A few points for John Halstead concerning his Jul 19 piece at Gods & Radicals.
(1) “your choice of gods”—dude. Dude. You have fundamentally misunderstood the whole principle here. We, generally speaking and at this point in our collective revival and reconstruction of our ancient traditions, did not choose Them. They chose us.
Which Halstead does acknowledge that possibility, yes, but in a way that dismissively suggests we’re all conversing with shadow puppets in our heads. Nota bene, Halstead: the principle of discernment—which includes, among other things, making sure that when one thinks one is conversing with a Power, one is not actually conversing with a shadow puppet in one’s head—is Polytheism 102. In practice it’s not necessarily that easy to do, but it is still one of the basic principles for good reason. Maybe act like we might know something of what we’re doing here? (Oh wait. See point 2.)
(2) So someone whose Patheos bio (he’s the Allergic Pagan) flat out says he’s an atheist (that is, definitionally not a polytheist) thinks he can lecture polytheists on how to do polytheism? Dude: shut up.
(3) “What are you praying for? Are you asking for help to make the world a more just and peaceful place? Or are you only praying for more divine favors for yourself, to keep what you have, and get more for yourself?”—dude. Dude. You have fundamentally misunderstood the whole principle here. “Gimme” is not the only thing prayer is for!
Author Anne Lamott (she’s Christian, but bear with me) succinctly defines the three types of prayer as “Help”, “Thanks”, and “Wow”. (Halstead’s examples both fall firmly into “Help”.) Go on, Halstead. Tell me a “Wow” prayer—a prayer arising from awe at for instance a stunning sunset, or a particularly clear dark night sky, or a double rainbow—is an inherently political act due to its inherent power dynamics. Tell me that, I dare you.
(4) So someone who in this article flat out says he’s white, heterocis, male, and abled (that is, definitionally awash in privilege) thinks he can lecture a whole bunch of people who aren’t all of the above on the power dynamics that form the basis of privilege? Dude, to paraphrase a great many disabled women, queer and trans women, and women of color to people like you for ages beyond count: shut up.
(5) Queerness is an identity. Homophobia is an ID card. There is a difference between telling Harry Homophobe to leave his homophobia at the temple door and telling Quinn Queer to leave her queerness at the temple door. Harry, if told that thing, can always pick his homophobia up again when he leaves, if he feels the need. Quinn, if told that thing, can’t put her queerness down before she enters, and thus can’t enter at all. And any group that fails to be actively anti-asshole tends to become overpowered by assholes in short order: a group that doesn’t have an explicit policy of welcoming Quinn at the expense—if necessary—of Harry is one that will necessarily exclude Quinn in service of more comfortingly welcoming Harry.
You want to call that political either way? Fine. “The personal is political” and all that. I’d call it the choice between not being assholes and being assholes. And if nothing else—if the prospect of avoiding assholeness is not in itself persuasive—well, my religious group being assholes is bad press for my religious group and therefore unlikely to increase our dues-paying membership.
(6) You think Jesus is above politics? You can seriously look at the Christian Right in the United States and believe for one second Jesus is above politics?
Hell, you can seriously look at the Christian Foundational Writings attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and believe for one second Jesus is above politics?
(Mind you, the Christian Right doesn’t seem to have read a whole lot of those Christian Foundational Writings. But that’s a different discussion.)
But it’s not about the Gods being above politics at all, is it? It’s about Them being before politics. Do try not to lose sight of that distinction.
(7) “the gods are just as flawed as human beings — they just have more power. Why bow down to power, if it is not paired with virtue?”—dude. Dude. You have fundamentally misunderstood the whole principle here. None of the Gods are the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent hat trick. But They’re all a lot closer to being each of those things than we are.
Which, you know, Halstead, you might have figured out for yourself, if you ever bothered to read polytheist writings from the perspective of “there’s a possibility these people know what they’re talking about when it comes to the Gods”.
Oh, and a note for Galina Krasskova? “Privilege” is a social-justice technical term, which Halstead uses in the technical sense, to describe a social benefit possessed by members of certain groups on the basis of their membership(s) in those groups—and I know you know that polytheist religions are not among those groups. Maybe don’t actively conflate that technical sense of “privilege” with the colloquial sense of good fortune or blessing?