Welcome to my Journey
David Dashifen Kees
CHALLENGING MY OWN FAITH
David Dashifen Kees first heard about it from an alumni when we ended up seated next to each other on a plane flight. We had both attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah, and we were flying home to the Baltimore-Washington area.
In chatting about our experiences at the parliament, the topic eventually turned toward her time at Iliff. She and I are both a part of the Pagan community, though of different traditions therein, but it let me know that there was a place for me in theological studies.
The existence of the Journey program almost sealed the deal. But, the icing on the cake was the focus on social justice and training leaders prepared to enter a diverse world and coming from diverse backgrounds.
At Iliff, I am surprised by how much I am challenged in my own faith. Most forms of Paganism are very individualistic, by which I mean to say: if you put two Pagans in a room, even from the same tradition or from the same group, you will hear two different ways to be a Pagan.
In some ways, this creates a custom-fit spirituality that can be comfy like a favorite sweater, but like that sweater, it may be a bit thinner in some places than others. Studying the great theological debates of the last few thousand years or discussing the intersection between race and racism and religion has forced me to examine and re-examine parts of myself that I thought were built on firmer spiritual foundations.
I have discovered new ways to think about what my Paganism means to me as I study the meaningful ways that spiritualties have spoken to others throughout history.
In my class Identity, Power, and Difference (IPD) with Dr. Jordan-Fields and Rev. Rossbert, they encouraged me to more meaningfully engage with my community about the startling lack of diversity in some Pagan groups. As an intentionally Eurocentric religious path, it means that we have always struggled with race and racism, but in the last few years, some of our symbols have been used by white supremacist organizations to promote their work. This only exacerbates the situation. Furthermore, the language and ritual structure of many traditions is explicitly linked to a gender binary, something that has caused strife within the trans* community within Wicca.
Prior to beginning my time at Iliff, I was never sure how to engage these topics the right way. I know I still probably don’t know how to do that, but I cannot let that keep me from trying. We ended our IPD Gathering days with a panel discussion among the four professors who taught the course during the fall 2018 quarter. They were asked to provide a short word or phrase each to describe their hopes for us in IPD and at Iliff. They gave us metamorphosis, own it, listen, and transform. I took those words and tattooed them on my arm as a reminder that we are here at Iliff and beyond to do the work we are called to do and that we shouldn’t let our anxieties and fears hold us back.
I can honestly say that the Journey program is amazing. My wife and I have been married for almost 14 years, and she has a nice, stable job as a veterinarian in Virginia. Without the Journey program, we would have had to have a much more fraught conversation about how to accomplish my educational goals vis-à-vis her job in one state and Iliff two-thirds of a continent away.
I am something of a digital native. I have been programming since I was in sixth grade, and have thus been online since the mid 1990’s. The experience of online communication and information consumption is something I am very familiar.
Additionally, I think it makes the experience of Gathering Days very powerful since we only see our friends at Iliff during those few days. We pack in at least as much fun as we do work into those very short time frames.
I think the greatest challenge to the Journey program is that it makes conversation harder. The online forum is great for scholastic exploration, but the sort of deep, rambling conversation that can be easily accomplished during face-to-face engagements is made much more difficult online. But, social networking and the same technology that makes the Journey program possible also helps to keep us connected in between our time in Denver.
Now accepting applications for Winter 2021 and Fall 2021! .