Minorities Are Always Wrong

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.

The stress of being a religious minority can be overwhelming some days.

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.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca/ Makarios

    You know, Star, I have simply given up on reading the Catholic blogs on Patheos. They’re all culture war all the time, and I get enough of that in the secular blogs elsewhere. I used to try participating in the discussions, but the bloggers and their dittohead commenters are completely beyond the reach of reasoned argument based on empirical evidence if it contradicts, or differs from, the teachings of the church authorities. Eventually I decided that my time would be better spent elsewhere.

    Frankly, I don’t know how you put up with it. Good on you for persisting.

  • DDiana Rajchel

    “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.”

    I know exactly what you mean. I have that experience, too. There’s even another Wiccan in my mother’s life who actively defends/ is deceived by her behavior.

  • http://twitter.com/thefirstdark Porsha

    Hi Star!  I just wanted to say thank you for this article – I agree with your point of view and carry that philosophy with me as I continue to study and grow as a Pagan.  I feel that we, sadly, have to lead by example moreso than anyone linked to any other faith.  What people see us as, and expect us to be is a vision based entirely on the ignorance of the past (and Hollywood’s portrayal of us in the present and most likely the future!) — some of it silly, but the majority of it a very dangerous way to view us.  As I am a minority in all ways – being an African-American FEMALE Pagan — I can tell you that I know how hard it is to smile/grin-and-bear it, while someone bashes what you believe in.  My mother is a lifelong, dedicated Methodist; father is a fire-and-brimstone raining Southern Baptist from Mississippi.  I’m not out of the broom closet to them completely yet, though I know that they have their suspicions.  My father very misguidedly (thanks to blabbing family members reading my every word on my Facebook page) thinks that I’m dabbling in Voodoo, which was the religion of choice for some of my ancestors on his side — again, ignorance at the terminology I’ve used, the links I’ve shared and the philosophies I believe in.  None of those sharing their suspicions even has the balls to simply ask me about my faith – mistakenly on my part, I haven’t bothered to conversate with them and share. Your article has inspired me to do just that; I’m not ashamed of who I am or what I believe in, but I am ashamed of myself for hiding that from the people closest to me simply because I don’t feel like listening to them spout even more ignorance at me.  It’s time to change that, and represent as a Pagan just as positively as I do as a black female.  “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” they always say — but I’m ok with that, if it helps to educate tolerance if nothing else.  Brightest Blessings to you, Star.  I know it gets hard, but keep on doing what you’re doing, as you are an inspiration and a wonderful example to try and follow, for all of us in the Pagan community!  ;)
    ~Porsha, aka “thefirstdark”

  • Joanne K McPortland

    Hi, Star. I’m a blogger new to the Catholic Channel, and I’ve always appreciated your comments on blogs there. I admit I am one of the people who questioned Aidan Kelly’s purpose in producing his series. I did that out-of-order on the internal Patheos page, and have since learned my lesson (I hope). I took my questions to Aidan’s combox, where he has promised to answer them. But my comment—the only one so far, though I haven’t checked today, to actually comply with Aidan’s request for Catholic response—simply incurred a lot more of the anti-Catholic invective, from other commenters, that I objected to in Aidan’s posts.

    I know very well that Pagans and other “minority” traditions (though I mean that adjective only in the social sense that you yourself use it) are subjected to much ignorant and prejudiced and hateful stuff from those who consider themselves holders of Truth, and I deeply regret that. But I don’t see how it justifies smackback. I would love to be part of a respectful exchange of ideas on a topic as significant as the understanding of sexuality in our two religious traditions, but to have that exchange limited to “as an ex-Catholic, I am here to tell you how stupid and wrong the Catholic Church is about everything, and how I am privy to secret truths about how you’ve been lied to over the centuries” is not conducive to that kind of dialogue. So I believe I will just stay away, rather than get caught up in what is designed to provoke rather than to enlighten. And I find that sad.

    I wish you blessings. And I hope that, just as I refuse to judge Pagans by Aidan’s posts, folks on the Pagan Channel won’t dismiss all Catholics because of the intemperance of some.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Reading material on privilege might prove useful to you. I know The Wild Hunt has written about Christian privilege extensively.

      I read Aidan Kelly’s response to your comment and you have completely mischaracterized it. Here it is in full:

      “you have seriously misrepresented Catholic teaching”

      Well, I’m trying to distinguish such teaching from what I think Jesus
      originally taught, but I haven’t gotten to explaining that yet. I’m
      about to start.

      Am I equating “the rich deposit of faith” with evil? No, I’m equating
      the misinterpretation of that deposit, plus all the layers of stuff
      that people “think is in the Bible when it isn’t”, plus its use for
      political domination, with evil, in line with Pech’s definition if evil
      as the willingness to harm people unnecessarily.

      “Is that a tenet of Paganism? ”

      No, it’s what I’ve worked on figuring out over the last 55 years. I
      don’t care whether anyone one else agrees with me or not. Trying to gain
      agreement, as if that were the sine qua non for truth, easily destroys a
      search for truth. I haven’t found all the truth, and I know that
      neither has anyone else, but I’m still working on it. Perhaps that’s a
      Pagan attitude.

      Also. modern Pagans have almost nothing in common with ancient
      Pagans. Reconstructionism is Romanticism. As the brilliant linguist Jim
      Duran once said to me, “Our Celtic forebears were headhunters.”

  • Nicole Youngman

    This rang a feminist-theory bell from back when I was studying women’s studies in the early 90s–I think you’ve stumbled onto some “feminist standpoint theory” (aka “standpoint epistomology”) here. (I had to double-check to make sure I’d remembered it right!) Basically the idea is that women (and other oppressed groups) have to develop a “bifurcated consciousness” that allows them to understand/work within the dominant culture even though their own lives and experiences don’t conform to what they’re told they should be thinking/feeling/experiencing. It’s fun stuff. More info here if anyone’s interested: http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/38628_7.pdf

    There’s also a great bit in Tom Piazza’s _Why New Orleans Matters_ (written after Katrina) where he says something similar about minority groups always having to be the gentle patient ones–we treat poor people, racial minorities, etc like crap, and then expect THEM to be sweet, patient, generous, kindhearted, understanding, etc etc.

    In any case–you’ve got some great analysis going on here!!