Friday, December 18, 2009

Pagans are People Who See God in Nature

I take great pleasure in wishing cashiers, doormen, post office clerks "Happy Holidays" at this time of year. It feels so inclusive and respectful. Not everyone celebrates Christmas and insisting on Merry Christmas as a standard greeting in casual personal exchanges renders other celebrations and people who participate in them invisible. One only has to flip the script and imagine everyone being greeted by "Happy Kwanzaa" or "Happy Hanukkah" to get the flavor. Of course if you know what someone celebrates that's different, and on Christmas day, I return a "Merry Christmas" in kind. In the case of Kwanzaa, a cultural holiday, many people celebrate it along with Christmas.

I've heard some people complain that this is too much trouble or that it's about being politically correct. It's too much of a burden to ask them to change. They are used to being recognized and feel quite at ease in their expectation that those considered outside the norm of Christmas (in this case)should just suck it up. I think it's the same kind of energy that led a school principal I knew to outlaw bi-lingual Latino children from speaking Spanish in the hallways.

The term politically correct is the language of backlash. It ridicules and devalues those (women and other marginalized groups) who were bringing into the public consciousness the ways in which common language and practices oppress. The fact that the media recognizes several traditions at this time of the year is about humanity and I'm glad we got this far. I hope that one day the begrudging will see the beauty in not using the power of a certain gender, race, class, religion or sexual orientation to discredit or deny recognition of the others.

That's why I felt such joy when my one and only bumper sticker came in the mail a couple months ago. It says, God Bless Everyone, No Exceptions.

So let me go further now, to Paganism, a tradition that has been doused with such defamation that I feel a pressure against me as I write in affirmation of it. Pagan has been used synonymously with heathen, the word that conjures up images of simple-minded natives in jungles or prairies, shame-bearing images. Webster dictionary defines heathen as "an unconverted member of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible, an uncivilized and irreligious person."

But yesterday perched on my couch, my eyes fixed to the sky, I watched its sunset dance, bursting yellow gold and poppy red orange, soothing azure cornflower navy blues curling, stretching, parading their kaleidoscopic marvel. I felt the wordless splendor of God and witnessed Divine order bringing nightfall. That is what Pagans do, they see God in Nature. What is shameful about that?

Let's keep looking, deeply, into people and places cast small and aside, and extend our listening to the barely audible voices. Let's turn our gaze within, to the smallness inside of us. Let's see if there isn't more room at the table of wisdom and goodness.

Photo by thandiwe


  1. I always enjoy reading your blog (this is Brian from your blogging class) it always gives me something to think about. As a Jewish guy, I've never felt hurt by the "Merry Christmas" thing all over the place, and never expect anyone to acknowledge Hanukkah (truth be told, I'm not very religious anyway). I think 2% of the country is Jewish (more in the northeast where I live, but still). I think Christmas has become so watered down anyway, it is almost all-inclusive. On the other hand, the "war on Christmas" thing is so funny - I never understood WHY there was any pressure on stores to get all Christmased out. It's not a church - although I guess a store IS a church of commerce. It's kind of like a crusades type mentality. But like I say, you've given me a lot to think about, as usual... and now I'm thinking that I may be a pagan! I have felt closer to God walking through jungles in costa rica, watching the sun set in Tanzania or scuba diving than I ever did in a temple (or church).

  2. Hey Brian,
    Nice to hear your POV. I'm curious if you think it might matter more if you were more religious? FYI, I'm working my way mentally towards Facebook!

  3. Brian,
    Your reference to never having been "hurt" by Merry Christmas gave birth to additional thoughts. The hurt of being invisible is not the kind of hurt that one is always conscious of in the moment. That is in a way, what makes it even more powerful. When you've seen the knife coming into your body you register the pain and you get some 911 or ER assistance. Being invisible is more like the silent killer of hypertension that creeps unknowingly until one day your blood vessel bursts and you may not know why.

  4. Thank you Dee for so elegantly saying what I have thought for so long about the foolish and unjust bashing of Paganism. Having worked with American Indians for a quarter of a century and witnessed so many ceremonial activities at which Nature is always honored and The Creator that provides the fruits of Nature is always thanked it escapes me how or why anyone could be critical of such a practice.