Checking In

Checking In June 14, 2019

I realized that it had been a very long time since I had stopped by and checked in with you all – which is a shame because there have been some changes in my life that bear sharing. First and closest to the theme of this blog – I retired as Executive Director for the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans back at the end of last year. I had given the board half a year’s notice and the transition has gone pretty well. The “final test” of it will be how smoothly CUUPS presence goes at this month’s Unitarian Universalist General Assembly without me there. I’d been there in some official capacity for 11 of the past 12 years. (Along with a previous run of ten years scattered between 1990-2002.) I am still coordinating this multi-author blog, and help out with CUUPS Social Media, primarily on Facebook.

My wife and I will be retiring from our “secular” jobs in the next four to five years and are seriously looking at moving overseas. Later this year we’re going over for the third time in approximately two years, and are mostly settled on which town we want to relocate to. Part of the reasons are revulsion at the American political environment, part of it is looking at the comparative health care options, and other living expenses, part of it is just the greater mobility (and, dare I say it, freedom) that being in the EU provides. And then there’s also the history all around us. Not just the official “touristy” kind, but for instance, the local Basilica in Girona, Spain has a set of eight sarcophagi inside – four of which date from pre-Christian times, a couple of which reflect some blatantly Pagan themes. I’m hoping to do a blog post on that, because I’m finding the whole idea of their presence and that they’ve been left in clear public view for eighteen centuries deeply interesting.

Now for something complete different:

Coyote is very insistent that this billboard provides a gateway to the Ultimate Candidating Sermon. That nothing says “so what if I just acquired $50,000+ in debt attending seminary, you need to know that no one is exempt from human foibles including Search Committees!”

I usually respond by nodding sagely, because telling a god, “You’re drunk, go home.” tends to end badly. And I am regretfully, but deeply grateful that I avoided the sirens call of seminary, and instead focused on lay ministry and non-profit administration.

This line of thinking (about human foibles) also aptly applies to those of us who gather together under names different that churches, whether it be groves or covens or moots or whatever. Particularly in these stressful transitional times, there is a strong temptation to take everything, including ourselves, very seriously. While we may regard poll-driven politicians derisively, because of their seemingly lack of any deep commitment to the issues of the moment. Remember that Cassandra in the Trojan myth who spent much of her time providing accurate warnings to her city of the perils facing them, all to no avail. You would think if she had paid better attention to those around her, she could have realized she was having zero impact, and found an alternative course of action. Granted, Trojan society was probably not overflowing with alternatives for policy minded women, but she wasn’t just an average commoner, she was a princess — and as Disney shown us time after time, princesses can do anything!

Cult Danger Evaluation Frame

Lest we fall into the same trap as her, there are some tools we can use. The late Isaac Bonewits came up with a Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, later to be improved and called the Advance Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (aka A.B.C.D.E.F.) It was originally designed to allow prospective adherents tell whether the new religious organization they were encountering was dangerous to them or not. Bonewits wrote that this Frame was “founded upon both modern psychological theories about mental health and personal growth, and my many years of participant observation and historical research into minority belief systems.”

Here’s the thing though, in these times of tribal politics, many so-called political organizations have started to express some of the traits normally associated with cults. Even more dishearteningly, this is not a problem that exclusively resides in just one of the tribe.

Sadly Necessary Disclaimer

One final note, since I brought him up, I should also acknowledge that in the past couple years there have been some #MeToo related charges made against Isaac Bonewits. While I strongly support the right of victims to state their truths, and that I should believe them unless there’s substantive countervailing evidence. I also have to acknowledge that, having died in 2010, Isaac is not around to provide his response.
Despite all this, the Cult Danger Evaluation Frame is still widely used, and it should be pointed out that its use, or endorsement of its use, is in no way an endorsement of the behavior he has been accused of. If this makes you uncomfortable on multiple levels, that’s OK. It should. It’s real life and this is how it often pans out. If that still feels off to you, well, go look at the graphic for this article again.
About David Pollard
David Pollard recently stepped down after a four year stint as CUUPS Executive Director and had previously served on the CUUPS Board of Trustees from 1995-2001 and 2007-2014. He has been a Unitarian Universalist since 1989 and a member of CUUPS since 1990. He was also a founding board member of the Green Party of Texas and served as a National Committee member for the Green Party of the United States from 2002-2006. You can read more about the author here.

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