Witnessing the latest of a long line of Christian doom-sayers make a fool of himself and his whole flock (sheep a fair comparison), I was struck once again by how the fear of the end times brought with it a rising hatred towards those they perceived as different. Homosexuals, single mothers, and those who disagreed with cnservatives on any topic from prayer in schools to abortion rights were demonized and vilified. Not how I would expect one to greet the coming of a god of peace, but hey none of their stuff makes any sense to me.
Those hating the loudest seemed to also be stressing how humble they were (boasting about your humility is really funny, but sense of humour is lacking in many fundamentalists, even our own), but both their praise and their attacks seemed solidly rooted in one common factor; fear.
Our own community is the most conservative of all the pagan faiths. We are family centred, we do marriage and mortgage and carpools. We are not counter-culture, we do military service, community volunteering and organizing. We don't do polyamory the way the Wiccan community does, and most of our vices are those of the average person in the communities in which we live. We look like good conservatives on paper, but we just don't hate. Why not? Fear.
I saw a funny little cartoon recently, Asterix and the Vikings. These Vikings were sure the only thing they lacked was fear, and they set out to raid until they found some. That is funny on the surface, but there is a truth in it. I am a heterosexual, but even as a young soldier, viewed homosexuals not with fear but with thanks. Like a man seeing two others he must share a six pack with, finding out one doesn't drink beer means the two beer for me just turned into three beer for me; if the other fellow isn't a beer drinker either then the whole six-pack is mine! That pretty much summed up my attitude towards homosexuality. Most guys will admit lesbians are just women who have figured out how hot women are, something men understood LOOOOONNG before fire and the wheel (which we developed largely to impress women), so again no worries.
I looked around the heathen community and saw a fair number of openly gay people, and i wondered why are so many openly gay people so accepted in such an otherwise conservative group? The answer was fear. We don't have it. Heathen's accept personal responsibility for our choices and actions. The devil didn't make us do it. Porn didn't give us impure thoughts, and a gay English teacher didn't corrupt our little minds. We accept our choices about our own sexuality as our own, and therefore do not see another persons sexual orientation as a threat.
I'm not saying that you can hold a dissenting view and not have to defend it. Heathens respect those who believe strongly in what they are doing, and who are prepared to defend their stances. I pass the horn from hunter to vegan in my symbel, each having a point of view rooted in their own understanding of their personal responsibility and morality. Each thinks the other is wrong, but respects them for living Tru. In the same way we hail a lesbian couple who practice with us, because they dare to love proudly, openly, and without shame. They live Tru, and we honour them the way we honour anyone who lives Tru; true to themselves and true to our gods.
Our gods do not ask us to be humble, but to live proudly. We are asked to set the bar high, and grow to reach it. We boast our success, but we claim our failure just as loudly, for we own our mistakes as we own our triumphs; without fear. We accept responsibility for our choices. This means we are not lessened by another's success; we do not snarl when another boasts a triumph, we raise the horn and salute him, taking inspiration from his or her success to fire us to greater deeds for ourselves. We are not threatened when a man or woman choses to love differently than we do, for we do not derive our manhood or womanhood from them, but from ourselves. Without fear we can accept.
We fear those things that can harm us. There are enough of those to go around. We have no time to fear things that do not concern or affect us, and it is beneath us to consider it. Why do heathens have such diversity in our communities? Because by accepting our responsibility for ourselves we are not threatened by people who may be different from us in some respects. Without fear and its attendant labels, we must judge each person for their own deeds and merits. This is what makes our community so strong and so diverse for there is more worth to be found than you would guess, and in places you might not have thought to look.
John T Mainer