Posts filed under ‘Interfaith’

Ancestor Calendar

Here’s a list of dates for honoring ancestors year round- it’s started out very U.S. based, but is a work in progress. It is quite open and adaptable to people of any religion (or none) Starting after Samhain- it’s the Celtic New Year (or Witch’s New Year) Important Note: As you explore history, please make sure to sort out who is dead and who is still living! Some of the Mighty Dead honored below have spouses or friends who are living, and they too can be honored with a toast, but offerings and ancestor shrines should only hold images and symbols of the dead. If you honor people of other cultures and religions, please be sure to check what customs and traditions are appropriate and respectful.

11th November- Remembrance Day (U.K., British Commonwealth) in honor of service members who died in World War I (Personally I think civilian casualties should also be honored) This is also Veteran’s Day in the U.S. is to honor still living service members. Still, even in the U.S. this would be a day for remembering World War I. Called Einerjar in Asatru, Martinmas or St. Martin’s Day

12th November- Beginning of Transgender Rite of Ancestor Elevation

20th November– Transgender Day of Remembrance (International)  Day to remember transgender people who were murdered- or took their own lives due to the pressures of a society that did not understand them. It was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Find local events here

4th Thursday of November- Thomas Morton Day– a Pagan take on Thanksgiving (U.S.) in honor of a man who rebelled against the strict laws of the Puritans, founded his own colony & erected a Maypole!

3rd Monday in January- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (also called Human Rights Day in Idaho, and Civil Rights Day in Arizona) A day to honor civil rights activists in general, MLK was awesome but many others do not get enough credit: Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Malcolm X,  Rosa Parks has her own day on Feb. 4th

27th January-  Holocaust Remembrance Day (International) This is the most broadly observed, here is a list of other Holocaust Memorial Days in different countries, notably Yom HaShoah in Israel & the Jewish diaspora

4th February- Rosa Parks Day, could also be a day to honor contributions of women to the civil rights movement, and Black/African Diasporan women in general.

15th February Susan B. Anthony Day (U.S.) Hmm, this may also be a good alternative to Valentine’s Day! My birthday is the day after!

3rd Monday in February– George Washington’s birthday/President’s Day (properly the 22nd) As I discussed in another post, I do not honor presidents or First Ladies who were involved in slavery (owning or trading) or Indian genocide. However, I know many other Americans will continue to do so, often with justifications that “he was a product of his time” and “our country wouldn’t be what it is without so and so”. As an alternative, I propose that we honor the slaves of these presidents, more research has been uncovered about them, we know some of their names, and after all, so many things that made this country what it is, are owed to human beings who were owned and unpaid for their work. It’s about time we gave them some credit!

1st March- Day of Mourning (International)- for people with disabilities killed (or died due to neglect or abuse) by their caregivers. A time to read the names of individuals who were killed, recognize their humanity and educate the public about how these murders are often depicted in the media.

8th March- International Women’s Day- I think this is meant more as a day to promote issues of concern to women around the world rather than women of the past, but I added it to give an international option. This is another day with hidden socialist origins!

31st March- Cesar Chavez Day (California & other states) – he was a migrant farm worker who became a labor organizer and a great hero to Chicanos/Mexican-Americans. There’s a movement to make it a national holiday– Pres. Obama is in support. You could also add any other Mexican or Mexican-Americans that you find admirable.

1st May- Labor Day in many countries around the world- in the U.S. because we’re scared of its socialist associations, we observe it in September. A great day to honor labor organizers, reformers and other rabble-rousers, as well as regular workers, both living and dead.

2nd Sunday in May- Mother’s Day (U.S.) A day to honor mothers, biological or adoptive, living and dead, and other female relatives and ancestresses. Interestingly, an early effort to establish Mother’s Day in the U.S. was connected with women’s peace groups that united mothers who had lost sons on both sides of the Civil War.  Mother’s Days around the world listed here.

