Monday, July 26, 2010

Christian Evangelisim, Ellic Howe, Secrecy, Lodge Conflict, Balance and Personal Work

That is the most convoluted headline in the history of this blog. I bet you're dying to know how I have linked Evangelism to Ellic Howe, assuming you've every heard of him. I am going to cover, Christian evangelism,  lodge conflict and secrecy, balance, proportions and personal work. There is even a reference to country music. All of this is inspired by Jason's excellent post of today, Phoenix Angel's post on proportions and a past conflict played out right here in this space. I am amazed at how many threads are interweaving in my mind from the blogs of the last two weeks. You've heard of spaghetti westerns? This is a mixed pasta post.

So, in the words of the venerable Vin Scully, "A pleasant good evening to you. Pull up a chair. We are just getting started."

Jason makes the point that while reactionary, the pagan response to Christianity and evangelism is understandable. He scores on both counts. I'd argue the Christian counter-response is the same. However, Jason did not convince me on all counts in his various posts on this topic.

For instance, his definition of evangelism includes your excited neighbor telling you about his new car and how you should get one too. To him, it means any excited utterance of good news. While I suppose that fits a very broad definition, it isn't mine. It isn't's for evangelize either which reads

1. to preach the gospel to.
2. to convert to Christianity

My issue was that I took item 2 personally by adding that an evangelist must be devaluing me. This made me angry, defensive and out of balance.

Segue to conversations I've had with friends in which I have stated that my behavior has become balanced in the whole but not in the specific. What I meant was that if emotions had weight and you put the opposing emotions on a scale for the totality of my behavior, the scale would more or less balance. However, in specific situations, I've been way too harsh or way too merciful or way too depressed or way too intellectual etc. I recognized this but didn't know how to balance the specific situation.

When it comes to evangelism and only at an intellectual level at this point, I am taking a much less personal approach. I will work on not feeling anger or dislike towards the evangelist as a person. It will take a while for that to hit the emotional and deeper levels but it is a start.  This is a microcosmic change.

Macrocosmically, I am still against evangelism as a whole. Jason points out in one of his posts that under his definition, Wiccans, Hoodins and many others evangelized to him about their religions. He values those experiences. What he may not be taking into account is that, if the intent of Christian evangelism was realized, these people would not be of those religions. There would be no one for Jason to have spoken to. That valuable experience would be lost. Likewise, I'd have lost Jason and his strong influence on my work.

I want to protect the culture of all religions. So, to steal Gordon's analogy,  we have many bowls of soup to chose from, . Christianity wants one big bowl-- their bowl. I see little difference, aside form the level of physical violence, between evangelism aimed at converting people from one religion to another, then any other form of cultural destruction. If I said that as a Native American protecting my culture or as Jew or as any other minority group (not as in life or death but culturally), I'd be understood clearly. However, as a middle-aged middle-class white guy pagan, I may not be given the leeway to defend my cultural heritage that others may. I value my pagan experience. I needed my pagan experience and I will defend the opportunity for others to have the same opportunity.

So, is being individually non-hateful and perhaps compassionate toward the evangelist but being rabidly opposed to the practice and egregore of Christian evangelical activities a step toward situational balance? Does this also fit into Phoenix Angel's concept of proportion as well?

One of my favorite lines from the GD Neophyte ritual says that unbalanced severity is but cruelty and barrenness of the soul and that unbalanced mercy is but a lack of will that allows evil to flourish.  Maybe this applies to what I'm working on.

Lodge Conflict and Secrecy

In order to delve into this, I have to bring up the conflict with myself and RO which is appropriate here as it was essentially a stupid religious argument. It also is very much aligned with Jason's post linked above.

In short, after some contemplation, I realized that my issue with RO, while triggered by some bad behavior on his part, was really my emotional reaction to a prior statement he made to me. He said that pagans are further away from "God" because they don't have Jesus "and they deserve it." One can easily see that this would hit my issues outlined above. In fairness to RO, I know he was not trying to be hurtful. Frankly, I didn't call him on it at the time because I didn't realize how deep that struck. I often don't process my emotions until much later.  Also in fairness to RO, he says he likely meant to but a smiley behind the statement. Likely, my issues with that are deep enough that a smilie would have been little help.

