Archives For Rick Perry

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.

Vic Toews

Vic Toews

After the katsina handover, Hopi and the delegation exchanged gifts.

After the katsina handover, Hopi and the delegation exchanged gifts.

  • Back in April, the sale of sacred Hopi objects in France went ahead despite protests from the Hopi tribe of northeastern Arizona, Survival International, and the actor Robert Redford, who called the sale “a sacrilege, a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions.”  Now, Survival International reports that at least one sacred katsina was returned by a buyer who participated in the auction to retrieve it for the Hopi. Quote: “M. Servan-Schreiber then bought one katsina at the auction to return it to the Hopi. He said, ‘It is my way of telling the Hopi that we only lost a battle and not the war. I am convinced that in the future, those who believe that not everything should be up for sale will prevail. In the meantime, the Hopi will not have lost everything since two of these sacred objects have been saved from being sold.’” A second katsina acquired at the auction by another buyer will be returned to the Hopi later this year.
  • Are prisoners in the UK claiming to be Pagan to get extra benefits? Possibly! Though, this is a tabloid so no real data is given other than that self-described Pagans behind bars has nearly doubled to 602 since 2009. Quote: “The surge in paganism behind bars has sparked fears some may be converting for an easier life.” A Prison Service spokesperson noted that Pagan prisoners receive 4 days off per year, and no more.
  • The New York Times profiles the Living Interfaith Church in Washington, a religion that embraces all religions, even Pagans. Quote: “Some of the congregants began arriving to help. There was Steve Crawford, who had spent his youth in Campus Crusade for Christ, and Gloria Parker, raised Lutheran and married to a Catholic, and Patrick McKenna, who had been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and now called himself a pagan.” One wonders if the local Unitarian-Universalist congregation wasn’t theologically inclusive enough? Religion scholar Stephen Prothero notes that “one reason we have different religions is that we have different rituals and different beliefs. Those are not insignificant.”
  • Is 2013 the year of the Witch? Pam Grossman at the Huffington Post seems to think so. Quote: “As the year progresses I predict we will all more fully channel the spirit of the witch. Honoring the earth and our bodies; shifting away from mass-market medicines and agri-business toward natural healing and whole foods; sharing our resources rather than focusing on mere accumulation of goods; collaborating and communicating more openly; helping to elevate women and girls to equality all over the world: these are all grand workings of feminine magic that we are manifesting together.” Pardon me while I pick up every stitch.
  • Lisa Derrick at La Figa isn’t fond of Rick Perry voodoo dolls, saying “they perpetuate dangerous, off-base stereotypes and do nothing to help either pro-choice factions or non-Christians.”

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.

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.

Robin Hood's Grave. Photo: Nigel Homer, CC

Robin Hood’s Grave. Photo: Nigel Homer, CC

  • What’s it like being a Pagan in Wyoming? Pretty hard, apparently, as locals attending a Pagan Pride Day event in Laramie discuss being closeted and how “people are not so nice here.” Quote: “They’re closeted,” said Jo-Ann Aelfwine of Laramie, who has been practicing paganism for 50 years. Wyoming is a conservative state, and people aren’t always open to differences, Aelfwine said. “We have to worry about things like losing your job, having your kids taken away from you,” she said.”
  • The Kirklees estate in West Yorkshire, believed to be the final resting place of the legendary Robin Hood, is up for sale and the British Psychic and Occult Society want to turn it into a tourist destination. Quote: [David Farrant, president of the British Psychic and Occult Society said] “The special place the tomb holds in the hearts of many local people is heartened by tales of ghostly sightings and chilling experiences from those who have made the pilgrimage to the grave, defying the vicious brambles, dense canopies of twisted trees, and watchful gamekeepers and guard dogs.” Personally, I think the legend of Robin Hood deserves more dignity than to be turned into some sort of ghost-walk, but what do I know? Maybe this will be a positive thing.
  • The Senate heard testimony on domestic hate crimes this week, a move that comes in the wake of the Wisconsin Sikh temple massacre from August. Testimony focused on how violence and hate crimes committed against Sikhs have gone unnoticed and un-tracked by the government. Quote:  “I have filmed, chronicled, combated hate crimes against this community for 11 years,” Valerie Kaur, a Sikh filmmaker and community activist, said in testimony at the hearing. “In the aftermath of Oak Creek, reporters came up to me and asked me, ‘How many hate crimes have there been? How many hate murders have there been?’ ” Kaur said. “And I couldn’t tell them … because the government currently does not track hate crimes against Sikhs at all.” You can read more about the inciting incident, and Pagan reactions to it, here.
  • Will Witches replace vampires and zombies? Maybe!
  • South African Pagans are challenging plans by the South African Police Service to start training specialists in “occult-related crimes” saying they could lead to religious minorities to be targeted by those looking for a scapegoat. Quote from the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA):  “This newly envisioned scope of investigation must be viewed with suspicion and be of concern to anyone engaged in the practice of Witchcraft, Traditional African religion, and other Occult spiritualities (including Satanism). Given the already evident bias expressed by ex-members of ORC and new members of provincial Religious Crimes Units against Witchcraft, SAPRA believes the new mandate potentially threatens religious minorities who may be scapegoated on the basis of belief alone.” Considering how “occult experts” have been used to smear occult and Pagan traditions in other countries, I think their skepticism and worry are well founded.

  • Check out a new Pagan-y (and human-sacrifice-y) video from Swedish folk act First Aid Kit. “Wolf” is off of their new album The Lion’s Roar.
  • Fashion house Paul Frank shows you how to respond after you’ve been accused of offensively appropriating Native and indigenous imagery. Quote: “It is embarrassing to reveal that, say, you don’t employ anyone who might have the perspective to point out to you that a “pow-wow” is not an okay thing to do, or that a news organization airs information it found on Google without verifying it. But cauterizing those wounds and explaining how you’ve worked backwards to make sure you don’t make the errors again is a short-term pain it’s worth enduring.”
  • The Gary Johnson campaign seemed to have enjoyed my piece about them yesterday. Quote: “Thanks to Cara Schulz for help organizing and promoting tomorrow’s event. This isn’t the first time Ms. Schulz has helped the campaign. Last year she help put together a press conference with the governor and lesser-known religionists and non-religionists. She truly is the type of individual thinker for which the campaign wishes to provide a Big Tent. Here’s the story of the “pagan” vote.” 
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Satan’s nemesis!
  • John Morehead deconstructs hater Janet Mefferd. Quote: “…we live in a post-Christendom America. Surveys indicate that while Evangelicalism is still numerically large and influential, it has lost ground, both in terms of membership, and in terms of credibility within among young people, and on the outside as well, where both groups see it as judgmental and oppressive. Engaging others in a post-Christendom environment means that we can no longer assume either a monoculture, or a pluralistic culture with non-Christians who will sit quietly on the sidelines while hope to exclude them and describe them as a toxic fume creeping under the door of America’s political process.” More on Mefferd, here.
  • Hey, it’s September 21st, where’s Jason post about the Fall Equinox? Check your nearest observatory, it’s not till tomorrow!

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.

I truly admire it when public figures bluntly state their true views on a subject. There is so much hedging, retracting, and re-positioning in modern politics that it can be hard to pin down anyone on anything. So when Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 10,000-strong First Baptist Church of Dallas, introduced and endorsed presidential contender Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit it was something of a jolt to hear him publicly proclaim what many Christians secretly profess.

“That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult,” Jeffress told reporters here. “Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”

There it is: “Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” That’s the bottom line. No matter how conservative you are, how in-line your values are with the Republican party, a massive chunk of the grass-roots and conservative king-makers won’t embrace you if you aren’t (the right kind of) Christian. As Andrew Sullivan says, “If you turn a political party into a church, as the GOP essentially now is, sectarianism will eventually emerge.” There is only one exception to this “don’t vote for non-Christians” rule, and that is if the only choice is between Romney and Obama.

“I’m going to instruct, I’m going to advise people that it is much better to vote for a non-Christian who embraces biblical values than to vote for a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces un-biblical values.”

Of course many conservative Christians have been trying to make the argument that Obama isn’t actually a Christian for years now. So in their minds it would be non-Christian vs non-Christian (In which case thumbs-up Romney? I guess?).