22nd May- Harvey Milk Day (California, other states) in honor of Harvey Milk, a leader of the gay rights movement, and others- Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, Del Martin and other founders & activists in the Daughters of Bilitis, an early lesbian organization

4th Mon in May- Memorial Day (U.S.) – originally  for the Civil War, this now includes all war dead. At one time it was just for Union dead, and so there is a Confederate Memorial Day in some Southern states in January. Traditional beginning of summer, celebrated with picnics, barbecues- why not invite the Dead along? It used to be a tradition to have picnics in cemeteries.

3rd Sunday in June- Father’s Day (U.S.) A day to honor fathers, biological or adoptive, living and dead, and other male relatives and ancestors. Dates around the world here.

27th June- Helen Keller Day– in both her honor and that of other disability rights activists

26th August- Equality Day (U.S.) celebrating when women won the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920– a time to honor suffrage activists and later feminists.

1st Mon in September- (Capitalist) Labor Day (U.S.) Another day to honor workers and labor organizers, both living and dead.  Traditional end of summer, celebrated with more picnics and barbecues.

Sunday after Labor Day Grandparents Day (U.S.) A day to honor grandparents and great-grandparents, biological or adoptive, living and dead. In fact the founders of the holiday encourage youth to “adopt” grandparents. Dates around the world here.

25th October Paul & Sheila Wellstone Day– this is not official, even in Minnesota, but many progressives here and across the land will remember the terrible day a plane crashed carrying Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and staffers Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy, and Will McLaughlin. To me this is of great personal importance as after finding out while in college, I decided to be a political science major and dedicate my life to political activism. There’s a great organization which I linked to above, Wellstone Action, which teaches community organizing using Paul’s campaign techniques.

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November 8, 2014 at 8:14 am 2 comments

Wait, Which Christianity?

One of the things that drives me nuts that Christians, atheists, Pagans and Pastafarians alike seem to do is to make statements like “Christians believe….”, “Christians think…” “X is a Christian movie/book/musical album/chicken restaurant” “That was very Christian (nice/generous/hospitable) of you” or conversely “Sheesh, now you sound like a Christian (mean, close-minded, prudish), eww”.

Take a step away from that, and remember you are talking about billions of people around the world, and hundreds (maybe thousands) of formal sects and churches, and well as individual people’s idiosyncratic theologies, ethics, and religious and ethical practices.

There is no Generic or Typical Christian, any more than there’s a Generic Human. There’s a huge spectrum of beliefs, practices, cultures, languages included here.  The problem is that everyone seems to have a pre-conceived archetypal “Christian” that they are imagining when they talk about Christianity, whatever form they happen to be most familiar with, raised with etc.

When I lived in Iowa, people who sometimes ask me, “Are you Christian or Catholic?” which I found rather baffling. “Uh, last time I checked Catholics were Christians. But I’m Protestant, Methodist to be specific to answer your question.” I later realized that these questioners were some variety of evangelical who didn’t view Roman Catholics as genuine Christians. Chances are, they didn’t consider me a legit Christian either. Oddly enough, the people who most often come to my door to tell me about God, Jesus and the Bible are either Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons, who often aren’t considered Christians because their beliefs aren’t in line with the Nicene Creed, or whatever other yardstick you’re using.

Since I’m not Christian, it’s not my job to worry about watering down the definition of Christian. To me it’s more of a cultural identifier than a matter of theology.  (Heck, I could say the same of “Pagan”!) What matters me to is determining whether they are the sort of Christian I can have a civil but honest discussion about religion, or the sort of Christian with which I have to keep myself on guard so I don’t set them off like a trigger-happy car alarm. Come to think of it, a lot of Christians actually have to deal with this as well, deciding whether it’s worth it to tell cousin Shelly that in fact, they are not Her Kind of Christian.  I also just can’t relate socially to, and frankly have a lot of trouble respecting on an intellectual level people who never question anything they are taught. Or heck, people who never read or seek out information since they graduated from high school. This is not a class thing- poor people can go to the library!  I politely tolerate them, but that’s as far as it can really go.

