Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Passion, Perception And Prejudice

Today is another day I find myself facing accusations that I 'hate Christians'. The source of this accusation, undoubtedly, is some of the posts I circulate on Facebook - posts which unmask Christian hatred for the 'other' - that is, for non-Christians and LGBT people, also atheists, Pagans and people who worship other gods.

I am a human rights activist, and as an activist, my function is to first of all expose, advertise or bring under the spotlight any wrongdoing, injustice or crimes against humanity to the public - and secondly, to thereby challenge fixed mindsets, prejudices, misunderstanding and ignorance. Thirdly, my task is to educate those ignorant of the facts surrounding those whom they have been encouraged to hate and oppress. 

Ignorance is the biggest enemy of all, because people fear and mistrust what they do not understand - and what they fear, they hate. There is too much fear and hate in the world we live in today.

I am an Aquarian - a bringer of change. I cannot abide injustice or inequality. I can't sit idly by and do or say nothing when I see, hear or know that something is happening which fits that description. My life's purpose is to bring change, to make the world more fair, more equal, a better place for everyone. That's why I am an activist.

As a person I am friendly, courteous, helpful and considerate. Most people who have been following my blog all this time probably find that hard to believe, but there are reasons for this. My passion for human rights tends to show in my human rights activism. It certainly shows in my posts and in my articles on the topic. It is for example, completely different to my writing style when it comes to my books, poetry and short stories.

I will not resort to the ploy used by many homophobes who claim in defense of their homophobia that they 'have many gay friends'. Yes, I have many friends, and some of them are Christians. Needless to say, these friends are spiritual Christians, and not the bible-bashing sort. If they read my posts or comments on Facebook I'm not always aware, since it's not something we tend to discuss, since I do not bring my activism into my friendships, except where activism colleagues happen to also be friends. Since they know me personally, and remain friends with me regardless, and on very good terms, I have to assume that they know my intentions are good and they know of my passion for the principles of equality for all. Be that as it may, I often remark to some of my closer friends that I'm surprised nobody has tried to have me bumped off yet!

In some places around the world, people are dying because of their religion of choice, or because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or race - and in many if not most cases, they are dying because of ignorance and hatred generally the result of misinformation and propaganda - which is typically fueled by religious fanaticism. If the words used by homophobic Christian activists to undermine the equality before the law of LGBT people, working to ensure their demise - as in the case of Uganda's 'Kill the Gays Bill' - are filled with and inspired by passion, then so must the words used by human rights activists countering them, be.

As an activist, I do not have to be diplomatic or to act like a politician - and I do not. I am honest, direct, often blunt, and sometimes when driven to frustration, even rude. The war on human rights is a bitter one, and I am a soldier in that war. Okay, that's a little bit graphic - but I think I make my point. These are my activist tools, and I do what I can to do what I must.

One thing I am not - and that is perfect. I am fallible just as anyone is fallible. I have flaws, and I am sure there are many - but one flaw which is not mine is that of hate. I don't hate any group, classification or identification of human beings. Hate is not my motivation for my activism.

I am very much aware that there are all kinds of people in this world - and you can try to name them by color, creed or orientation - but in the activist world - in MY world - there are mainly just two kinds of people that matter: victims and perpetrators. 

The truth of the world is that in every group, you will find some of both - which is why I am keenly aware that no group is ALL bad, just as no group is ALL good.

This is as true for Christianity as it is true for any other group. I have previously written at length about accusations that I am 'Christophobic' i.e. 'a hater of Christianity'. Mainly I get accused of this because I dare to circulate articles - and because of statements I have made, and articles which I wrote on my blog - which expose or discuss criminal acts by Christian leaders and even ordinary people abusing Christianity in such a way as to undermine the civil and human rights of other people - and even to destroy them.

