Unitarians, Catholics and HHS

February 10, 2012

God bless all the folks who have come out in support of the Catholic Church’s right not to subsidize sin. And God bless (with His rod) the folks who so don’t-get-it that they actually came out in support of the government in this matter. It’s pretty much the usual suspects, and there are all kinds of snark I could make on each one. But I’m going to concentrate on just one in this post: the Unitarian Universalist Association. They should know better, I will show that they do know better, and my wife had to set one of their congregants straight yesterday.

The Seven Principles of the U-U Church include “The inherent worth and dignity of every person” (unless they’re preborn, apparently) and “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”  If this isn’t a matter of conscience, I don’t know what is. U-Us are in general so supportive of the right of conscience that you can believe pretty much anything and still be a U-U (excepting, again, the belief that abortion is murder). But if you want more clarity, here is a resolution from 1982:

Personal Religious Freedom

WHEREAS, the central issues for religion include the beginning, duration, nature and meaning of life, the extent to which individuals can be in control of their own lives and bodies, and the moral and ethical responsibility of individuals to the lives and bodies of others; and
WHEREAS, the 1982 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association reaffirms our heritage of personal religious freedom of belief and acknowledges as one of its tenets the right and responsibility of persons of all ages to decide and act upon these religious issues according to their own conscience and faith, without government interference or invasion of privacy;

BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1982 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association calls upon Unitarian Universalists and all individual groups, both religious and secular, of like mind to oppose attempts for legislative policy changes that would limit the free exercise of this, our religious heritage; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That this Assembly calls upon the governments of the United States and Canada to oppose all attempts to legislate such limitations.

Now, the HHS contraceptive mandate quite clearly bears on “beginning… of life, the extent to which individuals can be in control of their own lives and bodies.” It could be that this was meant to be a weasel-word support of the right to abortion. But since they’d expressed that much more clearly 4 years previously, I have to take them at their word here.  Neo-Catharism (not breeding) is apparently a tenet of Unitarianism.  They are extremely pro-reproductive-freedom. But that doesn’t negate their conscience statement. Nor does this: “we believe that, regardless of income, every person has the right to all reproductive health information and basic services”. They may believe in the right to free birth control, but it doesn’t follow from that that any particular entity needs to provide it. Indeed, one might ask: if there are Catholic hospitals, where are the Unitarian free women’s clinics? Why haven’t they put their money where their mouths are?

But the Unitarians have been more than happy to have their freedom of religion protected by the government.  In First Unitarian Church v. Los Angeles – 357 U.S. 545 (1958):

Solely because they refused to subscribe oaths that they do not advocate the overthrow of the Federal Government by force, violence or other unlawful means, or advocate the support of a foreign government against the United States in the event of hostilities, petitioners were denied tax exemptions provided by the California Constitution for real property and building used solely and exclusively for religious worship.

In my own back yard, we had Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron v. City of Fairlawn, Ohio, 2000-01. The city decided that the U-Us could not build a fellowship hall on their land (owned before a zoning change), and backed down under legal pressure.

But the religious liberty strain of classical liberalism, which was so much a part of their tradition for so long, seems to have fallen by the wayside. Of all the religious groups that filed amicus briefs in the recent case of Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (unanimously decided for plaintiff), the UUA was the only one to pick the losing side.

What makes this particularly odd is the the U-Us have become a haven for neo-pagans and Wiccans, who have a long history of religious persecution. They’re the growing edge of Unitarianism, since there’s no longer the pressure to “be something, and Unitarian is the least you could be” and religious atheists are in style and no longer need to blow off several hours a week not-worshipping their non-god. Pagans have benefitted directly in such cases as Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah 1993 508 U.S. 520. So why aren’t the pagan elements in the UUA fighting to keep the church on the side of freedom? I suspect that reproductive issues, being one thing that most U-Us can agree on, have become a defining doctrine of the faith. And Catholics stand against that. But there’s more than disagreement there. One step in my own conversion involved the observation of the visceral hatred many Pagans hold for Catholicism, way beyond any historical explanation (I’ll see your Burning Times and raise you a Coliseum.) I decided that fierce irrational Satanic hatred meant that there was a power in the Church worth paying attention to.

Anyway, while I don’t respect the U-Us, I respect their right to worship as they please, and to not be commanded at gunpoint to perform acts which they consider morally repugnant. I just wish they would give me the same respect.