According to a Pew poll, 68% of Americans are ready to vote for a Mormon president. That support or understanding is built on a “big tent” view of Christianity. If Mormons are just another flavor of Christianity, then it’s OK to vote for them (and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been on a charm offensive for years). However, that support evaporates if you aren’t seen as religious. 61% of voters see atheism as a negative when considering a candidate, no doubt numbers are similar if you have religion but are part of a “cult” and not seen as part of the Judeo-Christian mainstream. As Jeffress would say: “Private citizens can impose all kinds of religious tests.” As it stands now a third of white evangelical Protestants (34%) say they are less likely to support a Mormon. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s a potentially damaging percentage when you take into account the fact that more than half of Republicans are evangelicals.

This is a problem for the Republicans. Not because they prefer Christians, but because Christianity is losing its hold on America, or “softening” as Duke Divinity School professor Mark Chaves would put it. If you become the party of “Christians only” (outside of rare exceptions) you’re setting yourself up for long-term demographic irrelevance. As Americans become more comfortable with atheists, agnostics, and minority religions, the more a political party whose grass-roots demand theological purity suffers. Right now we are in a place where it seems only a Christian (or possibly a Jew) could be elected president, but as the calculus changes, the groups that are more agile in embracing a post-Christian future will ultimately benefit.

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.

Forgive the nod to Nirvana, whose “Nevermind” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, but I’ve been reading an awful lot lately about accusations of paranoia regarding coverage of the Christian religious phenomenon known as Dominionism. For some reason Kurt Cobain sneering “just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you” kept entering my mind. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

In any case, ever since the presidential candidacies of Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas governor Rick Perry started making news, their connections to conservative Christian groups who espouse some form of Dominionism, a religio-political movement that seeks “influence or control over secular civil government through political action,” has been getting increased attention in the mainstream media. The three most prominent examples come from Forrest Wilder’s piece on Rick Perry in the Texas Observer, Ryan Lizza’s piece on Michele Bachmann in The New Yorker, and Michelle Goldberg’s piece on both candidates in The Daily Beast. Suddenly, “Dominionism,” a term usually relegated to small watch-dog groups and religious leaders considered to be on the fringes of mainstream society, was everywhere. All this attention seems to have rattled some cages, and a seemingly inevitable backlash against the term is in full flower.

The former spokesperson for famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham, A. Larry Ross, says that Dominionism is a “broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify” (though he also admits to not personally knowing either Bachmann or Perry). A similar line is taken by religion journalist Lisa Miller at the Washington Post, who chides journalists who use the term, and points out, like Ross, that most evangelical Christians don’t want to take over the government. Barry Hankins at the American Spectator also works to acquit evangelicals, while Jonathan Tobin at Commentary says the newest conspiracy theory is Christian “Manchurian Candidates,” and Reason magazine implies that such stories amount to a constitutionally unsound “religious test.” Even the Dominionists aren’t Dominionists anymore! As Right Wing Watch recently documented, influential New Apostolic Reformation figure C. Peter Wagner says his movement doesn’t want theocracy, just Christian influence over every sector of society (a message echoed by another influential NAR figure).

“The usual meaning of theocracy is that a nation is run by authorized representatives of the church or its functional religious equivalent. Everyone I know in NAR would absolutely reject this idea, thinking back to Constantine’s failed experiment or some of the oppressive Islamic governments today. The way to achieve dominion is not to become “America’s Taliban,” but rather to have kingdom-minded people in every one of the Seven Mountains: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business so that they can use their influence to create an environment in which the blessings and prosperity of the Kingdom of God can permeate all areas of society.”

So is this coverage just secular paranoia from the journalistic elite, one that bares a longstanding bias against pious Christians? The smaller media outlets that have been covering these theocratic tendencies among the Christian fringes are now responding, starting with Peter Montgomery, associate editor at Religion Dispatches.

“…this is not a movement dreamed up by people with no understanding of Christianity who simply want to stir up fear of conservative evangelicals. The increasingly widespread use of “Seven Mountains” rhetoric reflects an effort by a broad swath of conservative evangelical leadership to adopt a shared set of talking points, if you will, to unite theologically disparate elements in common political cause to defeat the Satanic/demonic enemies of faith and freedom: secularists, gays, liberals, and the Obama administration.”

Montgomery also blasts the false equivalencies being made by defenders of conservative Christianity’s honor, asking to see “the evidence for this leftist anti-Christian jihad.” Meanwhile, the folks at Talk To Action are surprised at the ignorance some journalists are displaying when trying to downplay Dominionist influence, and are quick to point out that groups like the New Apostolic Reformation are an “egregiously underreported sector of the Religious Right – not a conspiracy.”

