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Showing posts from August, 2008

Too Much Love?

I guess when you have to complain about an overabundance of love, you don't have too much to complain about.

As Erik of Executive Pagan commented recently, the world of Pagan bloggers "is a mini-community." This makes me particularly happy, as one of the editors of Metapagan, since my purpose in contributing to that project has been to encourage the kind of blogging community I see in the Quaker community, thanks to Martin Kelley and the editors at Quaker Quaker.

I would like to thank the bloggers who nominated Quaker Pagan Reflections for the Blog Love award: Erik, Yvonne, Cosette, Mahud, and David Miley. Perhaps you'll be relieved to know: I'm going to pass on the opportunity to post the award here four times, or to put up an additional 28 links to more blogs I love.

Nor am I simply going to turn around and toss this Valentine into the Quaker ring, now that it's made the rounds of so many of the Pagan blogs I love. Instead, I'm going to try to nominate …

Pagan Theodicy and the book of Job

They probably should never let Pagans own Bibles, much less read them. (Too late now.)

I'm up to Job. Though this post is going to be more inspired by an excerpt from Archibald MacLeish's play J.B., based on Job, than by the Biblical text itself. Bear with me.

Job is probably the central book of the Bible for Pagans, whether we've read it or not. However monotheists might come to terms with it, Job cannot satisfy the polytheistic Pagan mind.

Job, of course, is the story of the long suffering and faithful man whose trust in God is put to the test by God--and thereby, indirectly, the omnipotent, omniscient God himself is tested. And (theoretically) vindicated. Theodicy: "The vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil," says my Oxford American Dictionary, though "suffering" is probably a better word, to my mind, than "evil".

The intellectual problem, as Archibald MacLeish had his version of Satan put it, is th…

Lions at the Door

One of the conversations I didn't get to have at NEYM this year was with Will T., who said at one point that he'd like to talk with me about my relationship with Herne.

I'm pretty sure Will is not looking at converting to Paganism anytime soon. Instead, I suspect that his me.
interest was meant as a friendly conversation-opener, since he knows that Herne is important to

I like Will, and would be happy to talk about almost anything with him. This conversation didn't happen, though, and that's maybe just as well.

It's hard to talk about Herne. It's hard when I'm among Pagans, and, yeah, it's probably a bit harder among non-Pagans, but for some reason, it's difficult at any time. I am not sure why... I know that some Pagans have the habit of adopting any "cool" sounding spiritual this-n-that. You know the type: they meet a shaman who speaks of their relationship to, say, the Elk spirit, and right away, they have an Elk spirit. As …

Mere Damaged Spiritual Feelings

"...[T]he diminishment of spiritual fulfillment – serious though it may be – is not a 'substantial burden' on the free exercise of religion." (9th Circuit Court of Appeals)

What do you suppose the reaction would be if someone wanted to pour treated sewage onto the steps of a Catholic church, a Protestant mega-church, or a consecrated cemetery? Outrage, perhaps?

Well, but those actions would be offensive to actual spiritual beliefs of, um, you know, like, actual religions. As opposed to spraying treated sewage onto a mountainside sacred to Native Americans. That, by contrast, results only in "mere 'damaged spiritual feelings.'" It's like, not the same, dude.

I am just so angry about this.

I don't ordinarily get too bent out of shape by the jostling and shoving that often results from our attempts, as a society, to find a way to live with creating a truly pluralistic society. Wish me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Kwanzaa, even in August, and I…

Peter on God and the Gods

I’ve become quite lax in the last few weeks about throwing around the word “God.” I talk about “the light of God” and I don’t really stop to ask which God. Quaker worship and Quaker conversations tend to encourage that. The Light that we experience in meeting really doesn’t announce itself by name, and the Biblical names for G*d that Christ-centered Quakers like to use simply do not map onto Quaker experience (at least not onto my experience) or onto the Biblical narrative with anything like one-to-one correlation.

When I first became Pagan, when I tried for the first time using a polytheist perspective in thinking about the divine, I asked myself What are the Gods? And what do they want of us? I don’t claim any Revealed Truth on this question, but the tentative answers that I came up with twenty years ago still work for me.

