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Humanism/Paganism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? II

General Assembly 2000 Event 239

Moderator: Phaedra Oorbeck; Panelists: Kendyl Gibbons, Stefan Jonasson, Patrick Price, Joan Van Becelaere

The program opened with hilarious skits of pagan and humanist liturgy that included participation from the audience of several hundred. Listen to this exhilarating experience by clicking on the link above; audio tapes of the event are also available from the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS).

The "pagan service" began with a profusion of flowers and a ritual of four candles in unusual and imaginative directions that left the congregation dizzy. The blessings began with rainbows, moved through gentle rain to blizzards, and ended with a curse: may your congregational meetings be long. Finally, the "congregation" joined in a rousing hymn to the tune of "Give Me That Old Time Religion."

Give me that old time religion,
Give me that old time religion,
Give me that old time religion,
It's good enough for me.

We will worship: like the Druids,
Running naked through the woo-ids,
And drink strange, fermented fluids,
And it's good enough for me.


We will worship: Zarathustra,
We will pray just like we usta,
And be Zarathustra boostas,
And it's good enough for me.


Let us pray to Aphrodite,
Cause she's cute and rather flighty
And she wears that see-through nightie
And it's good enough for me.


We all will worship: Loki
He's the Norse god of chaos
Which is why this verse doesn't rhyme or scan,
And it's good enough for me.


The "humanist service" began with announcements of the RE curricula: "Aristotle for Toddlers," "Civil Disobedience in the Sandbox," and "Plato and Playdough." The reading from Bertrand Russell concluded: "Hence, common sense leaves us completely in the dark". Finally, the committee on lyrics was concerned about the lack of agreement on wording so we sang the "hymn": "Coffee, coffee, coffee…"

Despite the levity, the panel was thoughtful and articulate. They agreed that ritual involves both action and intention. "If you don't know why you are doing this ritual, stoP: and figure it out," they agreed. This idea was a driving force behind the Protestant Reformation and remains valid today. Ritual is not a replacement for content. Both humanists and pagans intend to make order out of chaos, each in their own ways.

The panelists suggested responsive readings may be one of the less successful rituals inherited from the protestant tradition; these were described as "hymns for the tone deaf."

A brief discussion of "left brain versus right brain" methods converged on agreement that a successful approach must blend these in a balance of the whole body. In this respect, Unitarian Universalists (UUs) include some of the most left-brained pagans and right-brained humanists.

The humanist focus on the "word" might be described as "Neo-puritan," though the transition from "The Word of God" to "the word" may have resulted in a loss of a juicy core to the Word.

Both humanists and pagans start with human experience, though with different emphasis. Pagan rituals are intended to meet human needs, and humanist scholarshiP: is replete with pagan myths, at least those of dead pagans such as the Greeks. Apparently, live pagans are more threatening.

During the question period, a retired humanist minister pointed out that conflict between religious perspectives is not a recent phenomenon. UU churches are filled with people who do not fit in anywhere else and are looking for a home. It was suggested that soul-suffocating perfectionism could be the ultimate source of conflict.

Several panel members pointed out that UU Religious Education is a fertile breeding ground for paganism—do you remember growing seedlings in a Dixie cup? Then they come upstairs at age eighteen and find out that the adults are talking about something quite different from what they were taught in Religious Education.

Finally, there was a discussion of playfulness. Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly!

Reported by Michael McNaughton

Pagan Skit

The Priest and Priestess start by putting artificial flower garlands on each other's heads and around each others shoulders.

Circle Casting (Stefan carries knife and circle)
Her: I conjure thee, O Circle of power
that thou beeist a boundary between
all the nasty, icky, frightening stuff out there in the world
and all the kind hearted, good natured beings within.

Him: Let us summon the spirits of the four directions:

Stage whisper—
Him: Do you have matches?
Her: No I thought you did
Her: Go ahead
Him: No, you

Him: Powers of the North by Southwest
The direction of bad ideas and false starts:
We light this candle to honor you
Come forth to our gathering and bless us
HelP: us get this off the ground—
Even if it takes a while!

Her: Powers of the West by Northeast
once upon a time we invoked your presence
with a colored candle
a special blessing
and a song.
We don't know the color of the candle anymore,
and we've forgotten the blessing,
and no one can sing the song...
But since this is the direction of naive idealism
we trust that if we tell the story
you will come.

Him: Powers of the South by Northwest
guardians of interruptions and frustrations
with this light we summon you...
...sort of
with this light we summon you...

(He is struggling to get the candle lighted and the match keeps going out)

Her: All right you, quit fooling around! (with exasperation)

Her: Powers of the east by...umm...
(light match, let burn out)
East by...Southwest
Direction of...of...forgetfulness
Come forth
Or no—guardian of amnesia
Come forth!
come forth and...come forth and...
oh yeah—bless us and protect us
(light match, let burn out)
protect us from...hmm...from bad stuff...
er,...and from too much remembering...
well, you know
(never does light candle)

Sing "Gimme that Old Time Religion"

Him: In this ritual, the priest and priestess bless each other with the elements of the earth and the forces of nature.

(In the following sequence, they start by gently tossing flower petals, pulled from a paper bag, but as the scene proceeds they move from gentle tossing to hurling them at one another.)

Her: In the name of the goddess, I bless you with sunshine
Him: In the name of the great god, I bless you with soft breezes
Her: In the name of the goddess, I bless you with bountiful harvests
Him: In the name of the great god, I bless you with rainbows
Her: In the name of the goddess, I bless you with gentle rain
Him: In the name of the great god, I bless you with snowfall
Her: In the name of the goddess, I bless you with the power of thunderstorms
Him: In the name of the great god, I bless you with the power of drought
Her: In the name of the goddess, I bless you with locusts
Him: In the name of the great god, I bless you with mosquitoes
Her: In the name of the goddess, I bless you with blizzards
Him: In the name of the great god, I bless you with congregational meetings!

(Pause, look around)

Her: Let us begin our ritual of identification with the earth.

All please rise
Face the the front of the room
Let us call this direction
Now, turn to your left, and let us call this direction
Now turn to the back of the room and let us call that direction
Now turn again to your left and let us call that direction
Turn again
We can also call this direction
and noon can also be
and dusk can also be
and night can also be
Turn to the front again
and dawn or east can be
and noon or south can be
and dusk or west can be
and night or north can be summer.

Again speeding uP: the delivery, until everyone is turning fast enough to make them dizzy:

Her: Now you know how Gaia feels!

One chorus of "That Old Time Religion"

Him: Our ritual is concluded (Reaches into jumble on table, pulls out extension cord or power strip)

Let the power we have raised here
be safely grounded
that we may not carelessly carry it
out into the world
but return it into the great cycle of energy
known by many names:
Northern States Power
Manitoba Hydro
Duke Power
Pacific Gas and Electric
Commonwealth Edison
Rocky Mountain Energy...
In the name of these,
Be grounded!

(Plugs extension cord back into itself)

Her: Thus we end this ritual
thus we release the spirits
thus we open the circle

Him: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again...

Her: (suddenly suspicious and annoyed) Wait a minute... Mary? Mary?! Who's Mary? My name isn't Mary! How does she fit into this? Who've you been doing rituals with...?

(He flees with her in pursuit, throwing more petals at him.)

Humanist Skit

(Begins with formal classical music)

P: That was the Canzonetta La Hooplina.

(Sets out chalice with expression of embarrasment)

(Chalice is a blue plastic candle on an upside down styrofoam cup)

P: Good Morning. I'm Patrick, a member of the board of the First FellowshiP: Society of Nashville, Unitarian Universalist -- where our thought is formal but our dress is not.

(Steps out of pulpit to display Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and rope sandals)

I want to welcome you to our gathering and talk today. But before the talk, we have a few announcements...well, actually, it's quite a long list of announcements. Joan, could you helP: me with these?

Coffee is available during the talk at the back of the hall-over there. Please feel free to get some whenever you like. But do be careful. Last week one of the ushers spilled a double latte into the collection basket and it ruined the two checks in the basket.

J: The Sunday Coordinating Committee has received a number of concerned "opinions" about the sudden influx of unusual ritual into our Sunday gatherings. So we will suspend lighting the chalice on Sunday morning until the committee has a chance to explore the issue in more depth.

The facilities committee has been deliberating on the question of whether to install a few cots in the back of the hall for those who tire prematurely during the Sunday morning Talk Back sessions. We know how they do tend to go on sometimes. The deadline for the decision was today, but the committee has requested more time to sleeP: on the issue.

The children's education committee wants to announce its new fall line-uP: of classes. For the smallest ones, there is Aristotle for Toddlers. Younger grade school children will be studying Civil Disobedience and Social Justice in the Sandbox. Older children will study Plato and Play Dough. The high school class will explore the ethical analysis of the musical aesthetic of Mariah Carey as compared to that of the early Amadeus Mozart...provided we can get any of the h igh school age teens to show up this time.

P: We also want to announce that after many months of study, the Pigeon Control Committee has found an effective way to clean the pigeon pooP: from our stoop. Thank God!

First shill in the audience: Mommy, she said God! Second shill: Hush, we don't use that kind of language in public!

P: Lets continue with an inspirational reading from Bertrand Russell's classic, "The Problems of Philosophy."

J: Reading-Joan (reading)

P: We did have a talk scheduled today on "False Epistemologies and the Improbability of Possible Worlds." But I'm afraid the announcements were too long and we don't have time for the talk. We will, therefore, proceed directly to the Talk Back session, for those of you who want to talk about the lack of a talk.

J: Our talk next Sunday is very exciting. It is titled "Wave or Particle: The Nature of Light and its Effects on Human Social Identity Construction in a Post-Modern Society of Deconstructed Political/Economic Systems in the Midst of National and Global Paradigm Shift."

P: I can't wait.

Usually we now close with our song of the morning. However, the Sunday Gathering Committee has become concerned about our inability to agree on any of the words to most of the songs. Consequently, they've decided to limit our song choices to the one selection upon which all of us could agree with the words. The words are printed on this sheet. Please join in.


Coffee, Coffee, Coffee.
Praise the strength of coffee.
Early in the morn we rise with thoughts of only thee.
Brewed fresh or reheated,
Dark by thee defeated
Brewed fresh by perk, or drip: or instantly.

P: That's it. Let's pour the coffee!