…brought to you by the letter E

Whatever name you may call it by–Imbolc, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, or just another Tuesday–in our family, today is a day for Elpis.

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There are several versions of her myth (I prefer the versions derived from Theognis over those of Hesiod), most of which are better known by the name of the human woman that she was given to.  But either way, if you really think about it, Pandora’s myth (or, the many myths of the story of Pandora, each of which was crafted to tell a slightly different story) is truly the story of Elpis.

Zeus gathered all the useful things together in a jar and put a lid on it.  He then left the jar in human hands (the hands of Pandora).  But man (her husband) had no self-control (having been tricked by the gods) and he wanted to know what was in that jar, so he pushed the lid aside, letting those things go back to the abode of the gods.  So all the good things flew away, soaring high above the earth, and Elpis* (Hope) was the only thing left. When the lid was put back on the jar, Elpis (Hope) was kept inside. That is why Elpis (Hope) alone is still found among the people, promising that she will bestow on each of us the good things that have gone away.  

(from Aesop)

Whether its as simple as the hope that Phil sees his shadow (the American version of the Cailleach taking a nap), or for something more serious going on in our lives, this is the day to celebrate hope.  To know that the promise of Yule has been fulfilled, that the darkness is passing, and the sun will shine again.

If there is anything that is truly universal among humankind, its is this:

Where there is life, there is hope.

Happy Imbolc from our home to yours!

Let Elpis shine.

thoughts for thursday–bioregionalism

Bioregionalism: the belief that human activity, including environmental and social policies, should be based on ecological or geographical boundaries rather than economic or political boundaries  (dictionary.com)

If you have been a follower of my blog, you are likely familiar with the idea of bioregionalism as applied to religion, so please forgive me for taking the time to define it once again.  If you are new to my blog, or just missed those posts, bioregionalism is one of the foundations of my personal beliefs and practices as a Pagan, a witch, a Unitarian Universalist, a mom, and a member of this species we call Homo sapiens.  It is something that I often talk about directly or allude to indirectly, but it has been a while since I’ve talked about it specifically…

In a bioregional spirituality, the bioregion*, and all of its inhabitants (including people, past and present) are an originatingor foundational inspiration for religious and spiritual beliefs and practices.  Practice is centered in the idea that the bioregion (or the bioregion as its various components, from the landscape to the flora and fauna) can take the place of a central deity or deities (or other entities), which are interacted with and celebrated via the spectrum of traditional (and nontraditional) human ideas of godhood . This interaction may be theistic (heno-, hard or soft poly-, or pan-, etc) or non-theistic (animism, pantheism, agnostic or atheist) in nature and may be based in the idea of gods as literal, symbolic, or something else.  The deities through which the bioregion is interacted with range from a created (modern) or a historical (even reconstructed) pantheon, or may literally be the natural features of the bioregion themselves.

Bioregionalism** when it is applied to spirituality calls upon us to worship (or not) in those ways that bring ecstasy and reverence for the very experience of living while honoring the cycles and stages of the bioregion and its inhabitants–this may include shamanistic practices, eclectic practices, or reconstructed practices that have been adapted to our personal bioregions.  Either way, the point of a bioregionally centered religion is to (literally, symbolically, and spiritually) touch the earth and to grok ourselves as part of it.  A spiritual bioregionalism calls on us to reclaim our wildness and reconcile it with our civilization through a reexamination of our relationships within the web of life.

We are children of Earth, children of Nature.  To borrow some words from Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”  Our species has been forged by life on the savannas of Africa and molded by steppes and jungles, mountains and deserts, forests and bogs, and the vast icy reaches of the north.  Our cultures have evolved just as our bodies have to meet the challenges of varying ecosystems.

Somehow though, we have forgotten that we are animals.  We have forgotten that we are are just two footed, upright walkers with opposable thumbs, big brains and a relatively long childhood.  As we have been shaped in our crucible of civilization, we have forgotten that our nearest evolutionary cousins still live in the trees.  And generally speaking, this is a good thing.  We humans have done amazing things.  We have explored the length and breadth of our planet (and a wee bit of its depths).  We have traveled into the vacuum of space, and stepped foot onto another piece of rock orbiting in space.  We have traveled into our own bodies, into our very cells, and decoded our DNA (though we still have work to do in making sense of it all).  We have made fire…and discovered the pieces that make up the fabric of the Universe.