I have done and will continue to highlight actions which are not only criminal, inhumane, barbaric and cruel - as committed, incited or justified by Christians or by their dogma - but which are also frankly UNChristian as well. Meaning of course that there are Christians, and then there are Christianists (or Dominionists) who want to force everyone to live according to their set of beliefs. In the same way, of course, there are Muslims - and then there are Islamicists who treat women like talking cattle and throw LGBT people off tall buildings.

Even so, I do not hate Christians, or their religion because of the misguided actions of a few bad apples in the whole basket. As a Pagan I grant Christians the same right to their religious beliefs as guaranteed to all by the Constitution - while many Christians openly and publicly condemn others for not buying into their religion or even ascribing to the more fanatical element of their religion.

I hate no-one. That said, I will also not hesitate to defend myself, or those whose causes I have taken up against any attacks. Hate does not denote strength or capability - in fact, it indicates the opposite. The absence of hatred should not be mistaken for weakness. There is a big difference between anger and hatred.

Anger - justifiable anger in the face of oppression and prejudice - should not be mistaken for hatred. 

If I truly hated Christians and Christianity then my writing, posts and articles would be vastly different and would reflect that. Pointing out perceived flaws in a religion, inconsistencies in doctrine, policy and even hypocrisy does not indicate hatred. Pointing out the raging out of control homophobia, misogyny, pedophilia and abusive behaviors which have been institutionalized in Christianity is not an indicator of hatred. 

Showing people what is wrong with the structures that have grown up in the shadow of their religious hegemony is not hatred - it is constructive criticism giving people the opportunity to think: "Well shit, this really sucks - perhaps we should do something to fix it." Instead, people tend to resort to knee-jerk reactionism - "Our religion is under attack, we've done nothing bad to anyone who didn't deserve it according to our religious dogma - and all those criticizing us are Christophobes and must burn in Hell!"

That said, it should be known that it is no picnic to be part of so many social groups regularly defamed, insulted, threatened and misrepresented by Christians. It's not nice to see Christian propaganda misrepresenting (i.e. lying about) other religions, cultures or other dynamics, portraying them as 'dangerous' simply on the say-so of a few self-proclaimed 'experts' who base their 'expertise' solely on the point that they are Christians (and have no real life experience whatever in those other religions or social groupings. None.). 

Were I to perceive prejudice, discrimination or incitement to hate coming from ANY group towards another, I would speak out or act against it in some way - and that includes Christians.

South Africa's Constitution guarantees religious equality and even though this 'equality' has been skewed since day one in our new democratic and increasingly theoretically secular state, with Christianity having a huge influence in government, public institutions, news media, law enforcement and law-making - I would still stand up for the right of Christians to enjoy equality with all other religions as well. This does not mean that I would or should keep quiet while Christians enjoy a privileged position in society and lean down from their pedestals to wag their fingers at the rest of us.

The truth is, that Christians don't need this defense in this country - because they already enjoy the benefits of being 'more equal' than other religions. Christianity is taught in public schools, with little or no concern shown for children who are not religious, atheists, or belong to other faiths. Public schools, the State and its departments and many public places adopt a 'FIOFO' attitude. Religious marriage is reserved for Christianity under the Marriage Act, while other marriages, religious or not, fall under separate Acts - while generously being allowed to use the word 'marriage'. Not that I care personally about marriage, but it's the principle of the thing I'm pointing out.

Christian clerics acting as marriage officers are allowed to charge fees for conducting weddings, while Pagan marriage officers for example are not - and can be reported and disqualified if they charge so much as a pittance, even for travel costs while conducting a wedding ceremony. The SAPS 'occult unit' only allows a particularly rabid brand of Christian to enrol as members - and then has the cheek to claim that their focus is 'harmful religious practices' - of other religions. I'm quite sure they do not see the irony in the paradox of that statement.

Some Christians pretend that there is a kind of religious persecution going on against them in this country - because the state is being called upon by public pressure to bring Christianity down from its pedestal in the sky to live on the same level as other religions, and even alongside those who have no religion. Equality does not mean being allowed to freely make public statements on TV, on the radio or in news media or in a public street, or in a court of law, or while making laws in parliament - which defame, persecute or impugn the dignity of other social groups while using a biased and prejudiced religious doctrine, scripture or belief as justification. Equality is not persecution. 

