Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Most of Us Americans Are Christian!

How is that for a topic title on a Paganish blog?

Well, it is an answer to my children, who though they love church's Bible study classes, choir, and theater and music lessons, all hate Sunday School. "Why do we have to go?" is an endless question at my house. "I'm an agnostic!" proclaims my son; "I don't know what I believe but most of Christianity makes no sense," declares my eldest daughter, and my youngest daughter happily attends Sunday School only when she knows if the snack will be good or not.

Well, I got tired of this. We are an LGBT family and we can't just ignore Christianity, no matter how Pagan I may be, or atheistic my children grow. My ex-partner (and still co-parent) and I fought long and hard to adopt our children, and without a ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wouldn't be parenting today. It wasn't Pagans trying to stop LGBT adoption!

Christianity is a dominant worldview for western culture. You don't have to be Christian to be in that worldview. Christianity, whether you believe it or not, permeates our lives. And as politically minded people, Pagan, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Moslim,Wiccan, Humanist, Unitarian Universalit, Agnostic or Atheist, we all of us have to deal with, confront, and ultimately change Christianity.

So I set out to prove to my children that here in the Americas, almost all of us are Christian. So I asked them these questions:

When do we celebrate Jesus' birthday?

When do we celebrate Buddha's birthday?

When do we celebrate Shiva's birthday?

What is the holiday that celebrates Jesus' return from the dead?

What is the name of the holiday that celebrates Osiris' return from the dead?

Who are Jesus' parents?

Who are Buddha's parents?

What does a cross mean?

What does a Star of David mean?

Who said "Blessed are the poor?"

Well, guess which questions my "atheist" children could answer?

My little atheists know a ton about Christianity, and if you watch television, go to school or visit a mall in America, you can't help learn Christianity no matter your faith stance.

And when a doctrine permeates your culture, you ignore it at your peril. Churches in America have unprecedented power and political clout. Against such political maneuvering, I ask my children who cares if they believe in Jesus as their savior or not? Knowing how the Bible supports both oppressive and liberating themes is necessary to work in America's political world.

As citizens of the US, we need to know how Jesus preached liberation. We have to know that Jesus' life included ministry with people from all across the cultural landscape of his day - including hated and despised peoples. We also have to know that Jesus never once spoke out against lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered people, and that he lived and worked equally with women. "Blessed are the poor" is a message that everyone in the US needs to hear.

And churches matter because, still, mostly women attend them. Women make up so many congregations, doing the hard work of raising money, running Sunday Schools, and doing the dishes, while still more men stand in the pulpit telling everyone how to think. You may not attend church, but if you have women friends, lovers, wives, sisters, daughters, or grand daughters, then you most likely know women who attend church. Personally, I know more women who have found the Goddess in church than in any coven. And these women matter.

Likewise, there are plenty of LGBT kids out there, in churches, hearing messages that are designed to destroy their sense of themselves as holy. Changing churches matters for those kids as well.

Now, I will admit, that how to change the church - I should write The Church - is a personal matter. I attend a wonderfully pro-justice church that embraces diversity if not inclusive language. So I feel very comfortable working within and without a church family. Others may not feel comfortable in a church. And others may not feel comfortable outside the church.

I am ever one to embrace a multiplicity of strategies for change, however.

Years ago I worked at the Center for Women and Religion and heard endless discussions about how to change racist, sexist heteropatriarchy. (Always a fun and worthwhile discussion.) I remember the endless bickering between those who wanted "change from within" and those who wanted "change from without." I see that conversation still going on - 20 years later.

And it is silly. Let's change everywhere. Best strategies I have seen have ever been those working within systems coordinating with those who work from outside the system. And I see the least political change when there is no outside.

For those of us who identify with both Pagan and Christian, working within and without is easy. I say "huzzah" to us. For those within Christianity or for those in the Pagan world, I say "huzzah" as well.

Christianity is grounded in American society. To some extent, most of us are thus Christian. Building American roots into new religion models, and changing the Christian roots to healthier ones, will require all of us.

Even my atheist kids.

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