Archives For Rick Warren

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.

Design by Jeff Leiboff.

Design by Jeff Leiboff.

Actors portraying Angela Sanford and Joel Levya.

Actors portraying Angela Sanford and Joel Levya.

  • Angela Sanford, a Wiccan who killed Joel Leyva in what some media described as a ritualistic sacrifice, has had a request for a reduced sentence denied. Sanford has been sentenced to 20 years under a plea agreement, her story was recently dramatized on the show Fatal Encounters.
  • The Pagan community has been in the process of having a debate/discussion over the issue of obesity. It started with a post by Peter Dybing, and has been raging ever since. Notable responses have come from Star Foster,  Iris Firemoon, and  Kitsune Yokai at the Fat Pagan blog, with Margot Adler, Crystal Blanton, and Shauna Aura adding their voices in the comments of Peter’s blog. The most recent commentary on the question of health and obesity comes from T. Thorn Coyle: “There is some real dialogue, some hurt feelings, some anger, and some derision. Bottom line is this: we all have ways in which we do not walk our talk. Bottom line is this: we cannot know what another’s life looks like on the inside, by observing it from the outside.” As this conversation  no doubt continues, I hope we can steer clear of judging bodies, and instead focus on building a more supportive community for everyone.
  • At The Revealer, Alex Thurston writes about syncretism in Islam within the context of Mali and the destruction of Sufi shrines. Quote: “The alternative – and the greatest challenge to Ansar al Din’s program – is not to assert Islamists’ hidden love for the things they say they hate, but to assert the reality, the desirability, and the possibility that there is more than one way to be a real Muslim. Timbuktu in 2012 is not Mecca in 630. African Muslims are Muslims, full stop. And the loss of shrines in Timbuktu is a loss not only for world civilization and for locals, but also for Islam.”
  • PNC-Minnesota recently published two interviews, one with M. Macha NightMare, and one with Lady Yeshe Rabbit, who will be appearing at Sacred Harvest Fest. Quote: “I am bringing an open mind. I am interested in learning and sampling from you all the regional flavors of your community. I am bringing my own classes and rituals that I will be leading. One is a project that has been dear to my consciousness, called American Sabbats. It is looking at the secular, bank holidays of this country and their history, and the amount of energy that is generated within them. How the energy of those holidays, which many of us celebrate in addition to our Pagan holidays,  might be channeled toward the greater good of our country. There are many changes needed in our country in order to be healthy. I am curious to go and sample what the opinions and thoughts are of all of you who have a unique experience of America from your vantage point in the Midwest.”
  •  The US Dept. of Justice is supporting Native American inmates in their quest to have a South Dakota ban on using tobacco in religious ceremonies lifted. You can read the DOJ’s supporting brief, here.
  • Nicholas Campion, author of “Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions,” shares an excerpt of his book at HuffPo’s religion section. Quote: “The ancient zodiac signs survive in the modern West because, uniquely, in an age of aggressive consumerism, media-overload and scientific materialism, they encourage people to reflect on themselves and their inner worlds; their hopes, fears and secret motivations. In mass culture, astrology replaces the remote scientific language of relativity and light-years with stories of love and luck. In an era when we are now aware that we live on an insignificant planet on the edge of a minor galaxy, astrology restores each individual to the center of their own cosmos. According to its practitioners it provides a sense of personal meaning and purpose and, sometimes, a guide to action. Both astrology’s advocates and its critics find rare agreement on this point. This has nothing to do with the truth of astrology’s claims, but it does explain its survival in the 21st century.”

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.

Saddleback Church’s evangelical mega-pastor Rick Warren has announced that he’ll be holding another presidential forum, just as he famously did in 2008 with Barack Obama and John McCain. While nothing is confirmed yet, it is tentatively scheduled for the end of August and will supposedly work “to promote social civility so that people with major disagreements (can) talk without beating each other up.” However, neither President Obama nor Republican challenger Mitt Romney should be fooled, this is an exercise in conservative Christian power, a religious litmus test in all but name.

John McCain, Rick Warren, and Barack Obama.

John McCain, Rick Warren, and Barack Obama.

Obama should consider that Warren either lied about his plans for the 2008 forum or bowed to pressure from other conservatives regarding the topics up for discussion. In the week before the earlier event, Warren told TIME’s David van Biema that his questions would center on four areas: poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change, and human rights. “There is no Christian religious test,” said Warren. The night of forum, however, Warren stuck to a more conservative script, quizzing the candidates about gay marriage, judges, and abortion—and only briefly touching on poverty and climate change. As one progressive religious leader told me at the time: “They hadn’t done their research on Warren. Obama wasn’t prepared for the Saddleback thing at all, and Warren bushwhacked him.”

