GOP Presidential candidate impresses with pro-Pagan stance

If you are a fiscal liberal and wish for more governmental intervention in your daily life, then GOP Presidential hopeful Johnson is not the candidate for you.  If, however, you are like most Americans and are looking for a President who leans more socially liberal/fiscally conservative you may want to give Johnson a further look.  Couple this view with an unabashed pro-Pagan, pro-human rights outlook and clear openness to alternative views on a whole host of issues and you may have as close to an ideal candidate for President as the Pagan community has yet seen.

Last night’s video conference between Gov. Johnson and Pagan and Hindu media was unusual and groundbreaking.  Unlike most every other candidate for political office at any level, Johnson not only agreed to speak publicly with Pagans, he promoted the event openly on his official Google+ page.   In talking with other Pagan media after the conference, many of us related personal experiences with politicians, even those sympathetic to us in private, who refuse to be seen speaking with us in public.   They don’t want an association with ‘people like us’ to damage their credibility and truth to tell, they don’t care enough about our concerns to address them.  This was not the case with Johnson.  During the interview he showed no discomfort addressing issues specific to our community and never flinched from saying the word Pagan.  An example of how supportive Gov. Johnson is to Pagan rights, and basic human rights, can be summed up in a message he had for Pagans and Wiccans serving in the US military,“It should be about equality, it’s not, and I appreciate their service  even though you are not being treated equally.”

It could be easy to dismiss Johnson’s decision in speaking with Pagans while seeking election as the actions of an unknown candidate low in the polls, but that would miss the mark.  Johnson is a successful two-term Governor of New Mexico and is the only GOP candidate who scores positive approval ratings in his home state.  He is not a ‘nothing’ candidate, but a qualified candidate with executive level experience.  What has hampered his candidacy is the mainstream medias’ inexplicable exclusion of Johnson from televised debates.  They have set up criteria that bars Johnson’s inclusion in the debates, a candidate must reach 2% in their polls, but ensures he can never meet that bar by excluding him as an option in their polls.  This sets up a scenario where Johnson is a longshot for the GOP nomination, unless people vote for him in the GOP primaries.  So while we finally have a Presidential candidate who is willing to listen to Pagans and supports us on many issues important to our community, we may never have the opportunity to vote for him.  What makes it even more bittersweet for some Pagans is that such an outspoken candidate for Pagan rights is running on the Republican ticket, not Democratic.

Click HERE to watch the video conference with Gov. Johnson courtesy of KeithBarrett.tv.

A full transcript is available at the Staff of Asclepius blog.

The hour and a half interview covered a wide range of questions about GLBT rights, Pagan military chaplains, raw milk, teaching yoga in schools, TSA and the Patriot Act, economic, and environmental concerns.  Many of the questions were submitted by Pagan community leaders like Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and by your average Pagan on the street.    Below are just a few of the highlights from the hour and half Q&A with Gov. Johnson, but I strongly encourage everyone to view the entire interview.

Cara Schulz, PMC-MN:  It is commonly thought in the Pagan community that Republican candidates are hostile to minority religions such as ours.  What message would you like to get across to Pagan voters about how you would represent them if elected president?

Johnson:  There should be a separation of church and state.  I happen to think the world looks down on Republicans for their social conservative views which include religion in government.

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Restorative Justice, Restoring Communities – Editorial

We live in tumultuous times as a society and as a Pagan community. Conflict has caused many divisions, often accompanied with the drawing of lines. These can easily become permanent fractures, solidifying within what might be a unified and joyous community of similar beliefs. Often these conflicts are personal, or begin as personal disputes, or emerge in community settings. Just as often a community gets drawn into them. I participated in a restorative justice circle at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF), facilitated by Crystal Blanton, and will refer to that experience.

Restorative Justice (RJ) is an idea and method to repair some of the damage these conflicts cause in community. It was developed and used in criminal victim-offender mediations in the 1970’s and has been adapted and applied to a broad range of conflicts, from within our schools to whole societies as in the The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid . It can be used in a community setting through ‘restorative group conferencing’ or ‘peace circles’.

