St. PAUL, Minn. — A Pagan with the Upper Mississippi Reclaiming group, John Slade, is running for the Minnesota House. He works as a community organizer and grant writer. Slade is seeking the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) nomination to represent the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. In that state, the progressive Farmer-Labor Party merged with the more centrist Democratic Party in 1944 to form the DFL. The DFL is affiliated with the national Democratic Party. Slade describes himself as a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter.
Slade works as an open Pagan in a multi-faith housing initiative. He described his experience in the following way: “I’m not in the ‘broom’ closet, but I’m not proselytizing. I have not found any negative reaction.”
Slade has found that having common secular goals allows people of different faiths to work together. Seeking converts threatens that functional unity.
For Slade, secular political work and spiritual practice have intermingled. He describes Athena as “a protector of democracy and democratic systems.” In his daily sitting meditation, Slade casts a circle in his mind and invokes The Mysterious Ones. In the Reclaiming tradition that term refers to deities, spirit guides, ancestors of blood, and ancestors of spirit.
Slade considers the former Minnesota Governor, Floyd Olson, to be one of his ancestors of spirit. Olson, in his opinion, personifies the progressive and political traditions of that state. Slade not only encounters Olson in his meditations, but he also leaves offerings of flowers at Olson’s statue in St. Paul.
The Buddhist activist, Joanna Macy, has also influenced Slade’s spiritual and political work. Macy has described the multiple, interlocking current crises as an opportunity for a Great Turning of the Wheel.
Using Macy’s work, members of the Reclaiming tradition and others developed the Pentacle of the Great Turning. People can work with this Pentacle as a meditative tool, similar to the Iron or Pearl Pentacles. This pentacle facilitates turning the Wheel in a healing direction. Slade himself works with this pentacle.
Slade also shared that his adopted son is one-quarter Mexican. This has changed Slade’s observance of the celebration of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). He has ceased to be an outsider from another tradition, and has become the guardian and nurturer of a minor’s cultural heritage. He is now off to the side gaining an entirely new perspective.
Slade does not expect his spiritual practice to be an issue in the upcoming election. Instead, he feels it may have certain advantages. Minneapolis-St. Paul is often referred to as “Paganistan” due to its large Pagan population.
He also said, “Being a little bit off to the side, I might be able to see some things more clearly.” Lacking a known and knowable revealed Truth, Paganism accepts multiple truths, he explained. Having multiple perspectives can help to avoid a belief in only one capital “T” truth, and this, he believes, could make building coalitions and consensus easier.
Unlike other states, Minnesota has a mixed caucus and primary system rather than a primary only system. On February 6, 2018, precincts will hold caucuses. These caucuses will select representatives to then go and endorse one particular candidates March 10.
Someone has to win at least 60 percent of the vote to receive the Democratic Party/DFL endorsement. If no one receives 60 percent or more of the vote on that day, a candidate will be selected at the primary held in August.
In his district, only the Democratic/DFL nomination matters. Slade said, “This district has not elected a Republican in over 30 years. It went from white working class union folks to black and brown working class folks.”
Slade provided the following estimate of the racial breakdown of this district. About 40 percent of people in this district identified as White, 25 percent as Asian, 18 percent as Black, and 15 percent Latino. About 2 percent identified as multi-racial, Native American, or some other racial or ethnic group.
He also noted that the Hmong, a Laotian refugee group, has formed in St. Paul and is the city’s largest Asian group. In the US, only Fresno, California has such a large Hmong population. And according to Slade, about 70 percent of the Hmong have a traditional animistic and shamanistic religion.
Slade described himself as a regular reader of the Wild Hunt. He said, “If anybody is in Minneapolis-St. Paul area, they should feel free to contact me through my website.”
People wanting more information, or to support Slade’s campaign, should visit his website, SladeFortheEastSide.com.