Tag Archives: tolerance

Response to the next table over

I think I feel my stomach turn
to hear you from our seats;
but I cannot turn off my ears
to block your hurtful speech.

I wonder, have you any clue
just how much I despise
that vacuous, self-serving look
that comes into your eyes

whenever you begin to speak?
I doubt you understand
more than, at best, the rare odd word;
your tastes all run to bland.

You are my test of tolerance;
I struggle to contain
the pure disgust I feel each time
your mouth transmits your brain.

The bile you spew, the mindless drool
you parrot makes me ill;
I shudder to imagine
the size of your karma bill.

And yet, I cannot hate you;
I cannot take that course.
It costs me too much to maintain
dislike without remorse.

10 APR 2013

Share This:

Freedom of Religion

As a pagan, I often overhear pagan conversations where the chief topic of concern is the negative affect that evangelical Christianity has on the “free trade” of alternative religions – its nature to limit, deny, persecute and eradicate viewpoints other than its own.

I wonder, however, if the “power” of the rough 70% majority (in America, that’s about how many claim to be “Christians,” whether they act accordingly or not) is not greatly overestimated by my pagan colleagues.

Historically speaking, the number one enemy of Christians is usually other Christians (or in the case of the Crusades, which weren’t really about religion anyway, other monotheists). The Pilgrims and Puritans who sallied forth and assailed Plymouth Rock with their austere sense of righteousness were running from persecution in Europe and England, where they were being thumb-screwed, hung, burnt and otherwise imperiled by other Christians. The separation of the church and state was originally a way to prevent a Catholic state from persecuting Protestants, or visa versa. Those brave souls (and if they’re yours, they start as visionaries and end up martyrs; those on the other side generally begin as heretics and blasphemers and end as capital criminals) who question the status quo of the Christian power structure from within are usually the most likely victims of Christian persecution; there’s so much to harvest there (in terms of dissention, dissembling and disavowing) that I don’t think at least in recent centuries there’s been enough time for them to focus on or bother with non-believers. Sure, every now and again someone will get a Cotton Mathers bee up their bonnet and worry about the devil lurking in strangers. But typically (and ironically) it’s much more effective to clamp down on “your own.”

Of course, that depends on who you call “your own.” Particularly when you’ve got more churches than congregants (where I live, there may be 300 churches for 17,000 people – on any given Sunday, there are between five and forty cars in 300 different parking lots). To sing, not to sing; musical instruments vs. voices only; women clergy or no; laity preaching; dancing; drinking; wine vs. grape juice; transmigration real or symbolic; Latin vs. local; tithe vs. time; literal vs. figurative; dip vs. dunk; limbo, purgatory, bottomless pit, endless fire, consuming darkness. About the only thing they agree on is barbeque – and then the sauce is different depending on which side of town you’re on. Again, from local experience, there’s one denomination that has two separate facilities – one for “locals” and another for “foreigners” (i.e., those who were not born and bred in town).

How could this group of divisive, in-fighting, bickering, nit-picking and otherwise non-collective souls agree on anything – at least, once they pass out of the church’s threshold and return to their completely isolated and often hypocritical lives?

Pagans: who cares what they think anyway?

“If you want to sing out, sing out.” That’s what I say.

I know, I know. There’s that social pressure. Those potential cross-burnings. That shunning. The losing of the job, etc.

But why would you want to live in a town with that kind of thinking, anyway? Shouldn’t you be looking to live among your own kind, like the Christians do? Or do you have the same level of schism with your fellow “pagans”?

I say again – if you believe in what you are, what you do will follow. If that is worth doing, then it doesn’t matter who opposes it. Is living in any other way worth living?

Besides, I think it was Dan Rather who said in an interview perhaps 15 years ago that the most important question you will ever have to ask yourself is “what am I willing to die for?” Once you have that answer, the rest is pretty clear. If you’re up against anyone in those sacred areas who hasn’t asked themselves that question (and given themselves an honest answer), unless that’s what they’re fully committed to, you will emerge victorious.

Happy Independence Day.

Share This:

By Faith Alone

Religion is not the enemy; it is just a tool
employed by those who would control
and those who seek to rule
by any means to make it seem
as if this world is just a dream.

It’s not great evil or great good;
it does exactly as it should,
considering why it was made:
to keep in silence, and afraid
to challenge why the poor remain
and their hard lives
are filled with pain.

For if this world’s a proving ground,
it should be so for all;
instead, it’s playground for the rich,
and workhouse for the small
who’re told that they’ll inherit
the whole next world, in due time.
And the powerful are happy
as long as each week, in long lines,
their labor force goes willingly
to hear how they should wish
for more of the short end of the stick
and fill the offering dish.

To know is to have learned it,
and by use, to understand.
To believe is just to claim to know,
by learning second-hand.
But faith is more: believing
in the absence of all facts,
or when facts contradict belief
or are against it stacked.

And that’s the tool religions use
to subjugate the throng:
convincing you something is true
when sense tells you it’s wrong,
belittling your lack of faith
when you express some doubt
that those in power should be there
and you should be left out.

19 MAY 2006

Share This:

But It Ain’t

If this were a Christian country
by Jehovah’s rules,
there’d be much more compassion
and glad suffering of fools,
less hands out full of gimme
with mouths full of much obliged,
no clear advantage to the rich,
less chance of a free ride.

There’d be a lot less hoarding,
much less emphasis on fame;
the suffering of even one
would bring all others shame.
Equality would be the rule,
and bigots would be shunned;
there’d be no race for riches,
nor a need for all these guns.

