Documentary of a Holy Man’s Struggle and other Pagan News of Note

Documentary of a Holy Man’s Struggle and other Pagan News of Note March 19, 2012

Top Story: Indian Country Today reports on a new documentary, “Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White,” that looks at the case of a Lakota medicine man who was accused of abusing his two grandchildren. Jennifer Jessum and Simon Joseph, a husband and wife duo who produced and directed the film, knew White through a member of his family, and were shocked to hear about the charges made against him. After White was convicted and sentenced to prison, they investigated the matter and uncovered several “holes” in the prosecution, and eventually, saw one of the grandchildren recant his testimony.


[Roy Helper Jr.] met the film crew at a hotel in Rapid City, and he confessed on film that he had lied about the alleged abuse. He said that he and his brother, Lloyd, were under tremendous pressure from lawyers, judges and “people in suits,” and he said the experience was frightening. He also indicated that they were coaxed to say certain things. In return, they were told they would get money, toys, even a horse. (They received none of those things.) “We were just little, dumb, stupid Indian kids, being tossed around,” Helper says in Holy Man, his voice choked with emotion. “Eventually it’s going to come out. Like today.”

Despite a cascading series of events that proved White’s innocence, the U.S. Attorney’s office engaged in stalling and delaying tactics, and White died in prison in 2009 before he could be exonerated. There is now a petition to have President Obama posthumously exonerate Douglas White, apologize for his wrongful conviction, make reparations to White’s family, and initiate an investigation into the agents who pursued the case against White. The filmmakers are now working on issues of Tribal sovereignty, and the epidemic of teen suicide in Indian country. DVDs of the film are expected to be available this Summer.

In Other News:

  • Actress Lynn Collins, one of the stars of the new Disney film “John Carter,” tells an Irish reporter that she studied “mysticism, paganism, everything” and that ultimately “they’re all the same thing.”
  • Pagan and political scientist Gus diZerega has a new article published in The Independent Review entitled “Spontaneous Order and Liberalism’s Complex Relation to Democracy.” Here’s the abstract: “American and European liberalism began to take different paths in the nineteenth century, particularly with respect to their views on democracy. This divergence stems in part from the fact that liberal principles give rise to different types of spontaneous order, each of which generates unique patterns of social coordination.” You can download the article for free. For diZerega’s Pagan work, check out his column at Patheos, and his blog at Beliefnet.
  • Archaeologists in Norway have apparently uncovered a “unique” and “unparalleled” pre-Christian temple site. It is believed the temple was built around 400AD and that “the last people who used it over 1,000 years ago did their utmost to hide the entire system with an unusually thick layer of soil.” Despite the historic nature of the site, the land is scheduled to be cleared for a housing development. Applications are currently being made to have the site preserved.
  • Rev. G. Jude Geiger, a Unitarian Universalist minister, writes about the concept of religious freedom in our highly polarized political atmosphere. Quote: “By requiring citizens to follow the religious teachings of certain faith traditions, we in essence are asking our country to follow and abide by those particular traditions.”
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to hear an appeal to a 9th Circuit Court decision that upheld a California state universities policy requiring all student groups, including religious groups, to not discriminate in membership on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. More on this, here. You’ll be hearing a LOT about this decision in the coming weeks, and I expect I’ll put in my two cents sooner rather than later.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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15 responses to “Documentary of a Holy Man’s Struggle and other Pagan News of Note”

  1. Does anyone know if there is a petition or some means of lending an international voice to pressure the Norwegian government into accepting those applications declaring the temple a historic site? I am VERY interested in doing anything I can to preserve the site.

  2. Oh, yes, we will hear a LOT about the Alpha Delta Chi case. In fact I’m going to mosey on over to GetReligion to see if they’ve posted on it.

  3. Concerning the temple at Ranheim, I have been looking for pictures or diagrams showing the archaeological site, including the orientation of the horg, hof, and processional road, as well as diagrams showing the post-holes on the hof site. So far I haven’t had much luck. If anyone happens to find something like that, I would be grateful for a link.

  4. As vision asked, are there any petitions going around to help add some international pressure?

  5. Anyone else share my dislike for statements about all religions being about the same thing? I wonder if I should be insulted, my Paganism is not the same thing as Christianity on any level.

  6. Read Stephem Prothero: God is not One, the eight rival religions that run the world, and why their differences matter.  Harper 2010, ISBN 978-0-06-157127-5

  7. Some people can’t deal with complexity and learning their way and type (and *maybe* a couple others, sometimes, because they’ll  know someone else they don’t want to offend) aren’t the onlies.

    My own pet peeve is the “mountain” analogies. Those tick me off, since such analogies are so damn mired in lack of actual experience, yet it gets repeated as “wisdom”.  I don’t think a mountaineer would suggest all paths lead to the same place, or any other similar statements so popular with the new age.

  8.  I think the reason that rankles is usually the idea that only people’s ‘samenesses’  make them ‘acceptable,’   …and also it’s used by majorities to claim,  ‘Well, we’ll deign to tolerate difference cause they’re really trying to do the same thing,/are ‘really’  seeking ‘our one true’  God,’  etc… 

    There *are* commonalities,  of course,  particularly regarding mystical experience:  sometimes what offends is people presuming that commonality of experience actually constitutes, demands, or ‘proves’  some monotheistic frame.  On the one hand,  for some monotheists, that makes diversity ‘safer,’  …ie,   it counters their exaggerated tendency to ‘other’ people of different beliefs:  on the other hand it really has to be at least moderated with a valuing of people *for their differences,*  too…  otherwise,  for one,  this leads said monotheists to presume sameness (and some ultimate rightness only for monotheists anyway)  just because that’s what’s talked:   you start having Hindus and Native American peoples stressing only their most monotheist-sounding phrasings, and that shifts us away from understanding or even learning,  into just homogenizing,  so to speak…  And then you hear a lot of sour notes like ‘Everyone, (including Pagans) worships (our)  God,’     ….and that’s where you get polls and countings that define ‘God’  in the broadest possible terms,  which end up used by politicians to claim that almost everyone is a believing  Abrahamic monotheist,  and then you’re back at kind of square one. 

    ‘It’s all looking for the same thing’   isn’t the *worst* attitude people can have out there,   but whether friendly or hostile,  if you think you can offhandedly say,  ‘I’ve studied everything and it’s all the same,’   …you really haven’t studied enough to know better than to oversimplify like that.    Inasmuch as it’s a way to say,  This isn’t so scary and ‘foreign’  as you think,  ‘  well, that’s OK for what it’s worth. 

  9. At least Joseph Campbell made obvious his trying to wedge all views and artworks into boosting up his Secret History Of Everything Being All the Same theory. Least he was very entertaining and had some great slides and photos. 

    But less harmless, some of that went along with the preference people take to learning from those of their ethnic background about anything that is “outside” their norm who explain how what they do “is the same as…”

  10. I agree completely. You remind me of a John Leland quote that I rarely use, because it upsets those who use similarities to “presume sameness.”

    “The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a
    pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be
    equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

  11.  Of course in practical terms the majority can choose to be intolerant as well and crush the minority. Better that they have the attitude you say than the alternative.