Archives For Resisting the Green Dragon

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen

  • Noted naturalist and author Peter Matthiessen died on Saturday after battling leukemia. Mattheiseen, a Zen Buddhist, wrote over 30 novels, was an environmental activist, co-founded the Paris Review, and famously wrote “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,” which chronicled the story of Leonard Peltier. Quote: “Matthiessen is held in such high regard as a nonfiction writer by nonfiction writers that they sometimes say, ‘How is it possible that this guy can be such a virtuoso fiction writer, and give his equally substantial body of nonfiction work such short shrift?’ Because all the rest of us are trying to do what we can to mimic his nonfiction work.” What is remembered, lives.
  • Two people in Western Kentucky have been arrested on charges of committing sexual offenses against children. One of them, Jessica M. Smith, allegedly described herself as a Witch and threatened the children with her powers. Quote: “Prosecutors say the two threatened the children with ‘hexes and curses’ […] Police said Smith described herself as a witch and told the kids ‘she was going to put a spell on them’ and that ‘if they told anyone, something bad would happen to them.'”
  • A federal appeals panel has ruled that New York City has the right to block religious services in public schools. Quote: “The decision does not mean that the city must force religious groups out of the schools, but merely that a city prohibition on religious worship services in schools would comply with the Constitution.” Appeals are expected.
  • It seems that “real housewife” Carlton Gebbia isn’t the only reality television star who has practiced Wicca. It seems that Millionaire Matchmaker star Patti Stanger was a “real Wiccan” for six years. Quote: “I’ve studied Kabbalah, I’ve studied Wicca, so you can’t be like that. You can’t throw stones at people, because karmically it’s going to come back to you even worse then you threw it at them.”
  • Is the Internet destroying religion? A new study makes the case that the rise of the Internet has been an important factor in individuals abandoning traditional forms of religious practice. Quote: “Today, we get a possible answer thanks to the work of Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, who has analyzed the data in detail. He says that the demise is the result of several factors but the most controversial of these is the rise of the Internet. He concludes that the increase in Internet use in the last two decades has caused a significant drop in religious affiliation.” Of course, correlation is not causation, but Downey says that “correlation does provide evidence in favor of causation, especially when we can eliminate alternative explanations or have reason to believe that they are less likely.”
Terence Spencer—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Terence Spencer—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these we may expand into longer posts as needed.

This Sunday is Earth Day. Originally spearheaded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a national“teach-in” on urgent environmental issues, it has since become an internationally recognized holiday in192 countries. Earth Day is partially credited with jump-starting the modern environmentalist movement, and helping to pass legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. So naturally, it is stalking horse for Pagan religion and must be stopped at all costs, at least according to Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson from Alexandria. In a response to conservative activist Sheila Kihne on Twitter, Rep. Franson said the holiday “absolutely infuriates” her, calling it a “celebration of a Pagan holiday.”

Nor did Rep. Franson walk back her comments after they gained attention from local press, saying that people should “honor and give thanks to God…not Earth” and “big deal, so I don’t like Earth Day.” Of course, this isn’t simply about not liking Earth Day, all sorts of people don’t like Earth Day for a variety of reasons. This is about the idea, the meme, that Earth Day is a religious holiday, a Pagan religious holiday. Conservative pundits, politicians, and activists have been describing environmentalism, and especially the belief in human-caused climate change, as a “cult” for years now. This has led to the inevitable environmentalism equals Paganism accusation, the purest expression of which comes in the form of a documentary entitled “Resisting the Green Dragon.”

In it the speakers make it plain that this is a spiritual struggle, a battle between competing religions. Christianity on one side, and the“green dragon” of pagan environmentalism on the other. Participating in the video series is a roll-call of conservative Christian heavy-hitters, including Bryan “superstition, savagery and sexual immorality of Native Americans played in making them morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil ” Fischer, and David “paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses” Barton. This view of the world reached a new height recently when then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum accused Obama of adhering to a “phony theology.” When pressed on what he meant by that, he elaborated that our president might just be worshiping the Earth.

“…a world view that elevates the earth above man … I was talking about the radical environmentalists. [T]his idea that man is here to serve the earth.”

So this idea seems deeply entrenched, and increasingly popular as an attack on any who would attempt to seriously address the many challenges we face regarding our environment. Will it always be so? According to Lisa Weaver Swartz, author of “‘This Is My Father’s World’: American Evangelical Ambivalence Toward Climate Change,” there is a “sharp decline” of this idea among evangelicals, “a reframing of environmental issues into existing evangelical frameworks.” This shift is typified by Rev. Richard Cizik, former chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, who works to encourage environmental stewardship among Christians.

