Mark Wallace’s new book, When God Was A Bird, represents a well-intentioned first step along the path towards Christian animism. Unfortunately, it is the same first step that Christians have been taking for hundreds of years. Can they do better? …maybe.
We might try to follow where the clown leads, but we cannot hope to pin him down. It is only when we stop insisting that the clown be just one thing that he is free to become the multiplicity of being that he really is.
We draw a line around what is sacred, to set it apart as special. We imagine the planet as a precious blue marble floating in space, so small and far away we cannot see the delicate contours of our own faces turned upwards towards the night sky, doing the imagining. We worship the lands that give us life, the earth that sustains us with its salty waters and wild winds, its mud and grit. We encircle the world in the darkness of outer space, and it shimmers all the brighter.
But when we’re not paying attention, the lines we draw around the sacred can cut us right through the middle.
These days our society is moving further and further from the simple conception of gender as a binary: male or female, man or woman. We are beginning to recognize that gender is complex. In the natural world, scientists continue to discover undeniable examples of how sexuality is multifaceted and fluid, from the parthenogenesis of blacktip sharks to the three distinct sexes of the midshipman toadfish. But we’re not there yet. Binaries have kept us trapped for a long time, defining us by what we are not or what we supposedly cannot do, rather than by who we are and what we’re really capable of.
When faced with a decision, we are practically obsessed with separation and loss. When we embrace choice, we shift our focus from loss to enjoyment, from separation to engagement. To choose is to express not only our freedom, but also our joyful and sensual embodiment in the world. Every choice is a new opportunity.
One of the most insidious ideas that environmentalists and animists alike continue to struggle against is the belief that to be pro-environment is to be automatically anti-human. But social and environmental justice are not (and never have been) separate issues. The success of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and the resiliency of its community in the face of adversity, can provide us with a real-life example of how principles of cooperation, commitment and trust can help us nurture meaningful, healthy relationships in the more-than-human community.
The second installment of my UU-Pagan series, The Mystery of the Many: In Silence and Song, goes live today over on the Patheos CUUPS blog! In it, I tackle a topic I’ve long been pondering: how polytheistic mysticism differs from the ways we usually talk about the divine mystery and the purpose of spiritual community in a mostly-monotheistic Western culture. My lived experience of progressive values leads me to the conclusion that it is not a unity of agreement that we are seeking, but the freedom to disagree in a multitude of astounding and beautiful ways, each seeking our own paths.
How do we cultivate spiritual community in the face of this diversity? I think UU offers some surprising alternative approaches….