Saturday, December 29, 2007


In response to this question: Do you practise Christmas, or something else? And how was your Christmas/Wintereenmas/Hanukkah/Tuesday?

I answered: Unfortunately my parents are Americans, which means that they're culturally Christian even if we do not go to church or even really care about any of that. This means that I visited for Christmas and missed a Yule gathering in my hometown.

Oh, well. It could certainly be much worse than being forced to participate in what amounts to "American Kids Get Presents Day."

Why does this matter? Someone apparently was complaining to the person who asked the original question about my anti-American, anti-Christian attitude. I heard about this because neither he nor I believe in handling things behind the scenes and keeping secrets like that from one another. This is how at least half of the drama starts that makes internet look like a haven for passive-aggressive cowards more concerned with hiding conflict than resolution of conflict.

The question was geared at my experience of the holiday season, and maybe I should share it in more detail. Forgive me for re-using some useful citations I've brought up elsewhere.

First off, I do not belong to a persecuted minority group. I do, however, belong to a religious minority. Few feel more keenly than I do how deeply-embedded in American culture Christmas is. My family is a relatively secular one. I can't remember my mother ever attending church, nor do we discuss religion. Just the same, we celebrate Christmas. Why? Because America is culturally Christian even if very few Americans want it to be legally Christian.

To put it another way, America has been deeply and undeniably affected by Christianity. Don't believe me? Read this, (though keep in mind you have to read the entries from the bottom up) and see for yourself. However, this does not mean that most Americans want Congress to establish one religion as the American religion.

Sorry for that diversion, but it's something that apparently not everyone comes to intuitively, so it bore explanation. It explains the religious context of the culture in which I live. So what happens when you're not only not a Christian in America, but you belong to a non-Abrahamic tradition? Not a Jew, not a Christian, not a Muslim. Not even a Hindu, though this massive world religion receives its own measure of distrust from people who don't "get it."

No, I'm a Wiccan. I like my religion, and before anyone invokes the "rebellious phase" explanation, this is something that's been part of my life for ten years. Hell of a long phase, don't you think? Just keep in mind how long I've been doing this, because it means that no matter what I mention as a downside... it hasn't stopped me. Nothing anyone has said or done has ever stopped me.

But there have been problems. I moved to a small town when I was twelve, and parents didn't want their children talking to me. Parents told their children I was an agent of Satan, that I was after their souls. Children told teachers that I could lay curses on them. "Ashley's a witch. Better be careful." On top of all the normal misery of a junior-high kid in a small town, I went to school every day knowing that my peers didn't just dislike me. They believed I was evil.

If now and again I lament that I grew to religious understanding in this environment, I beg your forgiveness for imposing. If now and again it strikes a chord with me to read of the oppression and bigotry visited on human beings by the lunatic fringe... forgive me. If now and again I resent being prevented from celebrating a holiday in line with my religious beliefs because another religion has a stronger hold on my culture... forgive me.

But never imply that I don't understand what I'm talking about. Never imply that I haven't done my homework, that I can't draw the line between the activities of the fringe and the activities of the mainstream. I know that most Christians don't drag homosexuals to the pavement and beat them. I know that most Christians don't seek to legislate their religion. I know that most Christians don't perpetrate or even excuse these things. But however uncommon they are, these things do happen. I know that, too.

And y'know what? It does make me feel less safe here in America. I've seen what people get away with, and for all I know the lunatic minority could be after me and "my kind" next.

I'm not anti-Christian in the sense that I hate the religion or its adherents. I guess I'm anti-Christian if being Christian requires a petrifying fear of thought and freedom. I'm anti-Christian if being Christian means that one's own religion can do no wrong.

But I don't think I am. I'm anti-crazy-people. Christianity's not the only group that has them (not even close), but Christianity has the ones that've come after me.

I think that adequately explains my feelings about Christianity in America. But what about America? Do I hate America?

No. You only get that impression if you equate Christianity and America. It's common enough among people who believe that America is simultaneously God's Chosen Nation and depraved Babylon, the battlefield on which the fate of the righteous will be decided. If you conflate Protestant Christianity with this nation, than dissatisfaction with Christianity is tantamount to treason.

But such treason is a lot more common than you think.

I'm not necessarily hoping to pull anyone over to my view. I can't argue faith with logic, fanaticism with reason. Perhaps I can give you something to think about though. Perhaps I can give some context to my statements, and some clue as to my perspective. Perhaps it'll be harder now to boil me down to yet another godless liberal Christian-hating traitor.

Perhaps. But some people will probably do it anyway.

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