Thursday, April 2, 2015

Whither Folkish Asatru?

It should come as no shock to anyone who has been involved in Asatru for any length of time that one of the great "fault lines" within Asatru is the divide between those who are folkish and those who are not. (Another great fault line relates to the appropriateness of honoring Loki, but that's a subject for another post or five.) The problem, of course, comes about when one considers how each side of the divide can, should, and does deal with the other. 'Cause neither side is going away any time soon.

First, some definitions.

Folkish Asatru believes that ancestry is relevant to faith, especially in the context of Asatru. There is an enormous spectrum within folkish Asatru as to just how far to take that relevance, but in my experience most land somewhere on the "if you've got mostly western or northern European ancestry, Asatru is probably right for you." It should not, but usually is, necessary to point out that folkish does not mean racist.

Universalist Asatru believes that ancestry is not relevant to faith, and the Gods and Goddesses are open to anyone, regardless of their heritage and background. They are usually quite vocal about their inclusiveness, and while most of them tend to have a "live and let live" attitude, the worst of them engage in constant, erroneous, and misleading characterizations of folkish Asatruar as racists or dupes of racists. Because it's an effective label when you're looking to demonize an opponent, regardless of whether or not it's true.

The question of how each side sees and reacts to the the other can be broken into two components; the spiritual and the practical.

From a folkish perspective, on a spiritual level, does it really matter that there are non-Europeans who attend Asatru rituals, join Asatru kindreds, and worship the Gods of the North? Probably not. Either Odin and Thor will just ignore such people, look on them with bemusement, or respond appropriately (or, perhaps, some other God will step in and do so; it's obviously impossible to say with any degree of certainty, although all too often Asatruar on both sides seem to do just that, and claim to speak for the Gods).

From a practical perspective, is there any harm done by non-Europeans worshiping the Norse Gods? I would say no; if universalists want to worship the Gods in their own groups, and not bother the folkish groups, there really isn't any harm done. They'll be ignored, or, at best, a sort of détente reached where universalists send folkish people to folkish groups, and folkish people reciprocate.

Personally, I think this is the best solution. Live and let live. But some universalists aren't content with letting folkish Asatruar live in peace. They engage in unending barrages of harassment, misinformation, intimidation, and outright slander. Because they just can't stand the idea that somewhere out there, someone doesn't share their liberal ideas.

Image courtesy The Peoples Cube
used with permission
However, there could well be a very practical problem if those non-Europeans decided that they were somehow entitled to do so in a group, or with individuals, who identify as folkish, against the wishes of those folkish Asatruar. One of the fundamental principles of Asatru is the creation of tribal identities, forging bonds between individuals based on mutual respect, loyalty, and (in the case of folkish Asatru) blood. They could, in theory, apply for membership in a folkish Asatru group and sue if they weren't accepted.

Why would they want to do so? To make a point, of course. To score political points. They'd never actually want to do so because they enjoyed the company of those folkish Asatruar. It would just be to harm their perceived enemies.

Think that could never happen? Think again. It's already happening.

Look no further than the efforts to normalize homosexual marriages. Setting aside your own views on the issue itself, there are already examples where Christians are being threatened with fines and/or jail for refusing to perform homosexual weddings, because it violates their religious beliefs.

Again, set aside your antipathy for Christianity (that I share, by the way). Set aside also your feelings on the question of gay marriage. It's not a question of the right or wrong of gay marriage. It's a question of the government having the power to say, "your religious beliefs don't matter; you can't discriminate based on X" (whether X is race, or sexual orientation, or gender, or even creed). Think on this:
The government that can force a Christian pastor to perform a homosexual wedding against his will can also force a folkish Asatru kindred to let non-Europeans join, or force universalist Asatru kindreds to perform Baptist weddings. 
Now, the universalists reading the first half of that sentence will doubtless say, "So what? It's right and proper that anyone be allowed to worship the Gods."

And that's true, as far as it goes, in a legal sense. But what it fails to say is, " the company of people with whom they choose to do so."

And that, I think, is a critical difference. Is it right and proper that people be forced to worship with people they don't want to worship with? One that is essential to the First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression, and the freedom of association that the Supreme Court has recognized as a fundamental requirement of exercising one's First Amendment rights to free speech.

Do folkish Asatruar go around setting up websites demanding that the Troth stop admitting people of predominantly African heritage? Of course not. They couldn't stop them if they wanted to. What they do want is the freedom to associate with people of like mind and like heritage, and honor the Gods together. The people on the folkish side of the divide don't tend to try to tell the universalists what to do; they just want to be able to choose with whom they associate for religious purposes. And yet all too often the universalists don't return the favor.

Do what you want, with whom you want. But don't presume to tell other people what they have to do, or with whom they have to do it. Why is that so hard for people to accept? Why the compulsion to force people not only to accept that you believe a thing, but to force them to believe that thing as well?

You want to do that? Convince. Don't coerce.

No comments:

Post a Comment