You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ~ Anne Lamott
For those of us who care about such things, it’ s been rather hard to miss the religion-related intolerance that’s plagued the States since long before they became united (Smithsonian article on the subject) . Today, groups like Westboro Baptist Church spew out a virulent message of hate against nearly everyone who isn’t one of their own. Preachers in my own state have recently come out with messages of utter hatred against the GLBT community, including suggestions that children showing effeminate behaviors be subject to physical abuse by their parents and that gays and lesbians be rounded into concentration camps and allowed to “die off.” There are other examples out there, but these few are enough to make me want to vomit.
Thankfully, there are people out there who are willing to speak against these kinds of institutionalized intolerance and hatred. Josef Miles, a 9-year old who faced down Westboro members with his own “God Hates No One” sign, is my personal pint-sized hero. Dan Pearce’s “I’m Gay Unless You’re Christian” does a great job of tackling the subject of intolerance. Again, there are other examples out there (sans vomit this time), but these were a couple that sprang to mind.
While the examples of both intolerance and responses against it are of a Christian perspective, pagans are not exempt from these kinds of battles. We don’t need to look far for examples of members of various pagan groups who have sent out messages of hate and intolerance. As individuals, we have to decide where we stand on the subject and if we’re willing to speak out either for or against these kinds of intolerance and blanket statements of hatred.
My personal take on it is this… To be hateful or intolerant toward any group would be a failure on my part to acknowledge my own belief that we are all connected and all a part of a greater divinity. To presume I can speak for my gods would be an act of extreme hubris on my part; to claim that my own prejudices are actually the feelings of my gods would be something well past the boundaries of simple arrogance . In short, there’s not a lot of room in my own beliefs for this kind of bigotry.
Yet I am a human being and not exempt from being intolerant or hateful. As much as I embrace social justice and equality, I am quite capable of harboring hatred. I am not exempt from my own prejudices and fears. I can, however, choose to recognize them for what they are and try to move beyond them. I can choose to embrace an attitude of openness and love toward others. I can choose to take a stand against those who would crush others for their differences. For me, this is what it means to be a spiritual being – recognizing those unpretty aspects of myself and finding ways to rise above them.