Pretty soon, we’ll be coming up upon Panathenaia. It falls sort of nearish the 4th of July and I try to make it up to Nashville at least once a year around this time to visit the Parthenon. Last year, the eldest and I had a very nice picnic in Centennial Park after praying and knitting inside. This year, I will pray to her for guidance for my federal, state, and local governments in the hopes that she can lead them to wise decisions. This prayer to her isn’t limited to once a year, of course. Our governments need all the wisdom they can get.
Because I’m a little Southern lady, I believe in god and country, but because I’m a little Pagan Southern lady, it becomes gods and country. That doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well, but it’s a nice shorthand to say that I’m a religious person who also tries to be a good citizen by voting and paying taxes and whatnot. Some will say this as god’n’country, all one word, signifying that they are inextricable entities. Often, this gives me a little twitch in my left eye because I know that they don’t mean my gods. Our government is supposed to be both secular and supportive of religious diversity. That’s both what’s great about our country and something that doesn’t always happen. On the one hand, I pray that our lawmakers receive divine guidance, but on the other hand, prayer before government meetings is problematic. At our Women of Faith meeting in June, all those present agreed. Free-Thinker Sara has always been very vocal about keeping government meetings and public schools secular and Methodist Cindy would rather there were no prayer at all before government meetings. God(s) and country must be separate.
Quoting Mrs. Eddy, Christian Science Juli said, “I have no politics except to support a righteous government.” It seems that we as a group tend to agree. UU Jill warned against false patriotism that ignores the injustices fostered by our government. Free-Thinker Sara spoke against blind nationalism. Quaker Jane quoted William Lloyd Garrison:
“We love the land of our nativity, only as we love all other lands. The interests, rights, and liberties of American citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the whole human race.”
We want our nation to be a “force for good,” to quote UU Jill, and we recognize that, in many ways, we’re not there yet.
We also talked about the Pledge of Allegiance and not a single one of us felt comfortable saying it, for several reasons. For Methodist Cindy, it was tantamount to idolatry. For me, I cannot swear an oath to a flag because I made oaths to serve my gods.
My patriotism is not about the flag or blindly supporting whatever our government does, but rather about following her just laws and calling her out when they are unjust. It’s about supporting those who give of themselves to serve as soldiers, but voicing my opposition to war. It’s about paying my fair share of taxes because I like to have roads and schools and it’s about speaking out against a tax code that privileges the extremely wealthy.
For me, Justice isn’t just a good idea. Her sisters are Order and Peace, daughters of Themis and Zeus. Perhaps Liberty is another sister and Columbia a young cousin. While my religious belief more than touches on the civic parts of life, reverence for Justice, Order, Peace, and Liberty means a government that is not led by the principles of a single religion– not even mine. I pray to my gods for a secular government led by reason and this seems a little contradictory, perhaps, but I want to live in a society that celebrates plurality. When the rights of a small group of citizens is restricted on the basis of something like religion, the potential exists for the basic rights of all citizens to be restricted. This is a founding principle of our Women of Faith group and it’s no surprise that our concepts of patriotism include justice and freedom at the core.