And On and On It Goes
(caveat: really bad pain day, yesterday and today. I’m right at the cusp of a migraine and the arthritis in my hands is flaring so badly I can hardly think. This might be a tad bitchier than usual. You have been warned).
For many years, I worked in the interfaith community, thinking that a polytheistic presence in such a space would be useful and productive (it wasn’t). Eventually I gave up on it realizing that there isn’t really any true desire for religious parity and the whole project is just various monotheists, nominally (but not really) committed to [the most modern iterations of] their traditions wanting to stroke each other’s egos about how tolerant they are. Maybe they are, until a polytheist enters the picture and isn’t willing to put piety second nor to pretend that the monotheistic way of doing things is some holy norm, and especially one who isn’t willing to say that all Gods are facets of their precious one. It grew very tiresome very quickly.
Every so often, one will pop up in a discussion on facebook and today that happened and really, I’m just fucking done. I’m tired of having people for whom their entire religious experience is about how good and precious they look to other people coming into polytheistic spaces and shitting on our traditions. You have never stepped away from yourself long enough to be snatched up by the terrible, terrifying hand of the Holy? That’s not my fucking problem. I’m tired of having their way of viewing the world, a way that erases the Gods and spirits, sanctity, and magic from daily living thrust into my face along with their condescension and spiritual pollution.
This is not all monotheists. I have very good and devout friends who are monotheists. This is a particular breed who have chosen to identify as “interfaith” practitioners or ministers or what have you and who are very proud of how “enlightened” and “tolerant” they are. It’s pathetic. Yes, I’m going off on a bit of a tear here but really, what do they ever hope to get out of conversations with us when inevitably they approach us in ways that spit on the foundations of true spirituality: the Gods, the land, the ancestors. I’m happy to talk about religion with people. Hell, in a way it’s my job and I enjoy discussing how we might differ in our approaches and what other traditions do and as I said in earlier posts, I’ve had very nourishing conversations with fellow theology students who were staunch monotheists and very committed to their traditions.
Perhaps that’s the key: being committed to one’s Gods and traditions. I don’t think those who define their spiritual practices solely by the rubric of “interfaith” are. Perhaps that is unfair. It is, however, an opinion based on quite a lot of experience. I suppose there are ways to do interfaith work well (in fact I’ve articulated them in previous pieces on interfaith work) but so often that just doesn’t happen. So often instead, those of us committed to our polytheistic traditions get treated to smugness and condescension. (I suspect monotheists rooted in their traditions, really rooted, who are not obsessed with modernism and getting external validation from other people about how accepting and “tolerant” they are would get treated exactly the same as we do).
I’m really not sure what we have to say to each other. I can sit down with a devout monotheist and find common ground, or at least have an interesting and productive discussion. I can’t do that with someone who mistakes modernity for integrity and pseudo-tolerance for piety and who only talks about “god” when it doesn’t inconvenience them or who thinks about God solely in the abstract as love or peace or what have you, ways that elide Presence and therefore the obligations such Presence might bring. I am always curious though about why these people feel the need to come into our spaces and post or argue or whatever it is they think they’re doing. They know the space in question is that of a polytheist. I’m sure they can find other interfaith people or modernists or even atheists (though frankly, I think your average atheist has far more integrity than your average interfaith practitioner) who completely agree with their way of viewing the world. I’ll bet they’re far, far more respectful of such people than they ever are to devout polytheists.
I’ll wrap up before I go off the rails. This all just pisses me off, some days more than others. Honor your Gods. Honor your ancestors. Honor the land. Try not to be an asshole. That is all.