Crumbs away from the witch’s cottage

February 5, 2011

Former Wiccan Elizabeth Dodd has written “Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers.” Or, as AOL News would have it, “Catholic Church Issues Guide on How to Convert Witches.” Clearly Mr. Bates didn’t get out to the CTS webpage, which clearly states, “The Catholic Truth Society is an independent publisher and charity. We help people to understand and practise the Catholic faith.” It’s a common notion among the pagani that the Church is a monolithic, top-down organization…rather like Jack Chick’s notion that Wicca and the New Age movements are top-down organizations. But Bates can be forgiven for this; one of his cited sources makes the same mistake. His other source, Damien Thompson, of course does not, but has way too much snarky fun at the Craft’s expense.

Of course, the usual culprits have the usual views on this, beginning with the claim that “We don’t try to convert them!” This is nonsense. Sure, Gaia’s Witnesses don’t go banging on doors, but neither do Catholics. In both cases, they forthrightly explain what they practice and believe, and invite others to join them. Indeed, the Church has a far more tolerant attitude toward Wiccans than your typical Wiccan has toward the Church; I have never seen a Catholic froth at the mouth about the occult in the way that I have seen way too many Witches rail about Catholicism. One can argue that the fury is justified by history, but we the living Church are supposed to bear responsibility for the Burning Times while neo-pagans (even Roman revivalists) have no responsibility at all for the Coliseum. And Islam does not get that fury turned on it, even though right now it teaches that pagans are to convert or be killed. Those who believe in spiritual warfare can draw their own conclusions.

The booklet seems to be sold out, but the various excerpts published make it sound like a sensible exposition of Wicca and explanation of the differences between it and Christianity… which is more than can be said about many evangelical attempts at the subject. Here’s an equally sensible piece. If the Church has a problem with losing adherents to Wicca, it’s a problem with general catechesis (Catholicism as a cultural identity, instead of people instructed in their faith), and in any case it seems no more a problem than with Christianity as a whole. I hope the booklet will prove useful, and I pray for my Wiccan friends.

UPDATE: a slightly more intelligent version of “neener neener” aimed at the Church,

Orthodoxy vs. orthopraxis

January 7, 2011

One of my personal issues with the Ordinary Form has to do with certain habits of thought from my Wiccan days. Unlike Christianity, which is primarily about believing certain things, Wicca is more about doing certain things. What passes for their holy book is analogous not to a Bible but to a missal. And not one of those 4-inch thick missals either; more like a missalette without the songs.(there are other materials that circulate, but they’re more analogous to the GIRM). Now, there’s a fair bit of theology that one can extract from a missal (and deep Wiccan thinkers do so), but it’s short on theological instruction and on teaching stories (No parables, no lives of the Wiccan saints). Instead, you do certain things to contact the Gods, who then teach you directly.

Now, my Catholic experience has largely been with the Latin Mass. The changes in the Bugnini-mass seem not only strange, but are often a violation of previously-established theological norms. For example, whenever I hear the twofold Kyrie, I think, “Which Person of the Trinity did they get rid of?” Yes, I know, that’s not the pattern of the new rite; it’s a call-and-response. And my belief as a magician was that if you changed the ritual, it would take you to a different place. That “different place” is modern Catholic culture, with its shortage of vocations and rampant disrespect for church teaching, and few people pretend it’s an improvement. Unfortunately, while the Holy Father has released Coke Classic for general sale, there’s a whole generation who think that New Coke is the Real Thing, and it isn’t going to be pulled off the market anytime soon. So if I as a pastoral musician can in any way walk back the changes to the Mass, the destination of the ritual journey might come closer to where it was.

Hmmm, two posts in a row on religion… my Objectivist readers (if any anymore) are probably flushing their rss feeds right now.

On tomorrow’s skyshow

December 20, 2010

“naturally the folks who natter about the spiritual origins of polyamory backstage at every RenFest are in a tizzy.”
So says Tam, linking Roberta X, who suggests that the Wiccan Church of Canada is making way too much out of a regular and perfectly natural event.

I wuz one, once, so I can relate to the idea of reading omens into everything. But what was it an omen of in 1554…which was not one of the better years to be a witch? Here are a few of the events that immediately followed:

1550 About mid century, infanticide began to come to the notice of the courts. Along with this development, witchcraft is increasingly seen as a secular crime rather than an ecclesiastical or spiritual mistake.
1557: Toulouse witch trials took place, during which forty witches were condemned and burned.
1560 Women begin to be accused of witchcraft and sexual crimes. For the first time women have legal standing as the accused.