Pastor Rick Warren has an entirely undeserved reputation as a “moderate” evangelical Christian because has no trouble being courted by Democrats, or signing toothless global warming documents. In truth, the man who has sold countless “Purpose Driven Life” books is lock-step with the evangelical mainstream on almost all social and theological issues. He’s for banning same-sex marriage, doesn’t believe in evolution, and only spoke out against draconian anti-gay legislation in Uganda (he had ties to one of the bill’s supporters) after immense public pressure. The only real difference between Warren and many other figures within the realm of conservative Christianity is his genial self-help-book-writer tone. In short, this is not a man I’d trust to explore alone the serious moral and ethical questions inherent to the world’s more powerful job, because there’s only one moral and ethical standard he’s truly capable of understanding.

“Some of the questions Pastor Warren posed crossed the line and promoted the fiction that the American people are electing a pastor-in-chief, rather than a commander-in-chief. Questions like ‘What does it mean to trust in Christ?’ create a religious test for public office and should have no place in the political discourse for a secular office. America is the most religiously diverse country in the world, and Christianity is only one of those faith traditions. Millions of voters who tuned in tonight will feel disenfranchised by some of the questions posed in this forum.” - Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance

Around 20% of Americans fall outside the accepted boundaries of the Abrahamic traditions (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) entirely. If we’re talking just non-Christians, then the number is about 22%. Around 18% of American Christians belong to (generally more liberal) Mainline Protestant Churches. Catholics claim  24% of the population. Evangelical Christians make up around 26% of religious adherents in the United States, the largest faith grouping in America, but does their size justify the prominence of place they seem to now inhabit in national politics? The margins are small enough that it seems like folly to think that the moral concerns of an evangelical pastor will line up with a the concerns of all the other groups. It’s more a testament to the organizing power of conservative protestants, than a true reflection of their demographic weight or cultural influence.

The reason Obama and Romney are so eager to engage in what is a de facto religious test for office is that each want to convince different parts of American evangelical culture to vote for them. Obama wants the “small but significant chunks of white evangelical voters” that helped propel to the White House in 2008 to do so again (an uphill climb considering his evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage). Romney, meanwhile, will try convince still-skeptical evangelicals that he lines up with their moral values, despite belonging to a “false religion” (Mormonism). Both will emphasize their commitment to Christ, and Christian values. All of which is great, if you’re an evangelical Christian. You get two hours of presidential candidates making the case directly to you that they support, or at least respect, your moral universe. For everyone else, from liberal Christians to Hindus, you’re reminded that your vote, and the issues you’re most concerned about, aren’t quite as important.

When voters are indirectly told that one kind of religion, or even one kind of Christianity, is the one that gets catered to on the national stage, the one that needs to be wooed, we enter dangerous ground. We are told subtle lies about what’s foundational in our nation, that we were not built on Enlightenment values with a commitment to secular pluralism, but that instead we are a “Christian Nation” and all non-Christians (or Christians who aren’t the right kind of Christians) exist here by either a quirk of fate, the erosion of values, or the sufferance of the not-so-silent majority. It says that on matters of faith, presidents are accountable to the Rick Warren’s of this world, not to the “others” (or “nones”). This creates a narrative where morality is debated only within a spectrum acceptable to the most politically powerful faiths, where pundits can say straight-faced what “religious” people believe about an issue while really only talking to one subset of Christianity.

When you factor in the vast amount of theological (and political) diversity in the world’s religions, from indigenous traditions to pacifist Quakers, the amount of room between, say, “religious left” titan Jim Wallis and Rev. Dennis “non-Christians get out” Terry, starts to seem pretty arbitrary to those outside the halls of power looking in. It’s “lefty” Jesus vs. “righty” Jesus, but guess what, one acceptable face or another of Christian power always wins. This isn’t just bad for non-Christians, it’s bad for authentic Christianity as well. Jefferson was smart enough to know that religious wars could tear our nation apart should we appear to favor one over another, so he smartly built a “wall of separation” to avoid the problem.

Perhaps there was a time when it was acceptable, even necessary, for our nation to use Christianity as a source of unity, but if that time truly existed it has long since past. We live in a age where American diversity isn’t just a slogan, it’s real, and religious pluralism is happening in the atomic structure of our society every day whether we want it or not. Allowing Rick Warren to be our nation’s religious moderator is a bad idea, one that both candidates should reject. I can’t imagine that John F. Kennedy, our nation’s first Catholic president, would have participated in this religious test disguised as a forum.

“I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it. I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.”

“Even by indirection,” which I argue includes a forum supposedly about moral issues, but asks questions about trusting Christ, a topic immaterial to every non-Christian voter. We have allowed this to happen, we have allowed one group to set the rules of engagement in the public sphere when it comes to faith and morality. Conservative evangelicals have been masterful in becoming political power players in the span of a generation, and the rest of us have been busy playing defense. This has to end, and the best place to start would be for Obama and Romney to tell Rick Warren “no.” Failing that, American people of all faiths need to reengage with our political process, no matter what their party or ideology, so that we can embrace the pluralistic promise of our nation, and put an end to litmus tests in all but name.

