Rep. Mary Franson Fights the Green Dragon!

Rep. Mary Franson Fights the Green Dragon! April 20, 2012

This Sunday is Earth Day. Originally spearheaded in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a national“teach-in” on urgent environmental issues, it has since become an internationally recognized holiday in192 countries. Earth Day is partially credited with jump-starting the modern environmentalist movement, and helping to pass legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. So naturally, it is stalking horse for Pagan religion and must be stopped at all costs, at least according to Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson from Alexandria. In a response to conservative activist Sheila Kihne on Twitter, Rep. Franson said the holiday “absolutely infuriates” her, calling it a “celebration of a Pagan holiday.”

Nor did Rep. Franson walk back her comments after they gained attention from local press, saying that people should “honor and give thanks to God…not Earth” and “big deal, so I don’t like Earth Day.” Of course, this isn’t simply about not liking Earth Day, all sorts of people don’t like Earth Day for a variety of reasons. This is about the idea, the meme, that Earth Day is a religious holiday, a Pagan religious holiday. Conservative pundits, politicians, and activists have been describing environmentalism, and especially the belief in human-caused climate change, as a “cult” for years now. This has led to the inevitable environmentalism equals Paganism accusation, the purest expression of which comes in the form of a documentary entitled “Resisting the Green Dragon.”


In it the speakers make it plain that this is a spiritual struggle, a battle between competing religions. Christianity on one side, and the“green dragon” of pagan environmentalism on the other. Participating in the video series is a roll-call of conservative Christian heavy-hitters, including Bryan “superstition, savagery and sexual immorality of Native Americans played in making them morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil ” Fischer, and David “paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses” Barton. This view of the world reached a new height recently when then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum accused Obama of adhering to a “phony theology.” When pressed on what he meant by that, he elaborated that our president might just be worshiping the Earth.

“…a world view that elevates the earth above man … I was talking about the radical environmentalists. [T]his idea that man is here to serve the earth.”

So this idea seems deeply entrenched, and increasingly popular as an attack on any who would attempt to seriously address the many challenges we face regarding our environment. Will it always be so? According to Lisa Weaver Swartz, author of “‘This Is My Father’s World’: American Evangelical Ambivalence Toward Climate Change,” there is a “sharp decline” of this idea among evangelicals, “a reframing of environmental issues into existing evangelical frameworks.” This shift is typified by Rev. Richard Cizik, former chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, who works to encourage environmental stewardship among Christians.

“Dominion does not mean domination. It implies responsibility — to cultivate and care for the earth, not to sully it with bad environmental practices. The Bible also teaches us that Jesus Christ is not only redeeming his people, but also restoring God’s creation. Obviously, since the fall of man and entrance of sin into the world, all of creation has yearned for its redemption from sin and death and destruction. That will occur with the Second Coming of Christ. But in the meantime we show our love for Jesus Christ by reaching out to and healing the spiritually lost and by conserving and renewing creation. Christ’s call to love nature is as simple as his call to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

But the environmentalism = Paganism meme dies hard, and the fact that it is still widely parroted by a variety of commentators, and entered into the 2012 presidential race, says that the tipping point within American evangelical culture, and conservative Christianity as a whole, is still a long way off. Until then, any who espouse a belief in climate change, who want stricter environmental regulations, who want to protect our national parks, runs the risk of being labeled an adherent of “radical environmentalism – a form of neo-paganism.”

Despite this, elements of immanence, pantheism, and various indigenous perspectives have become increasingly popular and “mainstream” in our modern culture. Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”, notes that this development is as “American as apple pie.”

“The remarkable language in the Ecuadorian constitution and in Boliva’s new Mother Earth law did not, however, result from indigenous Andean spirituality alone. They were also influenced by a generation of thinking and debate around the world about human responsibilities toward nature. In the U.S., much of this has taken place among philosophers and legal theorists, including in the landmark argument by Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment, which was first published in theSouthern California Law Review in 1972. Indeed, I contend that the recent developments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and within the United Nations are as American as apple pie: they are to some extent in the spirit of a diverse range of American voices that led to the pioneering Endangered Species Act of 1973 signed into law by Richard Nixon. Yet today, those who call themselves conservative are generally hostile to environmentalists, often considering them to be politically or spiritually dangerous socialists or pagans.”

