Solving Extremism With Cookies and Milk

I have a ton of stuff on my plate at the moment. I have several class-related things going – two Druidry-related, two college-related, and one work-related. Yeah, it means that my attention is focused in several different directions at once —  but all of these help me continue to grow and learn. And to be honest, I like when I have several different things I can focus my attention on. It keeps life moving and interesting.

Both of my college related classes – one is a special topics class on The Dust Bowl, and the other is an American History class that will lead up to the Civil War period – have already brought my mind back to Native American topics. I am certainly glad that topics such as The Dawes Act of 1887 are being brought to light for the class, as well as the harsh aspects related to actions such as these. I understand that the treatment under such legislation was done out of aspects of greed, and ignorance – but there is the reminder that such treatment has happened once, it can happen again.

Religious Freedom

To a great degree, we all enjoy religious freedoms here in the United States. The laws of this country allow for the pursuit of one’s individual religious endeavors without the influence or interruption from the United States government. Or at least, that’s the theory. I have been openly Pagan for nearly thirty years of my life. During the first seven years of that time, I was essentially in a very protected sub-section of society – the United States military. I had the freedom to worship as I saw fit, though there were some parts of my life that were made difficult because of that. Those were mostly social in nature. Unlike me, those in the public sector of life could have their children removed from their custody, and a court session applied to whether they were “fit parents”. There were instances were charges of “Satanism” were levied against individuals, and those followed with implications of child-abuse and sexual-abuse – some openly stated, others implied. I had a few friends that went through this here in Texas. Those implications were made under the implications based on a codex of Christian principles and Christian family theory. Essentially, if you taught your children about anything other than the sanctity of Jesus Christ as the risen Lord and Savior – or under the four other beliefs of the “Big Five” (Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Hindu, or Islam), you were unfit to be a parent or were considered to be “unsuitable” as a member of modern society.

In the 1990s, the general feelings that were centered around the 1980s “Satanic Panic” largely subsided, and individuals were able to resume with the idea of handling their own religious beliefs and education. Occasionally, there have been a few moments where issues between Christians and Pagans have cropped up – mostly due to the stirring of the pot of such people as Kirk Cameron. However, for the most part isues have been somewhat quiet, until recently.

Round and Round We Go

After September 11th, 2001, much focus has been placed on the Muslim faith. It took the actions of nineteen misguided, extremist radicals to oust the Muslim faith from the “Big Five” of the religious world. Muslims of any stripe were looked upon as being “demonic”, ‘Deranged”, and “out of touch” with modern society. Interestingly enough, if you look back to the testimony of settlers to the American west in the 1880s, and the accusers in the Satanic Panic of the 1980s – you will find many of the same pejoratives in use. In essence, the accusations are much the same – just that the timing and the accused are no longer the same. We just recycle the same arguments, and paste on the new name of those being attacked.

The problem is not the arguments – in fact, there is some validity in what is being said. The problem is that the brush strokes being utilized in the attack are far too broad. Yes, the individuals that carried out the attacks in 2001 are individuals that pushed the envelope of what their beliefs were about.  In fact, I would carry into conjecture that these individuals and those who inspired them to take the actions that they did, manipulated their beliefs to justify their hatred of “Western” culture. Just as those who did utilize Pagan beliefs to carry out ritual-, sexual- and child-abuses utilized these beliefs as a means to justify their actions to their victims. Just as those who sought to take advantage of Native Americans for their own selfish advantages – among other things – utilized a well-meaning (though misguided) legal system to justify the actions that they took. In all of these cases, all of these people have one thing in common — extremist agendas.

Taking Extremes to the Extreme

I have watched and listened, time and again, as fellow Pagans proclaim their hatred for anything and everything Christian. And I not only understand that reaction, I can relate to it. When I first started down my Pagan Path, I would read about what Christians had done to Pagans over the decades – and I would get angry. I would watch what Christians would do to my Pagan friends, and I would get angry. And whenever my Christian friends and coworkers would try to reach out to me – I would react with anger.  How dare they intrude into my life in that manner?  How dare they pretend to know what was right for me and my friends? And I would lash out at them with that anger – wanting to hurt them like so many Christians had hurt so many Pagans so many years before.

HandsAnd looking back, I can see where I went wrong with this approach. I should have been more open. I should have been more supportive of their desires to be friendly. There’s nothing that they could have done then or even now to change me. I am who I am. But it would hurt nothing for me to be kind and gracious over that desire to be helpful and concerned. There was no extremist attitude in what they were doing. However, any forced conversation would have been met by an equal amount of force to repel their efforts. After all, there is a time to be peaceful, and there is a time to be forceful.

Perhaps I am being a bit naive in my perspective to be open and gracious towards those who offer help or concern in the name of their belief. But, if I reverse the position, and I place myself in their shoes, and I were offering them help and concern in the name of my Gods – I would certainly hope that they would be gracious and open about my efforts.  Who knows?  Perhaps we can solve all of the world’s conflicts over a plate of cookies and a few large glasses of milk. Hopefully, no one is lactose-intolerant…


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