Here we go.
Religion and Politics
Is religion inherently political? This is a question that’s been thrown around in the Pagan blogosphere before and will probably continue to be relevant for a while.
For me, it’s a personal question one should answer for themselves.
Personally, I can’t see how Chaos Paganism, the path I’m building for myself, could not be political.
One of the major tenets of my Paganism is that human beings have a right to be who we are and behave how we like so long as we’re not maliciously harming anyone else without just cause; this means I do not support any kind of mindset that encourages violence or genocide against anyone for an inherent trait they have no control over (race, sexuality, gender or gender identity, level of able-bodiedness, etc.), but I do support the use of violence against Nazis and others who have those mindsets if it means cutting them off before they can do real harm. I do not support mindless killing; I do support the right of people to kill in self-defense in a situation in which immediate and non-debatable harm to them or someone they love is imminent should they do nothing.
Considering how conservatives and white supremacists have politicized the existence of all non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-cisgender, non-Christian, non-ablebodied identities, there is no current scenario in which my Paganism cannot be political.
It will be political so long as the bodies of uterus-having people of all genders, trans people, people of color, and disabled people are fair game for legislation and policing by those in power. It will be political so long as the rights and lives of the LGBT+ community, people of color, women of all body types and any genital configuration, and the disabled are dragged through courts in attempts to disappear them–us–out of public consciousness and out of existence. So long as literal Nazis want to kill my friends and myself because of who we are, my religion and spirituality will demand I become involved in some way, shape, or form. My gods have demanded no less of me.
If the values my religion and spirituality–and my gods–impart to me demand I stand on the side of the abused and the marginalized and if the abused and marginalized are politicized for power and gain, then how can my religion and spirituality be anything less than political?
My words probably come across as quite strong. I hope they do; I think these issues are important regardless of someone’s religion. I really do believe that people should be involved in politics to some degree even if they aren’t religious, and even if their religions don’t demand it, if only for their own safety.
However, I do recognize there are people for whom religion is less about the outside world and more about the inner landscape and a more personal relationship to their gods. I know there are some people whose gods have demanded other service from them in the religious sense. I also recognize these people are just as important as people like me.
There’s room for introspective mystics just as there is room for bombastic leaders. There’s room for solitaries and for organized groups, there’s room for monastics and for Pagan party people. There’s a place for Healers, and a place for Warriors.
We’re all necessary in the overall scheme of the universe. Some of us are called to fight and protect, some to build the foundations and hold steady what the rest of us defend. There’s no One True and Right Way to accomplish our goals, something I think some of us forget. We get so caught up in what our gods have asked of us we forget other people have other gods with different demands; we also forget that the same god may ask different services and offerings from different people.
So if you are an introspective Pagan who is called to solitary meditation and a devotional practice for your gods, then I personally will never tell you that your religion should be political.
Politics and Privilege
If you say you’re not political at all, however, that you like to “stay out of politics,” then believe me I will be side-eying you mightily.
It’s a great privilege to be able to stand outside the storm while the lives of others are legislated away.
If you want to take advantage of that privilege, who am I to stop you? I will, however, insist you recognize your privilege as such and own it. Some of us do not have the luxury of standing idly by and watching while our rights are chiseled away in slow but certain increments. If there is any part of you that can comfortably say “I want no part in politics and choose not to be involved,” then no matter what marginalized group you belong to you still have some kind of privilege that allows you to do so.
I am white. I am relatively able-bodied (though I’m fat, something many seat and bathroom stall designers seem to consider a disability in itself). To my knowledge I am neurotypical. I could use my white, able-bodied, neurotypical privilege to stand on the sidelines while people of color are systematically jailed and executed simply for living while non-white and while disabled and neurodivergent people are systematically under-served, stigmatized, and mocked.
I also belong to many marginalized groups: I am non-binary/agender and asexual, so I’m part of the LGBT+ community. I have a uterus, so any legislation regarding uteri concerns me, as do women’s issues even though I’m agender. I am Pagan, thus part of a minority religion. However, my LGBT+ and Pagan identities are invisible unless I choose to advertise them; this gives me the conditional privilege of people assuming I am cisgender, heterosexual, and Christian until and unless I inform them otherwise. I could choose to sit back and do nothing, to allow people to believe I am these things and pretend those issues don’t concern me.
However, I have friends who are people of color, neurodivergent, disabled, and various mixes thereof. So even though I don’t fit in those groups myself, I care for my friends and so care about the issues that affect them. I feel very strongly that I cannot say I love my friends but then stand aside and not help fight for their lives and rights. While fighting for them I might as well fight for myself as well.
So, I ask those of you who consider yourselves to stand outside of politics to think about what is really at stake in your lives. Perhaps there’s nothing directly related to you; perhaps you are white, heterosexual, cisgender male, able-bodied, and neurotypical. Perhaps you can reasonably be assumed to be these things and you are perfectly happy to stand in your privilege and any conditional privilege you may have and be safe. What about the other people in your life, who either choose not to or cannot claim that safety? People for whom their lack of privilege is written indelibly on their skin or in the lines of their spine, in their brain chemistry?
Don’t they deserve to have you stand with them?
I intend to continue with my exploration of the theory of the Calendar Chaotica, but I’d also like to hear from you. Ask me questions! Give me suggestions! What should I write about? Is there some aspect of Chaos Paganism or building a personal practice I haven’t talked about that you’re interested in? Let me know!