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Kate Orman
News From the House of Sticks
Hatred in the Hallways: HRW responds to the bullying of gay American… 
4th-Oct-2010 04:34 pm
Hatred in the Hallways: HRW responds to the bullying of gay American kids. Links to their 2001 report and suicide prevention resources.

One of the things that's struck me while doing my homework on Islam is its non-hierarchical structure, compared to more familiar religions such as the Catholic and Anglican churches. Rather than pronouncements handed down from the top which everyone's supposed to go along with, you can go to any alim or Islamic scholar and ask for a ruling. I think this one reason Westerners get confused; we expect a single "Islamic" view, and instead discover a plethora of denominations, schools, and individuals, all opining away. (That's what a fatwa is - the opinion of a religious scholar, nothing more.)

Now I don't want to overstate this comparison, as there are very profound differences, but my own religion of Neo-Paganism is also largely non-hierarchical. This was brought home to me when I tried to find out whether I could, tongue-in-cheek, call myself a mushrika. Google promptly produced several different definitions of the term and who it could be applied to. (It's clear I'm going to have to hit the books some more over this one!) There's a saying: "twelve witches, thirteen opinions", and I think the same may be true for the ulema. :)

This brings me back to Ms Moon:
"The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom."
Again, it's hard to know exactly what Ms Moon has in mind here. But this idea that Islam is ultimately incompatible with freedom, especially for women, is paralleled in some Pagan thought, particularly in the Goddess movement. Some feminists are working hard to reform traditional religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Other have given up on the Abrahamic faiths as being inevitably, hopelessly oppressive, particularly for women, and have turned to Paganism as an alternative. (And quite a few people fall somewhere between the two camps.)

I thought of this when reading a Pagan response to the dreadful tragedy of gay kids taking their own lives, which several recent well-publicised examples have suddenly brought into the spotlight. That response draws in turn on a Baptist minister's call for theological change from an unspoken model where "God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below."

It's tempting to satirise some of Ms Moon's points by showing how well they apply to Christianity, her own religion, just as well as they do to Islam - to say, with some Pagans, that Christianity is incompatible with freedom, especially for women. Personally, though, I haven't given up on the Abrahamic faiths; even a glance at their histories shows how capable of innovation they are. Besides, they're not going away any time soon.

But I do want to say, with Jason at the Wild Hunt blog, that "... it is more important than ever for us to make it known that our alternatives exist. To be visible and to make common cause with those who are told to hate themselves by the dominant faith lens."

I can't speak for every Neo-Pagan or Wiccan; no-one can. I can tell you, though, that the goddess I worship, Inanna, is the patron of all sexuality. In the Mesopotamian hymns and tales she's a macho warrior and a new bride. Her clergy (as best we can tell) included gay men and cross-dressers. As the evening star, she's compared with a sex worker, hanging out of the tavern window looking for business! She's not a mother goddess; she's a goddess of sex, and without her, nobody can bothered with it. Starhawk says that the lovers taken from us by AIDS are her martyrs. She's the reason I've blogged so much about sex education, reproductive freedom, and freedom from sexual violence. If you are a slut, a fag, a queer, a whore, a tranny, a monogamous heterosexual, or a hopeful virgin, this goddess, who was worshipped for thousands of years and who has burst back to life, wants to gather you up in her huge multicoloured bouquet of life and love and joy. (Heck, if you're celibate or asexual, jump on in. It's a big bouquet.)

Jason blogs: "My 'something else' is the modern Pagan movement, but it isn't the only 'something else' out there." Hold on. Don't give in. You're part of nature too, and God loves you. You will find friends and a safe place to be yourself. Reach out for help. Don't give in. Hold on.
4th-Oct-2010 08:28 am (UTC)
Most of the US Born Agains and fundies are Baptists, however, and baptist are non-hierarchical in much the same way as Islam (there is no central hierarchy between congregations, and congregations may differ in doctrine), so confusion about Islam in the US is unlikely to stem from this source. Oddly enough, identifying as Catholic in the US actually makes you *less* likely to be a biblical literalist than an average member of the population.

So I think the Catholic and Anglican Church are not really useful comparisons - their hierarchies may be what we think of as 'standard' Christianity, but it isn't really the US experience, or that of the fundamentalists and born agains in general.