But we have also broken our covenant with the land, our relationship with nature, and we have indulged too much in our distrust of one another.  The responsibilities of the guest in the Oikos of Earth have been abandoned.  We have been reckless, we have lost our compassion.  We (specifically those of us in Western nations) have mostly forgotten what it feels like live on the land, to be subjected to the whims of Nature–of weather, predators, famine, of darkness.  We no longer recognize pietas terra**–the piety, reverence, or service we owe to the immanence of Nature and to its representatives (if one believes in them literally) and its inhabitants–including ourselves.  This is not a reason to be misanthropic (if H. sapiens has its own version of kryptonite, its its guilt-ridden self-loathing) it is a reason to be hopeful, because we have never before had such a capacity to consciously understand and work with and work within nature, and such an incentive to do so.

Bioregionalism demands a recognition of our locus***, a reclamation of ourselves as part of our locus, and a reimagining of our relationships with the other inhabitants of our locus (as well as the with the inhabitants of other loci).  And since a spiritual or religious bioregionalism requires us to become rooted in our locus, we need to get to know our bioregion.  We have to–it is a physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual imperative…and a moral one as well.  We need to know its inhabitants (flora and fauna both) and understand its history–its geological history, its ecological history, and its human history.  We must find our place, a sustainable place as one among equals, in our ecosystems…or with time, we will perish as a species that failed to live up to its potential.  We can’t claim**** to be part of an interconnected web of all existence (to borrow a phrase from Unitarian Universalism) spiritually or magically if we don’t understand it physically or mundanely.

As my regular readers may know, we have just moved. And not just a little move, but a geographical shift of 3 states to the south (and over 6 degrees in latitude). Moving any distance, in all practicality, often means a new history of the land and peoples that have inhabited it, new flora and fauna, new ecosystem interactions, a new watershed and land and terrain types, new rock formations… The seasons change, the significance of the Longest Day (Midsummer) and Longest Night (Yule) changes, seasonal holidays (WotY or otherwise) shift in meaning or timing. Certainly there are similarities–many plant and animal species have large ranges, or have closely related species that inhabit similar habitats (or have adapted to quite different habitats); many traditional medicinal plants, magical plants, and foragables are naturalized or invasive species that are ubiquitous (sometimes globally so) in their range.  But the feel of the land is different, the voice of its spirit sings to the soul with a different flavor, a different texture…and it takes time to learn its rhythms, to grok its presence.  For us, this year will be a time of readjustment and change, of meeting new places and making friends with new plants…

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a new plant for us to seek out

I hope you will continue to experience it with us!

 

Notes:

*a bioregion is an area with similar natural characteristics, including plant and animal life, human culture, climate, and continuous geographic terrain

**pietas terra is my own term, not anything official or historical (nor maybe even gramatically correct Latin)

***locus is a term adopted by mathematics (meaning a point or points (plural, loci) whose coordinates fulfill a particular equation or set of conditions) from Latin, where it means a location, spot, place, or position, it can also refer to a center of activity or focus of attention.

****I get it, not everyone claims to be a nature-based Pagan. But ancient pagan religions are based in a human relationship with the land as much as with the gods. Religion was fully integrated into their cultures; ceremonies and rituals and traditions are not just for the gods. Sacrifices to the sea for a good haul while fishing, or to the field for a good harvest, or to the spirit of the spring for clean water or good fortune is as much a part of Paganism as sacrifices to whichever deity one fancies.

Read Along: To Walk a Pagan Path (Chapter 5)

Note: I’ve been sadly neglectful of this little project of mine…but I’d decided to use January and February (along with the transition of moving to a new community, starting a new job, getting kids adjusted to a new school, etc–more on all that in another post) as the opportunity to find all the loose threads of my life and snip them off, tie them on, or weave them back into the fabric of living, depending on the thread in question.  Just as my “no new yarn unless it’s to finish a project” goal, this is part of my “no new posts until all the drafts are completed and all my multi-part posts are wrapped up” goal for blogging.

Note 2:  If you remember this set of posts at all (it has been a while), you may remember that there is a Chapter 1 Part 1 and Part 2, Chapter 2 (and a series of related posts that go with it), and a Chapter 3.  Today, I’ve added Chapter 5.  Which means that something is missing… That something is obviously Chapter 4.  I do plan to review Chapter 4, but there are some bits that I want to get an expert opinion on from a forum friend of mine that is a veterinary professional before I post.  So, in the meantime, we are skipping to Chapter 5 (and hopefully beyond in the next few posts).

