Monday, August 30, 2010

Being honest about Life and Soul

Over the last several weeks I have watched the drama over the "Ground Zero Mosque" grow to a ferver that is quite scary.  One could argue that the issue is solely about respect for those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, but when you put the facts together about the location of the building and what the building will actually be used for, a person can see that the building will neither be a "Mosque", nor on "Ground Zero."  And so I am confused and angered over how much absolute hate has spewed over the building of a community center which strives to ease relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims.

Over the weekend, another Islamic Community Center has come under fire.  I first heard about the opposition to the Mufreesboro community center late last week on NPR.  People in the community have become emboldened by the opposition to the community center in NYC and so they think they have the duty to stop this center's expansion. I ask, what does this have to do with feelings over 9/11?  Absolutely nothing.  The attack on this center is strictly based upon prejudice against the Islamic faith.  The followers of Islam are being punished for events in which they had no part.  For attitudes they preach against.  Not only are they being falsely accused, but they are being denied their constitutional rights.  And, as of this weekend, they are being terrorized by fire and gun shots.

Last night, a prominent pastor in my own city weighed in on his opinion of Muslims.  And it was Ugly.  The generalizations and vitriol and even denial of his own faith's history were truly astounding.  Last night they made me angry.  Today, they make me cry.  Today, they make me afraid.

When pockets of anger and hate have action behind them, who is next?  Mob rule says that the law doesn't really matter.  "What is right," is all that matters.  In this instance of upset over spirituality and morality, who is to say what is, "right?"  This is precisely why we have the Constitution.  The laws of our land spelling out our freedoms are the only thing we have that can save us all from lynching each other.  How scary is that to think that in our own country, people could be shot or burned or worse for their beliefs?  It wasn't so long ago that it was happening to Jews and African Americans.  Will we allow the same thing to happen to Muslims?  There once was a time when even Catholics were looked on with mis-trust.  President John F. Kennedy was put through the ringer over being catholic.  Many people would not vote for him because of that.  Can you imagine an America who didn't have JFK as a past President?  I can't.

Many of my fellow Americans live in the comfort of being a member of the Christian faith.  I was raised a Christian and nearly all of my family is Christian.  Some of my family are heavily involved in their church homes.  I am so proud of them.  I love them for their faith.  I love them for their honesty.  I love them for the care they take for their communities.  They are the kinds of Christians that I wish everyone could be.  And I have to say that I am lucky enough to have some close friends whom I respect and love for their faith as much as my family.  But a lot of America is not Christian. 

There are so many different faiths out there and Americans exercise their right to choose where they belong spiritually.  Unfortunately, there are those of non-Christian faiths who are afraid to be honest about their lives.  They live and work alongside you.  They are your friends, your mentors, you children.  And they are afraid.  Some are afraid of your look of disappointment.  Some are afraid of being mowed down with a laundry basket full of tracts.  Some are afraid of being physically harmed.  Some are afraid of losing their jobs. Some are afraid of losing their families.  All for their faith being different.  Does this sound like a certain culture we are fighting to free from oppression?  Does this make you sad, angry, feel as though something must change?  It makes me all of the above.  And it tells me that the time to stop the hate is now.  And I can no longer stand by and simply be angry over the wrongs being committed if I am not honest with the entire world about my beliefs.  So that stops now.

Most people who know me well have an inkling of my beliefs.  There are online communities and thus people all over the world who are semi-anonymous to me who know absolutely what I believe in, but I don't openly speak about my beliefs to most people - even my family.  I don't like disappointing my family and, frankly, I never thought it was anybody else's business.  But dedicating my life to fighting religious intolerance sort of makes it everyone's business, so here goes:

I am a Pagan.  I have been a semi-practicing Brighid follower for 4 years now.  I've been interested in the mythology and lore of various pagan cultures for as long as I can remember, but as I became an adult and experienced life in all its pleasures and disappointments, I came to a point where I was finally able to understand where I belonged and who I really wanted to be.  And while I don't always understand, or even like, some of the people in my Pagan community, I realize that I am not alone, this is pretty standard with all faiths.  We all have our "crazy" elements.  And so all I can do is keep my nose clean and present myself to the world in a respectful manner in hopes that some day I won't feel like I have to hide who I am to be taken seriously.  Some day I won't wish I had stayed closeted so that I'm not harassed over my beliefs.  And so that when I stand in opposition to those who spew hate and vileness against others who are "different," I am respected enough for people to listen to me when I talk.

And so now I ask you, everyone who is reading this, to be honest about your beliefs.  To stop Allowing these hateful people to take away our dignity.  This includes those of you who are Christian and are appalled by this display of threats.  Don't let the American Terrorists turn this nation into a nation of hate.  Stand up.  Stand against intolerance and ignorance and hate and Terrorism!


Jen Thompson said...

Hear, hear! Good for you for speaking up! As somebody who doesn't fit neatly into a Christian faith either, I also know how hard it can be to talk openly about your spiritual beliefs. Thank-you for this post. I hope it makes people think twice about this issue.