And there are a few hierarchical Neo-Pagan groups, including most of the groups organised along a Masonic degree ladder system, including the Golden Dawn and its descendants, and the OTO. Of course, being an inherently anarchist organisation, the OTO hierarchy isn't exactly oppressive, but still, it is there - they have Bishops and Primates, which is a level of religious hierarchy the Baptists eschew.

And of course on the Crowley (and wiccan) side of things there is the 'Do What Thou Wilt', which for Thelemic crowd certainly translates to the right to love who you will as a article of faith.

So I am inclined to think that the hierarchical and non-hierarchical question of authority isn't really the key here - the key is what sort of questions it is acceptable to ask of authority, and what sort of answers those authorities can give while still asserting that spiritual authority.
4th-Oct-2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
Particularly in the South (of the U.S.), it seems practically every church stands by itself, and is not a member of a larger ecumenial organization...
5th-Oct-2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Re the non-hierarchical-ness of Protestantism in the US - that's an excellent point, one which I hadn't thought of! Perhaps that Baptist minister is right - it's a theological issue, rather than an organisational one.
4th-Oct-2010 09:34 am (UTC)
This is beautiful, Kate! It's very empowering to know that, even though I'm more or less monogamous and more or less heterosexual, I'm still at least a bit of fern in Inanna's bouquet. More important, though, is the message that there are religions that do not demand sexual conformity, beginning with all of us Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, and generally heathen folk.

I believe, based on a lifetime of observation, that monotheism is the cause of the majority of problems in today's world. If you believe that there can be many gods and goddesses, and a person may worship one or many of them without dishonoring any of them, that creates a very different mind-set than the belief that there is only one true god, with only one correct form of worship, and all other "gods" are demons, and all other forms are heresy. Exclusionary doctrine is inevitable in monotheism... those who are excluded need to know that there's a place that will take them in.

4th-Oct-2010 11:02 am (UTC)
The Teaparty had a song about her, too
4th-Oct-2010 12:34 pm (UTC)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

5th-Oct-2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
The Canadian band, not the American cretins originally calling themselves Teabaggers. Sorry, should have made that clear

6th-Oct-2010 05:12 am (UTC)
I saw that CD in an op shop not an hour ago.
6th-Oct-2010 06:39 am (UTC)
they do very good music
6th-Oct-2010 11:35 am (UTC)
*Wikipedia, here I come...*

Ah. They were much more popular in Australia than in the US, which explains why I never heard of them before. But this is stunning! Pagan, psychedelic, and gothasfuk ;D
(And I could belly-dance to that song.)

6th-Oct-2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
*nods* I listen to their albums every other day
5th-Oct-2010 05:32 am (UTC)
Every time I glance at that list I see more people I've left out. Dykes! Intersex folks! Bisexual and bicurious peeps! Genderqueer people! Aw heck, it's all good, jump on in. :)

I have enormous respect for women trying to reform their Abrahamic faiths, partly because (even with considerable progress made) I can't see how they're going to pull it off!

As a big hairy polytheist I'd love to think that monotheism is The Problem, but then I remember the violence between Hindus and Muslims. Very simply ('cos I'm knackered right now tbh) I think monotheism may be liberating to the extent that it's understood as meaning equality and inclusion - that every soul is of equal worth. The seeds of that are there, quite strongly, in the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic traditions.
5th-Oct-2010 07:47 am (UTC)
I was around during the "first wave" of feminism in the 1960s and 70s; there were many attempts to make Judaism and Christianity "inclusive", and otherwise open them up to female (and, later, GLBTQ) spirituality. (We didn't concern ourselves with Islam then, but there must have been Muslim women trying the same things.)

It's just not there, though. The Abrahamic religions have too many specific statements about women being property, useful only to breed sons, in need of draconic restraints to protect their "morality", and unworthy to speak in places of worship. Any deviation from extremely parochial norms of gender-appropriate behavior, even something as simple as wearing clothing associated with the opposite sex, is an "abomination", and let's not even discuss actual man-on-man or woman-on-woman sex. Worshipping Goddesses is an abomination also, even worse than worshipping male gods other than YHWH/Allah.

But many women, finding no spiritual satisfaction in mainstream monotheism, found themselves longing for a Goddess to worship - a Deity in their own image. And She came to us, with many names, and many forms, not only validating, but blessing, our "transgressive" behavior. As you say, She gathers us all into Her bouquet, from the the nervous virgin to the qadishtu to the celibate anchorite, tomboys and rentboys and dom(me)s and subs and plain vanilla straights and transgendered and "none of the above". The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, and Mohammed doesn't...