In the book “Gravity’s Rainbow” Thomas Pynchon writes that “if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” When you start getting peppered with questions like: “do you think all evangelicals want a theocracy,” or “do you believe Rick Perry/Michele Bachmann is a brainwashed Manchurian Candidate,” the inevitable negative answers from most corners will simply return us to a more comfortable frame of reference. Instead of getting answers to questions about why several political figures mingle, hobnob, and praise individuals who do call for something that looks very much like theocracy, or why these extremist elements seem to be getting absorbed into mainstream  conservative Christianity, we become mired in discussions over terminology and whether evangelical Christianity is being treated fairly. Still, as Adele Stan at AlterNet points out, this flurry of denials and reframing is actually something of a victory.

“Believe it or not, for progressive reporters, Miller’s high-profile denial is something of a victory, for it means the work of investigative journalists for progressive publications is making its mark on the more mainstream outlets, as when the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza echoed Sarah Posner’s reporting for Religion Dispatches in his profile of Bachmann, or when Michelle Goldberg built on the dogged research of Rachel Tabachnick (writing here for AlterNet) and others for her Daily Beast piece on dominionism’s claim on both Perry and Bachmann.”

For me, the bottom line is how a candidate will treat religious minorities once given the chief executive’s job. The arguments over terminology mask the fact that rhetoric, associations, and intentions do matter when we’re talking about national politics. As I pointed out recently at the Washington Post, even things said before an individual becomes president can be later interpreted into policy at high levels.

“Due to the unique “bully pulpit” power possessed by our Commander in Chief even comments made before a politician becomes president can later be interpreted into policy by his administration. There is a strong indication this happened during the presidency of George W. Bush, who famously remarked in 1999 that “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion, and I wish the military would take another look at this and decide against it.” In this case “it” was allowing Pagan soldiers to freely practice their religion at Fort Hood in Texas, but nearly a decade later the Washington Post reported on a case involving grave markers for fallen Pagan soldiers where Barry Lynn of Americans United said that discovery documents showed “references to Bush’s remarks … in memos and e-mails within the VA.” In Lynn’s opinion “the president’s wishes were interpreted at a pretty high level.” In short, rhetoric, especially when you go on to lead the world’s most powerful nation, does matter, as does the rhetoric of those who have played king-maker during the election.”

If a politician builds up a proven track record of hostility towards non-Christian faiths, or associates without qualm with those who do, as I believe Michele Bachmann has, then there is great risk in allowing these figures to lead a secular multi-religious nation. These debates over how much influence figures from various extremist Christian groups truly have isn’t simply an academic matter for those who don’t benefit from Christian privilege. Even if someone like Rick Perry isn’t a true believer and is cynically hitching his wagon to the horses he thinks will help win him the race, the tide of an elected president raises all boats, and we would see figures who believe that Pagans are demonically controlled suddenly granted new levels of access to power. That’s scary, because as the recently-released West Memphis 3 can tell you, Satanic panics are nothing to laugh off. Or as veteran Lakota journalist Tim Giago says: “Watching political candidates for the highest office in this land standing on podiums espousing their individual religious beliefs as gospel for all of us takes me back to those days when priests and ministers led the assault on the indigenous people using the Bible as a weapon of mass destruction.”

No doubt to some Christians this will all seem like paranoia, but I would surmise that most of them didn’t suddenly realize one day why their parents never revealed their religion to them as children. I know that most Christians could care less about what Pagans get up to (I’m grateful for that, and reciprocate their general lack of concern), but I know that the ones who do crave the ears (and souls) of influential individuals with an unrestrained passion. The trouble is that it only takes a few well-placed individuals to make things difficult for those who don’t toe some arbitrary theological/cultural line. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because some of this sounds paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after us.

Top Story: In the second part of a six-part series on the geopolitical ramifications of global warming in the Arctic, NPR’s Morning Edition focuses on Russia’s aggressive push to claim waterways and resources becoming available as the Arctic ice melts. One group that is particularly concerned over the rush to claim the Arctic is the indigenous Saami people, a group native to the Kola Peninsula of Russia. NPR interviews traditional singer Nadezhda Lyashenko, who discusses the environmental consequences of this rush to exploit one of the few remaining untouched regions on our planet.

