Cross and Pentacle: Two religions at the crossroads

I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.

Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.

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Behind the Shellfish Suppression Act

Shellfish are a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us in Leviticus to suppress. They also smell bad. [...] Any person who willingly consumes or sells shellfish is guilty of a felony, and shall be fined $666 thousand per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 6 years, 6 months, and 6 days.

 - The Shellfish Suppression Act

 In February a Christian lawyer filed the "Sodomite Suppression Act” in California, which aims to bring the death penalty to anyone who practices “sodomy”. Also known as the "Shoot The Gays Initiative", it has drawn widespread outrage, although thankfully it is not expected to make it onto the ballot next year. But as a former fundamentalist Christian, I am reminded of how deep my own homophobia ran and how important it felt to the core of my beliefs system. How would I have reacted to this initiative when I was in my early 20s? I wouldn’t have supported it since I have always been opposed to the death penalty, even during my most fundamentalist days. But what would I have thought of the idea of outlawing homosexuality?

I find it surprisingly hard to put myself back into the mindset of my immature and homophobic self, but one thing I remember strongly, and that is my own certainty. I relished arguments, for I was sure that I had Absolute Truth and God Almighty on my side. Nothing anyone could say would sway me in my convictions. There was, however, something that could get through to me, and that is humor.

A day after April Fool’s day the Shellfish Suppression Act was filed and has since gained widespread news coverage, including on the Huffington Post, San Jose Inside, and CBS Local. My former fundamentalist self would have cringed at the mockery of my homophobia, but I know a part of me would have enjoyed the satire nonetheless. The author of this initiative is Joe Decker, the founder of God Hates Shrimp I have seen Joe at Pantheacon the last couple of years and decided to ask him a few questions.

Joe, where did you come up with the idea for the Shellfish Suppression Act?  

It is sort of an extension of God Hates Shrimp. I see whackos, I want to mock them, and why not continue the shellfish fun? Particularly when they invoke Leviticus by itself as a Christian authority. It makes it almost too easy.

Have you had discussions with Christians who don't rely on Leviticus but argue that the prohibition against homosexuality is repeated in the New Testament, whereas shellfish is permitted?

Sure. Which gets a little tricky, because more or less, Christian theology has a decent and plain argument for why the Mosaic dietary restrictions are no longer considered to apply to Christians. It gets dicier if you try and make sense of *all* of the things that are considered "fair game" or not, and some of those arguments strike me as very weak--but remember, God Hates Shrimp was never intended as a parody of all Christian thought. The original parody was a photoshop of Christian identified Ku Klux Klan protesters, who simply said "God Hates Sodomites, Leviticus" and whatever the chapter and verse numbers were. I went with shrimp because it was funnier.

Do you come from a Christian background yourself?

Well, my parents were/are Christian, occasionally took me to church, there was a period of time for about a year I was doing Sunday School, but I was never a believer--mostly pretended at one for my parents' sake until I got married.

I see you at Pantheacon a lot, do you consider yourself part of the Pagan community?

I'm pretty much at the periphery of the Community, I'd say. What I do do (and that's complicated) is largely solo.

So what made you decide to file this ballot initiative? The last time we talked you were thinking about this idea, but what made you decide to go ahead and do it?

That is a great question. I wonder if I remember. I thought a little bit about whether I'd have crazy on my doorstep, but I got a P.O. box instead. Part of it was just that it seemed like it would work--I mean, to the extent it would get on the OAG website. Since then it got more press than I hoped for.

What do you hope people take away from reading about the Shellfish Suppression Act or your work with God Hates Shrimp?

I think the main thing is that it's pretty easy to let horrible people doing and saying horrible things get under our skin. Humor can be both a way of combatting that *and* providing care to ourselves at the same time.

Do you plan on collecting signatures? I mean, are you hoping to actually get it on the ballot?

Publicly, I have a plan that takes the possibility of getting on-ballot from ludicrously impossible to ...extremely unlikely. But I'll decide whether to go ahead with that when I get the title and summary, probably sometime in May.

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Born and raised an evangelical Christian in Germany, I joined the Jesus Freak movement as a teenager and became a passionate evangelist and worship leader. No one was surprised when I went to the US at age 19 and came back a tattooed and pierced fundamentalist Christian, betrothed to a "Chrispie" (a Christian hippie, that is). I was a virgin the day we married. Five years later I graduated bible college with highest honors and post traumatic stress disorder. I deepened both my theology and trauma on the road by traveling the country in a big yellow school bus. For three years I lived as a nomad, playing music and leading bible studies, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I learned that Christianity in America encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, from Amish groups casting demons out of school busses to Roman Catholic priests breaking into government buildings. I saw Jesus in the oddest places. And then everything changed and I ended up a polyamorous Witch in a Pagan community in California.


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