Friday, September 2, 2016

An open letter to the Star Tribune

Dear Mr. Reinan and Mr. Walsh,

At the outset, I would like to say I am not an official spokesman for the Asatru Folk Assembly, and am writing purely on my own behalf. I am, however, a member of the AFA, in the interests of full disclosure.

I read with some dismay your article on Camp Courage's decision to cancel the Asatru Folk Assembly's contract for an event this weekend at their facility.

As a member of the AFA, I can say with some certainty that it is not, in fact, anything close to a white supremacist or white nationalist organization. The intricacies of Asatru politics are too much to go into here, but suffice to say that there are two main camps within Asatru; the folkish and the universalist. The folkish believe that ancestry is relevant to religion, and the universalists believe that anyone should be allowed to worship any gods they choose. The AFA, obviously, is on the folkish side of the divide.

What you are probably unaware of is that for years this divide has been simmering, sometimes cooler, and sometimes hotter. Right now it's pretty hot, to the point where people on the universalist side are actually waging campaigns to prevent the folkish from practicing their religion. Some, in fact, are advocating violence in this pursuit.

It should be stressed that the AFA never claimed to speak for all Asatruar; merely for itself as an organization. All we folkish Asatruar want is to be left alone to worship according to the dictates of our faith. We would never try to force our beliefs on others or deny others their own right to worship how and with whom they choose, which is a courtesy some on the universalist side don't seem to want to extend back.

In particular, I am troubled that you would rely on Ms. Snook and Mr. Seigfried as experts for your piece. Ms. Snook in her book "American Heathenry" specifically states that she has a problem with the AFA, because she was denied membership. It turns out the reason was because she wanted to join to do research for her book, rather than out of sincere belief, but she felt the sting of rejection nonetheless, and has carried it forward since. Mr. Seigfried has had a grudge against folkish Asatru for many years, and the AFA and its leaders in particular, to the point of complaining vociferously when other news stories concerning the AFA were insufficiently negative for his taste (for a comprehensive analysis of the incident, see my own blog, http://jonupsalsgarden.blogspot.com/2015/10/a-norse-mythology-hissy-fit.html).

In short, neither is a disinterested scholar suitable for being cited in what should be an objective news report. Both have personal grudges that completely color their interpretation, and thus commentary, on the subject. There are other, more disinterested, scholars that could have been contacted, such as Jeffrey Kaplan, author of "Radical Religion in America," among other works.

I do commend you for reaching out to the AFA leadership for direct commentary. But I would also suggest you look at their website (www.asatrufolkassembly.org), particularly their Declaration of Purpose:
"The belief that spirituality and ancestral heritage are related has nothing to do with notions of superiority. Asatru is not an excuse to look down on, much less to hate, members of any other race. On the contrary, we recognize the uniqueness and the value of all the different pieces that make up the human mosaic."
That hardly sounds like the stuff of Nazis, skinheads, and the like. Indeed, the AFA has a history of expelling those who do harbor extreme views of racial superiority, and has done so since its inception. But to some on the universalist side, the distinction between being proud of one's European heritage, and being a racist bent on oppressing and even harming others, doesn't exist.

In closing, should you have the opportunity to write on the subject again, I would urge you to bear in mind that folkish Asatru in general, and the AFA in particular, isn't out to tell others what to do when it comes to religion. All we want is the freedom to practice our religion as we choose, with people who share our beliefs. But there are some who cannot accept that, and seek to actively prevent us from practicing our faith.

To my mind, the question of which side are the bigots is plain.

Thanks for your attention.

3 comments:

  1. I find it interesting that the Universalist groups all seem to forget that without the Folkish groups, there would be no modern Asatru. Asatru's rebirth was because of people like, Alexander Rud Mills, Else Christensen, and Steve McNallen. The first time I'd ever heard of Asatru, was in a Christian article about McNallen and the AFA. There was no mention of "White Supremacy" or any of that, it was simply deemed a faith based in the European Ancestral religions. So, why is it, if a Christian group - who would obviously have made comment of Nazi sympathies due to their religion being based in Judaism - can forego all this name calling and bullying of a Folkish group, then why can't so-called "Universalist" Heathens? It is simple, the Universalists hate diversity and they want everything to fall under their jurisdiction because they are control freaks attempting to usurp Asatru as their own, and wish to wrest modern Heathenry from it's Folkish roots and foundation.
    I am not a member of the AFA or any other group but I am going to join it just to support them.

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