Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Truckin' Along

Last week Thorn Coyle interviewed me for her podcast Elemental Castings. During the interview I was feeling clumsy and inarticulate, but when I listened to it I found it was better than I'd expected. I would add to my closing remarks the word "engagement." Listening is great, but you can't really do it if you don't remain engaged. I wish to see Pagans cultivate and foster an ethics of service. Thanks to Thorn for the opportunity reflect openly with her on these ideas of what we think can enrich Paganism and contribute to its viability, maturity and sustainability.

Along the lines of what we were discussing, community, I neglected to mention a phenomenon that was brought to my attention by religious scholar Dr. Nikki Bado-Fralick, a member of the Board of Directors of Cherry Hill Seminary. That phenomenon is what she called "the Protestantization of religion." As I understand it, that is the adoption, by religious communities that are new to the U.S., of the forms of organization that Protestant churches use. For instance, rabbis, who traditionally were commentators and interpreters of Torah and Jewish law, now also assume "clergy-ship," in the sense that they may be responsible for the administration of the temple, visiting the sick, crisis counseling, etc.

Yesterday I spent a few hours with my friend Luanne (Lulu), who has been overcoming leukemia. She's doing well. She and her partner, Urania, have a lush garden bursting with California poppies, deep purple irises, columbines, sweet peas, jasmine, grapes, and many different kinds of roses that look gorgeous and smell even better. The garden, often visited by their neighbor's cat Tigre, seems a restorative place for her to recover. (Too bad I didn't have my camera with me.)

At yesterday's Justice Advocacy Team of Marin Interfaith Council we continued our discussions about how to serve the wider community when we are strained for funds and the government and other social service organizations are not serving those affected by these issues either. The current California statewide election highlights this. Government officials seem reluctant to fund such efforts and/or do not have the necessary funds in their budgets. I resent the many thousands of dollars the state doesn't have being expended to conduct this election, when we already have elected a Senate, an Assembly and a Governor to run our state.

We are now seeing the predictable results of the passage about 30 years ago of the conservative Jarvis-Gann Initiative, Proposition 13. That law reduces and limits property taxes. So now we are faced with workforce reductions in every area of government: schools, hospitals and health care, social services, environmental conservation efforts, parks and recreation, law enforcement, fire protection, prison housing and administration, you name it. For a state that prides itself on its forward-thinking, this is a shameful state of affairs. As prosperous as the state has been, especially in the areas of agriculture, computer science, and entertainment, we have the awful distinction of sharing the lowest cost-per-student educational funding with several poor Southern states. We are 49 out of 50 in funding our schools!