What I commonly do is what feels like coming halfway out of the “broom closet” by explaining that I’m Unitarian, without mentioning Paganism, and I talk about that if the person seems open-minded enough and has a long enough attention span (it’s already pushing it by explaining UUism!) Most people tend to think UUism is “Christian enough” for them to not be scared away (though they may not be aware that we let in riff-raff like atheists and pagans!) I wonder if it’s dishonest and cowardly, or if it’s just being pragmatic.

October 22, 2014 at 1:55 am 2 comments

UUism: Interfaith by default

On Wild Hunt the question was asked of several Pagan/polytheist leaders-

Is Interfaith work necessary or a distraction? 

Both broader interfaith (Paganism + Abrahamic + Dharmic + indigenous religions etc) and interfaith within the “Pagan umbrella” were affirmed by various leaders as being important. A further level is intrafaith, one commenter pointed out the work (he? she?) does among different types of Heathenry. I like what Sannion had to say, that it depends on what work an individual is called to do. 

Unitarian Universalism is of course a interfaith religious structure/value system/philosophy unto itself. I think the time has come for us to stop presenting Paganism a giant blob and talk about individual religions. Paganism’s entry point into UUism was via the feminist movement, specifically in classes called “Rise Up and Call Her Name” and “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” that studied goddesses from around the world as well as rising awareness of ecological issues and their spiritual dimensions. As a result sometimes there is an assumption that it’s a “women’s spirituality” group. (There is a “Women’s Wisdom” group at Unity Unitarian*, but I haven’t gone to it, so I don’t really know what it entails.)

From what I’ve noticed around Unity, a lot of people have very loose spiritual identifications beyond UU, they are just sort of generically spiritually, or agnostic, or tentatively exploring different religions and philosophies. I’ve noticed that when an opportunity comes up to learn about a specific religion many people are very interested and curious, including my partner who doesn’t normally attend services. I came to Unity with more of an expectation that different religions would be discussed each Sunday, and perhaps passages from different holy texts might be used, but for the most part music, sermons and readings are chosen to fit in with a monthly worship theme. Specific religions are referenced here and there, but for the most part it’s kept pretty general. 

I’ve never been that interested in trying to form a CUUPs group at Unity because I didn’t want something that was super spiritually generic. I’m already at a Unitarian church, and I also have the luxury of a good-sized Pagan community and I can celebrate Wiccan style Sabbats with them if I want. (For some folks, the UUs are the only Pagan-friendly option in their area) I would be interested in a discussion group of some sort- heck I’d be interested in that in a general Pagan context too, but I suspect I’d have an easier time getting UUs to actually show up! However if I were to start such a thing, I could certainly advertise within the broader community. It doesn’t help however that there was at one time a CUUPS leader in the Twin Cities who developed a bad reputation among the general Pagan community. I don’t know how much I’ve heard is rumor, and how much is truth, however. I’m also not sure if the CUUPs chapter is still active. If they are, I haven’t noticed much outreach from them to the broader Pagan community.  Oddly enough, the church is based in is known for being really humanist. (Whereas at Unity people seem capable of using God-talk without flinching)

I’ve met a couple of people at Unity who identified as “Earth-based” while not going into specifics and plenty of others who express a general spiritual connection with nature. Heck plenty of people feel that, no Pagan community is required! There is one lady who is very into the Goddess/Divine Feminine, I suspect in a more psychological Jungian New Agey sort of way. Another lady is really big into astrology. So yeah, I’m not sure where to start here!

*Note Unity Unitarian Church in St. Paul, MN not to be confused with Unity Church, the New Thought Christian denomination!

August 29, 2014 at 10:40 pm 8 comments

Integrating Muslims

I am oddly enough, a polytheist that frequently ends up defending monotheists- Christians, Muslims and sometimes Jews. I do this mainly when others make broad unfair generalizations against groups of people. However, I don’t necessarily defend their religions, as I don’t consider it my job to do so. Judaism is a tribal religion that follows one God, and because of this Jews don’t proselytize (though they may try get non-observant Jews to become more religious) Christians and Muslims traditionally have a duty to spread the worship of their God. Islam ascribes rights to Christians and Jews to keep their religions (including if a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman but not the reverse) . Some liberal Christians and some Muslims (Sufis in particular) view all Gods as ultimately being the same being, and so  I still consider that view a little arrogant, but I’ll take it if it means they’ll leave me alone.

