Ok, I'm still on this topic, I'm afraid, mostly because it bumps up against subjects that have interested me for a long time.
Part of me has a sense that the solution to all of this is pretty simple.
1. Theists and atheists alike seem to value what they think of as church covenants. Though an agreement where we come together to talk out common values and figure out what we're going to be to each other is not a covenant in a historical sense, it it remains important to people.
2. PB is a scholar of religion, and I ain't. Indeed, most of her critics are not. LinguistFriend is the closest we've got as someone who formally writes for the Chaliceblog and seems to have no inclination to touch this with a ten foot pole. If I had to guess, I'd say he would be torn because he the religion scholar would lean toward PB's side and he the linguist would think that relying on ancient definitions of words is too normative and denies the changing nature of language. But I don't know.
Anyway, if she the expert on this stuff says that "covenant" must be vertical, I can accept that, though my questions about how one can make a binding agreement with a being that never communicates consent remains.
Frankly, I think that puts us a few insincere people away from Homer Simpson praying:
"Dear Lord: The gods have been good to me. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here's the deal: You freeze everything the way it is, and I won't ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. OK, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. Thy will be done."
But anyway, these two premises lead me to the conclusion that the thing to do is to make our own term that is more meaningful than "mission statement," yet isn't "covenant." I was thinking of "pact" and Goodwolve suggested "Commitment, Decision, Rule, Bargain, Treaty, and Handshake." All of those work for me.
At the same time, I am troubled by the churches that have had covenants for decades. Taking away the term from underneath them doesn't seen fair.
And in all fairness, it certainly seems like we grandfather in appropriation after awhile. Pagans aren't asking Christians to cease and desist on Christmas trees, and, to use my favorite example, nobody is asking Chartres Cathedral to take out its labyrinth. Black Christian churches aren't asking white Christian churches to quit singing "go tell it on the mountain" either. Nor are the shakers asking for "Tis a Gift to be simple" to be returned or even sung with its original words.*
We pretty much all agree that appropriation from other cultures is a bad thing. But we pretty much also all agree that after awhile, the appropriated custom/term/song, etc is fair game for the appropriating religion because the appropriating religion has also given it meaning, resonance and history.
So when does this grandfathering kick in? Is there a set period of years? Is it a generation or two or five?
still chewing on this stuff.
*I only know examples from Christianity. I'm sure there are others from other faiths. This is my lack of knowledge about world religions, not an intentional attempt to slam Christianity.