Monday, August 4, 2014

Missing Margot Adler

A week ago, Margot Adler died.  Those of us who listen to NPR are familiar with her voice.  Those of us who are feminists of a certain age may remember her book Drawing Down the Moon:  Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today.  Very open-minded ecumenical theologians may see the importance of this book.

Starhawk was the feminist whose books first introduced me to the Wiccan tradition, but I loved Adler's book too.  I appreciated the scope of Adler's book.  In the end, I decided that the various Pagan traditions wouldn't be my path, but I liked Adler's calm exploration.  Even as I returned to a Christianity that had been birthed in patriarchal traditions, I liked knowing that there had been other traditions.

Although historians cast doubts on the possibility of a matriarchal religion, I liked the feminist approach of making an old religion new.  Many of us in other traditions are invigorating our religions in much the same way.

I remember hearing her voice on NPR decades ago and wondering if it could be the same Margot Adler who wrote the book.  I remember my surprise at finding out that indeed, it was the same woman.  At the time, I thought that NPR was brave for hiring a Wiccan.  But of course, she wasn't only a Wiccan, but a Wiccan with great writing and reporting skills.

I've had a week to think about her death and all the deaths that are coming.  So many theologians who transformed religion and the way we think about religion in the 20th century will soon no longer be with us.

And I think of my own generation, no longer young.  What have we accomplished?

I know that there are many who mourn the changes that came as the twentieth century came to a close.  I know that there are many who would ask, "Why are we mourning this woman who did so much to make paganism seem normal?"

But I like the way that we're in a fluid moment now, where religious traditions are being transformed.  Like so many, I'm not always comfortable with the transformations, and I do worry about parts of the world which embrace religions which are oppressive to women and other minorities.  I worry about parts of the world which are moving or have moved towards religions that would have executed Margot Adler as a witch--and where many women with much less threatening views would also be executed.

But today, let us give thanks for people like Margot Adler, people who have documented the wide variety of ways that people can worship and search for the Divine.  Let us give thanks for all the theologians of her generation who have so transformed the actual practices of our religious lives.  Let us continue to look for ways to transform the old ways so that they become meaningful to modern searchers.

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