Anyway, as part of my Irish culture tour in St. Paul, I give a tour of the St. Paul Cathedral, then we go to O’Gara’s pub for fish and chips and sing Irish and Scottish songs. Somehow the conversation while we were eating awkwardly drifted towards several people claiming that while Christianity had been taken out of public schools, Muslim students were getting “special treatment”. I wasn’t sure how accurate all of their claims were, and I strongly suppressed a desire for a flat-out rant. I ended up saying, well separation of church and state means we need to treat different religions equally, and not giving Christianity special status doesn’t mean Christians are being oppressed. I noted that I have a lot of Muslim co-workers at my other job, I don’t care about how they dress so long as they do their job. I also noted though that while I’m fine with people holding on to their religious beliefs and traditions when they come here, our culture can only accommodate them so much. Hijabs (head coverings) are no big deal, but in American culture, people will not trust you if they cannot see your face, so we can’t really make room for covering one’s entire face in job interviews, customer service jobs etc. That said, even with the large Muslim population in the Twin Cities, I rarely see a woman in a full burqa. I suspect most women who dress that way would not work outside the home based on their beliefs. That seemed to cool people down, and we switched gears by starting in on a new Irish song.

Anyway, I have been doing some research on how and in what ways Muslims are being accommodated in schools and workplaces. I still am rather careful of what I read, because there are a lot of people who do have an “all Muslims are part of a giant terrorist conspiracy” mentality. That said there are some instances where I do think some people have been going out of their way more than I think appropriate. I found this clip from a Canadian news show (if this was an American show, there would’ve been assertions about how “this is Christian country damnit!) in response to Qatar’s dress code policies it has issued to foreign tourists, and changes within Canadian culture to include Muslims. For the most part, I agree with what Anthony Furey said, the segment with Tarek Fatah gets into some issues that I am not sure about (such as the Bergdahl prisoner swap) so I’ll leave that aside.

Poking around a bit more, I found an article about how Betsy Hodges, the mayor of Minneapolis, wore a hijab while meeting with Somali-American leaders. I had to go look for a different article however, because it was misrepresenting Islam! I wasn’t sure what to think of it- I was not offended the way the conservative commentators were. It was obviously intended as a diplomatic gesture on her part, a gesture of respect. Did it come off as obsequious or weak? Or insincere and over-the-top to the Muslims? I’m not sure. Muslims do not expect us to dress like them. Wearing a head covering may be expected while inside a mosque (just as a kipa may be in a synagogue for men), but that is different- it’s a sacred space. When I’m in someone’s else’s home or sacred space, I respect their customs. She was meeting in a Somali mall, not a mosque. You can read her closing speech of her campaign here.

“I have worn hijab, and it changed me.

I have run and danced my way through the gay pride parade.”- This is just a very odd juxtaposition of statements. Now, what I’d love to see would be a group of Muslim women marching in the parade in hijab!

June 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm 4 comments

Interfaith- or Inter-monotheist

A friend and neighbor of mine mentioned that she participates in a monthly interfaith discussion group, hosted by the St. Paul Area Council of Churches. I told her I might interested in checking that out, but I asked- is this really “interfaith”?  Or is it more like “inter-monotheist?”. She told me who attended varied each month (due to availability or interest in the topic) noting the Jewish folks (like herself) were actually often over-represented, different types of Christians, a Bahai’i who moderated the discussion, some Muslims and Buddhists. And atheists- though she said they called themselves “Rational Pluralists”.
The mention of enthusiastic Jewish interest didn’t surprise me- after all, religious minorities have to deal with members of more dominant faiths every day, whereas a Christian has the luxury of ignoring the existence of other religions, having them only occasionally intrude into their bubble. I felt better when I heard the atheists and Buddhists mentioned, and upon looking at the website noted mention of Sikhs, Hindus and American Indians. Sikhs are also a kind of monotheist, but part of the Dharmic family of religions (along with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) often Hindus involved in interfaith or PR efforts like to frame their religion as “really” monotheistic- all those thousands of Gods are really One, and that’s what matters! Now I totally respect that it’s their choice on how to publicly present their faith, but I hope they are not allowing a monotheist bias to influence them. Anyway Hindus are such a huge and diverse group it’s hard to say.

