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Grounding Politics in Ethics

b2ap3_thumbnail_MM900040941.GIFRecently I read an article by a conservative Pagan. It was a very different view point from what I hear from my community in the Northeast. The writer defined why his voting choice followed his religious principles. Since this blog is about grounding our spiritual principles into our everyday lives, I enjoyed reading how he approached that.

Certain branches of Pagan practice have been deeply influenced by the liberal Left. The Environmental and Feminist movements have been a good match for a religion that engages with Nature, and indeed, it would be fair to say that Dianic Wicca emerged from a human need to express deeply held beliefs in a group, spiritual setting. Liberal political attitudes are the norm where I live, and not just with Pagans. But as Mr. Taylor points out, there are plenty of conservative Pagans, and not only among those that practice Norse Traditions.

I find Mr. Taylor’s style to be a bit abrasive, but the essence of what he says reflects his religious morals, and I respect that. Pagans are often converts, and it is nice to find a religion that is open and accepting of so many things that our culture, or religion of birth, has said is bad. But my question is, are the values being expressed truly Pagan, or are these the values of political culture? Mr. Taylor points out that Mr. DiZerga’s statement is little more than MSNBC talking points, and I have to agree. Mr. DiZerga’s loathing of Republicans fairly drips off the screen, and I need to understand how classifying half the population of the US as woman-hating, environment-destroying, non-humans displays the values of the Rede or demonstrates virtue of any kind.

Before we even ask if a political choice is in alignment with Pagan values, we need to have a lot of information, and like any Ph.D. candidate, we should be looking at arguments on both sides of a given issue. Truth is a virtue, and we are well served to dig deep to find it. Compassion is another, and that does not mean compassion only for those that hold the same opinions as ourselves. I have had the courage to listen to things that were hard to hear. It hurts. But the unwillingness to listen to both sides of an argument displays a spiritual weakness that is contrary to my Pagan values.

There are good reasons why government should to stay out of the business of religion. And there are numerous laws on the books that are there because Christians thought that legislating Christian morality was a great idea. But do we want to follow their leadand force our Pagan values on others? And are these “Pagan” values or are they from another source? These are questions that need to be asked long before we form political opinions and take them to the polls.

What Pagan ethic do you follow? How do you live with that ethic on a daily basis? How does that inform your political choices? Or does it not? I would like to know.

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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.

Comments

  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch Friday, 08 March 2013

    As a conservative/libertarian Heathen myself, my religious ethics are based in the Eddas and Sagas, and in the folk-customs of northern Europe. As such, loyalty to my family is paramount, as is self-reliance and a deep suspicion of distant centralized authority. My political beliefs mirror those religious beliefs; I think that less government, as a rule, is better government, including both government services and the taxes needed to operate them.

    While I do see a role for the Federal government in some things (national defense, for example), I'd generally prefer that local services were funded and decided upon locally. Every dollar spent by the government is a dollar taken from some person or company, and I see no reason why someone in Florida should be paying for police in New York, or someone in New York should be paying for disaster relief in Florida; the whole thing seems nothing more than an excuse to skim some of that money in order to pay for its administration.

    Such local decision-making is in line with the Heathen ethic of self-reliance, and the forcible taking of money to give it to someone else is completely at odds with the Germanic concept of the gift-cycle. Whereas gifts are freely given and reciprocated, thus building bonds of friendship, taxation is coercive, and thus builds resentment and dependence.

    I think Paganism in general (if there even is such a thing, but that's another discussion) is finally coming to the realization that the assumptions about shared political values aren't quite as accurate as has been supposed. Certainly some folks aren't happy about that at all, and aren't shy about saying so; their "loathing of Republicans" doesn't end when they find one that is Pagan or Heathen. Such is generally a tactic meant to intimidate and silence opposition, but it seems to be having the opposite effect. More and more conservative and libertarian Pagans and Heathens are "coming out" (so to speak) and I think it's a good thing.

  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin Sunday, 10 March 2013

    It had not occurred to me how nicely the family focus fit with the "less government" ideal of Libertarianism. That would explain why so many of my Heathen friends are Libertarians! :)

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Saturday, 09 March 2013

    Ms Rifkin-
    I object to what seems to me a deeply misleading and inaccurate account of my views. Taylor's account of my views, to which you refer, is inaccurate at best. Additionally, both what he writes of me and of his own views seems almost 100% devoid of actual arguments or factual claims. Lots of assertions and nothing much more. And you say you agree with his judgment of me.

    My piece to which you both object, can easily be found at my blog here at W&P, to which for some reason you do not link. Here is the link: http://witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Culture-Blogs/the-case-for-a-100-democratic-vote.html

    Anyone reading it would see I explicitly said I focused on issues regarding women and nature. I also gave lots and lots of links and examples. I also gave my dizerega.com blog address for those who wanted a more complete argument. There I gave even more links and examples. In other words, I gave those who disagreed with me lots of targets to challenge, if they could challenge them. If you look at my post and subsequent comments, none did.

    You and Taylor by contrast say nothing concrete enough to prevent you from retreating into “it’s just my opinion and I have a right to my opinion.”

    So you do. But you have no right for anyone to take it seriously until you can back it up.

    I am happy to discuss politics with anyone who honestly tries to engage, but honest engagement requires you to give at least ONE reason for your view, a reason, not an opinion. Once you have given the reason(s), then your opinion is worth taking seriously if it actually flows from your reasoning and your reasons can withstand challenges. But only then.

    But I eat right wingers as appetizers over at dizerega.com. They lack in nutrition so do not quite qualify as a meal, but they crunch and squeal loudly in an entertaining way.

    I am nicer at W&P.

  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin Sunday, 10 March 2013

    Mr DiZerga,
    Please accept my apologies for not linking to your blog post. That was purely an oversight and has been corrected!

    It was not my intention in this post to argue political points, but how those points are informed by our spiritual values. For me, truth means looking at both sides of an issue. As I started out as a Liberal myself, and the most vocal Pagans with which I interact are Liberal, I already know those points. So I have listened to the conservative side of the argument. I don't always agree with what conservatives have to say, but about half the time I do. My political views best align with Libertarianism. I did not state my political position, because there are other places to argue politics, and I already do plenty of that on Facebook with people I know personally. But I may accept your invitation to visit DiZerga.com.

    What I find deeply offensive and contrary to my spiritual values is the de-humanization of those that hold opposing view points. This displays a profound lack of empathy, which runs counter to my ethic of compassion.

    I see points from the liberal side that are not pro-female, and I see no substantive discussion about actions that would genuinely be good for the environment. This is why I ask the question about whether one's Pagan values are informed by ethics or by the media.

    Such an attitude also divides our small Pagan community. I find the level of nastiness that Liberals level at Conservatives to be somewhat shocking. I have Conservative Pagan friends who want no part of group practice due to the assumption that conservatives must be bad/weak/stupid people. If we don't stand together, we will have nothing.

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Sunday, 10 March 2013

    There are people on the left and liberals (two different categories BTW) who dehumanize those who disagree with them, though since the demise of Marxism I have never seen it on the scale we see today on the radical right. I have never been one of them, having once been conservative and then libertarian myself. Had you taken the time to actually address my blog rather than throwing rocks at it as a straw man, perhaps you might have noticed.

  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin Sunday, 17 March 2013

    "But I eat right wingers as appetizers over at dizerega.com. They lack in nutrition so do not quite qualify as a meal, but they crunch and squeal loudly in an entertaining way."

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Sunday, 17 March 2013

    Context should demonstrate I am describing a point of view written after considerable irritation with your initial post. My point still stands. Because I used to be a conservative, then a libertarian, I know and respect many of those arguments. But what I get from what I call the nihilist right in most cases are straw men, attacks, a refusal to engage the examples I give, and rhetoric. Like your post that agreed with a charge against me but paid no attention to what I actually wrote. Give a reasoned argument sometime and I'll be a nicer.

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Sunday, 10 March 2013

    One final point. My blog here at W&P does make substantive points about how we should relate to our environment. I think your point about 'liberals' having views that are not 'pro female' is interesting ONLY if you give some examples. Liberalism is a very big vague term and always has been in this country. Conservatism is the same. That is why I continually distinguish between conservatives, who in the US usually are a mix of Burkean insights and classical liberalism, (think Goldwater) and the radical right which is distinguished by a deep authoritarianism towards others and hostility to rational discourse (think theocrats and Limbaugh). Even that is a simplification, but it's a start.

  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien Thursday, 14 March 2013

    While the substance of these posts is valid and interesting, I'm surprised at the unnecessary crankiness. IME, dialogue is more productive when all parties are respectful.

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