5th-Oct-2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
It's interesting that you namecheck Moon here, esp. since she's just posted about suicide in ways that make me very, very tense.

I'm sitting on my hands (er, metaphorically) and trying not to engage while I try to parse whether I think she's just trying to be broadly topical, or if I think she's missing the point in really terrible ways.

OTOH, it was really nice -- and not altogether surprising -- to see one of the groups I'm a part of (Ekklesía Antínoou) get a namecheck in that Wild Hunt article.

Also, somehow (*cough, the media, cough*) I had never learned about the definition of "fatwa." Thanks for that tidbit!
6th-Oct-2010 05:11 am (UTC)
That posting about suicide is odd. I utterly fucked up my honours year in science and my lifelong plans of curing cancer, so I can relate to what she's describing. And yet I'm uncomfortable with the (almost certainly inadvertent) suggestion that outed or harassed gay students who take their own lives have somehow "failed". I'd have liked a word or two more to distinguish the various sorts of catastrophes.

"Jihad" doesn't mean what the media think it does, either. :)
6th-Oct-2010 10:21 am (UTC)
Exactly. She could be talking about suicide as a general thing after one stumbles, or she could be drawing a comparison.

Thing one: a reasonable thing to talk about.
Thing two: makes me want to yell "get off my team."

I had a student worker this summer who got all puffed up when he noticed one of our international students had the middle name Talib. I had to tell him, "Uh, you know that means 'student,' right?"
6th-Oct-2010 05:12 am (UTC)
PS! Tell me something of Ekklesía Antínoou.
6th-Oct-2010 10:19 am (UTC)
Well, one? We're awesome. :)

We're one of two (that I know of) modern cults of Antinous, who was Emperor Hadrian's lover. He drowned in the Nile, and Hadrian had him deified. He's a little bit like Serapis in that he's syncretized with a lot of other deities, but his cultus is pretty well attested in many different parts of the Roman Empire.

EK is distinctive from the other group (ECCLESIA ANTINOI) in that we're more hard-polytheist and less triumphalist and/or into "coming-out" theology (i.e. Antinous is A god, not THE god; being LGBTQ is awesome and embraced, but doesn't necessarily make one better or more spiritual; no, we don't need to go out and convert all the gay people). Most of us are interested in constructing/reconstructing practices that are at least in the spirit of ancient practice. Many of us are multi-traditionalists.

We keep a festival calendar (ask me if you'd like a link) and our practice is mainly rooted in Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretism, and we have some shared practices, but in many ways things are pretty open for people to integrate things into their own work. My main spiritual orientation is rooted in a Brythonic/Romano-British praxis, for example, and our founder is mainly a Celtic Reconstructionist, but we've got some Hellenes and Kemeticists and so on. Organizationally we're more or less a Yahoo! group with a soon-to-be-active POD imprint, though I know some members who get together when they can for holidays.

Phillipus blogs about the historical element more than any human being on the planet, so if you're curious, you might check out Aedicula Antinoi. Membership on the Yahoo! group is also pretty open.
10th-Oct-2010 12:56 am (UTC)
*reading noises*

That is extremely freakin' amazing.
7th-Oct-2010 02:58 am (UTC)
This was brought home to me when I tried to find out whether I could, tongue-in-cheek, call myself a mushrika. Google promptly produced several different definitions of the term and who it could be applied to. (It's clear I'm going to have to hit the books some more over this one!)

When I taught a class on Islamic mysticism, the students asked me at a certain point what religion I was; I responded that I was a Sabian.

9th-Oct-2010 12:22 am (UTC)
I don't think I've encountered the Sabians before! They sound fascinating. (The Mandaeans I do know a smidgeon about - my boss once put on a library exhibition about them, and also, Australia keeps sticking them in detention centres. :P
9th-Oct-2010 12:33 am (UTC)
The Sabians are the other People of the Book, besides Jews and Christians. Their identity is somewhat of a mystery; they are sometimes identified with specific groups like the Mandaeans, but sometimes they have a more ambiguous and, indeed, suggestive status, as one can see from this.
9th-Oct-2010 12:39 am (UTC)
Good heavens - atheists!
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