Having worked in computer security once upon a time, I may be more inclined to make analogies using it than the average person, but this time around, I can’t think of a better one: I’ve heard it argued that the most efficient computer virus ever developed wasn’t a piece of software at all. No, it was the one where someone e-mails you and says that there’s a brand new virus being spread around by e-mail, and if you see a message with a particular subject line then don’t open it, and you have to forward the warning e-mail to everyone you know in order to stop it from spreading. (“Just hurry up and forward this to every single person that you know! Hit send right now!”) The alleged virus doesn’t exist, of course, but the resources being used up by all of those e-mails being forwarded are comparable to the resources a real virus would consume, and a real virus would actually take time to write and test, as opposed to the two minutes that the e-mail took to write.
What brought that story to my mind? Why, the DC 40 event, of course – or to be more accurate, the Neo-Pagan response to it. A Christian group has decided that they’re in the minority in this country (when I see as many Hellenic and Norse temples in small towns as I do churches, I may almost take that part seriously) and they want their views heard and respected (no insult from me on that one, that’s a vital part of being an American IMHO) so they’re going to pray for all the politicians to convert, or for more proper Christians to be elected, or for Jesus to beat up the goddess Columbia, or something like that. More amusing was their response to various Pagan individuals and groups who were organizing a prayer response of our own, by telling us that they were shooting blood-covered arrows of love at us. (Images of the SNL/Trek TNG sketch where Data presents Picard with a human heart dipped in chocolate sprang to mind, personally.)
So okay, we have a group who are – threatening? – us with prayer, as well as praying to make Jesus lord over America. I’ll give us collective credit that, if we are over-reacting, at least we’re over-reacting to a deliberate slight against our beliefs, rather than a stupid random comment that a celebrity made. But what’s the proper response to this? If we really do believe that acts of magic and prayer count for something when we do them, I don’t think we can just pretend that someone else’s prayers don’t count for anything. That’s the mentality that they would apply to us, isn’t it? That our prayers don’t count because our gods are (fake/less powerful/dead/actually demons)?
On the other hand, being that former computer security guy that I am, I can’t help but think of this in terms of that e-mail virus. The greatest harm their prayer can do to us may not be its direct effects, but the indirect effect of distracting us from doing the happy, productive, Pagany things that we would otherwise have been doing. A spiritual speed bump to slow us down on our journey.
So what’s a Pagan to do? Well, here’s what I’m going to do. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing either.
* Keep on doing my daily devotionals and ritual offerings, like always. Eudaimonia (Greek for “having happy daimons”, daimons being one’s personal messengers from the gods) is the best defense against anyone else’s prayers. (And if you don’t do regular work at your home shrine – or don’t have a home shrine – I can’t recommend it highly enough. For developing a good relationship with the Kindreds, small things done regularly are way more effective than big things done sporadically.)
* On October 27th, the day when my home state is on the DC 40 list, I’ll make a special offering to Columbia (who I have thought of as the patron goddess of this country for about as long as I’ve been a Pagan) and recite the prayer that Ian wrote.
And that’s about it. Living my life as well as I can (and as Pagan as I want it to be) is the best way to deflect their bloody prayer arrows.
Next week, a report on the very first festival I’ll be visiting as part of ADF’s Traveling Clergy Program!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF