Apr 222011

Yesterday Congressman Cliff Stearns’ (R-Fl) amendment to the 9/11 first responders aid bill went into effect.  What is this amendment you ask?  One that has the gall to question the patriotism of the heroes of that terrible day:

“(5) DISQUALIFICATION OF INDIVIDUALS ON TERRORIST WATCH LIST.-No individual who is on the terrorist watch list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security shall qualify as an eligible WTC responder. Before enrolling any individual as a WTC responder in the WTC Program under paragraph (3), the Administrator, in  consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall determine whether the  individual is on such a list.”

It is exactly what it says it is. To add insult to injury the amendment was added to the bill without dissent with this odious provision going into effect yesterday. There are no words that can truly describe the depth of the disrespect shown by both parties in Congress.

With fears of Muslim takeover fanned by the Cordoba House controversy and Peter King’s radicalization circus Congress has, in the name of “pragmatic politics” acquiesced to the worst in us.  Saying any group of people, including the greatest heroes of the past decade, can be investigated as terrorists by Congressional fiat attacks the foundations of our criminal justice system.  Ever since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1789 one of the bedrock principals of our legal system is probable cause.  Searches, arrests, and indictments cannot be obtained for any charge without first proving there is a very solid, justifiable reason to be poking around in the private lives of American citizens.  With a simple voice vote Congress has swept aside any need for probable cause declaring everyone who worked at Ground Zero in the days and weeks following 9/11 is now a suspect for terrorism.  As far as our elected representatives are concerned “pragmatic” politics trumps the rights of American heroes.

What is worse are the chilling implications of this act.  When the best among us, the heroes who rose to the call, can be declared terror suspects then any one can be put under the same microscope for no better reason than “national security” or “practical politics.”  If the Ground Zero workers can be thrown on the pyre of a new witch hunt on Congressional whim then what is stopping legislators from tossing others into the flames in a fit of political hysteria?

CORRECTION: The provision was included in the bill passed last year.  The amendment’s effects as per the Huffington Post went into effect yesterday which they learned through an unnamed source.

Also published at Ryan’s Desk

Apr 062011

In the fall of 2010 the Tea Party was swept into power on a wave of voter discontent promising to turn the country around by reigning in out of control government spending.  They were riding high on populist anger pushing a hard ideological line as the solution to our nation’s problems.  Five months later the Tea Party’s approval ratings have plummeted, Republican governors riding the wave have seen their support evaporate, and the oncoming government shutdown has put the ascendant Republicans in a serious bind.  Regardless of the cause of the Tea Party and GOP’s woes can be summed up in one word.


No one can deny the Tea Party-fueled gains of the Congressional Republicans in the 2010 elections.  They trumpeted their victory as a mandate by the voters to pursue a ultraconservative antigovernment agenda.  Yet for all the claims of strong support what the mandate they received was less clear.  A large part of their victory in 2010 was thanks to highly depressed voter turnout especially among groups that Obama depended on for his 2008 victory.  With only 41% of voters bothering to come to the polls as opposed to the low 70s that we saw in 2008 probably the clearest thing the voters did say was they had enough with government as usual.  With the certainty of victory the hard-right Tea Party candidates in Congress and state government moved forward to make the perceived mandate a reality.  Ironically enough it was putting their agenda into action that has led to a serious case of buyer’s remorse across the board.

In Congress the Tea Party, ignoring polls showing Americans’ first priority was job creation as opposed to cutting the deficit, went all ahead full with their agenda starting with the infamous forcible rape bill.  They followed up with attacks on NPR and Planned Parenthood threatening to cut off the flow of government assistance for both.  While the Culture Warriors fought personal battles at the expense of the American public the House leadership continued to thunder on high of the dangers of the growing deficit.  They demanded immediate cuts across the board regardless of their economic impact.  When questioned on the economic impact of mass federal layoffs Speaker John Boehner responded to these concerns with a blunt “So be it”.  When the Democratic-held Senate refused to play ball and roll over to the House Boehner and the House GOP doubled down on their stance of cuts, cuts, and more cuts leading to a string of stopgap continuing resolutions to keep the lights on.  In spite of following their agenda to the letter the Tea Party, far from seeing their political stock rise, has recently taken hard blows to their support.  From previous highs of 50% support the Tea Party has fallen to a new low of 32% and Americans now seeing the Tea Party as being as much a part of the problem as the Democrats and Republicans.  The hard-line calls by the Tea Party for government shutdown, a course Boehner himself fears will benefit the Democrats, coupled with the refusal by ultraconservative Republicans to compromise with the Senate have largely run afoul of American popular opinion.  With strong majorities holding out for a compromise and tiny slivers supporting the white-knuckle showdown that now seems all but inevitable the Tea Party has charted a truly dangerous course for the GOP.

