Beliefnet
A Pagan's Blog

Trying to integrate spirituality and politics as this blog attempts gets frustrating.  Real frustrating.  Politics is a little context compared to spirit, but it can so easily come to dominate our attention.

It’s sort of like when I hit my thumb with a hammer.  My thumbs are important.  Life would be pretty awkward without them.  But most of the time they are tools to help me do more important things.  I do not sit in rapt admiration of my thumbs.

And then I hit one while hammering a nail.


Everything else is suddenly subordinated to the pain in my thumb.  Everything else pales in importance until either the pain dies down or I see someone with an even more immediate and painful problem with which I can empathize.  My world revolves briefly around a sore thumb.

Politics is a bigger issue than a sore thumb, but it’s a smaller one than spirituality.  And politics has the same tendency to dominate our awareness until our whole world revolves around it.

Unlike a sore thumb, politics concentrates our minds on the challenge of winning, and defeating our opposition.  Democratic politics is a little better than the other kind because often in order to win, we need to compromise, and so find common ground.  It’s better than undemocratic politics, but it’s still a focus on power, and the common ground we seek may be with depraved allies to overpower others rather than with those who oppose us for honorable solutions we can both accept.  Even then, when politics comes to overshadow everything else, winning becomes the only thing.

In the 60s, while an undergraduate at Kansas University, I traveled to Washington, DC, for some political purpose or other. While I’m unsure so many years later as to why I went, I’ll likely always remember what I felt when I arrived there.

I felt power.  The city reeked of power.  The capital of empire, the neoConservatives’ wet dream, Washington exuded the sense that it was the center of everything. To feel a part of that was like a drug high, and I discovered I wanted to be a part.  

When I got back to Kansas, and out of that twisted energy field, I returned to a more balanced awareness.  And I knew I’d better not ever live in Washington.  It was too tempting, and I’d end up an addict.  (Thank goodness I hated the climate.)

And so, years later, when a well-connected friend asked me whether I was interested in being an aide to a Senator, I answered ‘no.’  I knew if I went there was a good likelihood I’d end up like those I opposed.

When I first encountered the Goddess, my fascination with and vulnerability to the allure of power took a big hit, and never recovered.  After encountering divine love at that Midsummer, power came to seem a paltry thing by comparison.  To put it another way, love’s transformative power was greater than any kind of power over or power to do.  I decided these latter kinds of power were good only to the degree they could be harmonized with Her love.

Years later I read a book where the African teacher Malidome Some  got it about right in his book Ritual: Power, Healing and Community:

When power comes out of its hiddenness, it shrinks the person who brought it into the open and turns that person into a servant.  The only way that overt power can remain visible is by being fed, and he who knows how to make power visible end up trapped into keeping that power visible….

Frodo’s ring is real.

This is the fundamental error of the “Christian” right. For them, power trumps love.  They tart it up by saying “God is just” or some other smokescreen.  But true justice can only be attained when it comes from a place of love.  And so they are often bitterly, insanely, unjust, and worship not a God of love, but a God of domination.  Such a God requires servants through which it can dominate the rest of us.  To continue with my Frodo example, they are servants to Sauron.

But I believe the temptation is as strong with Pagans and Secularists as it is with Christians.  To be effective in a world of power-addicts, and not catch the addiction ourselves, is one of the challenges of our time.
 

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