Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Unconfirmed Personal Gnosis

Monday, January 26th, 2009

(I wrote to a pagan friend who lives in a small town and doesn’t know any other pagans in person, suggesting that he could benefit from finding some.)

W., you need to get a — do you say coven? anyway, a group that you can practice with.

He replied:

ugh…no thank you.  Why do I need a Coven?  I adore the Freedom that being a solitary affords me.  I try to revive, and construct, a Cult of the Morrighan (and not many strictly worship Her alone). Although, Covens, strictly, are very authoritarian, where the HPs [high priestess] “rules” it, without any whiff of democracy.  Traditionally-speaking, anyway.

Although, as soon as I shall move to DM, I will find some Pagans to pal around with, at least.

So, why do you believe I am in need of a Coven again, exactly?  And, please be HIGHLY specific (and detailed!), for my analytical mind.

Okay, maybe not a formal coven with an authoritarian high priestess. But some kind of circle of like-minded people. 

To pal around with, for one thing. But also as a support system, both for spiritual growth and for general life issues. You share what you have been trying and how it turns out, other people will say it works for them too, or it reminds them of something similar but different. In so doing, the insights you and the others perceive are tested in the discernment of the whole group. And you are mutually accountable to each other for how you use or neglect to use the truths you discover.

Now here is an example from my own experience. The specifics are different from what you will be dealing with, but it illustrates how people in a group can help each other come to realizations that they might not have reached on their own. Last Sunday when we were doing some extensive reflections on the readings, C. said that it had never seemed meaningful to her to be concerned with salvation in the traditional Christian sense of the term. It just wasn’t important to her. She asked the rest of us how we felt. I said that for me, the assurance of salvation means that I don’t have to worry about salvation. The fear that I might at any time fall out of God’s favor is precisely what I have been saved from. I had said that before, but C.’s question prodded me to go further. I said that was one of the good things I got from my Southern Baptist upbringing, the absolute confidence that I am in no danger of hell’s fires. Then I realized it was the Southern Baptists who emphasized the need to be saved from hell in the first place. In other words they supplied both the poison and the antidote. Where does that put them, ethically speaking?

This might not mean much to you. I’m writing it because it was on my mind recently. Although the details would all be different if you were in a group of like-minded seekers, the same general advantages would prevail. Different people would bring to the group their differing strengths and learning styles and life experiences, which can result in everyone growing in ways they might not have by themselves. Some hermits have gone out into the desert to work and meditate by themselves, but most people find it helps to have the support and encouragement of other people.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.

Christmas Music

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

I’ve come to appreciate liturgical traditions that make a clear distinction between Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany music, so here are some of my favorites for each.


What I Learned on Thanksgiving

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Men can cook.

That’s what I learned this Thanksgiving (1993). Men can prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, given enough time, a willingness to experiment and take risks, and a lack of women willing or able to do it for them. (more…)

How Being Gay Has Been a Spiritual Blessing for Me

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

If I had not had to come to terms with being gay, my worldview would probably have been formed by my training in science. I might have gone overboard on rationality and disbelieved anything that couldn’t be objectively proven.

But I was forced to confront feelings welling up inside myself which my education did not tell me how to handle. I learned to accept, value, and live my orientation on my own. I did not conduct any scientific research to discover that homosexuality is normal; certainly no public opinion poll. I learned a basic truth about myself, and something about the world as well, by introspection and meditation.

The way I grew from this experience has kept me open to the idea that other truths might be learned in similar ways. If I could learn a little bit, maybe someone else could learn greater spiritual or philosophical truths by inspiration and revelation.

Another way I have been blessed by being gay is that it narrowed my range of choices for spiritual community. In order to find a church where I could be openly gay, I had to join a small congregation. Ames Mennonite Church has ranged from 8 to 20 members. When there are so few people, there are many tasks to share. This has challenged me to exercise skills and gifts I might never have known I had. These are some of the things I have done: treasurer, chair of business meetings, secretary, member of worship/nurture committee, member of pastor search committee, worship leader, giving sermons, hosting social events, and delegate to conferences. I don’t know how I escaped editing the newsletter.

What Jesus Said About Divorce

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Okay, let’s look at just what Jesus meant when he spoke of divorce. After some study, I contend that to summarize Jesus’ words as simply “never divorce” overlooks an important part of the message.


Bible as Record

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Andynude wrote:

Those that understand their faith can talk about it in their own words and not resort to “cos it says so in the Bible”

Kathleen replied:

Actually, a Christian citing scripture –to us–is more like the supreme court judges citing from the constitution. We gain understanding from the Bible. God speaks to all of us personally but the Bible contains the only words from God that we can all look to as one.

I replied:


That’s a very well-put, concise statement of a view that I don’t quite


Richard Dawkins Blames Religion for 9/11

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

My first reaction to Richard Dawkins’ article is that it is moderately subtle Muslim-baiting.

My second reaction is that he does have something of a point, but he is painting it with a too broad brush. All of the prophets have taught that how we live our lives in this world is immensely important; we shouldn’t be concerned only with an afterlife. Just what does Dawkins mean by “religion,” anyway? And “religions of the Abrahamic kind,” to use his overly clever phrase?