“Dominion does not mean domination. It implies responsibility — to cultivate and care for the earth, not to sully it with bad environmental practices. The Bible also teaches us that Jesus Christ is not only redeeming his people, but also restoring God’s creation. Obviously, since the fall of man and entrance of sin into the world, all of creation has yearned for its redemption from sin and death and destruction. That will occur with the Second Coming of Christ. But in the meantime we show our love for Jesus Christ by reaching out to and healing the spiritually lost and by conserving and renewing creation. Christ’s call to love nature is as simple as his call to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

But the environmentalism = Paganism meme dies hard, and the fact that it is still widely parroted by a variety of commentators, and entered into the 2012 presidential race, says that the tipping point within American evangelical culture, and conservative Christianity as a whole, is still a long way off. Until then, any who espouse a belief in climate change, who want stricter environmental regulations, who want to protect our national parks, runs the risk of being labeled an adherent of “radical environmentalism – a form of neo-paganism.”

Despite this, elements of immanence, pantheism, and various indigenous perspectives have become increasingly popular and “mainstream” in our modern culture. Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”, notes that this development is as “American as apple pie.”

“The remarkable language in the Ecuadorian constitution and in Boliva’s new Mother Earth law did not, however, result from indigenous Andean spirituality alone. They were also influenced by a generation of thinking and debate around the world about human responsibilities toward nature. In the U.S., much of this has taken place among philosophers and legal theorists, including in the landmark argument by Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment, which was first published in theSouthern California Law Review in 1972. Indeed, I contend that the recent developments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and within the United Nations are as American as apple pie: they are to some extent in the spirit of a diverse range of American voices that led to the pioneering Endangered Species Act of 1973 signed into law by Richard Nixon. Yet today, those who call themselves conservative are generally hostile to environmentalists, often considering them to be politically or spiritually dangerous socialists or pagans.”

The danger of this rhetoric is that we cut ourselves off from the simple truth of our place in the natural world, to the interconnectedness of all things. Acknowledging that, and the responsibility it places on us, is not theology, or pantheism. To engage in this smear-tactic, to make simple reality controversial is increasingly dangerous. Rep. Mary Franson thinks she is defending her faith, but in reality she is politicizing a topic that should be a major concern for all human beings on this planet. The longer we fight this false battle over “paganism,” an imaginary green dragon for crusaders to defeat, the worse things will actually be when we finally are forced to face the ramifications of our inaction.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Here’s a few quick news notes to start off your Monday.

The Passing of a Poet: The New York Times has posted an obituary of poet Janine Pommy Vega, who passed away on December 23rd due to a heart attack. Vega was an intimate of several Beat Generation writers, most notably Peter Orlovsky, who was once her lover. Among the Goddess community, she may be most famous for her 1997 book “Tracking the Serpent,” a memoir and travelogue of “pilgrimages to sites of female spiritual and temporal power.”

Here’s an excerpt from a 1997 Boston Phoenix profile concerning the book:

Following on this touchingly understated tragedy is the book’s spiritual turning point: a near-fatal car crash. During her months of convalescence, she happens on a book about the female images of the ancient Celts: the owl-eyed goddess, the mother/protector, the huntress in her antler mask. She responds to their Jungian echo of millennia of creative female voices; they symbolize her fight to put her broken mind and body back together. They are also the seed of her travels. “As I read into the early-morning hours,” she recounts, “an owl began calling at my window. Slowly the idea coalesced of making a pilgrimage to the ancient sites . . . I needed to reaffirm something in me that felt ripped apart and empty.”

Thus begin years of introspective journeying. Vega visits the ancient sites where the goddess was worshipped: Glastonbury, Silbury, and Avebury in England, the high hills of Ireland, the shrine of the Virgin in Chartres Cathedral. She studies Vedic myth in desolate Himalayan temples, explores the earth cults of the Andes, participates in a yage ceremony in Peru, where believers coax visions from the potent, peyote-like hallucinogen ayahuasca. Fascinated by the survival of these ancient, poetic faiths in remote agricultural regions across the globe, she becomes both scholar and mystic — a Boddhisatva seeking an image of herself among the ruins.

For more tributes, check out here, here, and here.

New York Times Discovers the Green Dragon: The NYT’s Green blog looks in on the growing evangelical Christian backlash against environmentalism, referencing the fear-mongering “Resisting the Green Dragon” video series. According to “green dragon” promoter Calvin Beisner, Christians who support environmental causes, and admit the reality of global warming, “probably did not understand the science,” and that Christian “creation care” is “infected by the false worldview and theology of secular and pagan religious environmentalism.”

“Mr. Beisner, a former professor of theology and a ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, argued that the science is still unsettled on whether greenhouse gases are warming the climate and that projections of dangerous human-driven warming in the future are flawed and unreliable. But an “Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming” on the Cornwall Alliance’s Web site urges all evangelicals to accept that recent global warming is natural and that mankind is incapable of altering the climate.”

