Stop Trying To Convert Me
I feel I should apologize for the post you are about to read. I don’t know how politically correct it is, or if I will regret writing it. I only hope that the message can get out. Still, I’m sorry for doing this, but it has to be done.
Dear Dominant American Religious Culture,
STOP TRYING TO CONVERT ME!
- No. Really. Thank you, but no. I already have a religion. A legitimate one. At least, it’s just as legitimate as yours.
- Actually, I already know quite a bit about Jesus and how to save my soul. I’ve probably read more of that book than you have. I spent many years in research and have made a careful, rational decision that this is the religion for me. I’ve already eliminated your religion as one that is right for me.
- I also know more about my religion than you do. So stop telling me that I’m worshiping Satan when I know for a fact that I am not.
- I do believe in God. Which one are we talking about?
- I’m sorry, but your religion excludes people like me. You know. Women. And people who I am fond of, like homosexuals. And people who think outside the box. And people who practice magic. So you see, there is no point in converting if you are going to excommunicate me anyway.
- Actually, we have a system of ethics that is more comprehensive than yours and engages the practitioner in a constant dialogue with justice, morality and common sense.
Honestly! It gets me in a tizzy when people try and convert me. But I feel so bad for them: after all, they genuinely believe that they are saving me from a horrible existence in Hell. It can’t be easy living with original sin and feeling constantly guilty about the body they inhabit, and being unable to enjoy it fully. It must be hard to be given these facilities of logic and reasoning, of ecstasy and awe, and still be told that what one experiences is wrong according to dogma. The worst part is that they don’t even know how free they could be.
The biggest problem I have it being blatantly excluded. I have to remind other people that we live in a multicultural society, in which there are many believes to accommodate. I try and walk the walk, and be Wiccan and true to my identity whenever it is appropriate to do so. A few years ago, I worked at a Boy Scout camp. Being both an out Wiccan and a woman, I knew I’d be in for a rough summer. At every meal, someone would say grace. And although the policy is to be open and accommodating, the predominating prayers were definitely leaning towards a certain denomination that shall remain nameless on this blog. You know, it’s not that hard to make a grace over a meal be non-denominational, but when you start naming names and using the literary trappings of a specific religion–it is no longer non-denominational. I would lead prayers and choose a Native American poem, or a generic blessing of the food, and the audience would react with surprise and alarm. You know, not every grace ends with “Amen”.
The following year, I applied to be the Chaplain. I wanted to lead truly non-denominational Scouts Own ceremonies, and in all respects I fulfilled every prerequisite. But when a high up mucky muck found out my religion, I was patently denied the job. How is that not discrimination?
Now for the un-PC part. I believe it is because I am white. I believe the color of my skin makes people act a certain way towards me and mine and expect certain things. If I were Hindu, or a practicing Muslim, the BSA would have been required to “treat me equally” because ethnicity is a visible reminder of cultural difference. It reminds people to be tolerant and open. After all, nobody wants a lawsuit from a minority slapped against them.
But when you look like the dominant culture, you are expected to act like the dominant culture. When you don’t, you are seen a rebel from the dominant culture. And rebels don’t need or deserve accommodation. I hate going to a company Christmas party. I try and remind people that not everyone celebrates Christmas, and it is a big assumption to assume we all do. It’s very easy to call it a “Holiday Party” instead., which offends no one but Atheists (but I’d be willing to bet even they celebrate some holidays, even secularly). But because I look like everyone else, and my religion is kinda new means that I am not accommodated during gatherings. Some tolerant society!
Well, I’m not going to go around and cry about it and make a big fuss. Instead, I am going to politely point out that many people, including me, are different. I am going to respectfully say that the way they treat me is a precedent for the way I can treat them.
At the Wiccan church I attend, the Rt. Reverend Pete Pathfinder Davis related a story to me when he worked in the prison ministry. The religious committee wanted to go through some of the Wiccan and Pagan books in the meager prison library and cross out passages they found offensive. Pete and his co-ministers waited and listened patiently while the committee went through and blacked out certain sections of the book. When they were quite finished, Pete took out the Bible and proceeded to do the same thing. They were offended and made a big fuss about it. Pete said if they had a right to censor Pagan sacred writings, then he had a right to do the same to their holy book. They got the point.
Pete could have made a big fuss and claimed it wasn’t fair and tried to go above their heads. But he didn’t. Like a good witch, he reflected back to them exactly what they were doing. Like a good teacher, he made them see for themselves and reflect on their own values. He caused change by being patient, not angry. They had no reason to fight him or get mad at his actions–after all, the committee got what they wanted–they just then changed their minds about it.
A principal Pagan value that we’ve picked up (I wonder where?) is that we do not convert people. You’ll never see a Wiccan knocking on your door early Saturday morning and give you a Watchtower (although that’d be an awesome magazine in Pagan hands!). The reason is that we believe that we all have our individual paths, and no one knows your path better than you. I’m happy to give information to those that ask for it, but as a religion, we aren’t organized enough to want forced conversion anyway.
But if I talk the talk, then I need to walk the walk. I may have to talk in terms the cultural norm is familiar with, but that keeps me grounded in the world I live in every day. I call discrimination when I see it, politely point out our differences and similarities, and let it go when it is not worth the fight. When it is, I have back up and so do you.
- Covenant of the Goddess
- Pagan Anti-Defamation League (U.K.)
- Fellowship of Isis (Ireland)
- National Alliance of Pantheists (U.S.A.)
- American Civil Rights Institute