Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Faith, action, confession

Attending the Prog Faith Blog Con, as well as studying these matters and watching the current status quo, has kept me thinking about how our beliefs express themselves in action--especially in ethical action. (In particular, Hoarded Ordinaries’ post on embodied faith, which“insists that believers get their hands dirty in the real world doing the work of compassionate service”, and Mik Moore of Jspot asking "How do we inject our personal morality in the public debate AND translate our concerns into universal values?" Thus, I've tried to write about how my Pagan faith translates into action.

I've tried to write it for this post about five times. And each time, I hit a block strong enough that it keeps me from continuing to write, enough that I just want to trash the post and walk away entirely. Which, if you'll note from my earlier post, is exactly what I can't have happen within this blog. I have to keep writing...and I can't dodge the issue by posting some other topic, not for long, anyway.

In the spirit of the old Girl Scout "Bear Hunt" game, then, I decided to take a sideways approach, and write about why it's giving me trouble. "Can't go through it, can't go away from it...Gotta go Over it!"

The first reason, I think, is that there's no clear derivation of action from the beliefs. I agree to the Threefold Rule, as do many (but far from all) Pagans: what you do comes back to you threefold. Help or harm, good or ill, you can expect to receive it with interest. But that's not a clear injunction to go do good--it's more of a statement that "if you want good, do good; if you do harm, be prepared to accept the consequences."

The second is that there is an overabundance of action. I also believe in the interconnection (intersubjectivity, web of life, etc) of humanity with itself, humanity with nature, and both with whatever else exists that doesn't fall under either category. But does that mean environmentalism? Anti-poverty? Animal rescue? Women's rights? Anti-globalization? The closest thing I can think of is sarvodaya, uplift of all, but I don't know how the concept translates into specific works--or rather, it can translate into so many different things that I have no idea where to start.

Writing out the first two problems has brought me closer to understanding that it matters less where I start acting, as long as I do act; it's similar to the mental block that worried (worries) about what this blog is supposed to be, rather than simply doing it. The action is the important part, taken in mindfulness of Her presence in myself and others.

My Paganism, in understanding the interconnection of all things, the presence of the Divine in all things, and in hoping for the action of the Threefold Rule, means: peacemaking. Protection. Preservation of beauty and kindness, and defiance of cruelty. Strengthening self and others to stand up for their dignity, hope, and love--and making a world in which it is easier to be kind, harder to be cruel.

But there is a third reason why I struggle with these questions. And...Well, I'm ashamed of it. The third thing that's keeping me from writing on this topic, facing it honestly, is a desperate need to cling to what I have. A shameful hope that by never spelling out what translating Pagan beliefs into social action means, I can avoid having to act on them.

A little voice in my head says, "Give time? You have no time! You starve your friendships and relationships already, and you feel like your life is spinning out of control with the commitments you've already made. Send money? You're a student, you have no money to spare, especially not if you're hoping to someday raise a family! Short projects? Which of the thirty different causes that only take an hour will you do? Besides, any effort that makes any kind of difference will need a lot more time and energy than you have to give, because face it. You don't have anything to spare."

When this voice makes itself heard, I am never certain whether it is my selfishness, grasping and clinging miserly to money, time, emotion; or whether it is my self-preservation, trying to keep me from spreading myself so thin that I tear.

Fighting this voice--and sometimes, finding myself unable to fight it--is the first, last, everpresent thing I do when I try to figure out how to translate faith into action.

I do not yet know how to answer it. Perhaps confessing it here is the first step. Perhaps, if I go farther in my studies, I'll make my mission as a teacher and researcher one of bringing people to understanding each other.


At 8:10 PM, Blogger alto artist said...

You're not alone--I hear that same little voice. In my case, it says, "Why bother? So many others are speaking out already. Relax!" But I'm learaning--slowly; I'm a very slow learner of this topic--that I can't.

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At 5:56 PM, Blogger Mariah said...

I know this is an old post but.. I am Pagan and very involved in political activism, which I do see as interconnected with my faith- it's about putting my values into action. Plus I want to make it my profession. Generally it's as a citizen, and my religion does not come up. But I would like to connect with other Pagan activists, and encourage more to get involved. It seems as if there is some backlash against connecting Paganism with various causes, the moderate/apolitical/conservative pagans are starting to get more vocal and incensed against people raising these issues.


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