I cannot believe the brouhaha over VP Mike Pence’s comments that he won’t dine alone or meet alone with women in order to protect his marriage. Gods forbid a man make choices that support his personal and religious ethics and commitment to the woman he married. I wasn’t planning on writing anything on this, but having been in two discussions and recently seen the mess at Patheos Pagan portal, I felt moved to weigh in. Pence doesn’t need “consent culture” as Beckett so naively assumes, but maybe Pagans need to develop a sense of traditional values.
While I disagree with almost every point of Pence’s political policy, I fully support the respect and mindfulness with which he treats his marriage. This isn’t a matter of having little respect for women, or of thinking himself incapable of control. It’s a matter of simple common sense. He is refusing to put himself in a situation where A) he might be tempted to break his vows (temptations happen, we’re biological creatures) and B) where he might be perceived as unethical or worse falsely accused. Frankly, given the insanity of the left I don’t blame him one bit. I would never want to put someone I loved through that.
But moreover, this is common policy in some fields. I teach and my supervisors have always told us not to meet privately with students of either gender. We were counseled to always crack a door open and to meet in the department when and where other professors were present. This protects not only the faculty member, but the student too. It’s also not an uncommon practice across religions. This is every day for devout Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and many denominations of Christians. I do this to some degree. Since I married I don’t meet with male clients privately. My work-around is having studio space where someone else is almost always present and I schedule those client meetings when the CPA in the next office over and his receptionist are going to be present. It’s a matter of respect and avoiding the impression of impropriety. (For the record, my husband doesn’t care whether or not I do this and finds it old fashioned and amusing).
The question that I would ask VP Pence, and that I’d drill hard for an answer is this: what are your work-arounds? How do you ensure that these practices don’t unfairly discriminate against your female co workers?
I have quite a lot of religious taboos and I can tell you that there are always work- arounds. There are always ways of accommodating one’s secular work while adhering to one’s religious principles. It takes a bit of thought and sometimes a bit of creativity but there are always ways to accommodate both (or almost always).
I don’t know why everyone is getting so worked up over this. This is their personal choice, the way they respect their commitment to marriage. The only ones who really have a say in this are Pence and his wife and yet even having or presenting a traditional marriage based on values is so shocking in this day and age that all these people need to jump in and tell them that maybe Mrs. Pence should be doing a slutwalk instead. Have any women come forward alleging discrimination by Pence because of this? Would they be happier if his career was mired in the kinds of scandals that Bill Clinton and Anthony Wiener have? Would they be happier if some poor aide was coerced into a sexual situation with him because that’s the norm in DC today? The culture has fallen so low that they can only wallow in degeneracy, promiscuity, and lack of willpower. The idea of holding to a standard is ‘triggering’ to them. It’s not surprising that many of the Pagans speaking about this were the ones who defended Kenny Klein and attacked the family that he abused. This kind of permissive, anything goes attitude, which is in stark contrast to the values of our ancestors, is going to ensure that there is no future for these communities.
Finally, if you value something you make both choices and sacrifices to preserve it. Virtue doesn’t just happen. As any of our ancestors would tell us, it takes thought and constant vigilance. It takes cultivation. Why is it always about sexual permissiveness? If one really values consent, then that includes the decision to abstain from fucking everyone and everything on the planet; it includes the decision to honor one’s commitments. But no, the person with values is always the one attacked because in the end, they don’t want us to have values because values lead to traditions and culture and the ability to see through hardship.
Kenaz has a new post up here. He points out that John Beckett’s posts on purity, sin, and miasma have spurred many interested discussions in the blogosphere.
It’s certainly sparked amazing examples of poor reasoning and illogic from rhyd wildermuth. i wonder what it is like in his head? i’d love to know how he equates maintaining proper ritual purity before the Gods to genocide against Jews and Romany. I mean, does he look down on Jews and Romany to the point that this is where HE would go, and thus cannot conceive of motivations that focus specifically on the Gods? Or is he rather tryign to bring up a straw argument, to damn those who do care about the Gods, traditions, and keeping themselves clean and in a state of proper receptivity to the Powers?
Apparently basic religious standards are now “oppression.”
To quote Kenaz:
Piety sees the state as an integral part of things. Rhyd and his cabal see the state as a tool of oppression that will ultimately wither away. Piety treasures the things which set you and your people apart. Rhyd and his see those differences as war waiting to happen and want to sand them down.
It’s perhaps time, we considered the full implications of their agenda.
I recently skimmed through a Patheos article titled “The Two Obligations of Good Religion”, which posited that good religion was there to heal the world and heal ourselves. Not bad goals I suppose, and the article (which I believe was originally a sermon?) was not bad, but I don’t think that’s at all what religion is for. (We just can’t help ourselves. We’ll make everything human centric if we can).
From the perspective of many polytheisms, religion is there to A). serve, honor, and venerate the Gods, first and foremost. It is about the Gods and about our ancestors and maintaining our ancestral traditions (1) and B) to maintain balance in the world. Good polytheism acknowledges the cosmic hierarchy of Gods – ancestors – land spirits-community (people). Maintaining right relationship within that hierarchy is what leads to health and abundance. (2)
This does not mean that working to establish and remain in right relationship with the Powers doesn’t inspire a person to do good works and to be deeply engaged within the community. It does and it should but that is a side effect from getting oneself rightly ordered. There’s a saying by one of the ancient philosophers (I forget by whom at the moment) that the Gods are not there to provide virtue. It is our job to nourish it and when we do that, They will help augment what we ourselves have carefully tended. I think that’s an important point. Caring for the world and ourselves is good but it is not religion.(3)Religion is about the Gods and the protocols of our relationship with Them. It is about learning how to engage in healthy ways with the Holy, being changed by that, inspired by that and bringing all of that back into our homes, lives, and communities.
