The Anger of the Other



“But…we’ll get Good Friday off, right?”  my hopeful co-worker asked. “No, the only secular holiday we get is Christmas,” I replied. “Oh, that’s a shame, I really wanted to go celebrate with my family and I don’t know if I’ll have the time off…” she continued. I wanted to snap back, “Yeah, it really sucks when you have to take PTO to celebrate your faith.”  I like this co-worker quite a bit. She knows I’m Pagan and has a passing interest in some of the things I do. I’ve read cards for her on numerous times, and have encouraged her to read for herself. She told me that since she’s met me, she has a better understanding of spells (I showed her how they are prayers but by a different name). She asked me once if I still believed in god but when I asked her which one, she looked seriously confused. I try not to overwhelm her without too much information, but I feel it’s important to tell her about the goddess whose name she’s seriously considering for her unborn child if it happens to be a girl.

I’m taking an inter-faith understanding course online through an accredited university. So far, the majority of the religions explored has been Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I see Hinduism is coming up next, but don’t know yet if there will be any recognition or representation for any Pagans or Heathens.

I am doing my best to remain hopeful.

A student from a private high school interviewed me for a project she is doing on Wicca, and one of the questions she asked is why some of us are in the closet about what we believe and is because we are afraid we will be made fun of? I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my reply, trying to remove to any resentment or sting from words. She’s not considered about how we reside in a red right-to-work state, and how our livelihood could become endangered if we wear symbols of our faith, or try to get our holidays off.  She’s not thought that the school she attends is attached to a church that killed thousands of people thought to be heretics and witches. She’s not considered nasty divorces between Pagans and non-Pagans and how the non-Pagan could use the other’s beliefs and practices to wrestle away custody of children. Or uncomfortable family dinners and gathering with disapproving family members; the fear of rocking the boat and being ostracized; listening to the insufferable aunt or uncle who fully ascribes to the “War on Christmas” meme as you think about how nice it would be to hear someone wish you a Merry Beltane, a Happy Yule, etc.

As I clicked send, I thought to myself, “Am I just paranoid?”

At my father’s memorial, an altar call was made. It wasn’t as offensive as I’ve experienced at some of the other funerals I’ve been to, but it was there. My father did believe in an higher power, but he had gone from interpreting the Bible as the Literal Word of God (TM) to understanding it as a book of laws, some history, and some metaphor, collected from a large span of time. His “spiritual home” was not what that person said it was. I looked at my mom and asked her what was going on, and she told me she wasn’t aware that this was going to happen. She knows and dad knew that I, like them, didn’t subscribe to those beliefs, but the assumption was made that these would be words of comfort to us. There was no thought process that there were non-Christians present and in mourning. I must have heard, “this is part of God’s plan” and “I’ll pray for you” a dozen times. Normally, I wouldn’t care if someone said they’d pray for me; I figure I need all the help I can get;  however, this time, I didn’t feel appreciative; rather I felt this all consuming anger and resentment well up within me. I didn’t say anything, because it wasn’t the right time;. I might have gotten away with it too; an outburst might set the tongues wagging, but could be explained away by the overwhelming pain of a grieving daughter.

Is it ever the right time though?

Sometimes I forget the anger involved with being “the other.” Most of my friends are Pagan, and we get together for the Circles, Sabbats, and Dark Moons and we have our space; however, when we move from this little enclave, we are alone; confronted by our strangeness. Outside of an interest piece or two of what’s going on at Stonehenge, the equinoxes and solstices come and again with little recognition. Beltane, Lammas and Imbolc are basically non-existent to those outside the communities. The most well-known Sabbat, Samhain, usually brings in scores of human interest pieces, or conservative outcry that the holiday is pure evil. Just this past year, our Church got a lovely tract and letter in the mail, complete with a drippy font, beseeching us to recognize ourselves as children of (Christian) god, and to lead others not astray, along with a wish that we enjoy our Halloween.

Is it better to be ignored or vilified? Should we always be the ones that keep the silence of the other for the sake of peace? Do we do this because even within our spaces, there is so much variety? Is it because we don’t believe in proselyting, and the dominant faiths do?

I struggle with this anger, wondering if it’s justified or if it’s more of a knee-jerk reaction; am I whining about nothing? I am not a confrontational person by any means; however, I want to be recognized, I want to be considered. I want other faiths to be considered and valued-this is part of the reason I am taking the certification course.

In my studies, I recently came across the Platinum Rule: treat other as they would want to be treated. This requires a recognition that a person might have different needs and wants than you, asking them about those needs and wants, and following through; it requires active listening, and I think is the best way to minimize damage from misguided intentions.

What about you? Does it ever bother you to be “the other” in the room?



1 Comment

  1. Does it bother me to be the “other” in a room? Sometimes, but then I remember I did not choose my spiritual path as a path of least resistance but one of deep authenticity. If something about it is not hard every day, it’s probably not worthwhile.

    When I start to get upset about being “other”, I try to put my situation into some perspective. Yes, I’m a Pagan in a country full of Christians and a fair minority of them who are rabidly intolerant of other religions. On the other hand, I’m a white native born male with a pretty thick skin and the additional privileges of living in a pretty cosmopolitan area with fairly few open fundamentalists. In the scheme of things, a lot of other people are in much greater peril by being other than I am these days – immigrants, Muslims, people of color, transgender etc.

    I think before getting angry it also helps to try to sort out how much of the othering done to us is the result of true intolerance and bigotry versus ignorance and assumptions that we encourage or allow to persist by our silence.
    I understand all of the reasons people closet as Pagans, but I cannot condone or respect the decision to do so because it is a proven losing strategy and toxic mindset which buys no real safety and ensures your oppression will last forever. Being out doesn’t mean you have to wear a three inch pentacle everywhere or tell every last casual acquaintance you know. But if someone is hiding their core identity from their family and playing along at being Christian every Christmas for the sake of peace, they really have no grounds to complain when people assume they’re still Christian or assume that you share their belief that it’s the “real” faith. The only way people are going to respect your religious identity is if you own it and help them to understand what its about.

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