I dreamed that I was in an Anglican or Episcopalian Church in North America and had been invited by the vicar to introduce a hymn. She handed me the order of service which already had a hymn picked out, and it had been annotated to change “him” to “her”, so I introduced it and encouraged people to sing “her” where appropriate if they wanted to. One of the congregation said they didn’t really know the tune for that hymn. So then I suggested we sang Morning has broken and changed “him” to “her” in the second verse, and “God’s” to “Her” in the third verse. Then I woke up.
It was a nice dream. I’ve led services like that in Unitarian churches (a number of Pagan winter solstice carol services, a service where I did a sermon entitled Why I am a Wiccan — thanks to the wonderful Cambridge Unitarian Church, UK, for hosting that one, and many more), so it wasn’t completely unrealistic.
It made me think about what Pagan religions have in common with Christianity, and then about what we have in common with other religions.
In a time of pandemic, when community is really important, it seems like a good idea to focus on the values we share.
The most obvious one is the one that all religions have in common: the Golden Rule. The Wiccan version of the Golden Rule is “if it harms no-one, do what you will” (my preferred interpretation of this is that, as there’s hardly any action that doesn’t somehow cause some harm, we all have to think very carefully about the consequences of our actions).
Another thing that most religions share is a love of Nature. (Thankfully, people who are self-isolating due to coronavirus can still go for walks in the countryside.) Pagans often view the Gnostics as sympathetic to our ideas, because they were quite esoteric, but in fact they viewed the physical world with deep suspicion, sometimes outright hostility. One of the reasons that mainstream Christians pushed back against Gnosticism was this anti-Nature bias.
Judaism, many Christian denominations, Sufism, and Unitarianism all have a deep love of Nature, or creation as some of them refer to it. There are many sacred texts and hymns from these religions that describe Nature, or use natural imagery. Think of the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) or the book of Koheleth (Ecclesiastes). There are many more recent examples. The history of Pagan and pantheist tendencies in Unitarianism go back to the 18th century.
Eastern religions (Taoism, Sikhism, and Hinduism) also have a deep love of Nature.
There are also plenty of liberal religious groups that welcome LGBTQ2SIA people (the list is growing all the time, but honourable mention must be made of the pioneers in LGBT+ inclusion: Quakers, Unitarians, Liberal Judaism, and of course Paganism).
Most religions have an emphasis on compassion, and Pagan traditions also value compassion and caring. Compassion is one of the eight Wiccan virtues listed in The Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente. In the Charge, compassion is paired with power. You need power (shared power, power-with) to make compassion effective.
Compassion is a vital principle in Druidry, where it is paired with will, for similar reasons to why it’s paired with power in Wicca. A third principle in Druidry is justice; in The Druid’s Prayer, the knowledge of justice leads into the love of all existences.
A list of Roman virtues does not specifically include compassion but there are three or four virtues which combine to make compassion (Comitas, Clementia, Liberalitas, and Salus).
Most Indigenous value systems include concepts of community and caring for others. The African principle of Ubuntu is fairly well known. In most Indigenous cultures, community is the most important value, along with listening, silence, sharing, and humility (which literally means being close to the Earth). Western cultures can definitely learn from these values.
The videos of Italians singing together from their balconies really moved me. Singing is a wonderful expression of togetherness and one that could do with reviving. Totally impressed that they know more than the chorus to a couple of songs and seem to have at least one musical instrument in their apartments!
Entire thread of Italian balcony singing 🇮🇹💚🤍❤️🇮🇹 https://t.co/Nil1vyOOj3
— Yvonne Aburrow 🧙♀️🌈🌙 (@vogelbeere) March 14, 2020
I hope that this new emphasis on community and doing what’s needful in a crisis will soon be applied to dealing with the climate emergency too.