.

Bishop Yvette Flunder, who I saw preach last weekend at New Spirit Church, said it best: what they are doing is wicked and evil and we need to do something about it.

We need to use whatever talents we have to let them know that we don’t like what is going on with our government.

But here’s the problem: I have no faith that it will work. Unlike the UK, we have nothing in our constitution that allows for a vote of no confidence in our government. We have another year and a half before we get vote out the people who are causing these problems, and I’m afraid of what damage will be done in the interim.

And I have no faith that people will actually care or get angry enough to make change.

So, I ask Christians: what are you doing to counter the people that are causing this havoc in the name of Christianity and in the name of God. I know that they don’t represent all of you, not by a long shot. These are the extremists of your own faith, a good many of whom will allow people to suffer, starve, or die, in the name of Jesus.

And I ask the pagans: what are you doing to help the Christians that do care? Do you just grumble about “those damn Christians”? Or maybe rattle something off about the Burning Times? We can’t just assume that all Christians are going to agree with the extremists on these issues. We need to work together because, while we’ve been enjoying some mainstream success, we just aren’t a powerful enough group on our own.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the real consequence of 9/11. It was a gruesome blood sacrifice with the intention of bringing down the government. I think that, in the way blood magic does, it has worked, just not in the way the extremists who carried out the attack did.

As much as there were many of us that recognized what it was at the time, there wasn’t enough magicians to stop it from doing what it wanted. It was just too big.

And, now, here we are. I still don’t know what to do. I know what I think, and what I feel. I’ll try to do my work with the dying and my interfaith work. Some other pagans think I’m weird to work with Christians, but I think that more of us should. We should be learning from Christianity’s mistakes. We should be making a conscious decision to be better than what we’re perceived as.

But we’re human, and what’s sad is that, to some degree, we don’t realize that, as a group, pagans are making the same mistakes.

Extremism hurts everyone, not just “those people” over there.