December 18, 2004

McNeil Island Today

Posted at December 18, 2004 11:29 PM in Paganism .

Today was my day to go down to McNeil Island and work with the Wiccan inmates there. Normally, we do this on the fourth Saturday of the month but, with that being Christmas this year, it seemed that it wouldn't work out. The group technically meets in the "Multifaith Center" or some similar name but all of the staff call it the "Chapel" and it has a ginormous cross outside of it and the main area is very obviously a church. We use a large discussion room generally and do ritual work outdoors, which means we're literally under the towering cross while invoking pagan guys. Needless to say, the guys bitch about this but there isn't much to be done at this point.

Strangely enough, there is a strong Native American presence, spiritually and genetically, in the facility. A lot of the guys that attend their sweat lodges are white or asian though, which is interesting. I'm tempted to contact their sponsors and volunteers (I met one on the boat this morning carrying his beaver pelt bag) to find out how they deal with the heavy Christian atmosphere of the setting and the staff. Both of the Chaplains are Roman Catholic priests though the newer one, that is there on the weekends, is ex-military and seems to have absorbed the virtues of being an equal opportunity chaplain for people.

For myself, the Christianity doesn't bother me to the point of being counterproductive. I resolved my issues with that long ago. As much as I dislike the institutions of most churches given their history of repressiveness and the blood on their hands, I'm aware that human nature being what it is, it isn't the fault of their Christianity but of them being the tools of humans that makes them so bloody. I have had close friends and lovers who were Christians of various sorts and, personally, I prefer spiritual people, whatever their bent, if they are tolerant, to the non-spiritual. I have much less of a "WFT?!" reaction from even tolerant Christians to what I do than from some of my geek coworkers. I can only assume that many of the people that I know that aren't spiritual compatriots of some sort either think that I have some innane hobbies and ideas or that I'm a religious kook, if they bother to dwell on it at all. But that's ok because if they want to live a life without any form of spirituality, they live the life that they want. The joys of the modern (or post-modern) world where we can mutually agree that your ideas are dumb but I won't burn you at the stake anyway. :-)

The guys seem to have a lot more of an issue with Christianity in any case. Part of it is that the man in charge of the site seems to delight in pissing on the non-Christians to some degree (making remarks about them to people while they are within earshot, etc) and part of it is undoutably the new convert eagerness that I've seen in many pagans before. It certainly does seem, though, that if anyone gets the short straw when it comes to getting meetings bounced, rules not being bent, etc. it is the pagans. I know that the Christians on site seem to get a lot of slack from the chaplains about things that others get grief for.

I wonder how the Buddhists do on site? They have some kind of circle but I assume it is a zen sitting group or the like.


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