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The Latest on Pagan and Earth-Based Religions
I think Earth Day is a particularly important moment for contemplation and commitment by us Pagans. Often American Christian critics accuse us of “pantheism,” and in a important respect they are right. We do find the sacred, most of us, in the earth without reference to any transcendental spiritual force. In my mind there is a transcendental dimension as well, but it is not needed at all for us to honor the earth as sacred.
I deeply believe the problems in our country are more of the heart than of the head. Here are some youtubes courtesy of John Morehead of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy on Facebook. They speak more eloquently than anything I can write that interfaith work is a good idea for anyone interested in it. In my experience the personal result is to deepen my own appreciation of my Pagan path while also deepening my awareness of the spiritual value in others.
These guys do not have the advantage of seeing their path as one way to spiritual truth among many of similar value. On both sides I think it the case they believe ultimately there is only one path, theirs. Even so, look at what they can accomplish.
These examples are between people who believe the other is deeply mistaken spiritually. Even so, it is difficult to imagine they would foster mistrust or violence against one another. Those Pagans who have been involved in interfaith have similar experiences. I know for I am one. At a time when the media is focusing on the worshipers of Sauron who pretend to be spiritual, egged on by right wing politicians, examples such as these are instructive to us all.
The controversy over pink slime is helping educate Americans to the fact that corporations are as beneficial to agriculture as they are to politics. Tom Laskawy put it pithily: “What pink slime represents is an open admission by the food industry that it is hard-pressed to produce meat that won’t make you sick.” But the disinfectants needed to make pink slime less than poisonous is only a tiny part of what is wrong with industrial agriculture. Although a highly charged tiny part. Ann Laurie over at Balloon Juice points out that the New York Times is now making it clear that there is something deeply wrong about industrial agriculture, of which pink slime is only a part. (I like to her rather than the Times because it limits people’s visits whereas Balloon Juice does not.)
I believe the root issue is that Americans need to rethink their relation to food. Pagans are particularly well suited to lead by both example and word. To my mind Gary Snyder gets our relationship with food perfectly when he observes in The Practice of the Wild “What a big potlatch we are all members of! To acknowledge that each of us at the table will eventually be part of the meal is not just being ‘realistic.’ It is allowing the sacred to enter and accepting the sacramental aspect of our shaky temporal personal being.” (19)
Growing food is or should be an ethical endeavor at every stage. Farmers should relate in a respectful and at least sustainable way with the land and the plants and animals they harvest from it. They should treat those who work for them in a respectful and decent way. They should be honest with their customers. These principles are hardly rocket science and only one, treating the land and the plants and animals harvested from it, would be controversial to some decent people. The other insights are no brainers.
To my mind when we eat it is appropriate to thank not God so much as all the beings we consume, vegetable, animal, and fungal. But that is another discussion. Back to growing and marketing food.
An individual farmer has the opportunity and usually the capacity to act in an ethical way. But individual farmers rarely are involved in growing our crops or raising our meat. Corporations are. And corporations are intrinsically incapable of acting ethically. Only to the degree an individual overrides corporate logic can any ethics trump the desire for profit, and if by doing so anyone notices profits are lowered, that person will be out of a job. If he or she is a CEO, they will be ousted in a take over bid.
Industrial agriculture is to ethical agriculture what a slave plantation is to a workers cooperative.