If it’s a “transformative energy”, I’d want to be really careful about what was being transformed. Look at the symbolism: the Goddess is going to disappear, on the longest night of the year, darkness on darkness.


September 19, 2010

So Christine O’Donnell dabbled in witchcraft. Who hasn’t? I did a bit more than dabble, myself, though I never knowingly found myself in the company of Satanists. It’s probably more damaging that her 11-years-ago self comes off as a bit of a flake. But we grow into gravitas.

On the other hand, her opponent espouses a philosophy shown to be even less effective than witchcraft, which shares with witchcraft the idea that something (like wealth) can be made from nothing, and which has been responsible for a death toll an order of magnitude larger than that of the Burning Times (even assuming the risible “9 million dead” figure.) So you tell me who the loon is.

Isaac Bonewits, 1949-2010

August 16, 2010

I knew Isaac somewhat in the 1980s, through attendance at Starwood and other pagan festivals, around the time he was starting ADF, before (and slightly after) the encounter with tainted tryptophan that demolished his health. Yes, in those days he had some of the arrogance of the intellectual, and a wicked sense of humor. A friend of mine and he once reportedly danced through a Seax Wicca encampment chanting “Saxons eat shit” in Gaelic, enticing many of the Seax (a Saxon magic revivalist group) to join in the chant.

As a holder of a degree in Magic and Thamaturgy (signed by Ronald Reagan no less), he drew a certain amount of flak. He was, per tract author Jack Chick, the personal “enforcer” of Gavin Frost, “the Pope of Wicca”.  I don’t know what is funnier: the notion that such an irredeemably culturally-Protestant religion could have a Pope (esp. Frost, who has always been controversial within the Craft), or that the dweeby-looking ectomorph Isaac could enforce anything, let alone do so for one as different in outlook as Frost. His Real Magic is still one of the better books on magical theory.

He died about 8 AM Thursday at age 61 of cancer. We cannot know the destination of his soul, but the prognosis is not good. Please pray for him.

Mind your own business!

January 2, 2010

There is whining and gnashing of teeth because a group of Unitarian-Universalists from Oregon who went to Cuba were denied entry “because they were there for religious reasons”, notwithstanding that they’d been there 3 times before without incident. The U-Us blame it on the guy who was there earlier giving out cell phones. They should be celebrating because somebody actually detected religious content in their “religion”. I suspect they actually got loaded up with CUUPs members who wanted to get down with the Santeros. And their “hamanitarian mission” was laughable: “projects such as an AIDS clinic and teaching women how to make baby clothes.”  They obviously didn’t get the memo that Castro has it covered, because Cuba has the best medical system in the world, right? And I suspect that the typical Cuban mom could sew rings around any U-U; necessity is the mother of invention.

Meanwhile, a group of foreign political agitators in Egypt is offended because the Egyptian government is treating them like foreign political agitators. Obama funder Jodie Evans and her Code Pink has assembled 1400 activists troublemakers from 43 nations to bring humanitarian aid and propaganda opportunities to Hamas. It’s quite the star-studded cast; media attention has focused on friends-of-Barack Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn, but it also includes Miriam Simos, better known as Starhawk, who wrote one decent early book on Wicca (somewhat spoiled in revision) followed by several books on the theme “Jail really sucks, and since I’m a political activist, I go there a lot, waah poor me!” Why she is giving aid to people who have a religious obligation to kill her is beyond me. I haven’t heard of her trying to give humanitarian aid to oppressed Christians (who, to be fair, can be misconstrued to have a similar obligation). Perhaps she thinks that Hamas is not really Islamic (in spite of “Islamic” being part of its full name) because after all, Islam is the “religion of peace” and Hamas is anything but.

I’d be a bit more sympathetic to their call for open borders if they were consistent about it, and they were anarchists. But the only time Code Pink has ever maligned state power is when the other side is wielding it.

“We hope the Egyptians get so annoyed they just want to get rid of us.”Jodie Evans, Cairo, December 29, 2009

There are ways to “get rid of you” that don’t involve you going to Gaza…or any other country, ever again. As your buddy Miriam might remind you, “Be careful of what you ask for; you might get it.”