It was an impressive round-table discussion about pagan leadership in the 21st century, and I'm sorry I missed it. But luckily we have YouTube and we can all watch in a series of seven segments.
I found all of the discussion topics relevant and intriguing, I also found the the panelists very intelligent and appreciated their answers and their point of view. Of all the insights, I found in Part Four Jason's answer to dealing with the mundane media really resonated with me. He said what we really need too consider is whether or not we actually need to speak to the media.
I have had more than my 15 seconds of fame being in the local papers and on the news once or twice, but when I have been contacted my immediate response has always been concern. The panel validated my concerns during their discussion, and I found these concerns validated yet again in light of the Charlie Sheen Vs. The Warlock fiasco. Because when we speak publicly as Pagans, we end up speaking for Pagans, wither we want to or not. This is not a responsibility I want. So when I do speak publicly, I try to focus more on my Chaplaincy rather than my Pagancy.
This past Wednesday I was contacted by an enthusiastic community organizer who was trying to manifest an interfaith prayer vigil ad hoc. He explained what he was trying to do and asked if I would be willing to speak publicly on the matter along side other religious community leaders. I told him I needed to conform my availability and would call him back shorty. I knew my availability, but didn't want to make an ad hoc decision because there would be media coverage. I sough counsel before calling him back and agreeing to participate.
We met face to face later that day, and after meeting him and talking more in depth about the vigil, I felt very confident about the event and my participation in it. The speakers included a local Baptist minister, a Sihk community leader, a Catholic priest and your friendly neighborhood Wiccan WitchDoctorJoe. But fortunately I was introduced as a Minority Faith Chaplain and managed to squeeze a piece of that into my speech:
There was media coverage, the local news station was there to interview all the speakers on the matter, and I got te see myself on the TV again. Thats always cool, as long as its for the right reasons.
As a combat veteran I served my country for almost ten years. During my time in service I was deployed to many foreign countries and experience many different cultures. I took those opportunities to explore those cultures and their religious beliefs and practices. While I recognized many differences, I also identified many similarities.
For the past three years I have served my community as a religious volunteer, working with the California Departments of Corrections and Department of Mental Health. I serve these agencies as a Minority Faith Chaplain. And usually when I introduce myself as a “Minority Faith Chaplain,” most people are prompted to ask what exactly that is.
Currently the State of California only employs chaplains for five mainstream or “majority faiths,” which are categorized as Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Native American. My purpose is to assist state facilities with the religious accommodations of everyone else, the “Minority Faiths.”
This purpose continues to provide me with opportunities to explore a broad range of religious beliefs and practices, where I continue to identify those differences and recognize our similarities. The similarity I find most inspiring is our humanity.
In all the countries I’ve been to, all the religious beliefs and practices I have experienced, the single greatest commonality is the focus and topic of prayer. I recognize that despite the diversity of our religious pluralism, we’re all praying for the same things. We all pray for prosperity. We all pray for the health and safety of our family, friends and community.
We share these prayers because poverty, sickness, disease and disability does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race or religion. Therefore, nether can we. We are obligated by our humanity as well as our faith to provide care for those who are in need of it. We have a covenant, we have a contract.
In these unstable economic times our federal, state and local leadership is faced with a budget crisis which is forcing them to make some difficult and challenging decisions, decisions which affect us all. Decisions which could potentially cut funding to essential services that provide vital and necessary care to the poor, the sick and the disabled.
Not only would these cute affect my family, my friends and my community; they would affect the clients in my care. I am a fourth generation care provider. For over fifty years my family has operated residential care facilities for the developmentally disabled. I have shared my childhood with them and they have had a significant influence in shaping the man I have become.
They are amazing human beings, but many of them do have the opportunity for gainful employment, due to no fault of their own. These cuts would not only affect my ability and capacity to provide residential care, it would also affect their basic health and medical benefits, which would severely diminish their quality of life. A quality of life we have a social contract to provide.
I ask that we all join together in prayer for our leaders. Let us pray that our leaders would open their hearts and seek aid and guidance from a divine counsel, let us ask that they would open themselves to an indwelling of compassion for those who need it, and for the strength and courage to make wise decisions on our behalf.