The recent disasters for the Tea Party are hardly confined to the Beltway.  A recent string of anti-union measures and rhetoric pushed in MichiganOhioWisconsin, and Maine have far from rallying public opinion have sparked ferocious backlash.  In Florida Governor Rick Scott’s unilateral actions and disregard for the state legislature have turned his own party against him.  In Wisconsin where the labor fight has most strongly come to a head the expected easy re-election of incumbent Republican David Prosser to the state Supreme Court has come down to a narrow margin with the challenger, virtual unknown Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg, just barely ahead flipping 19 counties that went for Scott Walker in 2010.  With a storm of recalls gathering the troubles for the Wisconsin GOP, riding high on the Tea Party’s wave, have only just begun with labor increasingly agitated and energized into action across the Rust Belt.
Each of these skirmishes have helped build up what will be a game-changing showdown in Washington.  Both sides in Washington are spoiling for a political fight with each citing dearly-held principles.  Yet in spite diffuse opinion forming on impending shutdown the Tea Party is taking very serious risks.  In every one of their previous attempts to advance their cause they have been met with popular backlash and buyer’s remorse.  Their insistence during the 2010 campaign that government shutdown should not only be an option but actively sought by lawmakers has left the recentprotests to the contrary hollow and has enraged Tea Party activists calling for a firm stand in a fight where the stakes couldn’t be higher.  Far from being an effective cure for our woes some economists fear a prolonged shutdown spiraling back into a deep recession.  Beyond the economic impact is the direct effects of shutting down our federal government.  In the event of a shutdown over 800,000 federal workers would be furlough and stop receiving a paycheck, 30% of all tax refunds will remain unsent, states would face serious cuts in funding for programs like unemployment pay, and soldiers fighting overseas would continue their dangerous work without pay just to name a few.  If a last-minute budget deal cannot be reached then the Tea Party, thanks to their sound and fury, run the risk of being stuck with the blame.  They may soon discover that ideological purity doesn’t matter when the public doesn’t like what your ideology does to them.
Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.  The United States cannot afford courting economic disaster because the most radical faction of one political party cannot put aside ideology for the sake of the public good.

Also posted at Ryan’s Desk

Jan 062011

Today, at 10:30 am (Eastern), the Constitution of the United States, excluding those portions that have been superseded such as the the 18th amendment, will be read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives.  As far as historians can tell, this will be the first time in our history that this will occur.  This is in preface to a new House rule that  requires every Bill to cite its basis in the Constitution.

Like all things our elected officials do, this is being dissected by pundits, political science academia, folks around the water coolers, and by the politicians themselves.  Is reading the constitution aloud “long overdue” as Rep. Robert Goodlatte, who originally proposed this idea, proclaims?  Is it “a presumptuous and self-righteous act” by the new GOP majority as the New York Times contends?  I don’t see why it couldn’t be both.  This is Washington we are talking about, after all.

More interesting than the usual polarizing viewpoints – us good, them bad – is the discussion taking place about how we, as a nation, feel about the Constitution.  Take a look at these comments:  (Bold emphasis is mine)

“They are reading it like a sacred text,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and characterized the reading as ritualistic.”   “You read the Torah, you read the Bible, you build a worship service around it.  You are not supposed to worship your constitution,” said Nadler, who went on to say that the Founders were not “demigods” and the document’s additional amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed it was “highly imperfect.”

