Wednesday, July 31, 2013



Pride. That's a really loaded word these days, isn't it? Pride can be dangerous, leading to overconfidence and vanity. Pride can be glorious: taking pride in your work, your skills, your accomplishments; full confidence in one’s personal abilities can be a sign of strength and discipline. As if the word wasn't contentious enough, modern social movements have given the word a political bent.

The Politicization of Pride

Since the desegregation of America, your average citizen has become familiar with the idea of “Black Pride,” and more recently, with the major legal battle over marriage equality, the phrase “Gay Pride” has become common vernacular. As a culture we've become familiar with celebrations of these ideas. We have rainbow pride parades, black history month, women’s history month, in addition to all the designated times or events where people within these groups can gather and feel accepted and appreciated by the community. It also seems to be some inevitable law of nature, that whenever these ideas arise, there's that one person in the room who says something like “Why can't we have straight/white/male pride?”. 

Much like the majority of Americans, I'm fairly active on Facebook, and spend an inordinate amount of time keeping up to date with the goings on of my family, friends, and acquaintances on the site. It was there, just this morning, that I re-encountered this line of thought. An acquaintance of mine, who I know to be a tolerant person, posted this:

You may ask, what does this have to do with Heathenism? I've noticed a disturbing thought pattern, one to which I once unfortunately subscribed. While I no longer hold this view, the prevalence in our community still sets me on edge. While sexual orientation is rarely seen as a sticking point, even the non-folkish members of our community occasionally ask questions like, “Why can't we have White Pride?”. This question is usually posed a bit more delicately than that (as most can agree that the phrase “White Pride” has some seriously negative social connotations), but the sentiment remains the same.

In a tradition where one venerates their ancestors, and tries to acknowledge their Orlog, it can be difficult to explain the issues with this line of thinking. Celebrations of various forms of “Pride” mean more than an appreciation for your ancestors, or your orientation, or your gender. These celebrations are a symbol of an oppressed group being allowed to integrate into society. Black history month isn't only about being black; rather, it's about acknowledging those individuals within that community who made great strides for social equality or scientific development. Gay Pride parades aren't just celebrations of ones orientation; they are celebrations of the great strides that our society has made, and of the idea that people should no longer have to hide who they are. These are groups who represent minority voices, which are often ignored by the majority culture. The picture above asks for those who are “Straight and Unashamed” to share the picture. My response is: You don't need to celebrate being “unashamed” of your heterosexuality, because nobody in our society is trying to tell you that you SHOULD be ashamed. As members of the majority, we don't need to proclaim "We are here, and we are people too!". Our inherent worth as human beings was never in question.

As a man, every day where I can get a job or a promotion; where I can have my stated capabilities accepted as true without assuming limitations based on my gender; where I can have access to male-specific health care functions without comment, essentially IS male pride day. As a Caucasian, every day where I never have to worry about somehow being held as a representative of my whole race through my actions, or have to worry about my employment opportunities due to the color of my skin, IS white pride day. As a heterosexual, every day where I can get married, adopt a child, get healthcare, and visit my spouse in the hospital IS heterosexual pride day. The point of celebrating pride in one’s grouping is to state to the greater society that we- as a unified group- exist, and that we deserve equality. Pride celebrations state that we are just as good, just as valid, just as capable as you are. As a white, heterosexual, male, I will never have to argue those particular points, because I already have “equality”; my rights were never in question. So instead of white (or straight) people complaining about not having their own pride day, they should try to be thankful that they don't need one.

A common problem I've met with while trying to explain this to fellow Heathens (and other Pagans) is that there IS an issue of social inequity. We are members of minority religions, and as such we all find times when that makes our integration and ability to function within the general society more difficult. Every member of a minority faith has, at some point in their lives, had to stand up and remind people that, "We are here, and we are people too!". It's imperative however, that we remember what battle we’re fighting.
In a recent debate on this topic, I was asked:
“What about Heathen Pride? Why can't we take pride in our ancestors?”
Yes, yes we can, and we DO! We have any number of Heathen festivals and Pagan gatherings. While not explicitly Pagan, the Highland Games are a celebration of our cultural heritage! My appreciation for my predecessors, my attachment to my Orlog, has to do with their legacy, not the fact that they were white. I am proud of my community, and the great strides it's made. I am proud of my Kith and Kin, who stand as the pillars of my life, and the role-models by which I judge my own actions. I am proud of many of my ancestors, who accomplished great feats of discovery and innovation.