We’re incapable of altering the climate! God is in control! All who say differently are secularists or Pagans! Never mind the fact that humanity has been altering the climate for thousands of years, or that major climate change skeptics have been doing about faces recently. Even if you happen to believe that climate change has little or nothing to do with humanity, to audaciously endorse that we do nothing, that we continue as if everything will work out, is to turn a blind eye to the damage climate change is already doing to the world. Every inane joke about blizzards and global warming (refusing to distinguish weather from climate) simply reinforces how uniformed we truly are, and how insulated most of us are from the problems these changes in the climate are causing.

Who’s Invited to Benedict’s Interfaith Pilgrimage? In 1986 a massive interfaith gathering convened by Pope John Paul II was held in Assisi, Italy  in order to foster peace and dialog between different faiths. Since then the yearly event has become something of a political football within Catholicism, loved by the Catholic left, and often reviled by the Catholic right. The current Pope, since his days as Cardinal Ratzinger, has been a vocal critic of the gatherings. In 2005, most likely spurred by false rumors spread by an Italian journalist saying the Franciscans allowed African animists to slaughter chickens on the altar of the basilica of Santa Chiara, and American redskins to dance in the church,” (a rumor shamelessly repeated by Rod Dreher) Pope Benedict XVI removed autonomy from the Franciscans of Assisi. Now, with the 25th anniversary of the gathering approaching, Benedict says he’ll be attending “as a pilgrim” and is calling for “all men of good will” to attend.

Celebrating World Peace Day on Saturday, Benedict said that he would travel as a pilgrim to Assisi in October, inviting Christians of other confessions, leaders of other world faiths “and, ideally, all men of good will, to recall the historic gesture sought by my predecessor and to solemnly renew the commitment of the faithful of all religious to live their own religious faith as a service for the cause of peace.”

So now we get down to it. Who, exactly, will be attending? How many polytheists, animists, and non-monotheists will be in attendance? Will any indigenous religious leaders show up? What about any of the Pagans serving as trustees for  The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (Andras Corban-ArthenPhyllis Curott, and Angie Buchanan)? Would they be allowed to come if they wanted? Could they rub shoulders with the pilgrim Pope? Will the man who predicted that Buddhism would replace Marxism as the Catholic Church’s main enemy this century, and that native populations were “silently longing” for conversion truly allow himself to be on equal ground with other non-Christian religions? I’ll be paying close attention to this issue, as we approach October.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Remember how I mentioned the invocation of the Mayan goddess Ixchel at the opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico? At the time I noted that it would most likely confirm the greatest fears of those conservative Christians who see environmentalism as a stalking horse for Pagan religion, a “Green Dragon” that must be opposed.

Well, now a variety of religious and political pundits have seized on the invocation and are using it as proof that the conference is either crazy, laughable, or outright demonic. From the crazy/laughable camp you have this anonymously-penned Investors Business Daily editorial that uses the invocation to prove environmentalists aren’t rational, and even takes some time out to take a swipe at Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

“Still think those who continue to push the idea of man-made climate change are well-grounded and rational? Think again. Consider Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She opened the U.N’s global warming conference last week with a prayer to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon. This mythological supreme being of fertility is supposed to be good for sending rain for crops. Maybe that’s the sort of blessing Figueres had in mind when, from Cancun’s — no joke — Moon Palace, she called Ixchel “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving” and hoped delegates would be inspired by her. And did we mention that the multitasking Ixchel is also some kind of jaguar? Given her many roles, is it really reasonable to ask her to also save the planet from global warming?”

That mocking scorn is echoed by conservative pundits at Fox Nation, Gateway Pundit, and the Michelle Malkin blog.

“Watch out, Al Gore, your moonbat congregation is starting to direct their prayers elsewhere […] It just makes sense: When you’re pushing a myth, there’s no more appropriate entity to pray to than a mythical goddess. Why be inconsistent? Here’s an image of Ixchel found on a Wikipedia page. If Helen Thomas and Code Pink had a love child…”

That mocking turns into full-throated demonic panic when you turn to the more religiously-focused outlets.

“So now we are invoking Mayan deities to call blessings upon a scheme largely designed to wreck the Western World, the desiccated remains of what had once been called Christendom. That the weaving of the new tapestry, the kingdom of the goddess, is difficult is beyond dispute, but the forces that have been at work in the war against the Kingdom of God are nothing if not diligent. It starts with stealing wealth.”

Michael Youssef at the Christian Post whips out his Godwin and goes the full Nazi in an editorial entitled: “the Enviro-Nazis Come Clean in Cancun.”