On MSNBC, Dahlia Lithwick said:  “The way some people rub Buddha and they think the magic will come off, I think there’s a longstanding tradition in this country. We’re awfully religious about the Constitution,” she said. “I think there is this sort of fetishization that is of a piece with the sort of need for a religious document that’s immutable and perfect in every way.”

Both of these statements posit that the Constitution of the United States is not a sacred document, that in order for a text to be sacred it must be unchangeable in nature, and that we grant it an irrational reverence that should be reserved for texts like the Bible and the Torah.

I find myself in total disagreement with Representative Nadler and Ms. Lithwick.

The idea that sacred texts must be unchangeable to be perfect is a uniquely Christian view.  Even Christians who are not bible literalists, see the most well known of Christian sacred texts, the stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments, as something that is unchangeable and therefor perfect.  Even though there are different versions of the Commandments in the bible, the ones God wrote and the ones Moses re-scribed.  The very word of God handed down to man and you don’t screw with that, right?

Other religions, like Buddhism, Judaism and Paganism, look at sacred texts in a different light.  They are words of wisdom that can change and be added to because they are alive.  Some come directly from the divine, some divinely inspired, and others are wise saying of learned humans.  The texts are used as a learning tool, are open to interpretation, and are studied.  Students of sacred texts look not only to connect to the divine, they ‘divine’ a blueprint for how to live their life in harmony with a higher power or consciousness.

Columbia Eleutheria, which formerly graced the niche behind the Speaker in the House of Representatives.

That’s how I see the Constitution.  It is a sacred text inspired by the Patron Goddess of this country, Columbia Eleutheria. I’m not alone in the belief that a divine hand, whether you call Her Columbia or Providence or God, assisted in the creation of our Constitution. Those where were there when the Constitution was created, whom some Pagans offer (or are considering offering) cultus to as a Hero, had this to say:

“I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being.”  Benjamin Franklin

“When the great work was done and published, I was … struck with amazement. Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war, … could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole .”  Charles Pinckney

“For my part, I sincerely esteem [The Constitution] a system which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”  Alexander Hamilton

“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”  George Washington

Although the mainstream sees the Constitution as a product of a Christian nation and attempt to whitewash the Founding Fathers as firmly Christian in their faith, the Constitution is purely Pagan.  Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Washington were all men of the Enlightenment -  a time when the ‘lost’ knowledge of the classical world resurfaced in art, literature, and philosophy.  They consciously and deliberately set out to use the best of Pagan Athenian and Roman law, philosophy, and political science as the foundation of a new nation, not the Christian bible.  The Framers made Rome our body and Athens our soul.  Republican Rome offered the example of a Tripartite government consisting of three branches:  the executive which was run by  two consuls , the legislative which was run by the Roman senate , and the judicial which was run by the assembly.  But it was Athenian Democracy, as exercised by the Demos (the People), that became the American ideal of liberty.

French philosopher André Glucksmann, offers an insight into the concept of liberty that the United States adopted from Greece.  The same freedom that Columbia Eleutheria breathed into the hearts and minds of our Founding Fathers as they deliberated over the birth of our nation.

Glucksmann writes:  “It is liberty understood in doubt and anxiety about the fate of man.  Tragic freedom works in uncertainty, sailing toward no glorious destiny. Man is free, yes—free to learn from his mistakes. Or not.”

Our Constitution is a document containing sacred wisdom gained from our Goddess, a blueprint of how the USA can live in harmony if we devote ourselves to its study and gain the wisdom to interpret it. That the constitution can be amended demonstrates its perfection.  We have the freedom to learn from our mistakes and correct them.  Or not.

Oh – Representative Nadler, I do not see a “ritualistic” reading of the Constitution as meaningless or wrong.  Ritual is a positive and effective way to ask for Divine guidance and aid.  So I close with this prayer:  May Columbia Eleutheria guide our Representatives – especially our newly elected House Speaker John Boehner – and grant Her blessing to our country.

Jun 052010

In a previous post I posed the question: What should happen to sites of private cultus when the State comes into ownership of them?

