Archive for June, 2015

Just wanted to pass along this awesome project a former student of mine is putting together. Phad Chitra is an Indian folk art, and this campaign is meant to help some of the remaining artists make a living off of their work. Check it out! I think there are only a few days left, so contribute for your notebooks now! They are still short of their goal.


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Writing this while a bit too tired after a graduation ceremony, but I wanted to draw people’s attention to my friend Karl Siegfried’s post about the campaign for the recognition of Ásatrú and Heathen as valid choices for religious preference within the military, in particular with regard to the sorts of religious rights accorded to Christians and other faiths within the military. I’m a Christian myself (I would consider myself fairly conservative theologically [ie, believing in the deity of Christ, resurrection from the dead, forgiveness of sins, that sort of fun stuff], though certain brands of evangelical would probably see me as pretty liberal), but I support freedom of religion and equal treatment of people of various faiths, both because I don’t believe I can love others the way my faith tells me to without respecting their self-determination, and because equal treatment and freedoms are essential to an open and reciprocal dialog about faith. What is the use of sharing what you believe is a life-transforming and saving faith with someone if you are going insist that our institutions predetermine that your own perspective is the only valid one? Intentional and mutual vulnerability is essential for religious dialog, especially in a world where religion is as politicized as it is.

And yes, I know, there are also those saying “Um… seriously? Odin and Thor?” Well, don’t assume right off that you know what someone means when they tell you they are heathen–certainly there seems to be a pretty big divide between what I mean by faith and religion in my own experience versus what I have come to understand from those who have shared about their experience as heathens. I don’t want to make any broad characterizations of heathen practitioners, since I am not one myself, and since there is so much variety among those who call themselves “heathen”, but I’ve seen on the one hand folks who perceive a supernatural element to their faith, like an experience in a dream or something like that, while others are interested in showing how one can be religious/spiritual without actually believing in a literally supernatural element at all. My impression is that most become interested in it as an expression of heritage, more concerned with authenticity than with the issue of historical facticity that is central to the Christian/Atheist divide–but heritage is by no means going to be the driving force for everyone, and the only way you would be able to find out is by listening, rather than stuffing a pamphlet in someone’s mouth. I realize also that “neo-paganism” (not the preferred term from what I understand) tends to be associated in the popular imagination with racism and a lot of other nasty bits of National Romantic baggage, and there have been individuals and groups who have been explicitly or implicitly racist in their pursuit of an “authentic” Nordic/Germanic/whatever-religion–this is not the case with those heathen practitioners I have come into contact with the last few years, and my impression is that most such movements nowadays are very inclusive, and aware of and on guard against the abuses that others have engaged in.

Well, that was supposed to be briefer than it was, but oh well. Karl’s website has a lot more on this topic, including interviews with heathen practitioners in the military, so check it out!

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