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Sacred Harvest Festival survives The Tower

The Tower card from the Rider-Waite deck

When the Tower card appears in a spread it is not greeted with cheers and smiles. Although Pagans recognize the cycle of destruction must happen in order for new growth to thrive, it isn’t an enjoyable process. It’s painful. At times it can be downright ugly. While a group or organization is in the midst of conflict and tearing down of the old, it can be difficult to manage the process in a way that achieves a positive outcome.

Local festival in crises
For the last year Harmony Tribe, the group that produces the Sacred Harvest Festival, has been dealing with the aftermath of the Tower. Shortly after last year’s festival the board, Tribe members, and festival attendees became embroiled in a serious conflict. Tensions came to a head after a controversial move was initiated by Harmony Tribe to ban two Tribe members and the walls came crumbling down as the entire board of Harmony Tribe resigned en masse early last fall. A rift formed and community members began to choose sides. To make a painful situation worse for all involved, this played out in public.

For many in the wider community, the escalating conflict and subsequent rift struck from out of the blue. “This entire episode was so hurtful and angry. It wasn’t anything like the community I had come to love,” said one attendee who asked not to be named. “I was stunned. I shut down. I almost didn’t come this year.”

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Largest Upper Midwest Pagan Festival opens in 10 days! – Interview

Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF), located in southern Minnesota near Albert Lea, opens Saturday, August 6th, The last day to register online  and before gate rates is Sunday, July 31st.  I had the chance to interview Bress Nicneven, festival site director and board member of Harmony Tribe , the event’s sponsor.

Why do people continue to return to Sacred Harvest Festival?

SHF has gained a national reputation for quality and timely speakers and musicians. Celia’s video for the song ‘ Symbol’ was filmed at SHF, before the Pentacle Quest  became a household Pagan word. It is known for having a defined theme each year, and presenting profound rituals and speakers that all build on that theme for a complete experience. One of the few festivals that does this each year. In stressful financial times, this festival offers the cheapest per day rates of any festival in the country for the quality of the programming and activities.

It is a really reasonable family vacation for Pagans. It is an upper Midwest tradition, going on 14 years. SHF is really a place for everybody. There is a Kid’s cauldron, operated by parents and volunteers, that keeps kids happy all week. Families get the time and space to worship together as a family. They get time together and also adults have time for individual experiences. It is really strengthening for both families, individuals, and our community relationships. We have a great location in a shady oak grove with easy access from Des Moines, Madison, and the Twin Cities.

What is this year’s theme about?

Forest Family, Roots and Branches Intertwined  is our theme this year. It encompasses the roots of the Tribe itself, the thousands of people who have grown this festival over the years. We come each year to celebrate at this magical grove, and this year we specifically want to connect with the marvelous shady and protective trees there. Trees are an appropriate symbol of how we are also all connected, and essentially like the forest that we camp under. Like the burr oaks, we are still growing, and changing, and each season together we reach out within the festival and our home communities to integrate our spiritual experience back into our foundation, our roots. Continue reading

Crystal Blanton – National Guest at Sacred Harvest Festival – Interview

Author Crystal Blanton

I had the opportunity to interview Crystal Blanton about her appearance as featured guest at this years Sacred Harvest Festival presented by Harmony Tribe, inc.  Blanton’s first book, Bridging the Gap, was published in 2010 with Megalithic/ Immanion Press. Her new work, ” Shades of Faith; Minority Voices in Paganism”  is forthcoming. Included at bottom is the content of her main workshop offerings at Sacred Harvest Festival.

What do you hope to offer our community at SHF?

The scope of the work that I do is centered around group dynamics and learning how to navigate some of these dynamics in our community. To help with promoting healthier spiritual experiences for people. I take a lot of that material from being a counselor in my day life.  I take the skill I use in my everyday job and bring them over to our spiritual community. Many spiritual communities have already done this, it is just we haven’t gotten to that place yet in the Pagan community.  I will bring a lot of tools and skills around how to navigate certain group dynamics, how to create more communicative communities, how to navigate conflict and disruptions that can happen in any community dynamic. We’ll cover how to learn and pass on these concepts and tools after the workshops. To create a general sense of optimism in adding these tools that can help to enhance our community at large. That is what I hope to bring to the festival. Continue reading