I’ve had some fantastic Tea Times this past week! I sat down with Aine Llewellyn (who pronounces her name “ahn-yah”) and Rhyd Wildermuth (who pronounces his name “reed”) for some juicy conversations that, alas, were far too complex to easily summarize here. But a few tidbits:
My favorite bit with Aine was chatting about the role of career (i.e. long-term paying work) as part of an integrated religious life. We discussed our perception of how damaging it is to live hand to mouth — not because of a choice to live in simplicity, but because of a discomfort with money or an unwillingness to work a “straight” job. We talked about surprising ways that our studies in school and our paying jobs have provided skills that enhanced our spiritual practices and understanding. I would love to see more Pagans embrace the power that comes from having money — and then use that power to build community and make art that’s in tune with their values.
Rhyd and I benefited from my having excellent child care that day, and our chat went on for two and a half hours! We talked a great deal about how to support constructive dialogue in both intra- and interfaith contexts and about the role of alternative religions in critiquing mainstream society — as well as the awkwardness that can result when a formerly countercultural religion begins to gain a little acceptance (i.e. when a religion is still far from mainstream, but no longer on the fringe). Rhyd also gave me a juicy historical tidbit that I’m anxious to explore — the fact that the extremely active pre-WWII gay culture of Berlin produced a great deal of erotic theological writing (much of it in praise of Eros). It’s a shame that American Pagans are largely unaware of Pagan history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as represented by groups like this.
Both conversations touched on the position of alternative religions in relationship to centers of power in American culture. There are advantages to being in the margins and on the fringe — that’s where innovation happens, and a counterculture is necessary in order to challenge and perhaps even periodically refresh mainstream culture. Is it possible to move toward the center just enough to gain basic protections and civil liberties, yet retain a subversive, exploratory edge?
Aine, Rhyd, it was delightful — let’s do it again sometime!