I imagine a thundercloud, and lightning striking the ground. The clouds are undifferentiated and cover the entire sky (God is one, infinite and unknowable) …

Cat on NEYM: Love and Grief

(Note: this entry may be of little interest to non-Quakers, unless you find the ways Quakers do business of interest. It also may make little sense to anyone who isn't somewhat familiar with the story of the tensions with and within Friends United Meeting over its position on the hiring of gays and lesbians. I have posted a separate summary of how I see that situation to fill you in if you are interested.) So, sessions is over and done for another year. Unlike in past years, I've really been unable to post during sessions. And while I'm still in Smithfield, RI, until such time as the f/Friend we're carpooling with completes her business and we can head home, the campus is quiet now--not empty of Quakers, by any means (Deb Humphries just walked past, and the Permanent Board is still in session) but quiet.

I think I may have a touch of re-entry syndrome when I get home this year. This was an intense week, for me and for a lot of other people.

Our theme was War: God Hel…

Peter on a Spirit of Peace

On the floor of New England Yearly Meeting Sessions, in the middle of a discussion of the ongoing controversy over NEYM’s affiliation with Friends United Meeting, someone rose and read a passage from the Richmond Declaration of Faith, written in 1887 and recently reaffirmed by FUM. It included the line, “We disavow all professed illumination or spirituality that is divorced from faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” The speaker pointed out how this directly contradicts the Quaker testimony of continuing revelation. He urged NEYM to make a complete split with FUM, saying that we could continue to engage with them as we would with any other Protestant church, but they are not really Quaker. The comment was hurtful to a lot of people in the meeting who are Christ-centered and identify with FUM and also consider themselves very much Quaker.

The same day, a commenter on this blog told me that “Quakerism is founded in Christ. … With respect, you can no more be a pagan quaker than a virgin …

Cat on NEYM: Footnote on the FUM Personnel Policy

Skip this entry, please, if you've heard all you care to for the next hundred years on the FUM personnel policy. Or read it if you'd like a somewhat simplified and subjective primer on the issue. It is intended as a companion piece, a sidebar and footnote to my first set of reflections on NEYM.

Here's a mini briefer for Pagan readers and Quakers who may not be familiar with this controversy: Friends United Meeting, or FUM, is a large assembly of Quakers. It includes meetings like mine, which historically united both liberal Quakers who might or might not describe themselves as Christians and more traditional, Christ-centered Quakers. FUM also includes meetings that are wholly Christ-centered, and its mission is explicitly Evangelical. Inquiring minds might want to know why I am myself quite passionately dedicated to remaining in relationship with FUM. If you do, stay tuned: the question of "what's a nice Pagan girl like you doing in a hotbed of Christianity l…

Afterward to Peter on Genesis: Why does it matter?

Part I: A freaky little book
Part II: A Convergent Conversation / Small Gods
Part III: The Human Face of God / And the LORD saw what He had made…
Part IV: A few things missing
Part V: An Evolving Covenant / The Initiatory Challenge
Postscript: The Expulsion from Eden
Afterward: Why does it matter?

I’m writing this from New England Yearly Meeting Sessions 2008. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the last two or three days, so I’ve been away from the blog for a while.

I’ve written six impassioned posts after an in-depth reading of Genesis and a perusal of several commentaries. I’ve gotten dozens of lively and intelligent comments. But I’m coming back to it now with a much broader question than any I’ve asked so far: What does it matter? Having learned what I’ve learned about J and P and E, and about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, what has that told me (if anything) about G*d, or about Quakers, or about my own spiritual life?

The Bible was written by writers, and I’ve long felt that much of what…

Postscript to Peter on Genesis: The Expulsion from Eden

Part I: A freaky little book
Part II: A Convergent Conversation / Small Gods
Part III: The Human Face of God / And the LORD saw what He had made…
Part IV: A few things missing
Part V: An Evolving Covenant / The Initiatory Challenge
Postscript: The Expulsion from Eden
Afterward: Why does it matter?

Some readers questioned my describing the punishments of Adam and Eve as "relatively light." Marshall Massey and Tiffany both point out that compared to the easy life in Eden, a subsistence farmer watching his wife die in childbirth has a pretty rough time of it. And yes, I can't disagree, but I was comparing the punishment in Genesis to more modern conceptions of damnation. Take, for instance, this description by Jonathan Edwards: We can conceive but little of the matter; we cannot conceive what that sinking of the soul in such a case is. But to help your conception, imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven, or of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greate…