In my mind, this sort of statement reminds me of what I've seen other people do. They express their ideals, whom they want to be, who they idealize themselves as but in reality are not there yet. So, their words betray them. I have done the same. I used to call this hypocrisy. Now, I call it a desire for growth. I am not saying RO did that or is in that place or was in that place, only that it reminds me of what I've observed in others and myself.

So, how does this relate to lodge work? Imagine my little blow up with RO. It impacted our relationship. He no longer reads this space. We no longer IM. Now, imagine that we are in a lodge together, doing initiations and the animosity goes unresolved. Who cares? On the scale of things I've seen that is nothing.

Now imagine someone going through an initiation that tears them down. [Cue the country music] His wife leaves with his hound dog in his best friend's pick-up truck after selling his guitar. Some lodge members knew of the affair, some of them made eyes at his hound dog and the guitar was sold to another lodge mate. Now we have some animosity brewing. Add twenty people in a lodge all going through mild to extreme versions of that destruction, often on similar themes and playing their issues out on each other. Even with healing, resentments remain. The interpersonal relations have a much greater level of angst because so many people are going through so much trauma all at once and in an interconnected manner.

We all sign up for the trauma. We know dissolution is coming. We were warned.

So now we add secrecy, is it best for a lodge master to hide as much as this as possible to keep the resentment from gluing up the social structure so much that work can not be done or is it better to lay it all out in the open? I have no idea but I'm glad I'm not a lodge master! Anyone that signs up for that job is insane.

So, how does Ellic Howe fit into all of this? He is one of the many outside historians of the Golden Dawn. For some reason, the system attracts outside researchers. Howe wrote Magicians of the Golden Dawn: A Documentary History of a Magical Order, 1887-1923. It is a good book and certainly worth a read. In it, he takes a dim view of the order. While I have heard it argued that he takes that view because the GD was seen as one of they many side orders of masonry and 'lesser' than masonry itself, I take a different view. My view is from the examples he uses in his work. He finds these base fights, not so base disputes, personal trauma and intralodge behaviors as some sort of proof that system is bogus. Being an outsider, he doesn't understand those traumas are the system at work. Initiates get destroyed to be reborn. The destruction is ugly.

So maybe this post is about saying that. I don't understand RO's point of view because I am on the outside, I am not Christian. RO doesn't understand mine because he isn't a pagan that has to deal with the constant drumbeat of direct and indirect conversion attempts in this part of the country. The Central Valley is the Bible Belt of California. Jason may not understand me as he has experienced a different brand of Christianity than I've been exposed to. Maybe that is the point. Maybe that is why we blog and interact. Maybe we do this as our own sort of mini-destructions and rebuilds. Maybe we all change each other a little bit. The work takes on many forms. It is all good.


Norma said...

I'm sorry for your fallout with RO. It must be hurtful. I hope over time it smooths over.

pomomagic said...

well, I don't really understand your viewpoint on this issue either, and I *am* a pagan who grew up in a very religious part of the midwest. So I don't think that can be all of it. Also, I'm not sure that RO ever actually said that about pagans being far away from God. I think you may have heard that because that's what you've come to expect to hear. In fact, I'm pretty sure he believes otherwise. And maybe I get as many conversion attempts and simply could care less about them, so discount them and don't notice them.

Robert said...

@Norma, thanks but no worries. Destruction is part of the ongoing process of the work. The only problem with it comes when one refuses to learn.

@Pomo, I will say he typed it. I never said he consciously believed it and will allow that it was likely meant in humor. To him it was so of hand that he likely wouldn't even recall the conversation. None of that is important. I have an issue with evangelism that runs very deep. His words triggered that. It is my issue not ROs.

That said, no one has convinced me evangelism is warranted in any case. Getting up in the morning with the intent of changing someone's religion is unfathomable to me. I have a hard enough time working on my own spirituality to improve myself much less going out of my way to try to 'improve' a stranger. How do I know they are not ahead of me? They likely are.