The Adventures of a Wiccan Prison Chaplain
The Unpopularity Contest
Synchronicity is a mysterious muse who has always danced in periphery of my life. I have seen her out of the corner of my eye on what often seems to be a daily basis. Today was no different except to say, this time she danced across my news feed.
The other night as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed and came across a post by Witches & Pagans editor Anne Newkirk Niven. She had written that she had just gotten her a** handed to her by some readers regarding her editorial. Being no stranger to having my a** handed to me, I was among the first to offer a supportive comment.
The next morning I found a related link to Peter Dybing's Pagan In Paradise post about Pagan Intolerance. And Being no stranger to having my a** handed to me, I was quite happy the issue is finally being addressed. And I am a huge proponent of "Sacred Regard."
But where's the dancing muse you ask? Cue the music...
Because last week the Pagan Alliance and the House of Danu called an Emergency Pagan Conclave to address concerns regarding the new regulation changes by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
The concern was concentrated around their [CDCR] new Religious Property Matrix (RPM). The gist of the RPM is this; there has never been a single list of religious items approved for personal possession by inmates. This singularity has left the sally ports* open wide to abuse, exploitation, discrimination and extensive, expensive litigation. Well, the CDCR has finally come up with a list, which has been called Orwellian; "that which is not permitted is absolutely forbidden"
As one the few Pagan Chaplains actively engaged in Prison ministry here in California, I received an invitation to speak on the topic alongside my peers. Based on the content and tone of the event page it was fairly obvious that my opinion on the matter was not going to be a popular one.
At the conclave I offered my opinion and views of the RPM based on my own direct personal experience, and more importantly, the opinions and direct personal experiences of the inmates I serve; which is actually an expression of hope rather than outrage. Considering the fact that it was the view of those actually being affected by the topic, I felt it was relevant.
This alternative perspective was contrary to egregore of the collective and was for the most part, polity, publicly dismissed. But the flaming wreckage of fallout that followed took place via personal email, through which I was told that I was ignorant to the subject matter, undermining the cause, speaking without authority or qualification and accused of falsely representing myself. I've had loyalties challenged; my ethics questioned and have basically been called an ignorant sellout.
The sad part is, this was not the first time, and probably not the last.
The unfortunate truth is that in the few years I have served as a volunteer chaplain I have experienced more adversity and endured more disparagement from members of my own Pagan community than I have from the Department of Corrections.
While I find statements like these deplorable, they are irrelevant.
My soul concern has been always been, and will always be, the spiritual welfare of the inmates, rather than the opinions of the outmates.
For those of you who may feel as though you are in an opinion closet, within the broom closet, I say come out; come out, be heard and stand your ground. Offering an alternative perspective or opinion can be a public service, if the public is mature enough to discuss it.
I'm sharing my experiences and feelings on this matter in order to emphasize the need for change. Change in the way we engage, respond and simply communicate with each other. I support Peters "Sacred Regard." I think this philosophy must be accepted and instituted as a sacrament within the Pagan collective. I feel the absence of sacred regard only diminishes the solidarity we need, now more than ever.
I thank the Lord & Lady for the gift Fortitude and request the gift of Temperance for us all. Blessed Be.
* Sally Port is secure, controlled gate, door or entry way within a prison.
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