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Every denomination needs one of these...

Willis Elliot and Pagans

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I like Rev. Willis Elliot. His independent thinking is something to admire in a denomination with so many monolithically self-righteous clergy who comfortably play "follow the leader". That admiration, however, doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with everything he says.

This week, Newsweek's "On Politics" asked, "This July 4, Pagans are rallying outside the White House. They want the military to add a Pagan chaplain. Should they get one? Would you vote for a Pagan for public office?"

Elliot's response gave me that rare "cringe moment". From Elliot's article:
1. I vote on issues and for whichever candidate I think has the highest integrity, competence, and commitment to the public welfare. I hope for candidates who, in addition to those virtues, share my commitment to locating the sacred in Biblical religion: “Our fathers’ God, to thee, Author of liberty, to thee we sing. / Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light….” I could vote for an atheist, who locates the sacred in reason. I could more easily vote for a Pagan, who re-enchants the world in correction of the Enlightenment’s disenchantment of the world.

2. No, I do not think the military should “add a Pagan chaplain.” A military’s function is to support a nation’s spirit, not only its body. And America’s originating and continuing spirit locates the sacred in Biblical religion coordinate with reason. In that it locates the sacred elsewhere, Paganism is un-American. But un-Biblical religions, at their own rather than at public expense, should have access, for spiritual support, to their adherents in the U.S. military.

The "Paganism is un-American" keeps ringing in my ear.

The question of whether or not Pagans represent a significant percentage in the military to warrant dedicated clergy is a reasonable question to consider. The criteria, however, shouldn't rest on determining which faiths are "American" and which ones are not.

Elliot's foundational argument against a Pagan chaplain is also dishonest. By explaining that "...'Paganism' is not one religion but an umbrella-term for many tiny recent movements with contemporary agendas," supposes that it would be impossible to identify a Pagen cleric to satisfy the spiritual needs of Pagans in the military. Although many different Christian faiths are represented in the military, the spiritual needs of Christian soldiers are often met by clergy from different denominations.

Elliot goes on to explain we are a country of "heritage" but mistakenly limits that heritage to the phrase "one nation, under God" - a phrase only added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

The debate on whether Pagans should have clerics in the military should by a logistical question based on the needs of those serving our country and not one determined by arbitrary worthiness. We are, in deed, a country of heritage - but that heritage isn't limited to just Christians in the last five decades.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, July 05, 2007


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