Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wrapping Up Our Latest Argu*ahem* Discussion

As this conversation has grown increasingly confrontational, I thought it best to reaffirm my respect for everyone involved.  Diotima, Byron Ballard and Ginger Strivelli have all done fantastic and courageous work in protecting the rights of religious minorities.  I am hoping that they can leverage that work and that experience and understand the impetus for the Pantheacon 2011 and 2012 controversy.  And I'm hoping that I can keep a more civil tone, something which I occasionally find... challenging.

I agree completely with Byron that it is important that women have space where they feel safe.  By definition this means space which they control, space where they can admit and exclude whom they will.  No matter how I feel about Lisa Vogel, she has the right to invite or disinvite anyone she wants to the party she throws on her land.  Whatever my thoughts about Z Budapest, she controls admission to her Goddess Spirituality Festival. I support them in those private endeavors without reservation.

I also recognize the right of religious expression, including the right to choose one's fellow congregants and set articles of faith.  Catholics reserve the mystery of priesthood to men-born-men: rabbinical courts, not judicial bodies, determine who is or is not a Jew. We can hardly deny Dianics the similar right to control their ordination requirements and membership rolls.  In this ongoing dialogue, I've noticed that many Dianics feel like they are under attack on all fronts.  For whatever it's worth, I have no interest in tearing down your private rituals.  Obviously many women have found and find comfort, security and meaning in them.  I can disagree with the details of your faith while affirming its value to believers.  (And who can deny that the Dianic current has had a potent, potent influence on our society for the last 50 years?)

This is what I mean when I speak of "setting out boundaries."  We can enumerate and uphold our mutual rights despite theological or political differences.  Once we recognize those rights, those safe places, we can begin the process of healing and reaching out to each other. But before we can start on the Marshall plan, we need to work on an armistice.

I think it's also important that we keep the scope of these battles in proper perspective. A few rabble-rousers turned Ginger Strivelli's efforts to stop Bible distribution in her child's school into a direct and personal attack on Christianity itself.  ("First they take the Bible out of our school. Then they teach our children socialism and Satanism and Global Warming.")  In a similar vein, Pantheacon's policy is not a "patriarchal attack on womanhood" but a decision that trans-exclusive rituals cannot be included on PCon's public calendar.

As some of you may know, I'm a houngan si pwen in Haitian Vodou: I've held Vodou-inspired ceremonies at several Pagan events.  Let us say I decided to hold a Danto ritual at Pantheacon 2013: in keeping with Haitian custom, this fet Danto would culminate with the sacrifice of a black pig.  And after PCon security escorted me and my porcine companion off the premises, suppose I went on a long online tirade about how unfair and racist PCon's organizers were, how they refused to allow me to practice Haitian religions and how all those protesting vegans and animal rights activists were really closet white power devotees seeking to subvert African traditions by any means.  Do you think I would receive a warm and sympathetic reaction?  (Hell, I can't even set a lamp or light a candle -- two VERY important parts of our faith -- at most indoor cons, thanks to insurance regulations against open flames).  

The point here, of course, is that public space invariably comes with strings attached - and sometimes your religious rights are trumped by the property owner's rules and regulations.  In the case listed above I could certainly hold a Danto ceremony without a sacrificial pig (and without candles or lamps).  Or I could declare that those restrictions were incompatible with me holding a proper ritual and bow out of the ceremony altogether.  The same holds for Dianics wishing to hold trans-exclusionary rituals and workshops... with the added caveat that I can't rent a con suite and sacrifice my animal there.