Read here for the original post I’m responding to. Honestly, I’m not just responding to the post. I’m also responding to the program listed in the post called “Way of the Master Radio” with Kirk Cameron and a couple of others. In this post, I’ll be criticizing everyone involved, so if you feel offended, at least you’re not left out.
Before I begin, I must mention that I was a member of ADF. Still am a member of the organization, even though I don’t practice in their way anymore. I was a member of Stonecreed Grove in Cleveland; I helped to start Silver Branch Golden Horn Grove in Denver, and The New Village Grove began as an ADF protogrove. Having been immersed in the organization for almost five years, I can name several things I loved and hated about it, and I can name specifics as to why I am no longer practicing in their way. I even completed their year-long Dedicant Program, so I am quite aware of ADF beliefs and practice. I still use a number of their terms, like *ghosti.
First of all, Fundamentalists tend to do this sort of thing. They go to rituals and don’t participate. They criticize other modes of belief and practice, they put themselves out as superior to other belief systems. We know this. Why are people surprised? Granted, some of their criticism is baseless, factless, even simply inflammatory, designed more for the emotional response rather than rational thought. What about the rest of their arguments, though?
More under the cut…
The radio program does bring up a good – albeit misguided – point. The party line of an ADF ritual is “come as you are, believe as you wish”, and this looks really wishy-washy even to other Pagans, much less to a group of Fundamentalists confident in their own liturgical and doctrinal solidity. It’s a party line which is poisonous to Paganism, taken out of context. It is easy to take it out of context, too. Most Christians do not understand the concept of orthopraxy (“correct practice”), because they are so wrapped up in the practice of orthodoxy (“correct belief”). Many Pagans fall into the same trap, truth be told, such as the recent insanity over Z Budapest’s “genetic women only” ritual, or in Cara Schulz’s assertion that you cannot be Pagan if you “don’t celebrate the Wheel of the Year and don’t subscribe to left leaning politics” (an assertion that excludes a huge population of heathens and other Reconstructionists who have their own liturgical calendar and may be conservative-leaning politically). So, ADF ritual stands in a zone of problems when those performing the ritual toe the party line. The program criticizes the Pagans’ apparent lack of belief, lack of virtue, and lack of confidence in spiritual reality. Unless it was left out of the recording, no one alerted the show’s hosts to the 9 virtues of ADF. No one bothered to educate them in animistic belief or practice. If the hosts’ recording is to be believed, it was the party line that was touted, “come as you are, believe as you wish!” with no discussions as to the assumptions which ADF ritual actually makes: many gods, many kinds of spirits, some kind of afterlife where the dead can still aid the living, the practice of magic, the living of a virtuous life, the inherent incorrectness of the Christian “only way to the divine” worldview. Would any of this have convinced Kirk and his compatriots? No, but then this crew, toeing a party line of their own, would have to counter on theological points rather than a stronger stance of, “we actually have answers to difficult questions of belief!” The ADF ritual party line is poisonous when taken out of context, and it is so easy to take out of context!
We would hope that our rituals speak for themselves. Unfortunately, not so much. The hosts of the show couldn’t even figure out what deities were being worshiped at the rite. This information should be posted on a website, or distributed with other rite literature. That it wasn’t shows to me a distinct lack of forethought and preparation on the part of the ritual leaders. I hope they’ve gotten better about it in the last six years.
On the other hand, I’ve said before that Kirk and his compatriots were at the ritual more to show the superiority of their own practice. In doing so, they’ve made several incorrect presumptions, such as concerning the liturgy. Modern Christian liturgy was no more handed down from on high than our own; to say that a printout of a ritual constructed by the rite leaders is ADF’s “sacred doctrinal text” is therefore as erroneous as to call a new hymnal a “sacred doctrinal text”. Yet this is the very implication that these hosts make in their program: that our “sacred texts” are nothing more than what we came up with on the fly before the ritual. Gods forbid we say the same thing about their sermon printouts! This goes back to the old “sacred texts” argument of Paganism, though: each culture had their own oral traditions, and many had written texts, also. Since we as a religion pull from several cultures, we thus have several religious texts and inspirations to draw from. Christians, by comparison, have one text: one text that was sliced, diced, and cobbled together from what a council of old farts decided was “true” and “accurate”. Did they make the right decisions, even? Did they throw out good texts because of who wrote them, or because it didn’t fit with their vision of the future of the religion? This crew touts their greatest weakness as a strength, that they adhere to a 1500+ year-old compilation and do not accept new information into its fold. These Fundamentalists further confound things by claiming that any religious experience MUST be tempered by this cobbled compilation in order to be valid, that information cannot change, that their version of deity will always be as inflexible and unchanging as they make him out to be. In short, their entire argument stems from a supposition that because Pagans do not have “one sacred text”, then their religious experiences cannot be validated and are therefore inherently invalid. What a bleak and static world view this is!