“Now that they have left us without a shadow of doubt as to their true agenda, it is time for evangelical leaders across the world to rise up and acknowledge the truth. I realize that, for many leaders who have buried their heads in the sand of cultural popularity, speaking out in truth will be a new experience. But for the rest of us who know the truth, let the words of the prophet Elijah ring in our ears, “Choose ye this day whom you will worship.” If it is Jesus, the Creator of the universe, then say so. But if it is a mixture of Jesus and Ixchel, then this must be confessed.”

No matter what emerges, or doesn’t emerge, from the Cancun talks you can bet this incident will be used as grist for these pundits for years to come. Further proof that environmentalism is a secret plot to overthrow Christianity (and free-market capitalism).

Yesterday marked the opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. At the opening ceremony Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, called on the Mayan goddess Ixchel to bless and guide the proceedings.

“Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.” … “Excellencies, the goddess Ixchel would probably tell you that a tapestry is the result of the skilful interlacing of many threads,” said Figueres, who hails from Costa Rica and started her greetings in Spanish before switching to English. “I am convinced that 20 years from now, we will admire the policy tapestry that you have woven together and think back fondly to Cancun and the inspiration of Ixchel.

While such an invocation may warm the hearts of many Pagans and practitioners of indigenous faiths, and was no doubt seen as a poetic metaphor by the more secular-minded politicians, activists, and policy experts in attendance, to conservative Christians it was no doubt further confirmation of their greatest fear. That the environmental movement is a stalking horse for Pagan religion, a “green dragon” that seeks to destroy Christianity.

“At a critical moment in the global environmental debate, many of America’s top Christian leaders have joined with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation to produce an explosive new 12-part DVD series, Resisting the Green Dragon, which has begun shipping both in the United States and abroad. The series sounds the alarm about dangerous environmental extremism and brings a Biblical viewpoint on environmental issues and creation stewardship to evangelical churches, ministries, and schools.”

In the above clip provided by Right Wing Watch, the speakers make it plain that this is a spiritual struggle, a battle between competing religions. Christianity on one side, and the “green dragon” of pagan environmentalism on the other. Participating in the video series is a roll-call of conservative Christian heavy-hitters, including Bryan “feminized medal of honor” Fischer, Tony “gay kids kill themselves because they know they’re abnormal” Perkins, Wendy “contraception education is a plot by Planned Parenthood to make money by providing abortions” Wright, Janet “allowing gay parents to adopt is state-sanctioned child abuse” Parshall, and Glenn Beck favorite David “paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses” Barton. Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect acknowledges that these figures are politically influential, but tries to minimize the potential damage they could do to legislative/political environmental solutions.

“In a sane world, we could just dismiss this as kooky and irrelevant. But given the evangelical right’s strength among the Republican grassroots, it would be irresponsible not to prepare for when these arguments make their way into the chambers of Congress. That said, I would caution liberals against taking these statements as representative of American Christianity, or even evangelical Christianity. Right-wing evangelicals are very loud, but they are a minority within American Christianity and are outweighed by the mass of Catholics and mainline Protestants who have more sensible views on the subject.

What’s more, there’s an ongoing fight within evangelical Christianity itself, between intensely political, Republican-aligned evangelicals like those “resisting the Green dragon,” and evangelicals like Richard Cizik, the former vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who now leads an organization that works to bridge the gap between progressives and evangelicals on issues ranging from climate change to prison reform. These people are allies, and we should work with them as we push against the climate denialism of the religious right.”

First off, as much as I admire Richard Cizik’s principled stance on environmentalism, his influence has been greatly diminished within American Evangelical Christianity. It remains to be seen if he’ll become a standard-bearer for a large number of younger evangelicals who have a broader view of issues like climate change. Secondly, while the 2010 elections were supposedly narrow-focused on taxes and fiscal issues, many of the newly elected Republicans are very socially conservative Christians, Chuck Donovan at the Daily Caller says that “the 112th Congress could prove to be the most socially conservative set of newcomers since the one that rode into Washington on Ronald Reagan’s coattails in 1980.” If you think they’ll be happy to stop at tax-related legislation, well, I have some prime swampland in Florida to sell you.

Some scholars claim that “nature religion” is the future of religion on this planet, and they may be right, but these would-be (green) dragon slayers will do everything in their power to derail this shift in environmental attitudes from being represented in our policy decisions for as long as possible. Those of us within our communities who see environmental issues through a lens of sacred interconnectedness, or as a religious calling, should have cause to be concerned about what this latest effort will mean. As for the Climate Change Conference in Cancun, observers are expecting a low-key meeting, without much in way of new treaties or big initiatives; ensuring more years of relative inaction while increasing numbers of people are directly affected by climate change.  For more on Resisting the Green Dragon, a 12-minute preview is available here (password: RESIST).