Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Left My Heart in San Francisco (or more precisely, Marin County)

Before relocating to northern Utah for graduate studies my family and I lived in northern California in the greater Sacramento area. This is not far from the San Francisco Bay Area, and over the years I had developed relationships with some great people associated with Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Marin County. This county is one of the more fascinating in the United States from the perspective of religious studies in that it has one of the highest rates of participation in or identification with alternative spiritualities which provides "a case study of particular changes occuring on the religious landscape of America" (Gary A. Tobin & Patricia Y.C.E. Lin, Religious & Spiritual Change in America: The Experience of Marin County, California [Institute for Jewish & Community Research, San Francisco, 2002]). This area also has one of the highest "unchurched" populations of the country (I hate describing people by what they aren't, or by what evangelicals wish them to be ["unchurched], but it's a common label).

As a result of the spiritual climate of Marin County, and my frequent visits to this area before my relocation, I developed a special fondness for it. I recently came across a fascinating quote in a book on Wicca that confirmed the highly influential nature of this region.:

"Within North American Neo-Paganism, California occupies a special position because of its status as the source of much of the 1960s counterculture, a movement that helped popularize Neo-Paganism (as well as other New Religious movements) throughout North America and the rest of the world. California has been at the vanguard of cultural production of a number of fronts, from the film industry to the manufacture and distribution of electronic and technological components; historian Ronald Hutton argues that its importance in the early twenty-first century global cultural scene can be compared to that of Athens in the fifth century B.C.E., Rome in the first century C.E., and Florence in the fifteenth." (Sabina Magliocco, Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America [University of Philadelphia Press, 2004, ]).

Although the cost of living is astronomical in this region, I would dearly love to connect with Christians who have the heart and finances to engage areas like this (and Salem with Phil Wyman) in the future. The strategic importance is tremendous.


Anonymous said...

I left my heart in San Francisco some years ago when I saw the potential for reaching the entire world through that one city.

I would be interested to know of the current state of Paganism and New Age religion as it has orgsanized in that area (as much as they ever organize). Do you have any idea?

John W. Morehead said...

Thanks for the comments and the heart-felt sentiments about this city and region.

As to Paganism and the New Spirituality in Marin County, the book I mentioned in my post is helpful in looking at these aspects. It is available from the Institute for Jewish and Community Research,

Another book I found on the Internet but have not purchased yet that looks interesting is Erik Davis, The Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape,

I know that a Wiccan or Pagan scholar or two has done research in this region as well, but I'll have to hunt those resources down.

Anonymous said...

"The strategic importance is tremendous."

Statements like that always give me the chills. Maybe its the dual meaning. Images of large war-maps with Christian generals putting down little flags and whatnot seem to emerge. I guess I'm saddened that places where we thrive automatically get put on the missionary wish-list.

John W. Morehead said...

Jason, thank you for sharing your heart on this statement. On reflection I should have chosen different language. I share your ocncern about terms found in the Christian vocabularly like "strategy," "crusade," and "non-Christian." I will try to be more sensitive to this.

My comment had dual meanings. The region of Marin County is significant for the national and global growth and influence of Paganism and the New Spirituality. As Christians we desire to embody and share the message of Jesus with everyone, including Pagans and New Spirituality adherents, so some of us see this area as significant in interacting with these peoples and in influencing these subcultures as well. I realize that you are not a missionary faith so this seems threatening, but hopefully my clarification at least provides more context for the dual meaning and its importance for those who follow the path of Jesus.