The question was prompted by the recent United States Supreme Court case involving the WWI Memorial in the Mojave desert. The ACLU, representing a former Parks Service worker, sued the federal government to force removal of the cross shaped Memorial. The memorial became a site of local cultus for area Christians who held religious rituals at the site.

Each year, Christians would travel out to the memorial and worship. Veterans would stand before the cross, honoring those lost and asking for the gift of peace in their hearts. They brought offerings, burned incense, and sang sacred songs. They prayed for those who died and they prayed to their God, reveling in his divine presence. This continued for decades, with the crowds of worshipers slowly growing, drawn to the site. Then the lawsuit happened and their site of cultus was boarded up, blocked from their view.

The Supreme Court sidestepped ruling on this issue, remanding it back to a lower court and asking them to take another look at a proposed compromise  allowing the federal government to gift the land immediately around the memorial back to the local VFW Post.  Proponents of the compromise said this would remove any appearance of official State sanction of a religion while allowing the memorial to stay where it is.  Should the SCOTUS non-decision be taken as guide on how to resolve these types of situations in the future?

Last week I noted some other overtly religious (and beautiful) sites where people presently engage in religious worship that either presently are or could easily come into the possession of the State through voluntary or involuntary means and wondered what would happen to them.

Should they be torn down?   Protected?  What criteria is employed to decide which cultus sites are of historical value and worthy of being saved and which aren’t?  Is beauty a determining factor?  Number of worshipers?  Age?  How can minority religions ensure the protection of our own sites of cultus when they fall into federal hands?

Endangered Tibetan Buddhist Stupa near the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico

These questions are now on the mind of Buddhists as they fight to save a  Buddhist Stupa near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Federal government has announced its intentions to bulldoze a small Tibetan Buddhist Stupa near the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico after the National Park Service seized the land using the power of eminent domain to build an outdoor amphitheater.

How do you protect modern cultus sites against circumstances like this, where the government steps in and invokes eminent domain to seize privately owned land?  Many Pagans and other minority religions prefer to build their temples, altars, and other sacred structures in beautiful wilderness areas.  Which also happens to be the same type of land that the government likes to add into its National Parks system.

The Reformed Buddhist notes that Congress and the Supreme Court seemed to go out of their way to protect the WWI Memorial in the shape of a Christian cross, but so far, the government doesn’t seem to eager to prevent the Stupa from being destroyed.

The question has to be raised, is the US government indeed attempting to establish a de facto ‘official’ religion by its actions over the past 5 years? Ken Salazar, the Secretary for the Department of the Interior, which runs the National Park Service, has been eerily quiet about these actions, as has the Obama administration. Unquestionably, the volunteer caretakers of the Stupa have been more than willing to work with the NPS to preserve the Buddhist symbol within the confines of its amphitheater plans, however, any attempts to open dialogue have been met with no success. One of the ongoing advertising campaigns of the NPS has been “Get Involved!”; I suppose they only wish those to get involved if they are indeed Christian.

If you wish to assist the Buddhists in attempting to save their cultus site, more information can be found here.

I do have a few questions for the Pagan community:  Do you think the Buddhist Stupa should be saved or should it be destroyed?  Does allowing the Stupa to remain on federal land give the appearance of State endorsement of a religion, which is prohibited by the US Constitution?  How does that match up to your position on the WWI Memorial/Cross in the Mojave desert?

May 112010

Today, hundreds of Veterans are in D.C. for a Veterans Lobby Day to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This lobby day was organized to push Congress to include language repealing DADT in the National Defense Authorization Act which is just beginning to be drafted. These vets are voicing what so many of us, including top officials in the Pentagon, believe – it is past time to end this out dated and discriminatory policy.

Some of the veterans are addressing Congress face-to-face today and are telling their personal stories of how DADT has affected their lives. The San Diego Gay & Lesbian News has an excellent profile series on 7 local vets who are speaking to Congress today about their experiences.  One such profile is of Jason Daniel Knight. Knight was discharged from the military not once, but twice, under DADT.

[Knight] would now be the first openly gay member of the active duty forces to serve in a war zone.

For a full year – out in the sand-pit of Kuwait – Knight lived in the close quarters of a big, hot, open “shed,” with 50 bunk beds and 99 other bunk-mates, but no one cared that he was gay.