ADDENDUM: Obama campaign officials have stated that there will be no joint pre-debate appearances, so it looks like Warren was a bit premature to imply that both campaigns had agreed to appear.

Post-Solstice Catch-Up

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 22, 2008 — 3 Comments

Here’s a quick look at some stories of note that you may have missed over the Solstice weekend. First, I would like to quote author Deepak Chopra on the controversy over Barack Obama picking Rick “friendlier version of James Dobson” Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.

“In the midst of controversy over picking Rick Warren to offer an invocation, it’s been overlooked that reality is shifting in America. We are a largely secular society where the vast majority of people do not attend church. When religion enters the picture, we are a pluralistic society, not a Christian one. The right wing may posture as if Christianity deserves special privilege and pride of place. Their posturing has convinced a lot of people for the past twenty years, but it’s high time we threw the whole charade out the window. Barack Obama got in trouble with Jeremiah Wright and now he’s in more trouble with Rick Warren. He should take this as a lager lesson. Anyone he chooses to invoke God at his inauguration will be divisive, either overtly or covertly.”

I think that Obama the pragmatic centrist may have outsmarted himself this time around. For some specifically Pagan responses to the Warren pick, check out Medusa Coils, Thudfactor, Radical Goddess Thealogy, On Holladay, and The Pagan Sphinx.

What happens when your religion doesn’t have a goddess? Does it try to create one? The Boston Globe interviews Miri Rubin, author of “Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary”, who reveals some interesting tidbits about the development of Mary in the Christian Church.

“There developed a representation of Mary, a little statue, that when the statue was opened up, almost like a Russian doll, you found inside a representation of the Trinity, and this is to say that within Mary was everything, and it’s all englobed and so on. And theologians say this is absolutely abhorrent, this is not historical, this is totally ridiculous.”

Sounds awfully like a Mother Goddess to me. But then, to me, some corners of present-day global Mariolotry seem little more than a sanctified Christian manifestation of a goddess religion.

A paper in northwest Florida looks back at a year of suspicious goat decapitations, and interviews Dee Thompson, director of animal services for PAWS (Okaloosa County’s Panhandle Animal Welfare Society), about the killings. Thompson, who previously conjectured the killings might be connected to Palo Mayombe (which they described as a “dark” branch of Santeria) doesn’t seem so sure of the religious angle now.

“It was a long, strange year of cases for PAWS, Fort Walton Beach police and Okaloosa sheriff’s deputies. Between Aug. 26, 2007, and Aug. 6, 2008, nine goats turned up headless. None of them were traceable. After the ninth incident, Thompson had begun to wonder if it was personal. In 2007, Thompson was tasked with collecting a rape kit from a mutilated dead goat in Mossy Head in Walton County. Bacteria destroyed her DNA sample, but not before investigators determined it was human. As gruesome as the incident was, that goat became a running joke in town. And because Thompson was the one who tested it, she suspected someone might be toying with her.”

So it might have been a sick twisted joke at her expense and not some sort of dark religious spectacle? Too bad the press was so reluctant to give more time and space to theories that didn’t involve “the occult” or Santeria.

The Wisconsin State Journal sits down for a drink with Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox and talks about the Winter Solstice, legal issues affecting Pagans, and how Circle is faring during the economic downturn.

“I think there’s general stress, so it’s really important as we go into the solstice time to not only cherish what we have, but to really strengthen our connection with family and friends — our support network. Just as I encourage people to kindle light to brighten their solstice, I think it’s also a good idea to remember that life as a journey has rough spots and smooth spots. It’s important to look at challenges as opportunities to move in new and better directions.”

Fox says that 2009 will see them focus on developing a green cemetery for Pagans, and a possible trip to Australia for the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

In a final note, Dispatches From the Culture Wars notes the passing of the notoriously anti-Pagan bigot (and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation) Paul Weyrich.

“One wonders what principle he was refusing to bend upon and what “moral courage” Weyrich was showing when, in 1999, he launched a campaign to get Christians to boycott joining the military until Wiccans were banned from joining the armed services. The only “principles” at work there were bigotry and discrimination … this is a man … who hated the very notion that anyone he doesn’t approve of had religious freedom.”

The blog post reprints one of Weyrich’s anti-Pagan rants, in which he calls Wicca “evil” and claims that allowing Pagans into the military will cause God to withdraw his protection from American troops (this is a guy who thought Pat Robertson was too liberal). For more on Weyrich’s nuttery, click here. He is no doubt in heaven with Jerry Falwell, where they can commiserate about the wickedness of Pagans until the end of time.

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