The danger of this rhetoric is that we cut ourselves off from the simple truth of our place in the natural world, to the interconnectedness of all things. Acknowledging that, and the responsibility it places on us, is not theology, or pantheism. To engage in this smear-tactic, to make simple reality controversial is increasingly dangerous. Rep. Mary Franson thinks she is defending her faith, but in reality she is politicizing a topic that should be a major concern for all human beings on this planet. The longer we fight this false battle over “paganism,” an imaginary green dragon for crusaders to defeat, the worse things will actually be when we finally are forced to face the ramifications of our inaction.

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54 responses to “Rep. Mary Franson Fights the Green Dragon!”

  1. Equating responsible care-taking of our planet to worshiping it is like saying that maintaining and cleaning our houses is worshiping our homes.  Par for the course for those who hate the world  and ultimately their own humanity.

  2. Not to pick a nit, but “dominion” does, in fact mean “domination.”  Domination is the practice of dominion.  And Christianity is based upon dominion and domination.  It’s deep within Christianity’s DNA.

    I posted yesterday about Ms. Franson’s comments:

    I think the Domionists grok exactly the threat the Paganism poses for their worldview.  Recognizing “our place in the natural world,” and “the interconnectedness of all things” is a Pagan concept that is very threatening to those who need a hierarchy with male, white, Christianists at the top of the heap.  It’s no surprise to me that they perceive the threat and are reacting to it.  

    I don’t dispute that some Christians are trying to find a way to make “stewardship” a part of their religious practice, as they recognize the more and more obvious fact that human actions are causing global climate change.  And, more power to them.  But there is an inherent conflict between the Christian notions that matter is fallen, the Earth is a vale of tears, and true happiness lies in forswearing the flesh and looking towards an entirely spiritual heaven after death, and the Pagan celebration of immanence, connection, matter, Earth, sexuality, duality, triality, multi-u-ality.  We pretend otherwise to our own detriment.

  3. I’m just amused at anyone thinking that Earth Day, or any other environment anything, is “Pagan”. The Ancient Ones weren’t ‘Green’ in ANY way – their manufacturing dumps remain barren today, they did their best to remove all forests for fields, etc.  And Western Pagans use pretty much as much of the Earth resources as their non-Pagan neighbors, have as large Carbon/Water/energy footprints, etc.  

  4. We have to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving, or at least we can’t do work, school, banks, mail, professional offices and shopping those days, so THEY can put up with preserving the environment for one day.  🙂

    Anyone doing something fun or educational or active for Earth Day?  House of Goddess & God in Bangor MI is co-sponsoring the collecting and recycling of florescent light bulbs, computer parts and old TVs.

  5. “The longer we fight this false battle over “paganism,” an imaginary green dragon for crusaders to defeat, the worse things will actually be when we finally are forced to face the ramifications of our inaction.”

    I agree, so let’s stop fighting it. Let the Dominionists equate environmentalism with Paganism at the tops of their lungs. Issue the occasional press release thanking them for the immense honor of tying the noble work of environmentalism to our modest religion, but pointing out that you don’t have to become a Pagan to work for the Earth.

    As long as Anti Green Dragon Christians and Creation Care Christians are both in the public sphere, people are going to figure that, as with all political statements, the speakers are talking more about themselves than any external topic.

    “the simple truth of our place in the natural world, to the interconnectedness of all things. Acknowledging that, and the responsibility it places on us, is not theology, or pantheism.”

    As I have overheard it, “theology” is loosely enough applied these days that asserting one’s place in the natural world, the nature of that world, and one’s consequent responsibility, is defining one’s theology. (Of course, I’m a UU.) It is not, to be sure, necessarily pantheism, or even panentheism, though one might guess they emerge naturally from such contemplation. But Rev Cizik’s expansion of “whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to me” to cover the earth over which Adam was given dominion is just as possible a conclusion.

  6. I agree with your identification of an inherent conflict. But the Christians must still live in this world, and many are called to care for it (such as those nuns who just got Benedict’s wrath). We can work side by side with them and the secular environmentalists toward the same worldly goals despite their theological contortions.

  7. I have to wonder if some Christians are upset because they didn’t come up with the idea first taking care of the earth I mean. Seeing that Thier God also wants them to take care of what he said he created I wonder why they are  so hateful towards the rest of us. I understand they believe we’re evil & all that nonsence but all I see them really doing is shooting themselves in the foot.

  8. True, we are caught in the trap we inherited. If enough of us tried to live off the grid, we would just transfer the location of our footprints and probably create an environmental catastrophe to match the one we inherited.

    So we must lower our sights from the unattainable perfect to the attainable best and work for that.

    The people who invented Earth Day may not have been Pagan but they were human, a complex condition. The thread of resonance with the needs of  the Earth that resides in everyone, and flowers in us into Paganism, flowered in them into Earth Day.

