Really, the only struggle of interfaith work is in actually encountering people of other faiths. When you’re a minority, you encounter them all the time. That is one reason studies have suggested religious minorities have shorter lives: they are under constant stress.
Lately most of my interfaith interaction is on a professional level. Which is nice because people are behaving professionally. Which sometimes sucks because sometimes in trying to make your voice heard or asserting your rights you can be accused of being unprofessional. Overall, it is far easier than interfaith work in a clergy or layperson environment.
It doesn’t make it any easier that minorities are forced to write about majority faiths that dominate their culture. They have to be informed and aware of what is happening in the world around them and be protective of their rights. Majority faiths don’t have this issue, so while minorities are busy trying to understand the reality of the majority faiths around them, the majority faiths have the luxury of dismissing and demeaning minority faiths without knowing anything about them.
Aidan Kelly believed he was writing a series on his blog that might interest Catholics, particularly progressive Catholics. I am a cynic, but I promised to pass it along. It was not received well. People were actually quite upset that Pagans would write something so offensive about their faith. They were completely unaware that far more ignorant, sinister and disgusting articles are written about us all the time, and when this is pointed out they are generally unconcerned. I don’t even get offended by them anymore. It’s pointless to protest, even when you’re being portrayed as an untouchable caste, because Gus diZerega writing about Christian dominionism or Aidan Kelly deconstructing Catholic theology will always be considered the greater offense.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Patheos is that these issues are not whitewashed or censored, and that I can write a post like this. There are days when I think life would be less stressful if every offensive post could be removed and the author reprimanded. I will admit to on the rare occasion lobbying for just that when something was so disgusting it turned my stomach. I have never been successful. I suppose that is the price of freedom to write what I like here on this blog. As much as I believe in and love freedom and the right to free speech, some days it feels like a high price to pay.
It falls to minority faiths to be the voice of reason, tolerance and compassion, and that is really damn hard. Even if you manage that for 364 days of the year, there will be one day when you crack. And that one day that you crack will be held up as a sign of the immaturity of your faith.
I spent some time this morning looking back over years worth of e-mails between myself and my mother. All the times she has told me I was brainwashed, on the “dark side,” demonically possessed, that her doctor told her when she feared she was miscarrying me that it was God’s way of correcting mistakes, telling my sister that leaving her alcoholic, abusive husband was against God’s will, and other things in a similar vein, all bookended with a hope that myself and my sisters find Christ. It was painful. She tried, but she was not, is not, a good mother.
Quite a few of us in the Pagan community have someone like my mother in their lives. Someone who uses their religion to bludgeon other people. I think my reaction to people who suggest we steal dry, disgusting communion wafers for nefarious purposes is such primal, gut-level revulsion simply because one of the most abusive people in my life uses similar language. Without my mother’s insults, I wonder if I would react as strongly?
When a daughter stands up to her mother and refuses to take her abuse, she is always wrong. She is the unloving, ungrateful child. If you tell people you do not speak to your mother, people automatically assume something is wrong with you, not her. In the same way, minority religions are always in the wrong. Always impudent, petty and immature for daring to stand up to majority faiths, even in small ways. We are the rude people who ruin the monotheistic party in progress. We are evil for daring to point out the abuse and discrimination inflicted upon us by the majority. For not loving and following the faith of the masses, it is automatically assumed something is wrong with us.
Whether it comes from my mother or some random blogger, it hurts. And it hurts even more knowing that any response I make will simply be used against me. It’s stressful, always being in the wrong, even when you know you are right.