0404150800And now for a discussion of what’s for dinner…

Chapter 5 of Alaric Albertsson’s To Walk a Pagan Path (TWPP for simplicity’s sake) is entitled “Leaf and Fruit” and discusses our connection with the food we eat.  Albertsson starts out with “the same question that has been asked by every heterotrophic organism since the dawn of life,” which is “What’s for dinner?”  This is followed up by the observation that we are further removed than our ancestors were from “the source of our sustenance” as we depend less on the immediacy of what we can grow ourselves and more on what we can buy from the grocery store.  Our ancestors on the other hand, “were more directly involved with food acquisition: farming, hunting, or fishing,” a relationship with nature that “gave rise to the earliest expressions of Pagan spirituality.”  (p 119-120) One one hand, I agree with Albertsson’s idea that we are horrendously removed from our connection, not just with the food we eat, but with nature in general…but on the other hand, I see his historical assertations as a gross oversimplification of complex historical realities.  Our ancestors, even our distant ones, often lived in cities far removed from pastoral lives too (the very word “city” comes from the Latin civitas, which replaced an earlier term, urbs–where we get urban–from the term for townsperson/city dweller,  civis (source)).

Albertsson goes on to make a suggestion that I am totally on board with for other reasons–grow a portion of our own food.  Sure, maybe you live in an apartment (like me) or you work 2 jobs and run around after small children or whatever it is that keeps you short of space, time, or resources…  As Albertsson says, “I’m not suggesting you buy a tractor and plow up the back forty.”  After all, “the most common mistake new gardeners make is to put in bigger gardens than they can maintain.” He goes through all the things one can plant successively in just a single growing season in a square yard of soil, from early spring spinach succeeded by radishes then bush beans and finally lettuce.  (p 122-123) And while such an intensive growing of a mini-garden of often not-so-loved veggies isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, almost anyone can

And while such an intensive growing of a mini-garden of often not-so-loved veggies isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, almost anyone can and should grow a couple of herbs in pots on a kitchen window sill to add to their meals.  E. O. Wilson, a personal hero of mine, popularized the term “biophilia”, the idea that humans have an urge to affiliate with other forms of life (coined by psychologist Erich Fromme).  We need green things (and furry (or scaled or feathered)) things-study after study supports an empirical connection between our interaction with nature and our physical and mental/emotional health, in  way that goes far beyond calories and nutrients consumed.

Most pagan describe our many paths as “earth-focused” spirituality and agree that Paganism implies a love for the earth. But how can we clai to love or even understand the earth’s rhythms if we never touch the earth? How can we claim any connection with the land when every bite of our food is shipped to us from distant places? Through gardening we gain an appreciation for what “fertility” meant to our ancestors. Furthermore, we literally become a part of the land itself. As we work the soil, our skin cells slough away, falling to the earth and becoming part of it. We nurture the land, and food comes forth, and the land becomes a part of us as we take that food into our bodies.

One way that Albertsson details how we can make our gardening more Pagan is by keeping (and modifying) traditional customs.  In his modern variation on the traditional charming (blessing) of the plow (today, anything from a garden spade to a roto-tiller) for a successful growing season, he offers us a chance to do the practical (fix our tools) and the magical (connect with the spirit of the tool itself).  This ritual (along with other blessings for a good growing season) is often undertaken during the cross-quarter day of Imbolc (or Brigid’s Day, Candlemas, etc), but most logically “should take place about a month or so before you intend to begin gardening,” and be tailored to the local climate.  He includes directions a short ritual blessing upon it–for anyone wanting to include this in their practice, a blessing for an altar tool and the creativity to modify the words a bit for gardening tools will do the job quite nicely! (p 126-127)

The most useful bit in this chapter, from my perspective, is in a section titled “bidding the land”–bidding, in this case, being a term for making an earnest request (as a part of the establishment of a relationship with the land) and not buying something at auction. Albertsson’s example of a ritual for this has been developed from a medieval land charm, but any offering to the land itself and sufficiently motivated entreaty will work just as well. The key here is to forge a partnership with one’s land, whether it’s in a pot on a window sill or a field out back. The land is an entity in its own right*–biologically and ecologically soil is a community of symbiotic and complementary organisms that is susceptible to disease and malnourishment. Spiritually speaking, the land has its own personality and temperament, feelings, needs, etc. If you want to successfully and successively have it produce for you, then you need to be prepared to offer it something (physically and metaphorically) in return.