He got promoted to CT2 (E-5) and gained more accolades and awards. He even served as the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) representative, organizing interactive and popular social events to boost his fellow sailors, soldiers and marines in the region during downtime.

Knight was now proving that being openly gay was NOT incompatible with military service, even in a war zone. However, his lesson didn’t last for long.

As a Conservative libertarian, USAF veteran, and Hellenic Pagan I fully support the call to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and allow Gays to openly serve in our Armed Forces. As a Conservative I think that private matters, such as what consenting adults do with each other, are just that – private – and should be of no concern to the State.

As a veteran, I have served with Airmen that I knew were gay and it didn’t make a bit of difference to me. While I served during Desert Shield/Desert Storm I was under OSI investigation for being gay. I was never sure if the OSI honestly thought I was gay or if they put me under investigation in an attempt to force me to give testimony against my best friend. Unless you have been under an OSI investigation, you have no idea how much pressure can be brought to bear on you. Neither I, nor our fellow Airmen serving in Zaragoza Air Base, gave up one single name to the OSI during the entire 2 year investigation.

As a Hellenic Pagan, I find the justification for discrimination against Gays as being unfit for military service or a detriment to morale laughable. You won’t find a more bad ass group of soldiers in history as the Spartans. Gay relationships and military training were one and the same in Sparta and they sacrificed to Eros before battle to honor those bonds of love and brotherhood.  I don’t think anyone could accuse the Spartans, or any of the other Greek city-states, of having a military that wasn’t ready for battle or had morale issues because their military members engaged in homosexual sex.

I’m not in DC today but I am doing what I can to make my voice heard in Congress. I am participating in a Virtual Lobby Day organized by the Servicemembers United and the Human Rights Campaign.  I will be calling my Senators and Representatives and letting them know that “I support the Veterans Lobby Day that’s happening today and I urge Congress to repeal DADT this year.”

Join us for Virtual Lobby Day this Tuesday May 11.

Set aside a few minutes to make a call to Congress. Help us flood the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3121) with calls this Tuesday, May 11. Tell your reps to “Repeal DADT this year!”

Follow Eric Alva and other vets on Twitter to get real-time updates from our meetings with members of Congress. Just follow Eric Alva (@EricAlvaUSMC), David Hall (@davidhalldc), Mike Almy (@mikealmy), Brian Fricke (@brianfricke), or @HRCBackStory.

Join the conversation on Twitter and call for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by including #DADT in your tweets between now and Tuesday.

Become a Fan on Facebook – Stay up to date on the latest DADT & LGBT news on HRC’s Facebook Fan Page.

Help us flood Congress with phone calls TODAY in support of the hundreds of brave men and women meeting with lawmakers right now.

It will only take a few minutes to call your Members of Congress.

Want to make some calls but don’t know what the telephone number is for your Senator or congressperson? Go here for a list of Senate phone numbers and here for a list of Representative’s phone numbers.

Mar 152010

For the past several years, health care has dominated American politics. Many of us are exhausted, confused, disappointed, hopeful, or determined. Some of us are all of the above depending on the day. The debate rests right at a crossroads of ethics, macro-economics, survival, and personal finances. For portions of our population, religion is central to the debate and that is true for me, as well. I’ll be addressing the intersection of religion and health care as a series this week.

Although I hope the current health insurance Bill(s) before Congress doesn’t become law for various reasons, I have no serious opposition to instituting a National Health Service in the USA similar what is in SpainFrance or Australia. Nor do I have any strenuous objection to allowing more of a free-market in health care by reducing insurance down to catastrophic coverage only for all Americans. I can see the merits to any number of other ideas, such as what Safeway uses to cut costs by 40% by rewarding healthy behavior.  I’m open to these plans because they are all just methods of paying for health care and have little to do with health care itself. What I’m not open to is anything that interjects the government and politics in between the doctor-patient relationship.

The Epistates of Hellenion, in an off-hand way, related something profound she heard from a speaker at a graduation ceremony in the late 1980′s. The keynote speaker was one of the founders of Médecins Sans Frontières. He explained that while Zeus was about government, and his divine son Apollon addressed public health issues such as plagues, physicians belonged to Apollon’s mortal-born son Asclepios. The lessons to be learned from this are not only that doctors are mortal and only seem divine, but that government should be two steps removed from doctors. Governments should support public health, but the intimate relationship between Doctors and patients are beyond politics.

Other than minor areas such as licensing, doctors should be free to care for their patients without interference from the State. The Federal government shouldn’t outlaw abortion or prohibit funding of it (as in the Stupak-Pitts amendment), but also shouldn’t force doctors to recommend or perform abortions. I’m a supporter of doctor assisted suicide and disagree with the prosecution of those who help terminally ill persons to end their lives (even family members), but I don’t think doctors should ever be required to end a life. I’m all for birth control, but I don’t advocate laws requiring medical personnel to proscribe it. I’m as patriotic as the next person, but I refuse to label doctors who treat patients in “enemy” countries as traitors.

Regardless how you feel in respect to the health insurance Bills on the table in Congress or the current state of health care in this country, keeping government and doctors two steps removed from each other is a concept worth preserving.  Any changes we contemplate to our health care system or laws in the USA need to ensure this separation.  If that isn’t safe guarded, it won’t matter how we pay for it, our medical care will suffer.

Feb 182010

Raise your hand if you’ve never, ever been to a ritual which involved healing of some sort. OK, I’ll bet I can count the number of hands raised on the fingers of one of those hands.

Most Pagans see healing as an integral part of their path, one of the ways in which they commonly choose to interact with Nature, the world around them, and their fellow human beings. Just off the top of my head I can remember working to heal many things, from the salmon in the Penobscot River to a friend with an impacted wisdom tooth. We heal the earth, we heal people (and animals) in need, but how much effort have we put into healing this nation?

We as a people are more divided than we have been since the Civil War. Families cannot talk about critical issues around the dinner table without someone walking off in anger and frustration before the pie is served. Civil discourse has become something wistfully remembered but rarely attained.

I know, I know, there is blame to be shared. Most of us seem to get our “news” from sources that validate our particular points of view, rather than those which present facts in an absolutely neutral way without any “spin”.

Conservatives have Fox News and Glenn Beck; liberals have MSNBC and Rachel Maddow. Gotcha media feeds gotcha politics, as the US Senate, and this wonderful nation, appears to grind to a halt.

Last night, as many times before, I held the hand of a woman (a politically independent former Republican) who looked to me for hope because she honestly believed that this country was circling the drain and that there was just no way to prevent inevitable disaster.

And surely she isn’t the only one of us with those concerns.

So, I would like to suggest that some healing is in order. If we reach out to the salmon in the Penobscot, if we put our voices and hands together to relieve the pain of a friend (human or otherwise), how can we not do the same for our nation?

How? Well, let’s think about it. The first thing I ask, when someone requests my help, is “what are you doing to help yourself?” Only when every possible effort is made in the material world, in the “seen world”, will I offer to work in the “unseen world” as well. The Gods help those who help themselves, in other words. Feel free to disagree, but that’s my basic premise. So, in this post I’m talking about acting in both modalities, OK?

What can we do in the material world? Try listening, open minded and open hearted, to a friend or family member with a different political point of view; then try to find some common ground that you share, and point that out. Once you’ve done that, stop, respectfully and well short of trying to change his or her mind about anything. Do that as frequently as you can (I do it daily), consciously replacing some negativity with positive energy. It feels good and, in some small way, is a start at healing what ails us. Of course there are lots of other options for political action, but let’s start with the most simple, one on one.

In circle, healing can also play a part. How you do this is, of course, yours to determine. If you need a suggestion to get you started, here’s a call for peace often used in Druidry: “May there be peace in this circle; may there be peace in all the world.” Simple, but it works for me.

I hate to give my readers homework, but this retired teacher is going to do just that. If you agree that this country needs healing, and if you feel that healing is part of your Pagan beliefs, try reaching out gently to look for common ground. Try putting some positive energy (as well as a good sense of humor) into this work, and let us know what happens.