A Love to End All Wars: On Race & Religion



Last night, arriving home after doing my civic duty at a public hearing
regarding fourteen activists facing a $70,000 fine for chaining themselves to our local transit system on Black Friday, a friend pointed me to a piece that, among many other things, said that one should not ask Pagan organizations to take stands on racial justice, as it is just a “cause du jour.”

I decided to respond this morning and thought the points I made might be good for many of us to think on and dialog about. Here is my comment, edited so that it applies to the broader situation:

“We must look at our world as it is, and it is a desperate and painful ordeal to undergo. Yet the pain of the world is what we are masking by accepting the false dreams of our fallen empire whose jaws still devour even those in its death throes. Before dream we must open our eyes, and wash them clean.”

That is from Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey. In that book, he clearly asks us to work both in the shadow and in full sunlight. He asks us to engage, deeply.

My magic works both in the mysterious realms and in the manifest world. Oftentimes the two overlap. Separating spirit and matter is a trap. And yes, it is a trap often made by certain Christian sects. It seems to me that we can also fall into this trap, in saying that religious organizations should not speak to their members on troubles of the times.

If spirit and matter are conjoined, interpenetrating, not separate, then how should my spirituality not have a care for justice? How should I not care that people get fed, clothed, housed? That Nature of which we are a part is not raped and trampled? How should I not care that together, we’ve built systems of such shocking inequity that government employees regularly beat, harass, rape, and kill members of society with impunity?

Should a religious organization not have a care for the welfare of its members? Isn’t that part of its mandate? For example, Pagan and other religious groups have spoken out in favor of marriage equality. Why shouldn’t Pagan and other religious groups also speak on racial injustice? Both directly affect their members. Choosing to speak on one sets a precedent to speak on the other.

My religion is never about morality. My religion deals with ethics. My religion –like so many Gods and Goddesses do– deals with justice.

Peter Grey wrote: “Love is the war to end all wars, and the war is upon us.”

I know where I’m standing.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the role of your religious or spiritual organization in taking stands? Should religious people or organizations be engaged in civic life? Are you? In what ways?

11 Responses to “A Love to End All Wars: On Race & Religion”

  1. Sea Serpent

    If religious and spiritual people – as well as others – don’t take stands against injustice, tragedy is bound to happen; sooner or later. Nazi Germany is a classic example of this. I also recommend that you google Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    Everything is interconnected; often in ways we are unaware of. Opening up to justice, paying attention to what is going on around you, is opening up to Spirit. Not paying attention, being complacent, blocks you and interrupts the flow of enlightenment; especially that of your blind spots. The gods and spirits want us to participate in life, and help make the world a better place for others. Society, the overculture, want us to do the opposite; to be self-conscious, to feel bad about ourselves for what we don’t have; so we can buy these products that are supposed to fix all our problems (they usually don’t), including those that society insists are flaws but may not actually be such impediments. Above all, society wants us to focus on ourselves so that we DON’T pay attention. This is the opposite of love.

    I speak from personal experience. When I accept myself, I not only love myself, but I love others too. And my focus is on them, and ending injustice, where it should be.

    • PF Publishing

      Yes, Bonhoeffer is someone I’ve looked to in year’s past. A good resource and reminder of our need to act justly and with love, particularly in times of trial.

      That final paragraph is beautiful. Thank you. We can become so disconnected from ourselves, one another, and this earth. Religion is meant to reconnect us.

  2. Witch

    Sure they should be engaged in that! Paganism is a path of equality, ethics and love. That is very important input we may have in justice movements. God/dess is Mother to all of us, not only some groups, be it white, heterosexual or male people. I think one of the goals of rebirth of Pagan practise is to be more awakened to other people’s needs and to know we are ONE. Indeed ONE.

    • PF Publishing

      Witch, thank you for writing. it is great that this is your path and your thinking.

      I don’t feel that all Pagans even need to share your particular theology to comprehend that we at very least *interlock* and are *interdependent* with one another, and with our Gods, with Nature. Nothing on this planet lives in a vacuum. Everything relates.

  3. Seth T.J.

    Personally, if I were head of a pagan organization, and an organizer asked my group to take a stand on an issue, my first reaction would be to be flattered. For many reasons that are perfectly understandable, the social justice community usually sees the church, the synagogue and/or the mosque to be the significant ally. To be asked for support is a sign of respect, something we cannot take for granted as pagans. Incidentally, tonight I missed a local panel on community control of police forces. Luckily, the group decided to extend the event by moving it into the main campus thoroughfare. Stretching a big “Black Lives Matter” banner from one sidewalk to another, Afro-American activists reclaimed the road for testimony on the dynamics of racism in our community. One speaker reminded us that when we take action like that it’s more than just us; we are not alone. The ancestors and living freedom fighters around the world are also with us. Good to hear that hearings were also being attended on the West Coast as we took our little stand in the Midwest.

    • PF Publishing

      Seth I think you make very good points. Churches and synagogues have often been places of refuge for the most oppressed – I’m thinking of the Sanctuary movement, for example.

  4. Labrys/Syrbal

    I absolutely think any religious/spiritual tradition that does NOT urge engagement to better the living conditions of the world is NOT a spiritual connection at all. Some of the dominant faiths teach a sort of “Oh, what the hell, we will all be in a better place after this world” pap to people. I am all about THIS world and people NOT finding it a living hell.

    Racism is not a “cause de jour”, neither is fighting sexism or homophobia. If “love is the law” for a lot of pagans, then that love cannot be limited to people of the same color, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

  5. Nan Edwards Boyster

    The whole point of magick, in my opinion, is to connect us to the fibers of energy that make up everything. Is this easy? No, of course not. But it is necessary, if one wishes to truly BE magical. This goal, even before it is accomplished, requires us to use our compassion and empathy to”feel” what others feel, and this, by almost immediate extension, leads us to defend others.
    Sometimes this is hard to keep up with, such as when one continuously sees some of the meanest effects of people when one works with the public. I know my job wore me out, and I had to fight to reconnect just recently. But that connection is essential, and that connection leads one to greater things, to actually grow closer still to the Gods. When one sticks up for pretty human beings, for animals, for trees, for the Earth itself, one grows, expands, becomes greater. To separate that from one’s religious experiences is, again in my opinion, an insult to the Gods.
    Of course, I’m quite opinionated.

    • PF Publishing

      “But that connection is essential, and that connection leads one to greater things, to actually grow closer still to the Gods.”



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