Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy (not to have to celebrate) Easter!

I thought I wanted to write something for the Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm this weekend. Then I tried writing something. I got writer's block. Apparently all I was capable of were tweets about how hot it is when Bill Guerin from the Pittsburgh Penguins fights, how much it sucks that the Atlantic Ocean's all glassy when my best friend and I are both actually able to go surfing for once, and how nice it is to go to Prospect Park Zoo and see the kangaroos. Then, at the very last minute, I realized that I did have something. It's not profound, but here it is.

I was raised sort of in the Assemblies of God church. My mother believed, mostly, but she'd been burned by the church and seldom actually took us. She comes from a large family, and my aunts and uncles were far more observant. I tried it for myself as a teenager, but it didn't really take, especially not after I met this amazing girl when I was 18 years old and finally came out as bisexual. (We were able to marry legally over a decade later.) When I was 21, I studied Wicca, and by the time I was 23, I was a full-fledged eclectic, polytheistic Neo-Pagan. I've stayed there ever since. I'm 36 now. I'm still a bit amazed that I've managed to hold on to a religion that long.

I don't regret any of these decisions. I've been told I would, I've certainly had people *hope* I would, and I've even had a few people try to make me regret them. If anything, this makes me feel better about the twists and turns my life has taken. The only things that induced religious buyer's remorse in me are the two major Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter. I really love to celebrate things. Yes, I have eight lovely Sabbats, but people around me don't really, you know, understand. When I left Orlando for New York City, I'd hoped more people would understand, but if anything, it's even harder to communicate what I'm celebrating.

I know my nostalgia for Christian holidays, as I celebrated them in my childhood, is a bit misplaced. The holidays usually meant food that I hated with critical relatives in scratchy dresses. I loathed Christmas carols and coloring eggs. But there are things I like--trees, baskets full of candy, just taking a break from everyday life. Mostly, my first few Christmases and Easters as a Pagan made me feel kinda stupid for leaving the majority group and becoming a minority by choice. A friend who was Jewish by birth told me, "Welcome to my world."

The longer I was Pagan, though, the more used I got to being a minority. I learned that the "Christmas" greenery was actually part of European Pagan celebrations first, and welcomed it into my home on my terms. I learned to celebrate the seasons and enjoy something in each one. I joked about my favorite holidays being the "Half-Price Chocolate Days" that follow the holidays most people celebrate, and how Easter isn't a bad thing if it means getting Robin's Egg candies really cheap. One rainy spring Sunday, I played with my two new kittens, did my taxes, and gave my house the top-to-bottom cleaning it desperately needed. Only the fact that there was no NASCAR Sprint Cup race on for me to watch reminded me that, "Oh yeah, it's Easter today." I'd completely forgotten!

It was a good weekend. On Friday night, we saw the remake of Clash of the Titans. Actually, I saw it; my wife was tired from work and slept through half of it. It wasn't bad as a bit of dumb fun, especially since we'd paid for 2D rather than 3D tickets. On Saturday, we went shopping, watched hockey with friends, and cleaned the house. Today, as happens every Easter, no NASCAR Sprint Cup race was scheduled this Sunday. Most of the drivers are Christian and have families with whom they'd like to spend this day. It leaves a little void in my weekend, but I understand it. My atheist wife and I decided we needed to find something else to do today, something to take us out of the house. The weather was beautiful. I wanted to go surfing with my best friend, but the beautiful weather on land translated to an overly calm ocean. Me, my best friend and our wives decided to go to the Prospect Park Zoo and have lunch.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the zoo was open today. But New York City zoos are open every day, even on holidays. My wife saw a worker wearing a cross necklace and said, "Thank you for coming to work today so we can go to the zoo." She smiled at us. We had our pick of restaurants when we'd seen all we wanted, and chose to have Vietnamese. When we got home, we remembered that even though there was no NASCAR, her Detroit Red Wings were playing a game against the hated Philadelphia Flyers. We tuned in for the last period and watched Pavel Datsyuk, the only man she'll ever love, score a goal, which made her happy even though her team ultimately lost.

