Ever since we led a protest rite against Buncombe County officials’ sale of public parkland graced by a pair of magestic old magnolia trees to developer Stewart Coleman, the über-Republican Carolina Stompers have aimed religiously bigoted attacks at our Coven Oldenwilde—first through a video ridiculing City Council candidate Elaine Lite for participating in the protest, and more recently in Mountain Xpress (“Fighting Mad,” Dec. 5, 2007).
We responded by challenging Stompers co-founders Chad and Nancy Nesbitt to a public debate. The Nesbitts refused and called us more bigoted names, and attempted to divert attention by stealing our idea for a debate and applying it to the Democratic Party. (As a religious nonprofit, Coven Oldenwilde complies with federal law in not affiliating with any political party.)
Since then, a Stompers supporter has made online comments claiming that our offer was some sort of “setup.” This supporter also tried to counter our proposal for a simple debate with timed rounds and a neutral moderator by floating a vague, complex demand for one featuring a “panel of judges” dispensing “points for form”—as if this were some high-school gymnastics competition rather than a golden opportunity for public dialogue between opposite sides in the culture war.
But no amount of bluff and bluster will erase locals’ memories that these chest-pounding crusaders crumpled when intelligent Pagans pushed back against their bullying.
Many people who would welcome the opportunity to see folks with wildly differing views debate perennially fascinating, controversial issues have expressed support for our proposed “Spiritual Smackdown.” So here’s how we would have answered the four questions raised in our proposal:
• Was the United States founded on Christian or Pagan principles?
It was the Pagan Greeks who invented democracy. The Pagan Roman Republic was a pioneering experiment in representative rule. And to underscore the specifically nonbiblical origins of America’s form of government, her founders intentionally modeled the architecture of our government buildings and shrines—from the Capitol Rotunda to the U.S. Supreme Court building and the Lincoln Memorial—on Pagan temples, not Christian churches.
Even our nation’s original motto is a quote drawn from the Pagan poet Virgil: “E Pluribus Unum” (“out of many, one”) and not the modern, McCarthy-era “In God We Trust.”
• Is it better to worship one God, no God, or many Gods?
Monotheism, the belief in only one God, leads to enforcement of conformity and the insistence that there’s only one way to the truth. When monomaniacs monopolize spirituality, the world suffers from inquisitions and jihads.
Atheism, the denial of deity, leads to denial of all spirituality and to the insistence that only matter exists. When nothing is sacred, everything’s up for utilitarian grabs.
Polytheism, the worship of many Gods and Goddesses, reflects Nature’s diversity and leads to pluralism, creativity and tolerance. When divinity manifests in infinite forms, all beings’ spirituality is recognized and respected.
Most folks of whatever “ism” can agree that the unethical sale of public parkland by county officials to a money-driven developer was a violation of a sacred public trust.
Unfortunately, far too many people—regardless of the creeds they claim to follow—actually worship only the ultimate human-made idol: money. And the greed this cult inflames in its devotees leads them to pervert everything.
We’re forced to wonder which God the “Christian” Stompers truly worship, when they’ve refused to express any moral outrage about the sale of park property while attacking and ridiculing the sincere citizens of every faith who joined our protest.
• Should children and teens be allowed to study Witchcraft?
The magic Witches practice is a sophisticated art based on the ancient understanding that everything in the universe is interconnected in patterns called correspondences.
As we wrote in The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems, “If you’re a student in school, studying many different subjects, you are especially fortunate to be learning the Art of Correspondences now—it will help you find the connections between such seemingly diverse disciplines as math and music, history and poetry, and geology and dance.”
Kids who study Witchcraft discover the magic hidden in mundane subjects. For example, herbalism can enliven home ec; smithcraft can animate shop class; numerology gives meaning to math.
Sadly, the Craft of the Wise has for so long been persecuted by monotheists and derided by atheists that students are often bullied and punished by teachers, peers and parents when they openly express interest in it. (We receive hundreds of complaints from teens whose books are burned by their parents, and whose teachers refuse to let them write reports about Wicca while allowing other students to write about Christianity.)
Despite their constitutional mandate to treat all religions as equal, public schools routinely block Pagan and Wiccan Web sites on classroom and library computers. Yet with many young people feeling the call to spirituality at an early age, and Wicca growing so fast that it’s projected to be America’s third-largest religion by 2012, parents and school officials are doomed to fail if they continue trying to repress kids’ natural desire to explore magic.
• Should humans have dominion over nature (as the Bible exhorts), or should we treat animals, rocks and trees as equals (as Pagans believe)?
The monotheistic doctrine that humans are superior to all other forms of existence—which is shared by materialist science—encourages debasement of the earth and its inhabitants as mere things to be exploited as resources.
Pagans, however, believe—along with many quantum physicists—that consciousness and sentience pervade the cosmos down to the subatomic level. This means that other species, plants and even minerals are animated with a spirit akin to humans’ own. Recognizing this leads us to treat animals, rocks—even magnolia trees—as we would fellow persons worthy of the same respect that we deserve.
[Lady Passion and *Diuvei are the high priestess and high priest of Coven Oldenwilde in Asheville (www.oldenwilde.org).]