And it is here that Albertsson and I depart in our views on this subject–later, in a section on balcony gardening, goes on to say, “there is no point in bidding the land when creating a balcony garden since you are not working directly with the land itself” (p 136). Poppycock! (I’ve always wanted an excuse to use that in a sentence.) Seriously though, for a man that talks about appeasing the spirit of tools, to say that a pot of soil has been so irrevocably removed from the land that it is no longer part of the land seems terribly unenlightened! If one is insufficiently inspired or motivated to find the whole in its parts, then there’s not much you or I can do to find it for them…I tend to think he’s never looked for the spirit of the land in a pot of soil or a single plant.  As an (longer than I would like) apartment dweller, this is something that I have a good amount of experience with.  For a person that can find the thread between the two, and take it up and follow it where it may lead, developing a connection to the Earth through your little pot of *whatever* should be no challenge at all.

With that being said, the chapter still has a bit more to offer.  Albertsson broaches other topics here that may be of interest to those of us trying to live a more Pagan daily life: gardening by the moon, what I will call a “god/dess garden” (for him, a garden devoted to Frige) based on the medieval Catholic meditative garden devoted to Mary (though other religions have analogous traditions), the importance of growing things you will actually use (and not just things you think you should use), and the development of intentional landscapes to provide wildlife habitat and please the spirits of nature**.  Most of these ideas can be further researched from a variety of perspectives and sources (heck, there’s even a book titled Garden Witchery that seems to cover some of these ideas and more…I’ve not read it, so this is not a recommendation), for those that are interested in them.

fairy terrarium

Chickadee’s terrarium…this is a ball moss, a native plant related to the Spanish moss (neither of which are actually mosses, but instead are bromeliads​), that the kids collected from a felled branch (normally they grow on trees, and are specifically fond of live oaks).

*The land is an entity in its own right, yes…but it is is not an entity that is a single, solid, interacting and independent body, like you or I.  One of the moderators on Pagan Forum describes plant spirits in a way that I find analogous to how the spirit of the land and a pot of soil on that land are connected:  “Trees are individuals, and are a little closer to how we would view an animal spirit, but as you get down towards shrubs and flowers, it starts to get a bit more… diffuse. If I go out to my strawberry patch, there is a spirit of the strawberry patch… not of the individual strawberry plants. I think this is largely due to how the plants reproduce… plants that multiply via runners or bulbs and spread out like a little community seem to have a community spirit. So if I were to rip up one strawberry plant, I wouldn’t be killing that plant‘s spirit, but reducing the number of vessels that the strawberry patch spirit inhabits. Does that make sense?”  While there may be individual land spirits and nature spirits (however one sees them), the actual spirit of the land itself is this sort of community spirit ties together all of its individual components, even in a pot on your balcony.

**I didn’t want to go too much into this topic in this post…its really enough of a topic for a post, series of post, or just an entire blog, book, or ten on its own, and its something that people out there have done far greater service to than I can (or than he does).  But I would like to say that I wholeheartedly agree with his statement on setting aside a portion of one’s own land as wildlife habitat–“What greater act of devotion can there be than to give over some part of your land to the wild? But to do this with meaning, you have to be sincere. If you give some land to your gods and the nature spirits, then it is no longer yours to use; it’s theirs. This can be a difficult idea for some people to embrace. We tend to presume eminent domain over all the earth.” (p 143)  I only wished that he had taken more time and space to talk about the importance of working in the environment you have, in selecting native plants that will support your local ecosystem, etc…

 

 

Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

The Belle Jar

1.

I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

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Responding to Proselytizing, Remixed

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holiday-season-pictureIts that time of year where many of us with other religious perspectives are inundated with proselytizing…as such, I thought I’d bring back and update some thoughts about how to respond to these events.

It is a simple fact that a few religions believe in proselytizing, particularly certain Christian denominations. It is also a simple (though annoying) fact that most of these people believe that they are doing you a favor (and doing themselves a favor) by informing you of their faith and its benefits (and often how they feel your beliefs are inferior). Therefore, the idea that (at least any time soon) we are ever going to convince (those) Christians to stop the oh-so annoying practice of proselytizing, is naught by folly. This leaves us with the generally unpleasant (but sometimes not) task of figuring out what our response should be.  And the often difficult task of keeping it civil.