I found myself grateful that even though being a religious minority can be an uncomfortable thing in America, it isn't a completely horrible thing by any means. I didn't have to spend this beautiful weekend day in church. I could choose to sleep late, to clean, to go to the zoo, to do whatever I wanted with whomever I wanted. Even the trip to the beach was only aborted because the ocean was glassy, not because I or anyone else was forced to stay away. The zoo and the restaurants could be open for us, the Red Wings and Flyers could play for our entertainment. I could, in fact, follow the dictates of my conscience and openly declare myself a polytheist Pagan in the first place. I can freely thank the various Gods of the sun, the water, the earth, and the trees for the beauty of this day, and get little worse than funny looks and awkward conversations. It's more than religious minorities in some other countries get. It's more than some people in this country would like us to have, too.

I hope that American Christians are also grateful for this freedom. Those who went to church today, did so of their own free will, according to their own conscience. They could choose the style of worship that appealed to them. They could dress up in special pastel Easter clothing or go in their jeans. They could go straight home and have dinner and quiet Bible readings with their families, believing that this is what God requires of them on a Sunday. They could also have joined atheists and Pagans and Jews at the zoo or movie theater or hockey game after church. They could have called today "Resurrection Sunday" because they think "Easter" is too Pagan, or laughed at people who believe that and led their children in an Easter egg hunt. Whatever their decisions, it was between them and God, not between them, God, and the State. Their celebrations flowed from joy and genuine felt belief, not fear and false forced piety. I think, no matter what some want us to believe, that this comes fairly close to what our Founding Parents wanted for us.

No matter what and how you believe, I'll see you at the Easter candy remainder bins tomorrow. I'll let you have the Cadbury's, but hands off my Robin's Eggs!

Links, links:

First of all, if you pray in any way to anyone(s), you might want to pray for Baja California, which was hit by an earthquake today. It was a real surprise when I saw tweets about it on Twitter around 6 pm EDT, but a real relief to read Californians' tweets.

Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin explains in a wonderfully clear, calm, and reasoned style exactly why even the kindest, best-intentioned, prettiest-sounding attempts by conservative Christians to "reach" LGBT people upset us.

Finally, the Dixie Chicks have released a terrific song dealing bluntly with the effects of homophobia.


Jen R said...

I was at the grocery store at 5pm today and tried to score some half-price candy, but no luck. I suppose that was pushing it a little.

I don't know if you saw my tweet, but Mary KD and I have a project going that I think you might be interested in:

BostonPobble said...

I...acknowledge...Easter. It's the only Christian holiday I still do and it is out of respect for my father. He lived and died a devout and hugely liberal Christian. For him, today is the day that promises he and I will see each other again. For me, as you know, it's more than about a day. However, I realize how important today was to him, so I acknowledge it, and give thanks for the knowledge that we'll play cribbage again. :)

Raven said...

Very well said. I am a lone Pagan in a family of Catholics so I usually celebrate my Sabbats in a solitary ritual and then with my family on the Christian holidays. It's not a bad thing, I think, to be able to celebrate twice. I just hope we are able to keep this religious freedom when there are so many out there that wish to eradicate all those who don't worship as they do.

I'm glad you had a lovely weekend. You deserve it. :-)



Anonymous said...

I know it's hard to be a minority - as an atheist, that's how I feel in North America. This is a change for me since in France, I felt I belonged to a vast majority of non-believers, agnostic or lapsed-whatever.

I both admire and hate the way North Americans believe, no matter in what. I'm sorry, I know it doesn't sound very tolerant! I guess what surprises me the most is the fact there are so many beliefs (most unknown to me, I admit) and the fact that all in all, religion is quite a big deal.

I'm still very French when it comes to religion, I believe it's a private matter. Culture shock, I guess.

But now, you got me curious on Wicca!