I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that if people think of me, their next thought is probably never Rambo or Sylvester Stallone. And yet, my title for this week's column is very apt indeed, because it seems that simply being exactly who and what I am, I qualify in the minds of at least some people as their very worst nightmare, the embodiment of all their fears, and the biggest bogey-person they could possibly imagine ominously haunting the edges of their world.
In recent weeks, certain members of a dominant creedal monotheistic religion have phrased their worries about the possibilities of the "re-definition of marriage" as a fear of "full-blown paganism," just like it was in the early centuries of this era when Christianity was first consolidated. There are many threads to this argument, and many very valid objections that could be made to it. (If they're so concerned with the "definition" of marriage becoming something that could include same-sex couples rather than just "a union of a man and a woman," why do they not loudly protest when someone says something like "he's married to his job"? Why no objections to the rising tide of human-occupation relationships? But I digress...)
As someone who is a "full-blown Pagan" in every respect—not godless by any stretch of the imagination, but "gods-ful" to an extent most monotheists couldn't even fathom—as well as having a practice based in devotion to Antinous, a god who received a great deal of censure from the early Christian fathers not only because it was "idolatrous" in their opinion but because he was a deified mortal who was once the lover of the Emperor Hadrian, and as someone who is a "full-blown queer" as well in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, I look at myself in the mirror and I realize that even at my lowest, I epitomize the fears of many of these people who use such scare-tactics to suggest that legal approval of same-sex marriage is wrong.
And, I'm even worse than that in some respects, if you could believe it!
Probably one of the scariest things about me is that, if one were to see me on the bus, one might not think anything is too strange or unusual about me. I have quoted Christian scriptures to Christians in their travels, for example, because I knew it would encourage them and make them feel better. My day-to-day behavior is pretty moral by Christian standards (at least in most areas!). I've been told far more times since I've been "full-blown Pagan" that I'm a "good Christian" by people who didn't know any better, and have received more compliments on my "good Christian response" to many issues which have arisen in my life than I ever did when I was an ostensible Christian in my youth. Yet, I'm Pagan to the core, and as queer as a $333 dollar bill. So, not only am I the worst nightmare of some of these individuals, I'm also a wolf in very-tall sheep's clothing, apparently.
But, it's even worse in several other ways!
I have the academic background and the knowledge of history to dispute every one of the claims that these individuals have made about the religions of ancient Europe. The illicit sexual orgies that they describe late antique polytheists indulging in are a figment of their imagination; in fact, many late antique polytheists made the same accusations at the early Christians, with their "love-feasts" of eucharistic communion held behind closed doors, which was an equally false set of critiques. The only evidence we have of sexual rituals taking place in relation to Antinous are from individuals like Clement of Alexandria, a church father who was very suspicious about sex of any kind (including among Christians), and thus someone whose opinion can't really be trusted on these matters. Not one ritual I've yet held for Antinous has been of the licit sexual nature that these individuals, ancient or modern, seem to fear so much. (It's not to say that an occasion may not arise at some point where such a thing might be appropriate or enjoyable, but it has not yet.)
The only person with whom I've had any sexual contact in the last four years has been myself. Certainly, from the viewpoint of many Christian sects, that's just as sinful as anything else (and possibly more so), and might from some viewpoints even be considered the gayest thing possible. In the majority of those encounters, I have also not "spilled seed," which is the real "problem" reflected in the prohibitions on these matters in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. No seed, no foul? Probably not in their minds...and yet, this sexual presence in absence, as it were, certainly problematizes the issue, and breaks the stereotypes and expectations that some of these paranoid individuals seem to have about "people like me."