  9. I love the smell of paranoid Christians with Enviromentalism = Paganism mentality in the morning, it smells like Earth Day.

  10. It puzzles me.  Why would my celebrating Earth Day INFURIATE Mary Franson?  Seems to me that she’s a “control freak.” 

  11. They’re upset for the same reason the Vatican is upset with those nuns. They see an alternative definition of God emerging. Their theology is so extreme that there is no room for even thoughts about a different definition of God; the very idea is immediately an existential threat. And they react accordingly.

  12. See my reply to Druidwood, above. Her theology deifies the ultimate control freak. She has no theological barriers to becoming one, too.

  13. You know, I’d venture to say that anyone who thinks paganism equals environmentalism, that pagans as a whole consider respect and stewardship of the Earth as an article of faith…has never seen the aftermath of an 1100-person pagan festival.  Never stayed the day after for the overflowing dumpster pickup, never filled a garbage bag with recyclable mead bottles left around the bonfire, never fished a discarded tent out of a lake because its owner thought it was ‘too much trouble to pack up’. 

    In fact, I’d venture to say the person espousing that position has never even SEEN an air-conditioned tent, the row of RVs at every festival occupied by those who don’t care to camp in tents or pay for cabins (and who often drive those RVs 300 or 400 miles to get to festival), or the parade of single drivers in overloaded cars arriving to ‘get back to the land’ (I’m guilty of that last, by way of full disclosure).

    Man, if we’re going to be accused of radical environmentalist faith bent on overturning the natural consumer order of things, could we please PRACTICE a little more of it?

  14. She sounds like a hoot. I wonder if Passover infuriates her as a “kike” holiday! She probably has some choice words for Ramadan too.

  15.  That hasn’t been my experience, fortunately.  I’ve compared the aftermath of a Pagan festival that has recycling and earth stewardship… one of the cleanest after-event experiences — to Biker gatherings and music concerts.  The average Pagan is soooo much more environmentally aware than the average American…

  16. “Dominion does not mean domination. It implies responsibility — to cultivate and care for the earth, not to sully it with bad environmental practices.”

    This is STILL “Dominionism”! Xtians go practice in your churches!!!

  17. Sometimes, I don’t think people find it hard to believe they have power over anything unless it manifests in harm that can’t be fought back against, at least not in a fair match. Because, while it’s arguable whether not we have a right to power over nature, humans definitely have power and humans have obtained all sorts of power, and our choices have consequences. But I guess the fear of feeling powerless by thinking about those consequences is too much?

    But, you know, if I walked into a house of a someone whose house was an unsanitary mess (and this is the pot calling the kettle black to an extent), and that person, instead of saying “Yeah, I do have a problem…” said, “I WORSHIP GOD, NOT MY HOUSE! WHAT IS YOUR UNHEALTHY FIXATION ON MY HOUSE? IT MUST BE SOME SORT OF CULTISH RELIGION YOU’RE IN THAT DOES THAT,” I’d just…

    … well, I’d wish I’d thought of that one in my youth.

  18. Terms like “the ancient ones” and “pagan” take in a hell of a wide variety of cultures and groups over many thousands of years. Their environmental records likewise are varied. Some, especially the empire-builders, did, in fact turn to extractive industries and over-intensive agriculture which did ultimately destroy the environment and sometimes their own cultures and economies.  The many who got by on hunting and gathering or subsistence agriculture had much more of a respect for the land, even if they weren’t self-identified “environmentalists.” They never lost sight of the fact that some balance had to be maintained, and that nature was much bigger than them and could crush them at any moment. The also simply didn’t have the technological means to pillage the Earth on the scale we do today. They didn’t have the means to over-fish vast ranges of ocean to the point of sterility within a decade or two the way we have in recent times. They threw away a lot of trash carelessly, but they didn’t leave Texas-sized flotillas of plastic garbage bags in the Pacific. 

  19.  Is there something in the water up there? Seems like some real batshit crazy folks in Minnesota…

  20. When I hear things like this I get an urge to get a bunch of people to dress up in dragon costumes and go and install a large  pentagram on these people’s lawn.

  21. Is there going to be another round of “Indian giving”? I sure hope not. Superstition, savagery, and sexual immorality, my foot. I confess to having been unaware of this blog much before PCon 2011, so I didn’t see that particular entry. I’d like to see both Fisher and Barton fall completely out of credibility and the public eye, so discredited that no one will pay any attention to them. They make my blood pressure rise.

    I gather that for Santorum, “different” equals “phony”. Such a stellar example.

