Links that Start in Bristol

¶ Professor Ronald Hutton talks about his career and admits — in public — that writing The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft actually harmed it for a time. “Reframing Modern Paganism” in Pagan Dawn magazine.

Heat Street, a political news site, notes the growth of Paganism in the U.S. Army. It’s relatively snark-free coverage, with mention of the ground-breaking Sacred Well Congregation.

¶ If you want to “dream the dark,” do it in Westcliffe, Colorado. Click the link for the short video.

Army Appoints Hindu Chaplain (Sort of)

There about 1,000 identified Hindus in the U.S. Army, and now they have a chaplain, Captain Pratima Dharm.

Yes, that is probably fewer than the followers of Pagan paths in uniform. The Buddhists have been recognized too, but a qualified Wiccan officer was rejected.

But there might be more to this story:

Dharm speaks easily of Christian teachings. A unique aspect of her story is that until this year, she wore the cross of a Christian chaplain on her battle fatigues. When she started on active duty in 2006, she was endorsed by the Pentecostal Church of God, based in Joplin, Mo.

But she’s now sponsored by Chinmaya Mission West, a Hindu religious organization that operates in the United States. A Washington, D.C.-area religious teacher who interviewed her for the organization before giving her an endorsement said her multifaith background is an advantage.

“She knows Christian theology, and she has a great grasp of Hindu theology,” said Kuntimaddi Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission’s Washington center. “This means she can help everyone.”

She didn’t convert from Christianity to Hinduism, she said.

“I am a Hindu,” she said. “It’s how I was raised and in my heart of hearts, that’s who I am.”

But — and perhaps it is hard for some Western Christians to understand — she hasn’t rejected Christianity either.

“In Hinduism, the boundaries are not that strict,” she said. “It is to base your life on the Vedantic traditions, and you can be a Christian and follow the Vedantic traditions.”

As I understand it, the Vedanta schools of Hinduism tend toward a sort of intellectual monotheism and reject all that colorful gods-and-goddesses stuff except when interpreted allegorically. So she has blended it with Christianity?

Chinmaya Mission West is an Advaita Vedenta organization.

DADT Repeals Raises Issues for Wiccan Chaplains–Assuming that We Had Wiccan Chaplains, That Is

Terry Mattingly at Get Religion, a blog about religion and journalism, looks at some of the fallout from the “don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal for military chaplains.

His main question is whether a new military policy on homosexuals serving openly (they have always been there clandestinely) will affect the ability of some chaplains to follow the dictates of their tradition.

It’s a clash-of-rights issue, as he presents it.

But I what notice is how, once again, Wicca becomes the “default Other” religion, the hard case that must be accommodated:

How many Wiccans feel comfortable with a Pentecostal pastor, a Muslim imam, a Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi, an evangelical Lutheran or anyone from another faith leading their rites (if they are allowed to do so under their own vows)? Now, many forms of pagan faith do not have formal ordination procedures (while some do). Who approves the appointment of a layperson as a chaplain? How do a small circle of pagan chaplains serve believers on bases spread out around the world?

…. Now, the dying soldier is a Muslim and the chaplain is Jewish, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostal, Wiccan, etc. etc.

So far, there are no Pagan chaplains of any sort in the United States military. Well-qualified applicants get nowhere.

At the same time, at least some chaplains have been very supportive of military Pagans. The chaplaincy structure stood behind the Fort Hood Pagan group in 2000 all the way to the top.

Mattingly sees three possible outcomes. None of them is completely satisfactory:

(1) Find some way to end the chaplaincy program (under the assumption that if equal access is not possible, then closing down the chaplaincy program is the only legal option that is fair to all).

(2) Allow clergy to serve without violating their ordination vows (with the knowledge that, even when working with people of good will, this imperfect system will cause tensions and accusations of “hate speech”).

(3) The establishment of state-mandated and government-funded religious rites and rules of conduct of chaplains, mandating that expressions of the beliefs of many clergy are acceptable and that expressions of opposing beliefs are not acceptable. Some chaplains would argue that option (3) is already in place, but it is inconsistently enforced.

Nature Religion at the Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy chapel will add a worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions during a dedication ceremony scheduled to be held at the circle March 10.

Gus diZerega notes it too.

Considering some of the previous church-and-state issues at the academy, this is major news.

Hmm. I might be able to work that into a talk that I might possibly be giving later that month in Colorado Springs.

