UnPause, Follow Up and Moving Forward
by Ruby Sara
My last post postulated my theory that because I perceive that our set of religions do not share a unitive story, i.e. a theology, set of beliefs/practices, or a more or less general value framework, that I believe it might not be accurate or useful to code these unique religions under a single, capitalized word (that signifies a specific religion/religious identity); and that by using the term in lower case to denote an adjective or category of religion instead may be a more useful choice in light of deepening interreligious and intrareligious dialogue, as well as helping to articulate clearer boundaries of belief/practice in our communities, leading to rituals with ever increasing specificity and richness in their storytelling, and to solid value frameworks that could then be built upon in seeking communal social justice work. It was a semantic choice that I liked because it called attention to a set of questions I find important (please see Johnny Rapture’s post on The Great Tininess as well as Hystery’s post on Plainly Pagan for some more thinking on this unfolding set of arguments). Frankly, I still believe all this (though I remain as ever open to the possibility that I will change my mind…tomorrow, five minutes or 15 years from now). I also believe that by participating in this choice, I (and the handful of other folks who may make this choice, or make similar claims regarding the umbrella term, capitalized or no) am merely changing the way I talk about our religions – a not insignificant venture, for sure, but certainly not the same as denigrating other people’s choices, beliefs, or past/current interfaith work. I have participated in countless conversations around this and other theological subjects with people in my local community. I am not pulling these thoughts out of the aether, and I’ve made some reference to these questions on this blog in recent memory. The experiment was in deepening that question. However, it was pointed out in the comments section that some felt that this semantic choice was an act of disrespect, so I hesitate to continue to spell the word in the lower case because I don’t wish to cause any further offense or derail any future posts. I regret the anger and hurt caused over this issue of non-capitalization, and I do not want to additionally distract from the larger questions, which I think are important. I also find the arguments regarding honoring the importance of self-naming, a subject that Ali of Meadowsweet and Myrrh brought up on Johnny Rapture’s blog recently, to be deeply compelling.
I will not continue to spell Pagan with the lower case here on this blog. What I will do is limit my use of the term as a religious signifier, with exceptions when referring to the community at large. And I will be reposting a revised draft of my last post (see below), as I believe it contains references to these developing ideas that I find useful for those following the wayward and sometimes funny-shaped arc of my thinking on the matter.*
I remain firm in my belief that given these questions it is not constructive for me to speak about Pagan values/ethics/theology. It is constructive for me however to talk about earth-centered values/ethics/theologies (a categorical descriptor that includes the beliefs/actions of many different religions), and/or Gospel Pagan / Rootwater (a name for a specific religious system) values/ethics/theology, so that is what I will do. It is always a danger that one day I will fall off this tightrope, but for now, I’m still attempting to maintain my balance. I don’t think there’s a net down there.
If you find this whole line of thinking, and/or my shaky attempts at both honoring my own convictions and process while simultaneously holding the beliefs of others in respectful balance, to be disingenuous or offensive, you are welcome to email me to talk to me about it, or of course you can certainly always stop reading – that is your prerogative, and it is after all just a blog, and definitely and for sure not a papal bull or holy writ. Of course I’d rather you stay! But I wish you many blessings of the Mama if you do not.
This blog has always been two things – a love letter to the Earth Mama, and an exploration of my thoughts regarding theology and religion, predominantly but not restricted to those religions that honor Her above all. It will continue to be both of those things. I am sincerely grateful for those who have read and continue to read my words and/or post their thoughts. In my next post, I hope to explore the interplay between the value of simplicity and the spiritual importance of color in a post where I will revisit, under the rubric of earth-centered and Gospel Pagan / Rootwater theologies, some of my thoughts about plain dress/living.
*I do sincerely regret that I cannot resurrect many of the comments that were present on that post. Many of the comments were engaged in immensely interesting discussions regarding the greater question of definitions and umbrella terms. Having never really deleted a post like that w/ comments attached, I didn’t think that there might have been a better way to do it that would save everything somewhere for a possible future resurrection…though there may have been. So please don’t take this as some kind of retroactive sneaky way of deleting the conversation – it was a simple matter of tech unsavvy-ness. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, please feel free to post your thoughts again to the re-post. Note, however, that there is now something of an ad hoc comment policy in place, and I hope the conversation can be conducted as just that – a conversation, preferably between friends (friends that might shout at each other, but who know where the limits of friendly argument lie).
**Re: A comment policy. I think comment policies on small blogs like mine are kind of silly, but I also think it’s important to be transparent. Please note that certainly not all of these following items happened in the last thread – I’m just being thorough. I sincerely don’t expect to have to implement this policy hardly at all in the future, but I guess it’s good to get it out there. Therefore, my comment policy goes like this: all constructive debate and commentary, even very heated, is welcome. Emotionality is welcome, especially if the commenter is honest about their emotions. Name-calling and posts that add nothing to the conversation other than schadenfreude, mockery, and interpersonal carping will be deleted on sight, as will any comment that contains racist, sexist, homophobic or any other oppressive language. I am the grand arbiter of what constitutes these items, because it is my blog. Accusations of censorship will be cheerfully deleted. These are the internets, my friends, and if you feel your voice is being unheard here in these limited pages, then I heartily encourage you to start a blog of your own.