  22. I’d like to raise a point here: some people can only go to some event because of the amenities that RVs present.  “Roughing it”, especially for people with certain disabilities, back problems, and other issues a person may have, will simply not be possible.  Some people simply aren’t going to do tents because they have their own other reasons.  

    Yes, there needs to be better cleanup at some events, but I think on the whole Pagans are a whole lot more aware, as a whole, than many if not most of those outside our community.  We’re a community that tends to gut-check itself, and works to improve itself.  Perfect environmentalists?  No, but environmentally aware and working to improve things?  I would say yes.

  23. This is going to backfire because so many people do find their spirituality in nature.  Even abrahamic religions hold a reverence for nature and dominionists keep talking about the importance of respecting “nature’s god.”  Its just funny that basic sanitation is now considered a cult to these people.

  24. I presume I’m not the only one who’d be more than happy to embrace the ‘Green Dragon’.

  25.  People use this fallacious argument to say native americans ruined the land too but its not equivalent at all to what western civilization has done.  they didnt have coal fired power plants, or use industrial manufacturing or do mountaintop removal and cover the land in agent orange.  The 7 generations philosophy and others like it in western paganism actually ensured ecological balance for future generations, but it helped that modern chemistry hadn’t been invented also.

  26. What I find scary honestly is that people will listen to them not matter how insanse they sound.  I do agree with you though she is a huge control freak.

  27. I just want to point out in the case of Rick Santorum: He’s a Catholic.  So yes.  Different DOES equal phony to him.  That is THE SINGLE encompassing Catholic world view.

  28. On the road to the first Pagan festival I ever attended I was briefed by an experienced attendee that the site owner, a ski resort, liked to rent to Pagans because, unlike other summer tenants, we left the place better than we found it.

    I had just staked out my tent when I realized some fool had stomped pieces of a broken beer-bottle into the ground right at my entrance. So I sat down with the plastic trash bag that everyone had been issued and commence to pick out the fragments. Whilst wrapping this up I realized I had been unselfconsciously living out the briefing I’d been given: leaving the place better than I found it.

  29. Lokigodhi has been banned for consistently going against comment policy, and the only he’s been able to post now is because he’s created yet another new email address, and is using a different IP address. 

  30. My respect for the followers of Abraham’s deity is at its lowest point in my life, although it has never (even in childhood) reached beyond a point of “some of them lie – the rest don’t know any better”. It has been nearly twenty years since I have had any ink work done, but reading the first few sentences of this post made me start imagining a lovely fierce green dragon wearing a witches hat and a pentacle around her neck along with gardening gloves while she plants a tree.
    And yes I do understand that it is ridiculous of anyone to equate the care of our natural resources with the worship of them, however I personally do hold our universe in reverence and do also believe that this earth would not be in the dire state that she is in without the hegemonic religious teaching that humans are somehow separate and above. So that said, I think that claiming an allegiance to a green dragon and fighting under such a banner would be kind of cool.

  31. I simply do not understand people with the attitude of “This is my planet and I’ll screw it up any way I choose.”  It would be arrogant enough if we had another planet to go to when this one is screwed up beyond repair.  But since we don’t, it’s just pooping where you live and it’s not very smart.

    Religious arguments aside, it just doesn’t make sense.  It’s denial in its most arrogant and ignorant form.

  32. I have often heard that folks who rent land, love to rent to Pagans because Pagans have such respect for the land. True story-

    Everybody was packing up to leave a Gathering once; we had all been camped out in this huge field. I was walking along back to my tent, when I came across the site where Another Pagan had been (you know how tents leave depressions in the earth when you move them?) This Irresponsible Pagan had (can you believe this?) gone and left a small hollow of cigarette butts ground out outside where the tent had been.

    Could not believe this: A Pagan who leaves a Pagan Gathering- leaving behind a nest of cigarette butts (seriously, there were like three dozen).

    So (I can be a little dramatic) I address the Air (and all the nice Pagans in my vicinity, packing up): CAN you BELIEVE that Some THOUGHTLESS, IRRESPONSIBLE, CALLOUS Pagan has done this? (Everyone else is properly appalled).

    So I mark the spot with my sandals; go to my tent; collect the small bag that I have brought from home, to collect my own small amount of trash (like used dental-floss); go back to the cigarette-butt nest; and collect everyone single one that I could find.

    Couldn’t help noticing: this scored me major Pagan Brownie Points with all Pagans in the vicinity, and you know what?

    It scored me major Pagan Brownie Points with the Gods.