We care for the world because it is sacred and alive, because it is holy –the body of one of our dearest of Gods. We heal ourselves because the process of coming into right relationship with the Powers forces us to do just that; but we practice our religions because it is right and proper to honor the Gods and ancestors in these ways. To mistake effect for purpose is to end up unable to differentiate between sophistry and prayer, or social justice work and piety.
Maybe in the long run it doesn’t matter: after all, helping the world is a good thing, as is healing ourselves but whenever the purpose of religion gets discussed, it always seems like the Gods get elided out of that equation. Religion is Their territory, Their space and I think it’s important for our own integrity of practice (not to mention cleanliness) that we understand the difference between human space and sacred – i.e. God owned—space, and what constitutes right priorities in each. Our traditions deserve that, as do our Gods.
1. Cicero posited that the word ‘religio’ from which we get our word ‘religion’ meant to be bound to the ways of one’s ancestors. He was likely wrong about the etymology but not necessarily about the ideology.
2. The Romans called this the “Pax Deorum” or ‘peace of the Gods.”
3. I very much believe that true health and happiness comes from proper veneration of the Holy Powers and from rooting oneself within our polytheistic traditions. It is, however, a side effect not a goal.
John Beckett wrote an excellent article here. He very plainly states that polytheism equals theism and apparently this is a controversial idea to many of the commenters. Apparently they’ve never looked the word up in the dictionary. *snorts* If you don’t believe in the existence of many Gods, you’re NOT a polytheist. Why this is difficult for some people to comprehend, I’ll never understand. Anyway, the article is really good. Go and read it.
John Beckett just wrote a really nice essay on re-enchanting the world over at Patheos. What I think I like the most about it, is that he gives really simple, clear-cut steps for just about anyone (regardless of level of practice, length of practice, religion, etc.) to do just that. It’s definitely worth a read.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, re-enchantment. Or to be more accurate, I’ve been contemplating the causes of our dis-enchantment because I think it’s the thing that, perhaps more than anything else, creates stumbling blocks for us devotionally, and for our restorations. After all what is restoration at its core but restoring the sacred to the world? Our hearts and minds and souls may be in the right place but that doesn’t mean that even within our own selves this isn’t an uphill climb: we do not know how to move in the world as though it is filled and redolent with the holy. We no longer know how to gaze at something sacred and profound and see Mystery. We do not know, deep in our bones, how to cherish devotion or belief without it turning to poison (fundamentalism) in our hearts. Ever since I returned from my ancestor pilgrimage, I’ve really been pondering why that is. What happened and when?
I don’t have the most eloquent of words to really describe what I’m trying to get at here but I’m going to spill this out here on my blog and let it stand for now. Maybe I’ll come back to this again later, when I’ve sorted it out a bit more in my own mind.
When I went to the four ossuaries this summer I saw evidence of a type of powerful devotion, of religious fervor and continuity, and yes, Mystery that I had never thought to experience before. It made me realize that there was a time not too long ago when people still grasped the necessity of devotion, when it had not yet been pathologized or dismissed to the realm of the ridiculous or déclassé. When I visited these places I had proof right in front of me that our world had not always been so spiritually barren as it is today. More even than the ongoing contact with the dead, it was this that gripped and moved me throughout my pilgrimage and as much blessing and joy as I had at encountering places so profound, I also came away with a deep, abiding grief for what we have lost.
So much so that I almost think the spasm of mechanization, the addiction to “progress,” that came in the wake of the scientific revolution, our deification of the so called “Age of Reason” stripped from us something essential to our souls: a sense of the sacredness of the world. In some ways, I think the spiritual devastation that this has caused, a devastation each and every one of us deals with every day as the Weltanschauung of our time, is even worse than the initial destruction of our polytheistic traditions that preceded it.
I fought that realization when it first came to me. I really had to sit with it for a long while and I’m not entirely comfortable committing it to print here but….it was one thing to have our traditions destroyed. That was horrific, however, there was still the unhampered ability to engage with the sacred and that was valued and nurtured even if in severely restricted form. To see the sacred, to reverence it wasn’t yet viewed as something stupid and backward, so long as the object of one’s reverence was in accord with the new monotheism (or hidden enough under layers of syncretization that it seemed to be). Some spark of the sacred still survived and could be fanned into flame. You had a revolution of mystics in the 12-14th centuries that proved that.
I’ve said before that I think the Protestant Reformation was the beginning of the end. Whatever ideals it began with, it ended up being an attack on the beauty of the sacred and Mystery itself and while there was a momentary Renaissance in the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation (that’s when you see the majority of ossuaries becoming real centers of devotional praxis for instance), the hostility toward mysticism and mystery had already gained too much of a foothold in our world to be ignored. By the late 17th century people were tired of religious wars. Instead of looking at monotheisim as the problem, devotion and religion slowly began to be pathologized in favor of the perceived hope, security, and safety of science or of a Christianity stripped of ritual and Mystery. “Progress” became the only god worth venerating and we forgot how to value the sacred. We forgot the protocols of engagement. We forgot and not just with the Gods. We forgot the sacred in life, death, and everything in between too. The result has been that collectively our souls have become shallow and hard and it’s a very, very difficult thing to come back from, especially when most of us have known nothing else.
So go and read John Beckett’s article and see what other suggestions you can add to his list. Then go out and do them because we need to make as many pinpricks and keyholes and windows and doors for the sacred to flow back into our world as possible, for the survival not just of our traditions, but our world as well.