An even-handed justice would
inform our politics;
and none would need to worry,
from the ghettos to the sticks
on whether their best interests
by the corporate lust was served;
the good and kind would be rewarded,
just as they deserve.

At least, that’s the great theory,
but in practice, I’m afraid
that we have used religion
to create this world we’ve made.
We’d be a Christian country,
but we’re quite afraid of saints;
so holier-than-thous, be thankful
that Christian it ain’t.

05 MAY 2006

Share This:

Love is Enough

Back in December of 1991, Aaron Flinn and I were attending Berklee College of Music. We co-wrote this song as both a tribute to our main inspiration (the Beatles), and also to reflect our own vision of the world as it could be. I wrote the lyrics, and Aaron and I wrote the music.

Have you looked around today?
Have you anything to say?
Everybody’s searching but they just cannot be found
Everybody’s speaking but I cannot hear a sound

What is what it’s all about?
What is there to figure out?
Everybody’s looking but they haven’t searched within
Everybody’s running but they don’t know where they’ve been

I have climbed the mountain and come down the other side
Nothing you can do or know can counteract the tide
We have got the answer but we’re all still mystified
When all that really matters is you try

Love is enough for everyone.

Have you heard the wind today (blowing through your mind)?
Have you found a song to play? Search and you will find…
Everybody’s singing but they haven’t found the tune
Everybody’s worried about coming in too soon

What is there to sing about? Sunshine, sunshine…
What is causing you to doubt? People, people all around…
Everybody’s running after someone else’s claim
Everybody’s different and that’s why we’re all the same.

I can see eternity inside the children’s eyes
Nothing you can say or feel can help us when we cry
We can hold the universe inside a little smile
And all that really matters is you try

Love is enough (love is enough) for everyone.

Have you heard a thing I’ve said (love…love)?
Have you thoughts within your head?
Everybody’s talking but we haven’t said a word
Everybody’s brilliant but we’re all a bit absurd

I have heard the voices in the cosmic lullaby
Nothing you can be or do can stop the question why
We can find the answer in our hearts before we die
Well, all you’ve really got to do is try.

Love is enough (love is enough) for everyone.

For you and me and I and thee
And he and she and they and we
For every b and g
And all the fishes in the sea
For everyone who can’t agree
And all the people on their knees
For all the mountains and the breeze
And all the flowers and trees
For those that dream of harmony
And each and everything thing that breathes
For every single solitary blessed one of these that still believes
The truth will set you free.

Love is enough (love is enough) for everyone.


Share This:

Fun with Bicycling Evangelists

Ah, I must admit that I admire their dedication. I wonder, however, that their missionary zeal carries them out into wild, uncharted areas at the edge of their map before they have taken their message to their direct neighbors. I speak, of course, of the dedicated young men in the bicycle messenger trade of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

You may find it amusing that these gentlemen in cheap suits and humidity-limp shirts would wander to my doorstep in their proselytizing. They are different from the old African-American women peddling Jehovah as his Witnesses. To these, who hand out Watchtowers on such subjects as fraud, I can offer short comments like, “Hmmm … don’t you think it is ironic that you speak to me of fraud, who are taken in by the biggest fraud of them all … that somehow, a lily-white Jesus and his Aryan-seeming friends and apostles/associates would convince you, a child of former slaves who has grown up in the shadow of racism, sexism and poverty, that it is not necessary to seek any kind of heaven here on earth (for that would require wresting it from the hands of rich, white men, I’m afraid), but that your reward shall come in a future paradise, while others reap theirs now … that seems like a pretty clear case of fraud to me, my dear grandmother.” And they pause, and shake their heads, and offer to pray for me, of course, but after I part company with them I am sure they are difficult for their pastors to handle.

Nay, the Mormon lads are of sterner stuff. And still, as I explain to them that mankind is gone astray from (G)od because they refuse to spit out the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, to place their lives, like the sparrow, lion, lamb and lilies of the field in the hands of God, and insist that they have the knowledge of who must die (all who would oppose them) and who must live (man, glorious man, who must have a purpose greater than the jellyfish or hyena). To explain that we are the culture of Cain, the mighty agriculturalist, whose story the Hebrews adopted but did not themselves write, whose meaning they have never quite understood — the Caucasian farmers, who would kill off the hunter gathers and pastoralists, and for each white man slain would return death to the darker races sevenfold. I wonder, as they thank me for my well-thought out and logical explanation, on the spirit that fills their hearts — that glory of righteousness that insists that mankind has a greater purpose than any other species,
and would prove it by claiming some character flaw. ‘Tis not a character flaw, I tell them, but amnesia. That’s why we need prophets and seers. To remind us that we don’t know what we’re doing. And still they seek after the “one true path” that is suitable for all persons, in all times, in all geographic locations. A hyena does not seek to live like a lion; nor does a lion seek to live like a hyena. I tell them this. And I quote them the gospels. And I mention that I admire their bucket of sea water; but it is not the whole ocean, nor does its galvanized rim surround the whole of any truth — only a fragment.

Sadly, they may not visit me again. But they will send others. Those who refuse to live in the hands of the gods, but insist their own hands are divine, always do.

I pray for them. And for the proving ground that is this earth, the mere waystation on the way to greatness that will be consumed by their blundering and self-righteous dominion. I wonder how we managed to last this long, in free fall, thinking in defiance of the laws of gravity and aerodynamics that we have been flying under our own power.

Share This:

Oversimplification #40237A

Religions are formed every day
Each meant to last, each fades away
To be of use, each offers some
Instruction on the life to come

The best address in simple ways
a set of questions we all raise:

Why we reach, where to look
What to grasp, how to hold,
and when to let go.

It is the answers to these questions
that provide the clues to
who we are.

Share This: