Walking the Path: My Interfaith Journey

A Pagan seminarian's perspective on faith, theology, and facilitating interfaith dialogue.

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Denora

Denora

Denora is currently a full-time wife, mother, and chaplain. She is an eight-year veteran of the United States Air Force, an avid writer and blogger, as well as a fire spinner. She is an active member of Circle Sanctuary's Military Ministries team and the Lady Liberty League Military Affairs Task Force. She is also the Ecumenical Program Director for Oak Spirit Sanctuary of Missouri.
When the Path Isn't Clear: Doing the Work of Pagan Activism

The last week or so has been quite eventful in the Pagan community. Without rehashing specifics, I reference these posts which speak to the second and third order effects of speech and the power of words: 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/aloneinherpresence/2015/11/i-wont-shame-my-elders/

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Denora, thought you would like to know that Macha (Aline) posted the following on her Facebook page about an hour ago. "Recently
We Have Work To Do: A Reflection on the Parliament

I am finally reaching a point where I can begin to unpack my feelings concerning this year's Parliament of the World's Religions. On many levels this was a life changing experience, and one that I won't soon forget. I have read several other posts concerning the event as folks return home and back to daily life--taking the time to unpack their own feelings and put them in words. The majority of what has been written is positive, which I won't deny is a good space to hold for all the amazing occurrences and connections that were made. But allow me to be a dissenting voice for a moment...because despite all the positive aspects of this event, there is work yet to be done.

I'd like to start by quoting one of my favorite professors: "Stop focusing on what all religions have in common, and start doing the work of learning to live with the differences. Some religions are concerned with reaching the top of the mountain, others don't even care that there is a mountain." --Jacob Kinnard

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  • Earl Nissen
    Earl Nissen says #
    Thank you for the reflection. I like "asking for the understanding and the respect to be unique and legitimate." I also enjoyed t

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Processing Suicide Through a Pagan Paradigm

**Trigger Warning** I am going to discuss some very personal perspectives on processing grief and feelings around suicide. These are my own feelings, and should not be taken as any generalized statement on these issues. If this topic is particularly painful, please remain cognizant of your own emotional status and stop reading as you must.

Before I can even begin to process the amazing emotions and revelations of the last week as a participant of the Parliament of the World's Religions, I have to take a moment to grieve the loss of a friend.

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  • Holli Emore
    Holli Emore says #
    Sending you love and peace, Denora. I struggled with thoughts of suicide for many years and actually felt envy when someone I knew
The Theological Aftermath of PSG: A Flood Narrative For Modern Times

"Twelve hundred years had not yet passed

When the land extended and the peoples multiplied.

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Religious Freedom and Serving in the U.S. Military

There is a battle currently being fought right here on American soil. It isn't with guns or ships or planes, but with people and power dynamics. The current situation at the Great Lakes Naval Training facility is an indicator of this struggle--how and when does the U.S. military allow for the accommodation of religious freedom and expression for its service members.

On April 3, 2015 the commander of Naval Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill enacted a decision to cancel religious services being provided by civilian volunteer clergy on the installation. This decision affected seven minority religious groups, effectively dismantling a web of emotional and spiritual support for the trainees that walk through those gates. The decision was justified and cited to be in line with the naval instruction regulating the use of personnel for religious support by the commander of RTC: “In March of 2014 the RTC Command Religious Program (CRP) began a review of how best to respond to the religious needs of recruits at RTC and whether the command was following the guidance contained in U.S. Navy regulations, which sets a hierarchy for which spiritual leaders should be utilized: command chaplains, accredited uniformed volunteers, contract clergy, and then civilian volunteer, if needed.”[1]

A link to the Navy Times report on this can be found here: http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/2015/04/22/military-religious-freedom-foundation-mikey-weinstein-navy-boot-camp-recruit-training-command/26205131/ 

Several official responses to this decision have already been sent, including a letter from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL), claiming the violation of religious liberty rights on behalf of the trainees at RTC.

There is no argument that this decision is in fact a violation of religious liberty rights, but many are asking why the Navy would go to such lengths to deny minority faith groups the resources already in place for expression of their faith. I believe we are on a speeding train heading toward a cliff on this particular issue, and if it is not addressed quickly we will see very ugly consequences.

First and foremost, a discussion needs to be had on the purpose of military chaplains in uniform. I would like to borrow a statement from Ed Waggoner as it concerns a growing trend in chaplain dynamics: “U.S. military chaplaincies are at a crossroad. The bedrock rationale for the existence of chaplaincies is to provide for the free exercise of religion by rank-and-file military personnel. For the first time in their history, a significant contingent of endorsers and chaplains has recanted its professional responsibility to care for all personnel. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are entitled to all military benefits, including services provided through the chaplaincies. Chaplains volunteer for military careers of just such service. Unfortunately, some theologically and socially conservative Christian groups now cast themselves as victims of coercion and invert pastoral priorities: they insist that the military protect their religiously motivated refusal to serve all personnel. The chaplaincies are at serious risk of becoming strongholds of religiously defended discrimination rather than generous religious and moral service.”[2]  

Let’s dissect that statement for a moment. Military chaplaincy has been a centrally authorized function since 1775. It can be argued that the socially acceptable form of religious expression was overwhelmingly Abrahamic in nature, and Christian in particular. But as we have seen in the last half a century, alternative forms of spirituality and religious expression have become more mainstream and the U.S. military is a volunteer force of individuals pulled from American society. I feel Mr. Waggoner’s statement is apt (though a bit limited in scope) that the chaplain’s primary function is the support of all military personnel and their emotional and spiritual needs. Now, execution is an entirely different matter. In the civilian world, if your primary care specialist deems you need to see an orthopedist for example, they refer you to someone who deals with that. They don’t tell you you’re wrong for needing orthopedic treatment and try to convince you there is something else going on. This is how chaplaincy is also supposed to work. If a chaplain cannot meet the spiritual needs of a military service member, it falls on that chaplain to make the proper referral to someone who can. Hence, the introduction of civilian lay leaders and volunteers. These programs are essential for complimenting the spiritual outreach and effectiveness of the chaplain corps and actually work against the very argument most chaplains have about performing spiritual practices that are in direct violation of their personal beliefs. Cancelling the services at RTC is not only a clear violation of religious liberties for the trainees, but it puts undue stress on the staff to provide additional support they are either not comfortable or knowledgeable enough to provide. Additionally, we are setting the stage for a rise in possible suicide cases as well as drop outs due to stress and lack of emotional support. I cannot stand by the decision made by RTC, and as of now I do not see a functional reason for why it was made. 

For the resources I used in this post and additional material on military chaplaincy: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0ByAY6igmY7VRfjlUbEFrdHlLNU9CNnh0Nnp2blBtYUJ4cHNfS2xxRk90R0gydXBLMUY2LTQ&usp=sharing 

 

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Walking the Path

As the wheel of the year turns and takes us with it, our lives are interwoven in the constant death-rebirth-renewal cycle. I watch as new spring leaves are starting to awaken around me and I pause to tie these themes into the deeper meanings of my life.

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