I knew my friend has some sympathy for this, because even more frequently, especially in areas with less diversity, an “interfaith” event really means ecumenical or intrafaith- between different types of Christianity, sometimes made “interfaith” by inviting the town’s token Jew. Now having ecumenical Christian events, or pan-Abrahamic or just Jewish-Christian dialogue events are fine and dandy by me, they are very much needed. But as religious minority that feels especially well, minor I ask that those events be clearly labeled as such, stating their focus and purpose. Focus and purpose are key to making an interfaith group or event successful (heck any event successful!)

As I mentioned, I felt more included once I heard about the atheist participation (if they can deal with someone who doesn’t believe in any gods, they can deal with someone who believes in many gods is my rationale) And I’m guessing the sorts of atheists that like to go to interfaith shindigs, are the kind I get along with- much like the folks who might be sitting next to me in a pew at Unity. These are the positive Humanists, who believe in working to make the world a better place, and affirm the value of science and reason, and God and religion doesn’t jive with their worldview. And they want to work with religious people to help make the world a better place, and share the values of science and critical thinking with them. But they aren’t anti-religion. I believe religion- like anything created by human beings can be used for good or evil. And as much as I value science and reason as ways of knowing, I find there are emotional, aesthetic, social, and intellectual things that I get out of religion. I can lead a meaningful, ethical life without religion or Gods. I’m frankly agnostic about the existence or nature of the afterlife, so that is not my motivation. But something would be missing for me. And it would be for a lot of people. The anti-religion atheists who don’t understand that need to work on their empathy. But the Humanists who share my view of religion as neutral, they are on my team.

May 16, 2014 at 4:38 am 1 comment

Indigenous/Native American News- Finding & Following

After getting my tablet some time ago, I decided to try to make an effort to follow non-traditional news sources- progressive news sites (like Mother Jones, Tikkun) as well as Black/African-American and Native American/Indian news sources. I discontinued a couple of Native sources because they weren’t being updated- though that may have been an error on the LinkedIn Pulse app I’m using.

I just discovered an exciting story right here- the Minneapolis City Council has voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day (Several states have either abolished or replaced the holiday- South Dakota, Alaska, Hawai’i and Oregon). Though this is a somewhat symbolic gesture it is definitely a step in the right direction.  I also noticed that Al Jazeera America picked up the story and that they have a whole section of their website devoted to “Indian Country”! For the sake of clarity and comparison, I’m dividing them into two lists- one by Native community-run/owned media, the other by non-Native owned media. I’ve been excited to see the Wild Hunt, which is probably the top Pagan news blogs, include stories about American Indian, Hindu, Afro-Caribbean communities. This is just a start, and I’m also interested in blogs written by Native folks about cultural/political/spiritual issues, so I’ll keep an eye out, and please add any good resources you know of in the comments.

Native-run News Sources:

Indian Country Today Media Network

Native Times– Oklahoma newspaper

The Circle News– Minnesota (online and paper formats)

American Indian News Service (Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian)

Non-Native News Sources

Al Jazeera: Indian Country

HuffPost: Native Americans

 

April 30, 2014 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

A Druid’s Thoughts on Privilege

This is the post I spent so much time fussing over, but didn’t end up using for Pagan Blog Project. I decided to post it after all before I spend any more time on it that I could on other things! Another very insightful post about a broader perspective on privilege can be found at the World of Dust & Bones Blog: Paganism & Privilege Part 1: How We Talk about it (which in turn was a response to this post by John Halstead)

Note: I’m going to discuss religion and privilege in the United States specifically because I can better understand & explain it, I would be greatly interested in hearing viewpoints and experiences specific to other countries.
Some “privileges” are really rights that everyone should have, while others are simply unfair advantages that no one should have. Everyone should have the right to practice their religion freely, (or not practice any religion) in a way that does not interfere with others’ rights. Christians in the United States and many other countries have this right, but it is more protected and unquestioned than it is for those of minority faiths. Christians in the U.S. also  sometimes misuse their privileged status to get favorable treatment for their religion that other religions do not get. These are facts that most Pagans would agree, and most Christians that have any self-awareness at all. (I.e. not the ones who think this was founded as a “Christian nation”.)

