Shortly after I did the subscriber interview with Dawn Brunke, a listener wrote and asked, “Is Anne Strieber a pagan?” I was scratching my head over that one, but then I finally figured it out.

Dawn’s book talks about animal shapeshifting and since I experienced once of the most amazing examples of this when my dead mother came to me in the guise of my dead Siamese cat, I snagged Dawn for the subscriber interview. I think the question was asked (I must admit I didn’t bother to answer it) because, in the interview, I talked with Dawn about some Wiccans I knew who were out in the country and hungry and so pretended (in a kind of shape-shifting exercise) to be bears and wade into a pond, where they were able to catch fish by clapping their hands together underwater.

“Pagan” seems to have meant different things to people at difference times, although it’s always been a pejorative term, and the dictionary definition confirms this.

It originally meant what we would today call a “hick”–someone not sophisticated enough to have a REAL, dogma-filled religion, but who just worshipped nature instead (Hmmm, doesn’t sound bad, so far).

It has also always meant “outsider,” as in someone who thinks differently from me. The Jews used the term for non-Jews and the early Christians used the term for non-Christians (although they exempted Jews from this name-calling, since most of them still considered themselves to be Jewish in those days).

I remember one time in San Antonio, when fundamentalist religiosity had hit that town like an tornado and everyone who didn’t agree with them was lying low. I was riding in a car with some people who should have known better (one of them was a lawyer) and they were arguing over the details of various belief systems, when I couldn’t take it one minute more. I burst out with, “This one believes this, that one believes that. WHO CARES what people believe? What I care about is what people DO!” (and especially, I thought–but didn’t add–what they do to ME).

After my outburst, you could have heard a pin drop in that vehicle. Then, after an appropriate pause, conversation resumed, but on another topic.

I’ve since reflected that (like Obama, who has been called a Muslim, as if it was a pejorative term) you can call me all sorts of names, but what I really am is a garden-variety Christian. I try to plant spiritual flowers, but occasionally weeds come up.

I go along the road of life, with the garden I’ve created on every side of me. I feel fairly smug and self-satisfied, but then suddenly I see something ugly and I realize that I created that too, and I’d better try to do something about it, before it gets even bigger and engulfs the entire garden. So I go back and apologize, or try to replace what I’ve broken or reconnect with someone I’ve ignored for too long.

It’s not perfect, but it beats dogma every time.

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