“King Penda himself did not forbid the preaching of the Faith to any even of his own Mercians who wished to listen, but he hated and despised any whom he knew to be insincere in their practice of Christianity once they had accepted it, and said that any who despised the commandments of the God in whom they professed to believe were themselves despicable wretches.” (Bede, the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation)
And so another tremor has recently shaken North American Heathendom, emanating of course from the same tired old tectonic fault line that has divided Heathendom here since its earliest days in the original AFA. I speak of course of the co-joined twin monstrosity of race and politics.
This time out the tantrum began with a position statement issued by the AFA and its new leadership. It ran as follows,
“Today we are bombarded with confusion and messages contrary to the values of our ancestors and our folk. The AFA would like to make it clear that we believe gender is not a social construct, it is a beautiful gift from the holy powers and from our ancestors. The AFA celebrates our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children. The children of the folk are our shining future and the legacy of all those men and women of our people back to the beginning. Hail the AFA families, now and always!“
I first got wind of the statement on the Facebook page of the British Columbia Heathen Freehold, which I had helped to found in times past and maintained an honorary membership within. When I read the scathing critique posted along with the quote — and by a man I had come to expect a little better from — I was immediately struck by the lack of proportion between the AFA’s statement and the general reaction of the Freehold; which ran the entire gamut of slurs from racist, sexist, misogynist, “transgenderophobic”, and even supremacist, only to move on to “beyond cooperation”, daring to “speak for all of Heathenry”, and even “not Heathen”.
Now, personally, I grew up raised by fairly typical, fairly modern Canadian values supplemented by frequent interactions with people from all sorts of differing backgrounds and regular viewings of Star Trek. And when I first stepped into organized Heathenry back in the early 90’s — having spent several years isolated in my beliefs as a Germanic Heathen — it was into the Ring of Troth or simply “the Troth” as it calls itself today. As a result I got to hear all about who the racists in Heathendom were. And while my initial reactions to this racism within Heathenry were as thoughtless and knee-jerk as anyone else’s, it didn’t take too long for my own personal experience with schoolyard social politics and accusations of racism to kick in and give me pause to consider. And when I finally took the time to sound some of these “racists” out on the matter, I received not only a conscientious response, but … membership pamphlets as well (where applicable).
This is not to say that Heathenry isn’t a sorted crowd in which you might find just about anything that you already can find in spades in greater society. It’s a real microcosm. You’ll certainly find people who are aggressively fixated on race; though I would add that, in my experience, you’ll find far more of them on the “universalist” (the Troth) side of the Asatru equation than on the “folkish” (AFA) side.
Anyway, I like to think that I have a fairly broad spectrum of experience to draw on when it comes to what is and is not racist. And to the extent that I’ve long since come to the conclusion that its meaning can be stretched as broadly and as thinly as one needs. And more often than not is used precisely to service some other, completely unrelated agenda. It’s one of those words that, not unlike Pavlov’s bell, illicits a very negative emotional response in us Westerners and in particular us Germanic peoples, stirring up all kinds of negative pseudo-historical associations that we then attach to the accused. And because those associations seem so terrible to us, we accept them without question … out of fear that if we didn’t, and we were wrong in that, we would be complicit in … whatever morally reprehensible act they stood accused of in our hyperbolic imagination.
The accusation of “racist” is no different than that of “witch”. And really, most of us European peoples outgrew witch-hunts centuries ago and tend to adhere to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”; though I understand that mob-rule is making a comeback. The same can be said for a lot of these “-isms” that are floating around these days. Indeed, if it were any other minority group that was so maligned by the use of such inflammatory language, it would likely be condemned, technically or otherwise, as “hate speech”.
I have little justification in my personal experience to see it as anything other than. And the fact that it is being carried out against “white people” does not somehow make it acceptable, much less moral or in anywise enlightened or progressive. Would we have reacted the same way in regards to a group that wanted to keep their identity (as a group) exclusively homosexual? Exclusively female? Exclusively African-American? Exclusively Sioux? No. We would in fact applaud and encourage them, and commonly do just that. As such, act-ually believing in such liberal ideals as fairness, equality, and tolerance — the latter of which is reserved, precisely, for people you might find yourself in strong disagreement with — I cannot but affirm the AFA’s right to define itself as it deems fit. This has nothing to do with whether or not I personally would find acceptance among them, or whether or not any of my family, friends and loved ones would. As none of us are looking to join any Heathen organization anymore than Trothers are looking to join the AFA, it is something of a moot point. Or so I would think. What it has everything to do with is their right. Which is also my right. And your right as well. To choose your associations.
So then, where do I draw the line of tolerance? Well, as a general rule of thumb, I think that the boundaries of traditional law are a good place to start; wherever that stops short of this “hate law” nonsense of course. If someone is obeying the law then, all else being equal, and no matter how different, I owe them at least my tolerance. Mind you, reciprocity is always the guiding principle and there is no cause to suffer socially malicious potshots being taken at oneself or others.
“Gift for gift, laugh for laugh, lie for lie”, after all.
I see nothing in the AFA’s statement that maligns women or gays or other ethnicities. It states their focus on the traditional family, traditional gender roles, and European ethnicity, plain and simple. Nor do I see any attempt by the AFA to “speak for all of the Heathenry”. They made an organizational statement that clearly pertained to their organization. In contrast I’ve seen, in reaction to the statement, the Troth and its affiliate the B.C. Heathen Freehold hurling all sorts of inflammatory remarks, and presuming to speak themselves, as loudly as possible, of what is and is not Heathen.
On a peripheral matter, we have the Troth’s own by-laws,
“Membership in The Troth is open to men and women who profess and practice Heathen religion, where this membership affiliation is based on religious or cultural reasons, not for racial or political reasons. Discrimination, as defined above, shall not be practiced by The Troth, its programs, departments, officers, or any affiliated group, whether in membership decisions or the conduct of any of its activities.”
While this certainly sounds completely reasonable to me — though I personally reserve the right to discriminate against whomever I want and for whatever reason I see fit — I do find it rather odd that they encourage affiliation “based on religious or cultural reasons, not for racial or political reasons”, when in fact they were founded on a platform of “political correctness” (leftist ideology) and thus are implicitly preoccupied with race and particularly the, ahem, “white race”. And indeed, on a more local level, I have never found the universalists all that concerned with religion or culture, to the point of actively discouraging any attempts to understand the indigenous worldview of our ancestors, of the people and cultural context our religion issued from and is defined by.
In my recent conversations on this matter, a Freeholder stated, in outrage, as an attempt to prove that the AFA is racist, that, “they have even come right out and stated that Asatru is an ethnic religion!!! What are you, stupid???” I could only laugh of course, as “Asatru” is patently ethno-culturally Germanic in origin, as a matter of fact, and huge swathes of those who profess Heathenry today, be they folkish or universalist, do so out of, ahem, “ancestral sympathies”, ie. it was the native religion of their NW European ancestors.
But this is the level this charade is played out on, ie. that of a moronic child.
Needless to say perhaps, in the wake of the discussion on this matter with various Freehold members, I dissolved my association with the Freehold.
Even as I began this blog entry with a quote, so to shall I leave you with one,
“The mercy that was quick in us but late, by your own counsel is suppress’d and kill’d: You must not dare, for shame, to talk of mercy; For your own reasons turn into your bosoms, as dogs upon their masters, worrying you. See you, my princes, and my noble peers, these English monsters!” (Shakespeare, Henry V)