TERF Wars and Trans-terrorism
10 months ago
While I was on vacation, Chris Rodda reported here on a very disturbing new development in the ongoing battle between the military and the constitutional rights of non-Christians. The Army sends out a mandatory survey to soldiers to gauge their "spiritual fitness" and if you do not give answers that reflect religious belief you are deemed to be spiritually unfit.
The survey is called the "Soldier Fitness Tracker" (SFT) and it is part of a larger Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program designed to help support the well-being of Army personnel. And it turns out that there is also "Spiritual Remedial Training" that goes along with it if you aren't deemed sufficiently "spiritual."
Some of the yes/no questions on the survey include:
I am a spiritual person.
My life has lasting meaning.
I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.
I believe there is purpose in my life.
When Sgt. Justin Griffith, the man who is organizing the Rock Beyond Belief event at Ft. Bragg this spring, answered those questions honestly he was deemed to be spiritually unfit and was "red barred." Al Stefanelli explains what that means, according to the text of the survey itself:
A red bar means that you face some significant challenges in this area. This means that you should focus most of your attention on this area, though you should also note that placing too much emphasis here could result in other dimensions dropping. The key is to properly balance where you need the most development with the areas you are already doing well in.
The survey then informed Griffith of his alleged problem:
Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you.
. . .
If you "fail" this test, as Griffith did, you may be subject to Spiritual Remediation Training. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers has more details on that training and its pervasively religious content.
[T]his remedial training program is overseen by a chaplain named CH Lamb, who is endorsed by the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC) and Jim Ammerman. CFGC is the endorser of a platoon full of truly insane fundamentalist chaplains like Gordon Klingenschmitt. I've reported on Ammerman's utter lunacy before. Imagine having someone like Klingenschmitt in charge of deciding who is spiritually fit to be in the military and it becomes obvious what a serious problem this is.
The principle of reciprocity provides the proper context to the much-misinterpreted Roman religious maxim do ut des, usually translated "I give that you may give." Too often, even by those alert to the complexities of Roman religion, this has been read as a commercial transaction in which Roman worshippers paid their gods in advance for some benefit.
This is unjust. What the maxim actually implies is the exchange of gifts as an expression of ancient rules of friendship and hospitality. Behind this conception lies a concept of an exchange of gifts between different orders of being as the bond that unites the universe. As Walter Burkert has pointed out, the exchange of gifts is among the foundations of human culture, and the sharing of food and the exchange of gifts remain important sources of interpersonal bonds even today.
Modern theorists of religion have wrestled with the habit of making gifts to gods, ancestors and spirits, on the assumption that there are no obvious returns on the investment. To ancient and modern Pagans alike, however, the assumption is transparently false. If such beings exist and govern the natural world, their gifts are as obvious as food and drink on the table, rain on the fields, fertility in the soil, and the fact of life itself. The gods are primarily and superlatively givers of good things, and the world in which life takes place is their gift to us.
In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, anything that is a source of benefit to human beings may be seen as a giver of gifts, and an appropriate recipient of reverence and offerings. This is the thinking behind Shinto habit . . . of worshipping the builders of irrigation systems as "water gods." The same principle underlies the Greek Pagan tradition, baffling to many modern scholars, of building temples and making offerings to abstract concepts -- Peace, Victory, Mercy, and the like. In modern India, where such ideas form one strand in the rich fabric of Hindu religion, musicians make offerings to their instruments and craftsmen to their tools in a similar spirit.
. . .
If Pagan gods are verbs, as the Christian god is sometimes said to be, the verbs in question are conjugation of "to give." Yet human beings and, indeed, all other entities have the capacity to give as well, and in giving, to imitate the gods.
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because Sophia over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
In their quest to bring the Christian religion to the pagan people of Western Europe, the Church cleverly incorporated existing festivals and rituals into the Christian calendar. One of the many correlations between ancient winter festivals and Christianity revolves around the older Celtic name for the festival of Alban Artuan – or the “Light of Winter”. When deciding where to put the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth, it is little wonder that they chose this festival to herald the arrival of the “Light of the World” – a human beacon of hope and light into a time of darkness.
It is thought that pagans may have been the original “tree trimmers” as they brought greenery into the house as a symbol of life through the long dark nights. The evergreen was brought in and adorned with decorations to symbolise the various stellar objects that were important to them; the sun, the moon, the stars. These also served as gifts to the pagan gods.
Thanks in part to [a] bunker mentality, American Christianity has become . . . a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future. In spite of their numerical strength and reserves of social capital, . . . the Christian churches are mainly influential only in the “peripheral areas” of our common life. In the commanding heights of culture, Christianity punches way below its weight. [Cute phrase, huh?]
[T]his month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.
Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.