On to Wiccan(ate) Privilege
Wicca, and pagan religions,  that closely resemble it, are like it or lump it still the largest group of self-identified Pagans. Anytime a group has been around longer and is bigger, it is typically going to get social privilege along with that.
The status of Wicca and Wicca-like forms of paganism within broader interfaith pagan settings (8 sabbats, use of magic, Goddess or God/Goddess theology etc) is similar to the status of Protestant Christianity within monotheist religions. Talk about God and religion in the public square-  “civil religion” historically reflected this, and excluded Catholics, Jews and Muslims. The Catholics and Jews are *kind of* more included, and the Muslims are slowly starting to be,  though they face an uphill battle of xenophobia and anti-terrorist paranoia.  Then there’s all kinds of wrestling over who’s “really” a Christian, as we saw in the 2012 election with a Mormon and a *suspected* Muslim running for President.

After Wiccans, Druids and Heathens/Asatru are the most commonly known pagan religions. If you’re a pagan of some sort, you probably know of all three, and likely specific traditions and organizations that fall within them. If you’re a monotheist or atheist in the broader U.S. culture, it’s likely you know of Wicca, think of Paganism in general as “Wicca-like” or the same, and may have vaguely, in passing heard of Druids and Heathens.
Druids are usually considered “close enough” to Wicca to benefit from some types of Wiccan privilege. As in, we typically celebrate the same 8 holidays, consider ourselves nature/earth-based.  British-style revival Druidry such as OBOD is even closer to Wicca. (Ross Nichols, its founder was good friends with Gerald Gardner after all) And as with Wiccans and their close cousins, many Druids have interest in movements like feminism, environmentalism, peace, some kinds of New Age spirituality and magic.

Ruadan:And ADF really seems to have more in common with Wiccanate paganism than it has with Celtic Reconstruction than some people want to really believe, even though it does seem to generally be a recon-friendly group.” Spot on. As someone who is part of both, I think that is very true. We celebrate the 8 “standard” holidays and have a ritual structure that be adapted for various pantheons.

Heathens worship some of the same Gods as Wiccans, and celebrate some of the same holidays (like Yule) But in general the Heathen community has less in common with secular aspects of Wiccan subculture.  (link to the Hammer & the Pentagram article) The Heathen community has developed a very distinct identity from Wicca-centric Greater Pagandom, and the positive interactions they have had are much due to the efforts of people like Diana Paxson, who was Wiccan before becoming Heathen, intermarriage and friendship between the two and so forth. To the Heathen’s advantage, the United States has major English & German cultural influences- secular holiday customs, and various other customs and social mores that we are familiar with not to mention the English language itself.

Further afield, we have Roman, Greek, Egyptian reconstructionists/revivalists/polytheists. Other pagans may be familiar with Roman, Greek and some Egyptian God names and mythology, but the ritual practices, calendars, and cultural worldviews are likely to be very foreign to them. And the knowledge many pagans do have of these cultures is often superficial and distorted by outdated Victorian or feminist scholarship, and Western occultism. (Actually the knowledge people have of Celtic cultures is usually pretty superficial too, but that doesn’t stop them from thinking they know all about it.)

More posts on the subject:

Baring the Aegis: On Interfaith & Privilege– this is one of the most moderate polytheist responses that I feel closest too.

Unity & Diversity by Helio Pires, Golden Trail blog

A Gaelic Polytheist’s experience’s with WP in a CUUPs ritual

Conor Warren- Division Conor hopes for an amicable division between pagans and polytheists.

February 24, 2014 at 3:20 am 2 comments

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