In US Air Force, Wiccans Outnumber Muslims

A friend passed on this column by political commenter Diana West, who notes in passing that there are almost as many Wiccans as Muslims in the American military–and more in the Air Force.

So far, I have not heard of any Wiccan dissatisfied with their military careers expressing themselves by killing their fellow service members.

Let’s hope it never happens.

Yahoo Group for Pagan Veterans

Some American Pagan military veterans feel that established organizations such as the American Legion and VFW are too heavily Christianized, so they have started a Yahoo group as a first step towards forming a separate organization.

It is the old dilemma — change from within, or go outside “the system”?

If you are a Pagan veteran and wish to participate, there is more information here.

Gallimaufry with Temporal Dislocation

¶ It’s not too late to travel in time.

This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture’s set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

¶ Time travel of a different kind: An American soldier in Iraq visits Ur of the Chaldees.

¶ I am a sucker for this kind of thing. For more futures that never happened and dead ends on the road to Now, try Modern Mechanix.

Wicca’s Legimacy as Religion

It is often a bad idea to read the comments on political blogs. They tend to degenerate into vicious name-calling by anonymous persons all too quickly.

A recent post on the pentacle grave marker case at the political blog Winds of Change bemoaned the fact that Americans litigate over religion:

I abhor the kind of attitude that leads to people hassling Christians over creches at Christmas, and that spurred the ACLU to threaten to sue a Christian cross off the seal of the County of Los Angeles California.

At the same time, blogger David Blue continued,

This long struggle for religious fairness for those who have died defending America has now reached a satisfactory end, mostly because George W. Bush shot his mouth off too much, and consequently it was better for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to settle, with a non-disclosure agreement, than to defend a weak case in court.

And he praised Jason Pitz-Waters’ “brilliant, link-rich posts at The Wild Hunt Blog” for their coverage.

The comments that follow are interesting. Many commenters argue for fairness: given that there are hundreds of Wiccans in the military, they deserve the same treatment as followers of Eckankar and other new religions, not to mention avowed atheists, who have their own military grave marker symbol.

Some comments make much of the newness of Wicca, while others note that all religions start as new religions. I was impressed that a couple of comments came from names that I know from religious-studies circles.

Personally, I found the comment thread interesting because it reminds me that much of the blogosphere is an echo chamber. People read bloggers with whom they agree, or they read their ideological opponents just so that they can make nasty comments, usually anonymously. I read some of these comments, and I wonder, “How can anyone still think that way?”

But of course they do. It is good to be reminded.

Gallimaufry

• A federal judge won’t let the Veterans Administration wriggle out of the lawsuit over grave markers for Wiccan veterans.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, covers the Greek Pagan renaissance.

For years, Orthodox clerics believed that they had defeated Greeks wishing to embrace the customs and beliefs of the ancient past. But increasingly the church, a bastion of conservatism and traditionalism, has been confronted by the spectre of polytheists making a comeback in the land of the gods. Last year, Peppa’s group, Ellinais, succeeded in gaining legal recognition as a cultural association in a country where all non-Christian religions, bar Islam and Judaism, are prohibited. As a result of the ruling, which devotees say paves the way for the Greek gods to be worshipped openly, the organisation hopes to win government approval for a temple in Athens where pagan baptisms, marriages and funerals could be performed. Taking the battle to archaeological sites deemed to be “sacred” is also part of an increasingly vociferous campaign.

The article mentions James O’Dell, who also appears in the documentary I Still Worship Zeus.

What happens in Greece first may happen next in the UK or elsewhere in Western Europe. A number of British Pagans have borrowed the rhetoric of American Indian activists about sacred sites and about ancestral remains stored in museums.

• After a couple of years, this blog seems to have been removed from BeliefNet’s “Blog Heaven” site, where it used to appear in the “Other Faiths” category at the very bottom of the page.

No one from BeliefNet informed me that my blog was given the boot; I just happened to notice.

When I asked what was going on, someone named Tim Hayne, editorial project manager, said that it was unintentional and tried to make it look like it was my fault for changing something at this end. (Don’t tech-support people always try to make problems look like the user’s fault?)

Ten days have gone by, but nothing has changed. You won’t find Letter From Hardscrabble Creek in Blog Heaven. (Maybe there is a Blog Limbo somewhere.)

But the URL of my site feed has not changed. So I have to wonder if someone at the supposedly interfaith BeliefNet site just cannot stomach an outspokenly Pagan blog.

It’s their site and they can run it the way that they want. But why can’t they be honest?