So why don't we have white/male/straight pride? Because we don't need recognition and equality; we already have it. I eagerly await the day when we are all equal, and such displays are no longer necessary to force society to recognize your existence. That day hasn't come yet; we're still fighting for it. So before you complain about somebody else’s “Pride Day,” consider the last time you were denied a voice because of who you are. Would you want to deny somebody else their voice?

Edited by: Jessie

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's been a Haglaz couple of months...

It's been a Haglaz couple of months...

As some who follow our Facebook feed might know, just about two months ago I got married! Awesome, right? So why the heck has it taken me two months to get back on the horse, and get writing again? Well, long story short I've been job hunting, trying to get back into school, trying to arrange our (now combined) finances, and devoting what little time I have left over to the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.
The past couple of months have been chock full of AWESOME news and developments, not just for our own communities but for the broader American audience. While I may not have been able to hit those point when they were fresh, rest assured I'm not going to just let stories THAT GOOD just slip past. First and foremost however, I would like explain a bit of what I've been doing over at the FRD.

The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy
Some of you may remember the piece a few months back over at The Wild Hunt, which can be found HERE. In that post David Dashifen Kees (Author of : Wild Garden) announced that he was seeking volunteers to assist in opening a Pagan Chapter within the foundation. While the reception in the peanut gallery was mixed, a LOT of great writers and activists answered the call. I get to work with some truly fantastic people, whose qualifications are so far beyond mine, to build something which could do some real good.
But I've been burned by “Interfaith” organizations before...
Trust me, I hear you! Many of the supposed “Interfaith” organizations out there are overwhelmingly Abrahamic, and seem like giant proselytization machines. So what changed my mind and convinced me to give this organization a go? Where some other organizations actively try to convert, or preach some kind of vague Universalism, the FRD has a different goal. The FRD is focused on a concept called “Honest Contestation”. The basic idea is to combat the insular tendencies of religious communities through dialogue with a trustworthy opponent. The goal of the dialogue isn't to convince the other party/parties of your own particular religious ideals, the goal is for each side to communicate their beliefs and motivations. In essence: we don't all have to agree, but that doesn't mean we can't try to understand one another.
In fact, I would argue that if your goal is to try and convince/convert people through debate, you're all but doomed to failure. Most people change their minds through internal processes, slowly, and generally only when confronted with a situation in which they must address the issue at hand. The more you actively try to “convert” someone, the more likely they are to simply cling to their convictions. The Pagan/Heathen community realized this a long time ago. While there are certainly exceptions, by and large our communities have never bothered to try and convert people. People come to us when their own beliefs lead them here, always have. So when I read the FRD methods and goals, I couldn't help but think that this was the most Heathen interfaith discourse I'd ever seen.

So what am I trying to do?

The Pagan Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy is still under construction, but it get's closer to reality every day. If I could sum up my desires for what this chapter could try to achieve, I would say that I want the Pagan Chapter to promote mutual respect and understanding between various religious communities through dialogue, and emphasize that modern Paganism in all its forms has a place within these dialogues.
My second goal would be to ensure an inclusive environment for Pagans of all paths who identify as such. Unlike the other branches of the FRD, we're not a single religion. We are a coalition of traditions bound together by circumstances, history, and some shared ideals. To promote an organization which emphasizes addressing diversity rather than universalism, and then to turn around and pretend that all “Pagans” are the same, would be ludicrous! I would love to see this branch stand as a proper representative of our own communal pluralism. I want to see ambassadors from any number of “Pagan” traditions, who are willing to stand up and share themselves with the world outside of our own bubble.

Back on track!

Ok, off the soapbox! To wrap up this post, I've fought through a hectic coupe of months and I am getting back on the horse! It's been a long hiatus, but we are back in business and you all can expect regular updates once again! There's a lot of great ground to cover, so stay tuned!


Pics, so it happened!
Behold, the Groom/Groomsmen!