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