  33. Along with Franson and Bachmann, Minnesota is also home to one of the largest Pagan communities in the country, aka ‘Paganistan’. I wonder if there isn’t some connection to this, the latter producing the former as a reaction.

  34. While crazy and dangerous, she is right about radical environmentalist using scare tactics, lies and half-truths.  They always seemed to feel that the ends justified the means (and I’ve been told that very thing when I spoke up about lying to the public).  I sure hope that that behaviour doesn’t come back to bite us all in the ass now.

  35. I suspect that’s the case. In the South you can count on the general Christian religiosity of the culture to pop up stuff like this (though I daresay it probably takes a triggering incident that we never hear about) but Paganistan is probably what these ladies are reacting to.

  36. Yes, if environmentalism is running on off-shades of the truth it’s going to come back and bite at least that movement on the ass, because the opposition is always trying to make that case anyway — climate change deniers, eg. But I haven’t heard this before about the movement as a whole (except from said opponents); could you offer an example?

  37. And that is all the dominionist model has to offer…is a superficial axiology of domination “over” Nature and “over” others.  Such is the bifurcated, adversarial us/them (insert copyright) there-is-only-one-truth ideology.  With such skewed thinking (which barely requires any true thinking), in the extremes, can excuse the most heinous of atrocities–that is, genocide and ethnocide of indigenous peoples of the America’s and the world over, etc. 

    Being in the Time of the Seventh Fire, it is no wonder why people are turning away from the model of imperialism, oppression, racism, sexism, class warfare, and becoming more conscious in these Post Modern times.  The Christian model has nothing of true substance to offer for the betterment for both people and the whole of the natural world.  It is no wonder, then, that people are turning away from such a model based on hatred, arrogance, and vitriol

  38. Reminds me of the bumper sticker  “Lord, save me from your ‘faithful’ ”

    I wish they could understand that it’s just a really bad idea to %@# in the  jacuzzi. Are they so feeble minded that they honestly think that destroying the planet is a great thing?  Thats like your parents buying you a new car and you show your appreciation by taking a sledge hammer to it.

  39. How do you suppose she feels about Arbor Day?  Is Arbor Day worshiping ‘arbors’?  LOL

    She’s the one who doesn’t recycle, who purchases items with exccessive packaging and buys from over seas just because it’s cheaper.  Oh and she drives a gas guzzeler, since that will never run out.

  40. There are those in the climate change crowd who DO act as a cult, right down to calling for violent action against heresy and those who dare dissent the True Belief®.

    I don’t think we understand weather and climate enough to say what is and is not human caused, and I believe we need to look closer.

    That being said, one of the things that makes me angriest about global warming discussions is how all other environmental issues are expected to take a back seat, or even catch a later car. There is a huge water problem throughout the American Southwest, and we’re not allowed to talk about that until the “human caused climate change” is resolved. We still have a problem with pollution of all sorts. And our architecture constantly rips apart the local ecosystems.

  41. There’s no cause so noble that you can’t find a fool supporting it.  And personally, I regard the “we don’t understand climate enough” argument to be the climate science equivalent of “there aren’t any transitional forms in the fossil record” with respect to evolution: it suggests a lack of knowledge about both the nature and quantity of the evidence available.

  42. I have to wonder where their hate comes from because that’s excalty what it is hate for ANYTHING or a ANYONE that doesn’t go along with thier so-called agenda.  As far as teaching fear to children, have any of you went around telling children that the sun is going to fry thier little brains? I think not.

  43. I don’t particularly want to rehash that debate here. That is why I didn’t detail the reasons for my opinion on climate change.

    My point is that dissent on climate change alone is enough to provoke some pretty personal attacks, regardless of the merits of either argument. 

    That behavior is found in cults. “Thou shalt not dissent” is usually the great unwritten rule. It’s the justification for some terrible things, all in the name of the “greater good.”

    Do I think that everyone who believes in climate change is a cult member? No.

    Do I think that quashing dissent can be cult-like behavior? Yes.

    Do I think that failure to tolerate criticism of the Approved Party Line is dangerous? Unquestionably.

    Do I think it’s ironic pointing this out to to people who sometimes define themselves as victims of monotheistic faiths? Yep.

  44. It drives me crazy that climate change, and only IF you are absolutely sure that it’s caused my humans, is the ONLY reason to enact changes that would address so many other ills: air quality, water quality, thrift resource management, the problems in countries with oil economies, quality of life in general, etc.

    But no. Instead it all comes down to believing or not believing in climate change, which gets thrown out the window as soon as there’s a cold day.