Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Political Threat to PHYSIS

It has been a while since I last posted here and many things have been going on in the political world since then. One of the major issues I have taken note of is the increasing political threat to Nature (PHYSIS) herself.

I've been listening to the radio, watching TV, and reading on the Internet about the increasing push by the American Right Wing to continue pressing corporate power over all else. The belief seems to be that we must allow businesses to do what they want so that they can take care of our economy - aka "trickle down economics". Well, we've been doing that since the 1980's and it worked out as long as the people at the top were being responsible, but we have found out that they are NOT responsible people. They have taken our economy down with their gambling failure which then required a ridiculously large taxpayer bailout for them in order to keep this capitalistic economy floating and not dive into a depression.

Now, what does this all have to do with Nature? EVERYTHING. Corporate power when left unchecked as it has been since Reagan was in office, is again threatening both the Earth and our human Freedom. Large oil companies are poisoning the planet, killing animal and human life, and making exorbitant amounts of money with no intention of improving the social welfare of the locales they inhabit. Africa, South America, and now the US is suffering from the irresponsible actions of corporate tyrants.

On top of this, the fundamentalist Christian populist/political machine is mobilizing in a way never before seen since the times of the Crusades lead and/or fueled by people like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Pastor John Hagee, etc...... They conduct wars in the name of God (just like their Muslim brothers by the way), push corporate agendas in the name of God, and exploit Nature as if there was no tomorrow for them. (Perhaps because there is no tomorrow for them due to their Apocalyptic psychology).

I think its time that this new combination of corporate/religious militancy be addressed as a real threat to our planet and to our human freedom. This is not a benign political ideology anymore, but it is becoming a real political movement which needs to be opposed. Nature herself is caught in the middle of wars between extremist religious zealots and unregulated corporate competition. The people behind this often claim that their god is granting them the right to conduct themselves this way at the expense of everyone else.

I don't know about you, but I was never asked about this, nor was I told by ANY god that this was a good thing. I doubt Nature was asked what she thought about it either. In any case, this is no longer something we can ignore.

What will you do about this? I have one idea: reviving an ancient pre-Christian, Hellenic practice on which our country was founded on, its called DEMOCRACY!

Friday, March 12, 2010

From the FAQ of the Helliniki Hetaireia Archaiophilon:

"In ancient Graeco-Roman Paganism, Priests and Priestesses generally had the responsibility for worship at a particular temple or shrine; in many cases these were civil offices or hereditary positions. On the other hand, ancient Pagans never felt the necessity of clergy interceding with the Gods on their behalf. Anyone who knew the proper rites could lead a sacrifice and prayer to the Gods, and the Gods often appeared to mortals and intervened in their lives. Nowadays many Pagans take a similar view, and we work to come into direct communion with the Gods, without the need for clergy."

For the organization's full FAQ page:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oikos vs. Clergy

Anyone who knows me, understands that I am against the idea of having Hellenic clergy. I feel very strongly that the ancient tradition of the OIKOS (home/family) as the center of religious life, with the head of the household as priest, is still valid even in today's modern world. Hellenic religion, in my view, was for the most part, egalitarian in nature which really does away with the need for permanently installed religious experts, such as priests or clergy.

That said, there are people and organizations within the American Hellenic community today, such as Hellenion, who feel that it is desirable if not necessary to have professional clergy. The main argument they present revolves around weddings and funerals. In order to have a legally recognized wedding for example, many States require that a legally recognized member of clergy be the officiant. Funerals are also another event where they would prefer to have a clergy member present in order to conduct a proper funeral rite, rather than have a Christian priest or minister conduct the rite in which it is so common to have happen here in the U.S. This often applies in end of life care facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

I can see the validity in the argument for clergy in today's world. Yet, I still feel strongly that there is no need to compromise our values for the sake of convenience or following the established system. The system should conform to us, and if not...we can fight about it.

Now, while I am no personal fan of Timothy J. Alexander, he proposes that people who choose to be ordained for legal reasons, acquire their ordination through a "given upon request" process from institutions that abide by that process (and there are a few that do). This preserves the idea that ANYONE can acquire the status of 'clergymember' without any special religious or institutional process, which is in keeping with the egalitarian notion of Hellenic religion. I think this is an excellent approach for those who choose to go the clergy route.

Now, in doing research while engaged in this debate, I came across some other interesting pieces of information regarding State law as it pertains to officiating weddings. I cannot speak for other states, but it seems the state of California allows ANYONE (friend, relative, etc..) to be "deputized" for a day in order to conduct a legally recognized wedding. I feel that this option is one of the most profound options available to Hellenics in California. It allows traditional Hellenics to have family or friends conduct the wedding and also have it legally recognized. This law is also perfect for people with no particular religious ties to forgoe the need for clergy if they so choose...i.e. atheists or non-demoninationals for example. The brilliance of this law is that it allows for MAXIMUM freedom for MAXIMUM diversity of a population. Now, I realize that not all states have this law, but California state law has now set a precedence which can now be lobbied for in other states.

For those interested in more information regarding California state law and marriage officiants:

Here is Los Angeles County's Deputy Commissioner for Day Program

Deputy Commissioner for a Day Program:

The Registrar/Recorder-County Clerk has a program that allows individuals to be deputized for a day to perform a wedding ceremony. All those requesting to be deputized should fill out the form provided on the web or send in a letter detailing:

  • the full name of the person to be deputized
  • the telephone number and address to contact that person
  • the name of the parties
  • the date of the wedding
  • the location of the wedding

The letter or application should be mailed in to the address below with a check or money order for $75, made payable to RR/CC, 2 months prior to the wedding. Applications received less than one month prior to the wedding if accepted, will be subject to a $13 expediting fee. Mail the letter or application to:

Deputy Commissioner For A Day
Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
12400 Imperial Highway
Room 5001A
Norwalk, CA 90650

Once the letter and fee are received a confirmation letter of approval will be sent to the sender. The confirmation letter will request the individual who is to be deputized to contact our office and make an appointment to be sworn in. Individuals are deputized on Thursdays only, at 11:00a.m. and only by appointment. No appointments will be issued without the fee being paid.

For emergency situations where an individual cannot be deputized on Thursday, accomodations may be able to be made, depending on staff availability. There will be a nominal fee.

Individuals coming in to be deputized should expect to spend an hour here at the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Deputies are welcome to bring guest, however because space is limited we ask that they bring no more than one guest.

The $75 is non-refundable; however it can be applied to another deputy appointment within the same calendar year.

Should you have any additional questions please call (562) 462-2081.

So, to me, the OIKOS is still the center of religious life as it was for the ancients. The question is, do we have the courage to demand that our system conform to us, the people, or do we conform to the system? It's obviously easier to conform. Some people have criticized the notion that we 'pagans' cannot change the system or that it changes too slowly. I would argue that if we only fight for ourselves, then it WILL be difficult. But as I see it, this issue extends beyond the pagan community and affects many other groups as well. Minority groups have certainly had a difficult time fighting the system, but when these groups come together, change is inevitable.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. on Consistency in Justice

I thought it would be appropriate to post this Facebook response I was inspired to write in response to the idea of happiness and freedom. It began with a quote from Corette Scott King:

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people." -- Coretta Scott King

Well, I would say that Coretta King's quote speaks more to the moral correctness and consistency with Justice than it does about happiness. There will always be dissatisfaction in some part of the population with any decision (Heraclitus theory of flux and opposites).....that said, we should focus on what is morally and objectively consistent. But as far as I am concerned, the religious dissatisfaction of those who discriminate based on sexual orientation, is less important than the civil (and human) equalities that are at stake here. Our civil laws are not based on religious ideologies, but practical protections of the civil freedoms of all our citizens.

As the good Dr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'....IMHO, we have to be consistent in our Constitutional values as a Nation for true happiness to exist for all of us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Equality vs. Freedom?

It is clear that since the election of the new President, that lines have been drawn in the sand, both politically and culturally....maybe even spiritually. Of course however, as history demonstrates, wars are never black and white, good guys vs. bad guys....there is always a third factor.

It seems to me that both sides of the political spectrum seem to revolve around one question:

Equality or Freedom?

The current health care debate is a good example of this ideological dichotomy. The "liberals", who happen to be in power at the moment, are (were) pushing for social equality in this health care debate by trying to get all Americans covered by some form of medical insurance, while "conservatives" oppose these ideas apparently out of a fear of a "government takeover of medicine". They are worried that they will lose their freedom to choose their medical coverage and that the quality of health care will decrease (for them as well as others). (I realize that a health care reform bill has been passed recently, but I will not comment on that here.)

Now, I do understand that this issue is very complicated in nature, with all the financial and business considerations, but I am a citizen who is willing to pay extra taxes in order to help improve the social welfare of others, because I believe that will pay dividends which would benefit many people, including myself in the long run and on many levels. Personally, I don't see how improving social welfare will impinge on Freedom as the conservatives claim, but perhaps I am ignorant or naive. It is my understanding that the role of government IS to improve and protect the social welfare of its people. Maybe I'm wrong....?

Having said that, I think that the independent spirt inherent in conservatism is certainly good. We should all strive to be independent people as this is healthy. However, for a political group whose ideologies are often rooted in a religion that espouses love for your fellow man, it seems very odd to me that they would not want social equality. (Of course, this changes when it comes to the issue of the application of Justice, that is when they seem to be okay with her being blind.)

So, what is the answer to this complex question of Equality vs. Freedom?

It's quite clear to me when I read the words of our founding fathers what the answer is.

From the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson:
(Note: Independence is another word for Freedom)

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

What does this tell us?

Simple: Man cannot be Free without is not a choice between one or the other.

Apathy and Politics

Plato once wrote that, "The penalty good men pay for indifferene towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."

It seems to me that for too long, citizens of my generation (Gen X) have been very indifferent towards politics. The system was so large and convoluted that we didn't think our voice mattered, so we ignored it thinking that we cannot influence the system. When we decided to actually vote in past elections, many of us felt as if our voice was completely ignored due to some dubious issues in the voting system. Many of us gave up.....that is until recently.

The election of the new President has certainly triggered a firestorm of public opinion and passion on all sides of the political spectrum. For a Democracy, this passion is a good thing no matter what side you are on. This passion has also ignited a sentiment among the citizenry to monitor and pay more attention to the political establishment. Now, with the presence of the Internet, a new kind of free press that allows the average citizen to instantly have their voices heard in public forums. While this has its drawbacks of course, such as giving people the instant ability to publish scrupulous and unsubstantiated claims, it makes people in the government think twice about their actions and words....they know that the people are watching and can call them out on their actions. In a very real sense, it keeps them honest.

Plato was right, it is important for the people to pay attention and not get comfortable. There are things happening everyday in our government that go unnoticed that directly affect us. Some good and some bad. The point is that political apathy is not an acceptable quality in a citizen of the most poweful country in the world. All actions or inaction create an outcome of some kind. These outcomes not only affect us, but those around us well....including people of other nations. So the question now is, what outcome do you want for yourself, for your family, and your nation?

Pay attention and speak up when necessary. Otherwise, it is not our Democracy that fails us as so many of us might feel, it is WE who fail our Democracy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Freedom and Ancient Greek Theology

To the ancient Greeks, the concept of Freedom (ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ) was an assumed state of being. It was an inherent aspect of the universe (KOSMOS) and human life (BIOS). For some of the more mystical Hellenic traditions, it is even conceptualized as being a kind of "natural law" or a part of the cosmic order and logic of the universe (LOGOS), not unlike the laws we find in physics. For Hellenics, natural law applies to all things, at all times and while it has the potential to be violated, such a situation is not without its consequences. The Hellenic view of Freedom also goes much farther in scope than the philosophical dilemma of "free will" that many religions seem to struggle with. To Hellenics, there is no debate about the existence of our freedom. The only struggle we deal with is about how to protect this natural law against what the ancients called 'tyrants', those people who want to deny other people their natural freedoms.

Today, religious extremists use their religion to promote intolerance and insist on violating the freedom of others. This can only happen with a worldview that insists that the KOSMOS is inferior to some higher spiritual imperative or dimension. To Hellenics, this idea is completely irrational. In one version of our creation myth, both Creation (THESIS) and Nature (PHYSIS), two of the primeval forces/deities (PROTOGENOI) who are present at the beginning of the KOSMOS are themselves expressions of the highest spiritual imperative. This tells us that everything in the Universe, is inherently sacred, including all of humanity which came later. Logical consistency demands, then, that there are no exceptions to this idea. This requirement for consistency is what binds the Law of Freedom (ELEUFTHERIA) to the notion of Equality (ISONOMIA).

Hellenics also view the idea of diversity (POLYMORPHIA) as a form of natural law that extends from our theology and applies to all areas of the KOSMOS. This concept is reflected in the scientific reality of biodiversity. It is not an opinion or a belief, even though some may choose to view it in that manner, it is still an observable fact of nature, an aspect of LOGOS. Therefore, Hellenic religion requires that Diversity be respected.

At a time where fundamentalism seems to be on the rise and religious theology is used to support the hatred and intolerance of others, it is empowering to know that the concepts of Freedom, Equality, and Tolerance have both theological and philosophical support from an ancient and profound source. For Hellenics, these very ideals are not just words for us, they are direct expressions of the Gods themselves. These are the very things that allow us to improve both ourselves and our societies. They must be expressed, promoted, and vigorously protected when necessary.