Nadezhda Lyashenko. Photo: David Greene/NPR

The indigenous people of this region bore much of the brunt. The Saami tribe, for one, has lived centuries in Russia’s northwest, near the Norwegian border. Saami people were forcibly collectivized on farms under Stalin. Nadezhda Lyashenko, the Saami woman singing traditional tribal music here, can recount the horror stories. Her grandfather, a reindeer shepherd, was shot in 1937, accused of being a spy after he crossed into Finland chasing a reindeer herd. After decades of relative peace, Lyashenko says, trouble seems to be returning to her native Arctic lands. She sees Russia and other world powers in a race for oil and gas, ignoring the potential impact to a part of the Earth that’s been rarely touched. “The Arctic is just so fragile,” she says. “This time, it’s a research boat going out there. It’s like the prick of a needle, and the land will heal. But if they go with knives, with spears, they could break everything. And then what?”

The Saami and other indigenous peoples living in or near the Arctic, on the front lines of global climate change, could have much to teach us, if we are willing to listen. Sadly, the rights and concerns of the Saami are often ignored, or greeted with hostility by those who want economic development at any cost. For those who identify with the indigenous peoples and culture of Europe, the plight and position of the Saami should be of great concern. The trend of indigenous rights being undermined needs to be halted and reversed.

In Other News:

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

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.

Today’s the day! Texas Governor Rick Perry’s massive prayer rally “The Response” is now underway, and you can watch the multi-hour conservative Christian extravaganza via streaming video (if you’re into that sort of thing). They are even live-tweeting the event.

"His agenda is not a political agenda, His agenda is a salvation agenda." Governor Rick Perry speaking at #TheResponse
@theresponseusa
The Response

I have weighed in on this event before, and on the troubling inclusion of leaders from the anti-Pagan New Apostolic Reformation (among others). Despite criticisms that this a (conservative) Christians-only affair that some feel transgresses church-state boundariesEric Bearse, former speechwriter and Director of Communications for Rick Perry, now official spokesman for “The Response,” says that the event is inclusive and that non-Christians are “excluding themselves” if they don’t attend (of course he also said that a main goal of the event is to bring people to Christianity, so you can forgive us non-Christians for excluding ourselves).

As the event approached, several news outlets, pundits, and advocacy organizations rushed to have their say before things got underway. Paul Burka shared eight things you ought to know about Rick Perry (“Perry is a hard man. He is the kind of politician who would rather be feared than loved—or respected.”), Bill Leonard at the Associated Baptist Press wondered if Christianity is “so needy, so limited in vision that it requires political privilege to undergird its message,” Paul Harvey at the Religion in American History blog called the event “egregiously sectarian and transparently partisan, “ and Paul Horwitz at the New York Times noted that by “emphasizing creeds, not deeds, Mr. Perry encourages the very divisions that [Abraham] Lincoln believed lay at the root of America’s ills.” You can also find news reports from the New York Times and the Associated Press regarding Rick Perry and “The Response.”

If watching hours of streaming Christian-oriented video isn’t your thing, you can check in on Houston Chronicle religion reporter Kate Shellnutt’s live-blog of the event for key details, or swing by Right Wing Watch now and then, as they are already excerpting politically-charged bits from the live stream. I’ll be checking in with the aftermath, to see what this event may (or may not) signal for religious minorities in the United States.

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.

I don’t know how Right Wing Watch digs this stuff up, but gods bless ‘em for it. Below is a video of controversial pastor John Hagee, an endorser of  upcoming prayer event The Response, and a man potential presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry has “worked to cultivate” a relationship with.

Here’s the entire uncut sermon.

As scrutiny of The Response grows, organizers seem to be getting a little nervous. Is that why the link to the endorsers page has disappeared from the website? Back in 2008 John Hagee was too extreme for John McCain, but Dallas Morning News religion reporter Wayne Slater says that you shouldn’t “expect Rick Perry to do the same if he runs.” If so, we’ll have a Republican candidate who proudly accepts the endorsement of pastor who rejects pluralism and blames “paganism” for society’s ills.

I’ll be writing a special opinion piece about this for The Washington Post this week. I’ll let you know when it’s up.