Based on my own experience, proselytizers come in a couple different varieties. Sometimes they are honestly nice and courteous people that think they are doing you a favor. Assuming that your goal is to not engage them in conversation, these folks can generally be handled with good manners (we’ll handle talking about it on purpose later). Something along the lines of, “I appreciate your interest and your concern, but I’m not interested discussing religion with you,” often works quite well in turning the conversation elsewhere. An occasional response to this might be “Well, I’ll just pray for you then” or something…when polite and well meaning folks say that, I usually say thank you and make a point to move on or excuse myself.

Unfortunately, many proselytizers aren’t honestly nice and courteous people (although they still might be well-meaning, rather than malicious). A discussion with them isn’t often a “discussion” so much as them attempting to mentally and spiritually (and sometimes physically) bludgeon their victim with their religion as the weapon of choice. These people are not someone wanting to learn and share their faith with you in an equal exchange of information and ideas, or even to have a constructively critical comparison of religious beliefs. These people want to bully you for your spirituality, either as a justification of their own faith, or to fill in the chinks of doubt in their fortress of dogma, or because it gets their spiritual rocks off. Either way, YOU DO NOT OWE SOMEONE LIKE THIS ANYTHING. (this may be something worth repeating to yourself from time to time)

You can look a well-meaning Christian who is sharing the Gospel in a sincere way in the eye and say politely, ” Thank you for your concern, but there are many sacred texts and the Bible is just one of them.  The words of Jesus make him a great teacher, and I respect him for that, but I do not need saving, I do not believe in hell, and I am not Christian.  Your God said that if we don’t want to listen to his message, then to leave us alone, and that’s what I’m asking you to do.” ( Cite Matthew 10:14) Be friendly, firm and make eye contact…and stand your ground. This really does stop most of them dead in their tracks. It’s a great way to let everyone off the hook, because frankly most of them don’t like intruding in your affairs. Besides, there is this lovely little ‘out’ from the Book of Acts that allows everyone to save face: “If any household refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.”  It was clear that the Gospel should not be forced upon an unwilling people.

This is a symbolic act that signifies that all responsibility for the stubborn persons has ended. After all, you gave them their chance, and if they didn’t listen, well…it’s not your problem now. This is an adaptation of an ancient Jewish custom: shake the dust of the Gentile from your feet, so you will not become unclean.

~”Encountering Others/Defending Your Faith As A Pagan” by AmethJera at Broom With a View

Personally, when I meet these people, I remind myself that I don’t owe someone like this my time, I don’t owe them my conversation, and I certainly don’t owe them justification of my faith. And neither do you. My advice here is to simply say, “I’m sorry, but my religion is none of your business.” To be perfectly honest, with people like this, I don’t even bother to tell them I’m Pagan, or to engage with them other than saying, “Thank you for your concern. I will keep that in mind, but right now, I have other matters to tend to.” Or you can always pray them down (for those that are comfortable claiming the offensive):

I have turned the tables on particularly insistent missionaries who wanted to pray with me by offering to lead the prayer myself- which delights them right up to where they realize I wasn’t going to be manipulated. (Jesus, in fact, taught his followers to pray in a particular fashion for this very reason.) My favorite prayer begins something like, ” Creator God, who has given us the will to individual sight, to freely choose how each of us see you through different eyes, be here with us now…”It’s a nifty form of invocation which works every time because it’s subtle.  Notice how I didn’t call on their God, yet didn’t deny them their right to call upon him? I went on to establish that every individual has the right to call upon the Divine as it is framed for them, then called upon the god of my own understanding. You can be assertive without being aggressive, and a bit of diplomacy goes a long way. It also makes it clear that you have a well-defined understanding of your own beliefs and are confident about expression them. Even those who “put on the whole armor of God” can be disarmed in this way, because every suit of armor has a few chinks in it.

~”Encountering Others/Defending Your Faith As A Pagan” by AmethJera at Broom With a View—I really recommend reading the rest

When it comes to proselytization, you are the one that controls this conversation (and not the proselytizer), and if it isn’t happening on mutually respectful terms with your explicit consent, you don’t have to have it.*  I see so many Pagans that say that they didn’t know what to do or say in this sort of situation…that they got in an argument and got stuck, or felt hassled and harassed and couldn’t think of a response, or that they felt that they had an obligation to defend their beliefs.  You do not have an obligation to anything except yourself.  If you can’t articulate yourself well under pressure, don’t.  You CAN refuse.  Not everyone is a Debate Champ.  In many cases, these people are strangers or persons seldom encountered.  You have to power to engage or disengage in these conversations.  Choosing NOT to is NOT a reflection on the conviction of your belief–its a reflection of your commitment to civility.  Religion should never be an argument.

