Compromise is NOT an Option
There’s a trend I see often in the community and it’s been rearing its ugly head of late quite a bit. It makes my soul want to tighten up into a fretful little ball and yell ‘no, no, no, no” to any who might listen. I’d intended to write this post on Yule and all the many traditions with which Heathens might celebrate this holiest of holy tides but obviously I’ve decided to side track myself a bit. This is more important. What is the trend of which I speak? Well, it’s the push to compromise our traditions for the comfort of the mainstream, be that Paganism, or the Abrahamic majority religions. It’s the push to cull everything potentially “problematic” to the mediocre middle class WASP America, or to liberal hippy parts of Pagan America out of our traditions.
Leaving aside the question of why we should care in the least what those outside of our traditions think, I’ll admit to not comprehending in the least what goes through people’s minds when they actually advocate tearing our traditions apart in such a fashion. I wonder if perhaps the idea of compromise hasn’t become such a liberal fetish that it’s a knee jerk reaction when confronted with the true diversity that Polytheism offers. I’ll also admit upfront that I”m not much of a fan of “compromise.” My friend Anomalous Thracian summed it up nicely “when a ship is compromised, that’s not a good thing.” It’s not a good thing with our traditions either.
This came up quite a bit with those opposed to animal sacrifice, a core and very sacred practice in many polytheisms. Leaving aside the would-be humanitarian objections (from people who’d never actual witnessed sacrifice, I might add), the objections were largely one of the following:
1. It’s primitive. We’re more evolved than our ancestors. We don’t want people to think we’re not modern.
2. It makes me uncomfortable and it will make [insert mainstream religion here] uncomfortable too.
I could write a whole article on the question of whether or not religion is supposed to cater to our comfort but I’ll save that for another column. I’ve seen these same objections cropping up when the question of mysticism, possessory work, ecstatic rituals, ordeal, and many other key practices that transformed our religions into deeply experiential avenues of Mystery. In fact, I think this push to cull certain things from our religions is at its heart an attempt to destroy and remove any trace of Mystery. It’s a continuation of the Protestant Reformation: a deep discomfort with magic, mysticism, and Mystery itself.
Moreover, it’s an attempt to reduce our traditions to the lowest common denominator in some misguided search for egalitarianism. Well, traditions aren’t. They never were. This especially holds true for those that encompassed some form of Mystery. It’s the dirty little dark secret of spirituality: spiritual experiences aren’t given in anything representing an egalitarian manner. Those who can, do; and those who can’t bitch, whine, and moan about how dangerous these practices are, and how we oughtn’t have them (instead, I might add, of doing a bit of spiritual discernment to see what gifts may be theirs. That lack of discernment deprives the whole community of what such people actually could be contributing which may be equally valuable and necessary. Diversity: yay).
More than anything else, we must be aware of the impulse to seek unity through homogenization. This is the lure of monotheism. It is the lure of any unity movement. It is a false hope, setting the stage for the corruption of our traditions. You do not gain anything commensurate with the value of what you might be sacrificing. Diversity is our strength and one of the things that makes our traditions so beautiful. Acceptability in the eyes of the mainstream, fitting in, not making waves are things that will never succeed. There will always be some fault found with us until we have chipped away at our traditions, to the point that nothing is left. That is just taking into consideration human nature. I have not yet begun to speak about it from the point of theology. I’ll save that for my upcoming post at polytheist.com.
(photo by Mary Ann Glass)