Trust me, when people start rounding you up, torturing you, putting you on trial for your beliefs and burning you at the stake because of what you believe, you will know you're being persecuted. 

Not being allowed to persecute someone else in the name of your religion does NOT equate to religious persecution!

I started out as an LGBT activist - and in particular, a transgender rights activist. Later I also took on the subject of religious freedom, partly because of my own beliefs, but partly also due to the fact that in the current circumstance it is impossible to defend or champion human rights for all the oppressed groups or identities without encountering stiff resistance from RELIGION. 

It is an undeniable fact that LGBT people face a huge amount of persecution globally because of religious - and in particular Christian - prejudice. I'm not just talking about grandma who is 'not used to that sort of thing' or a cousin that doesn't know better because he never looked up what science has to say about sexual orientation or gender identity. No - I'm talking about the kind of Christian who outright flatly denies whatever facts are presented to them - and sticks to a blind, fanatical interpretation of religious scripture which they believe condemns whatever it is they think LGBT (or other) people are 'guilty' of. 

I've had many such arguments with Christians so fanatical, prejudiced and filled with hatred that they intended to push for the return of South Africa's death penalty so they could make being gay or transgender a capital crime - and used biased interpretations of religious scriptures to justify themselves. The truly frightening thing is when you realize these same people lead religious political parties that actually contest elections - then the need for activism and challenging religious bigotry becomes self-evident.

When this sort of Christian works to undermine the human rights and equality, dignity and humanity of other people, whether through incitement to hate, legislation, oppression, or public expression of prejudice - then it enrages me. As a Christian, it should enrage you too - because it is this kind of person who defames your religion. It is people of that sort who have tainted Christianity and soaked its vestments in the innocent blood of two thousand years - and unless the other sort of Christian stands up to them - it will probably go on like that for another millennium.

I'm a Pagan you see - and Pagans, unlike Christianity, have no power base. There is no formal clergy. There is no Pope, and no bishops. There is nobody to sit and make up rules and regulations about what constitutes 'sin' or doctrine and what the priests should be allowed to get away with. There is no 'pistis' in Paganism. If Joe Soap wants to cast his circle counterclockwise or clockwise according to his own desire, nobody will give a toss, let alone be able to censure him for it, defrock him, or boot him from Paganism as a card-carrying member. Many if not most Pagans are solitary practitioners of whichever path they walk - and I think that Christians could benefit from this example, especially if they were to disconnect themselves from the church structures - especially those that dictate oppression, hatred and prejudice, which are precisely those things which undermine and contradict the central message of Christ himself.

This is the difference I wish to highlight - Christians attend church services and listen to sermons where they are told what to think, what to do, how to behave, what not to do. They hold to a book which is open to as many interpretations as it has pages, while a Pagan's book is the Earth and they are encouraged to think for themselves, freely. In my humble opinion, this is why Christians are frequently at odds with each other - because Christianity is a power structure obsessed with power and control over all things - and those who follow their faith and live spiritually frequently butt heads with those who worship the power structure and try to enforce doctrine downwards.

Do I expect Christians to be more like Pagans? No, I don't. After all, nobody is perfect. Each of us should be free to walk our own path - unrestricted - except where we might trample others into the earth underfoot.

...which by the way, is essentially what the Constitution- the Law - says about freedom of religion.

But I digress yet again.

If the State - or anyone - were to start persecuting Christians on the grounds of religion in the same way that they have been persecuting Pagans, Satanists and other occultists for many years, I would also speak out in defense of their right to believe whatever they wanted to believe, to freely practice their beliefs insofar as they harm no-one else, and defend their right to EQUAL freedom of religion alongside everyone else - neither above nor beneath anyone else.

I hope this settles the argument of whether or not I 'hate' Christians once and for all.

Thank you.


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