Now you may not know this about me, but I am the mythic Yuleclipse Fairy. I need you to know a few things.
Tuesday is a lunar eclipse. It will be visible from most of North America
Tuesday is also the Winter Solstice - the longest night.
Tuesday is the first night that a lunar eclipse has occured on a Winter Solstice in 456 years.
Tuesday is the day that you will be outside doing magic.
If you don't do something I will know and I will be displeased. You don't want to piss me off. Just get your lazy ass out there and meditate, cast a spell, dance a jig, do something!
If something is really, honestly indefensible, it can be defeated. The people perpetrating that indefensible thing will want you to think that what they are doing is inevitable. They will want you to think that it cannot possibly be changed or fixed. That it is the way it has to be, that that is the way it's gonna be, they will want you to think those things. And it's not true. An indefensible practice or policy is, in America, vulnerable."
THE VASTEST THINGS ARE THOSE WE MAY NOT LEARN
The vastest things are those we may not learn.
We are not taught to die, nor to be born,
Nor how to burn
How pitiful is our enforced return
To those small things we are the masters of.
No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history or
music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.
At most we’re allowed a few months
of simply listening to the simple
line of a woman’s voice singing a child
against her heart. Everything else is too soon,
too sudden, the wrenching-apart, that woman’s heartbeat
heard ever after from a distance
the loss of that ground-note echoing
whenever we are happy, or in despair.
Everything else seems beyond us,
we aren’t ready for it, nothing that was said
is true for us, caught naked in the argument,
the counterpoint, trying to sightread
what our fingers can’t keep up with, learn by heart
what we can’t even read. And yet
it is this we were born to. We aren’t virtuosi
or child prdigies, there are no prodigies
in this realm, only a half-blind, stubborn
cleaving to the timbre, the tones of what we are,
even when all the texts describe it differently.
And we’re not performers, like Liszt, competing
against the world for speed and brilliance
(the 79-year-old pianist said, when I asked her
What makes a virtuoso?—Competitiveness.)
The longer I live the more I mistrust
theatricality, the false glamour cast
by performance, the more I know its poverty beside
the truths we are salvaging from
the splitting-open of our lives
The woman who sits watching, listening,
eyes moving in the darkness
is reheasing in her body, hearing-out in her blood
a score touched off in her perhaps
by some words, a few chords, from the stage,
a tale only she can tell.
But there come times—perhaps this is one of them
when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die . . . .
Although there are many “preconceived notions” about paganism, Cannon-Nixon and Gillingham said most of them aren’t true.
“We don’t believe in the devil,” Cannon-Nixon said.
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.
Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
On July 2, 1881, Charles Julius Guiteau shot President James Garfield. His aim was not quite good enough to kill the president; Garfield lived for eleven weeks as doctors probed his internal organs with unsterilized instruments, searching for the bullet that was actually lodged near his spine. . . . On the morning of his execution [Guiteau's] sister brought him a bouquet of flowers. Prison officials intercepted the bouquet and later discovered that there was enough arsenic tucked between the petals to kill several men. Although his sister denied having poisoned her brother's bouquet, it was well known that Guiteau feared the hangman's noose and would have preferred to die some other way.
[H]ealing the broken bond between our young and nature—is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. The health of the [E]arth is at stake as well. How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes—our daily lives.
With apologies to Tolstoy, all A papers are A papers in their own way. They don’t just lack mistakes. They have something extraordinary about them, a level of engagement with the texts, a felicitous style. They grab and keep your attention, and it’s interesting to think about what does that. Usually, I think, it’s the student’s voice. The student already has an individual voice. The student is already thinking, and writing, in his or her own way. There’s an enormous pleasure in seeing something like that.
“Even when you’re just going for maintenance, progress ends up getting made.” I remarked that this seemed true for any practice.
While riding my bike to my next appointment, I pondered this. Why was this true of so many things? Physical health, meditation, writing, dance, job skills…? What was it about maintenance that would end up facilitating growth? My answer was commitment. For all of these, we are making a commitment to ourselves and to our projects. We are stating that something is important enough for effort, and even if we aren’t going full out, we still end up building muscle, so to speak. We end up learning something. We are showing up to ourselves and for ourselves.
. . .
Someone once said, regarding the Pentacle of Autonomy that I write about in Kissing the Limitless, that he wasn’t sure everything began with commitment and then flowed into the rest of the points (honor, truth, strength, and compassion). Didn’t we sometimes start with desire, or something else? Here is one answer: It isn’t that commitment starts every single thing, it is that commitment starts the action of our will. Commitment starts the flow of deepening. It takes what might be a small impulse, or even a daydream, and makes the first step toward channeling this into manifestation. Commitment is the goad to our spirit, and the cheerleader, and the stalwart support. Commitment is the thing that keeps us showing up.