There are obviously cases where this is more difficult to enforce.  With family, probably being the most obvious, and also at work or school.  When you are a parent and this is something that your child is facing from friends or in the classroom, it takes on an additional dimension that can be difficult to work our way through (this is one of the reasons that I think it is absolutely important for parents to teach their children about their faith).  But the answer here isn’t all that different than it is with a door knocker–just because they are your mom, your boss, your friend, your coworker, your whomever, doesn’t mean you owe them a justification of your personal beliefs.  “I appreciate your interest and your concern, but I’m not interested discussing religion with you,” is still a valid answer.

There are some places where I am almost NEVER comfortable discussing religion–like the workplace.  For one, in many states, you can get fired for *anything* and backstabbing coworkers or intolerant bosses have been known to use one’s religion against minority religionists.  If you work in an environment where you suspect this, the best course of action may just be to keep your mouth shut or to nod and smile until you find another place of employment.  But really, even in the most open minded of workplaces, bringing any religion into the workplace in a way that makes others uncomfortable is just unprofessional (unless the workplace is a church, etc)–“I’m sorry, but I don’t consider a discussion of religion to be appropriate/professional at work” is an acceptable substitution here.  Yes, I have a (ever discreet, artistic looking) altar in my office, I meditate daily—but I do it with my door closed on my own time.  Yes, I’ve talked about “what we are doing for Yule” and explained what Yule is, but only when asked directly.  Yes, my coworkers know I’m Pagan, but I work in an environment with very strong workplace protections.

The problem of dealing with schools and teachers and classmates is similar to that of the workplace.  I am very lucky that we live in a diverse urban environment (something that will change shortly)–bullying for any reason is highly discouraged and dealt with swiftly once the teacher is made aware of it.  My children are unaccustomed to hiding their opinions and points of view, so they are completely honest about their family religion and traditions when the subject is brought up.  But we’ve also made it clear to them that our perspective is one of many, and while it is the right one for us, it may not be the right one for others.  We have had to deal with this once already, and I anticipate that it will come up again…  While I remain firmly of the opinion that “religious literacy is a crucial piece of cultural literacy and failing to teach about the basic facts of religions is a failing of our society,” I can also respect and appreciate the school’s position that “religion is something you talk about at home, not with your classmates.”

Family though…that could be a book (actually we have a thread of out of the broom closet stories over at Pagan Forum–over the years I’ve heard and read dozens of ways this can go).  If you aren’t out of the broom closet, I recommend NOT doing it at a major family get together, particularly during the holidays.**  If you are out with family, there are a couple of ways these things can go–head in the sand denials, agree to disagree détente, grudging acceptance, whole hearted acceptance, or frequent and vocal put down.  But even in the most open and accepting families, there’s always that one person that ruins it (or conversely, there’s often the one open and accepting person in the most condemning and conservative families).  It is my personal opinion that taking the high road is something worthy of consideration.  Allowing others in your family to do their collective religious thing while silently doing your own may suck, but it does not mean that yours somehow are less sincere…it means you have manners.  Unless someone confronts you directly, let it go.  And if they do confront you directly…the same advice still stands.  “I appreciate your interest and your concern, but I’m not interested discussing religion with you right not–this isn’t the time or the place,” is all you need to say.  Just because they are family, doesn’t mean you own them justification or explanation.***

Whether it comes from family, co-workers, classmates, or friends, proselytizing is something those of us in minority religions have to deal with.  Yeah, it sucks.  But its not a reason to feel cornered or defensive.  You are not obligated to defend your faith.  Indeed, true faith needs no defense…  When someone seeks to use their religion as an excuse to bully you, walking away can be the best defense.  They do not have the right or authority to compel you justify your beliefs.  A discussion about your faith should only be on your terms.

 

*If you do want to have the conversation, I recommend preparedness and practice.  This might be a bit helpful in framing your response.
**I think we’ll get into this as a topic on another day…
***This assumes that you are an independently living adult–while it should be the case, no matter who you are or in what situation you are in, we all know that pragmatically speaking, this is not always true.

 

 

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