"There are many paths to the mountain, none of which are wrong, simply different"
What do these words mean to you? Is this something you understand? Lets take a few moments and really think about what this means.
These are the words I live by and for those of you who have been with us since the inception of Pagans United, a statement you have heard from me on many occasions. This morning I had the distinct pleasure, and yes I say pleasure, of hearing Rev. Jeremiah Wright give a speech followed by a Q&A session. He too believes in these words, "Different does not mean inferior or deficient, it quite simply means DIFFERENT. Not all will agree with every different religious groups' ideology, however, we must learn to agree to disagree while at the same time RESPECTING and Rejoicing in the diversity that each of us share.
For the very first time I was able to hear what Rev. Wright had to say in full and unedited....unlike in the past with the loop over loop sound bites taken from his sermons of the past used to inflame the masses and to bring down a person in his church that just happens to be running for President. I, too, listening to these sound bites from the Media was quite put off and was given cause for concern. Before you say a word, no this is not leading to a "back this Politician" speech or discussion, but rather a discussion on how things can get blown out of proportion by the media and how we are preconditioned by our own backgrounds, and yes, even for lack of better words our own ingrained discriminatory beliefs we all have whether conscious or subconscious. Yes, WE ALL HAVE THEM if we are to be honest with ourselves. Through no fault of our own we have been "brainwashed" for lack of better words by parents, teachers, media, etc from the time we came on this earth. Many of us feel we have over come these, many have, and many of us still have some things to work on. Its OK, for remember always that no matter what we are human first. The wrong comes into play when we stop striving to do better, to educate ourselves and others...when we just accept the status quo.
Let's look at one of the most famous soundbites that has been played so often on the news that came from one of Rev. Wrights' sermons.
"The United States brought terrorism upon themselves and now the chickens have come home to roost." Boy that got peoples ire up and of course was used against a Political candidate. It was purposely used to inflame the masses and give the impression that this Church, its Pastor, and it's congregation were comprised of unpatriotic bigoted people.
If you take the time to do the research this statement, "America's chickens have come home to roost", was originally made by Ambassador Edward Peck, former Ambassador to Iraq http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/21/the-full-story-behind-rev-jeremiah-wrights-911-sermon/
Is Rev Wright inflammatory? Yes. If you want to get your message across you must be. Is he bigoted? No, if you actually do the research you will find that he preaches for unity and equality...isn't that what we do as well? He is speaking out about his religion, which is just as different from the "traditional" Christian church as our religion is to main stream religion. Is Rev Wright unpatriotic....again do the research he served 6 years in the military....as he said today, "how many years has Cheney served?" "How many of the privileged few in charge of this country are more then willing to send thousands of our children, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters of ALL faiths to die in an unjust war", while they and their children enjoy the life of the privileged? This folks is truth, these are the facts....this has nothing to do being bigoted or unpatriotic. You guys all know how rabid I am about support for our troops, and I agree completely with what Rev Wright said this morning. No one could ever say that I was unpatriotic. Well perhaps they could, but they would be wrong.
Let me recount a couple more stories here for you. In 2006, I attended a Gathering of the Tribes. It was a wonderful event with many knowledgeable speakers including the likes of Maxine Sanders and Christopher Penzak. Alot of work went on behind the scenes and what most don't know is that we had to move the location twice because the local residents didn't want "those devil worshipers" in their area. Once we finally found a place we actually had to have POLICE security around the clock due to protests from the local church groups and citizens. The MEDIA kept showing soundbites on the local station of statements from the locals stating we were going to hell, that we were evil etc. We had signs posted outside the site stating they would pray for us; that we were going to hell. We had people trying to get into our Gathering to cause trouble. Luckily the police and the Park Rangers protected us from that. The Media then came to us and no one else would talk to them .... they were referred to me and David Payne, the owner of Pan Gaia Sanctuary. They came to find out if we were a bunch of baby sacrificing devil worshipers....now that makes good news and sells advertising. What they found was folks from all walks of life, all professions, with families and loved ones gathered together to rejoice in Mother Earth and come together to celebrate the Lord and Lady.
The point is, that this is not what they thought they would find....but they in all fairness gave us a fair viewing and did not edit mine or David's words. Even the head Park Ranger told the media that we had every right to gather and to be assured of safety during our stay at their park. It is because we were willing to come forward and speak openly with the Media and insist on certain conditions before we would, that we were able to get our message out. Did it change the locals minds? Who knows, it may have, the point is that we brought our Paths out into the light of day. Will I make controversial statements? Yes, if it will bring my point to life....do I stick my foot in my mouth? Yes, more times then I can count....remember that first and foremost we are human....and I probably will do it again...but if you take the time to ask what I meant I'll gladly discuss it.
Just as Rev Wright is doing now.
Here is another story.
As you all know, my Husband Keith is serving in Iraq. One of his coworkers is a devote Catholic and of course Keith is open about his religion. Over the last 13 months they have enjoyed many conversations and the sharing of the ideologies of their respective religions. Although a devote Christian, one who actually walks his talk I might add, he and his wife are both very open minded and respectful of different religions and cultures. Keith has spoken of him many many times as someone he deeply respects.
Well it so happens that since they are adopting a new baby..and their cat is not happy at all and destroying all the baby stuff, we will be adopting their cat Peyton. Well even though Keith has spoken about how open minded they were; when Keith asked me to contact them to make arrangements for the adoption of Peyton, I was hesitant. I wrote an email to them....and then sat and debated on whether or not to include my signature and how to sign the email..(see those ingrained prejudices popping up...and fear due to years of discrimination...even I have them). Well I said to myself I'd go ahead and let it go with my signature lines, but signed it "Blessings, Laura" which is non inflammatory to anyone, unlike BB would be. A couple of days later I received a response to my email and they had signed their email "Harm None". I have to tell you I was blown away...truly blown away, and my respect for them went through the roof. Because they were willing to learn about our path through discussions with Keith they found out what we were truly about. Because they knew Keith as a person first, they were able to accept our faith. It brought tears to my eyes and more hope then I've had in a long time filled my heart. I have since spoken to them and they are truly warm hearted spiritual people.
One day this week, we will meet and I will have a new member of my family; Pagan and Christian will embrace and comfort one another, with mutual respect and love.
So what is this long drawn out rambling email leading to? I'll tell you. We all need to work harder to understand other faiths and religions...and the only way we can do that is through study of the various cultures and religions of the world. Serious study, discussion, and dare I say go out and experience the different cultures/religions in person whenever you can. Only then can we we rid our minds and hearts of preconceived ideas. Only then can we stop the hate and as Rev Wright stated "reconcile our differences". You want to know how to end the war in Iraq? I've just told you. Want to know how to make world changes? I've just told you. Stop and remember why this country was first formed? Study the history of this country....of the different religions.
Let us begin that here in this Pagans United Group. Rev Wright is doing a seminar this weekend on the History of the Black religious experience. Everyone now has an assignment....lets do the research...then lets bring all our information here and discuss it. I would even like to invite someone from the Black community to have a chat with us and I'll work on that...Perhaps Pagan Radio can help with this? Lets put all this information into our files and on our web page for others. We've been way too quiet of late, so now we have something to do to aid us in living our spirituality and as my dear mate loves to say "walk our talk". Only through education, knowledge and then the open sharing and discussion of this knowledge can we truly break the proverbial chains that bind us all still whether we want to admit it or not. We cannot not grow or evolve unless we do this, so let us lead this charge to change.
Stepping off the "Pulpit"
Laura, President/Founder Pagans United