I love how Fundies seem to think that they have the corner market on virtue. In my mind, it only makes their stance a caricature of actual rational thought. Even faced with the virtue displayed in other faiths, they deny that there is anything truly good about it, that these are evil people not because of what they do, but because of what they believe. If these folks really believed that, they would clamor for the release of every mass-murderer who accepted Christ into their heart. However, they are even louder than secular folk about keeping “dangerous people” locked away, never again to see the light of day. You are evil because of what you do and what you believe, according to these guys. They talk about prison ministry as if they are the only ones doing such things, when ADF has its own prison ministry that has been going on for over ten years now. Wait a minute, Christians are supposed to have a corner market on virtue, why would Pagans be interested in prison ministry? As I have said in other writings, Pagans who take their religion seriously tend to be worried more with living a virtuous life than worrying about the consequences of sin. After all, our Gods admit there is a time and place for killing, for theft, for telling your mother off. There are also consequences for each, which has nothing to do with a vague and distant hell dimension where the guilty are punished for eternity. In most cases. I mean, there is always Tartarus for the Greeks, or the entity Ammit for the Egyptians, which ate the souls of the unworthy. However, these were reserved for those chronic wrongdoers, those who lived lives of vice and sin, not those who made a few mistakes in an otherwise virtuous life. This is not feel-good religion. This is action and consequence.
Incidentally, Christianity is pretty much my definition of a “feel-good” or “lazy” religion, in at least some forms. You’re a murderer? It’s all good, just repent and accept the Lord Jesus into your heart, you’ll go to heaven. Oh, and afterwards, you can go out and fight a crusade, murdering even more people, and it’ll be okay because they’re infidels and not Christian. It’s an unwritten exception to the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” rule, nevermind on paper that rule seems pretty inviolate, doesn’t make exceptions for war or criminal execution or anything. Oh, and don’t worry about that “Love one another” rule that Jesus made, you can hate anyone who isn’t like you, who is gay, or lesbian, or Hel, let’s bring back the Jim Crow laws and hate anyone of a different skin color or ethnicity, too. After all, God hates gays, so it must be okay if you do, too! This is the party line of several Fundamentalist Christian groups. If you’re Fundamentalist, maybe you should consider your associations: your God commands love, and your leaders advocate hate? This is beyond “hate the sin, love the sinner”. This is hypocrisy.
I digress. I grant that Pagans have a wide variety of views on virtue, and not all of them agree on what is virtuous. However, to deny such advancements as the Code of Hammurabi, or Brehon law, is to ignore the facts of history in favor of a romantic view of morality. The ancient Norse, even absent of Christian morality, had notions of right and wrong, and infractions were punished accordingly at the Thing. Today’s Pagans take inspiration from both these ancient laws and from more modern developments of moral behavior. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, seem to think that all moral advances are Christian in nature, which is an untrue assertion; otherwise, Christians would not have deemed holy and righteous the practices of crusade, slavery, and racism. In thirty more years, I think we will be able to add opposing gay marriage to that list.
The problem, of course, is that none of this was mentioned at the rite which Kirk and his buddies attended. Is this a “shame on you, ADF” moment? No. Shame on you, Way of the Master Radio, for not doing your research. You can pull any of this up with a simple Google search, or you can go to ADF.org and find essays that way. Instead, Way of the Master Radio has brought forth typical, lazy propaganda for their side. This is what they call “The Truth”?
Tomorrow: “Creepy” atmosphere and practices and confidence in spiritual reality explained. AKA: I haven’t exhausted this topic. Not by a long shot.