Well this is a bit awkward. I’m not sure how to introduce myself and worse, I’m not sure you’ll read this.
See I can’t make this a parental or familial letter. It’s being written by someone with religious beliefs that are, in many respects, ideas and practices you began to follow as you encountered them, and yet I’m not from your ‘parent religion’–well, not culturally. With Ethnic Jewish heritage I am from your theological roots but only in the sense that my ancestors worshiped an older form of the God you lay your hymnals down before on (usually) Sundays. And as a Druid, I can’t make this an entirely neighborly letter–because over the past 2000 years our survival rates as your neighbors have been…well…problematic.
So who am I and what kind of letter is this, really, and why am I writing it? Well, I’m a Unitarian Universalist but before I became one of those, and to this day, and until my Household Gods get sick of me, I have been and remain an Unaffiliated Druid. –The ‘unaffiliated’ part just means I am not a member of any of the larger and slowly growing modern Druid sects. What that means, at the most basic level is that I worship more than one god; I am a Pagan or a Polytheist. As to what kind of letter this is: it really is meant as a reassurance, although in the spirit of full disclosure it’s a bit of an appeal too. Why am I writing this? Because it’s time. Because you’ve won.
You won. Yes, you, Christians, you have won! I am a big enough woman to congratulate you. I don’t mean the 2016 Russian Roulette and Porn Extravaganza/Election either. I mean you won nearly 1800 years ago. You. Won.
Wait, what? Yes, yes you won! Christianity was actually made the only legal religion of the Late Roman Empire in the 4th century. And yes, before that? I hate to disappoint the torture-porn lovers but even before Constantine and his Milvian Bridge PR stunt you had to work LONG and HARD to be sliced up by gladiators or fed to Lions. It was surprisingly easy to be Christian. Later, mass baptisms, often at sword point before the 10th century and later, in the 19th at gun point established Christianity as the dominant religion in countries at almost every Latitude and Longitude. It got more insidious as Christianity became connected to race–and became seen as a ‘humane’ way to ‘condition’ the ‘primitive Native’ beliefs out of a given people–this happened in Ireland, in the UK, in France and Spain and it happened with even more devastating effect in North America, South America, Australia, the Pacific Island nations and Africa. So what started happening as early as the 4th century, whether we see it or not, the effects are still in play today.The Western culture of deference to Christianity also insured that the “conversions” of “Natives” were not widely discussed and taught as a genocide for hundreds of years after it happened and continued to happen.
Your religion is the reason why, when one of the last chief scholars of the Great Library of Alexandria was publicly beaten and gang raped to death, the guys instituting the show were made Saints. Your religion is the reason a British zealot who spearheaded the slaughter and annihilation of Druids and our religion in Ireland has an internationally celebrated feast day. –You know, March 17, where millions cheer him for”removing the serpents” from Ireland? So your religion is also the reason why there is not continuity between most Pagan sects in Europe 2000 years ago and today–many of us, Druids included, carried out scripture orally, so when Christian Missionaries and Clergy got enough of us killed off the problem took care of itself. It played a hand in (literally) demonizing the majority of polytheistic deities and religious practices from around the world. History is written and controlled by the victors; looking at how well it treats your religion, shouldn’t that have been your first reassurance?
Yes, I am very serious; the rest of us marginalized religions understand that in the game of spiritual and cultural hegemony west of the Levant and east of Antarctica you are probably in the top percentile of dominant religions in the world today. I mean that if the name of the game is to have a religion represented in millions of media both obvious and subtle, from cathedrals, to the “God” in mottoes, national anthems and slogans you, my friends, can call YAHTZEE with confidence! I mean if the very structure of the work week in a huge number of large and influential countries is laid down so that Sunday–your day of worship–is what eventually became the weekend, and your major feast days just happen to fall on or near Federally recognized holidays in the US more than any other religions, you have perhaps cleaned house. I mean that if there is always a comfortable over-abundance of Christian related holiday cards, party plates and decorations, if the Ten Commandments are outside that many courthouses–and not because they are Jewish but because you recognize them from scripture…if all but three US Presidents used a book to swear in on that had some connection to Christian religious practice…if someone from another religion has never been ‘leader of the free world’ (whatever that means) then yes, Christians, you just might have established a tiny beach head.
Now this is not a letter where I discuss your religion’s wide ranging, interdenominational hijinks with Genocide and world domination. I am writing this letter based on the hope that if we could reassure you of your security and privilege, you might stop clinging onto those, white-knuckled and shouting. I am hoping that if you see that you came out on top, those of you so bent on pushing everyone else down will take a damned breath. Yes. You. Have. Won. You have achieved cultural hegemony in the West. Yes, even though other religions do still exist. Yes, even though those nasty Abortion clinics (women’s health centers) are still open. Yes, despite each and every person who said “happy Holidays’ to you this year, despite every permission slip you had to sign to exempt your child from sex ed class or the Evolution unit in Biology. Yes, despite “the war on Christmas” last month, and Starbucks cups, and the “Persecution” Christianity will face if state or federal governments try to protect marriage equality or civil rights or to keep church and state separate. Despite those of you from a wide sampling of denominations who have felt the need over the years to tell me how “oppressed” they feel when hymns are not allowed in public school music classes, Muslim Students get a prayer room or how Non-Christians are “rubbing our identity in their faces”.
So it occurred to me; good heavens! Maybe you don’t know! Maybe you really never found out–and really given the rotten Tolkienesque “dead Marshes” nature of humanities in our public and private religious schools you may not have been told! And that would be very regrettable.
I hope you can see now that this is not really going to work as a “congratulations” letter. It’s always going to be more of “hey it’s ok, have some warm milk and cookies, deep breath, comfy nap, etc…” Because, you see especially during the next four years a lot of us are going to be hoping, as in fact we have been desperately wishing for milennia–that if you just accept that you got what you wanted, what the followers of your God started saying they wanted in the first couple of centuries after his death and resurrection…Well, maybe the conservative Christian Denominations and Evangelicals and pundits who refused to treat our President with civility, let alone respect for 8 years, who are gunning so hard against things that affect people outside your religion…maybe you’ll calm down. Maybe then we can have a block party and talk about how cool we think your founding guy was. You remember, that nice boy in the robe and sandals who turned out to be the son of a God? A lot more of us believe that or accept and respect that than you may know. It may not make me or people like me one of your group but we’re not working against you in the ways so many of you seem so worried about.
Why? It’s because we’re still shoveling rubble and rebuilding what was destroyed in our religious and cultural traditions. Because you won.You really did, and yes you won a long, long time ago (ok not in a “galaxy far far away” but we can’t have everything). Now. Please, stop ranting at women who just want a pap smear and mammogram and people of every gender and orientation who just want to have the same civil rights as you and all of us who want to love and live on this planet without watching it die and move forward. Not to the next chapter or the next rebuttal but the next story where we all figure out what that means now, and we do it together.