When I first started writing this, it was intended as a critique on some of the work of Mark Stinson. Stinson is one of the founder’s of Jotun’s Bane Kinded in Kansas City, and I’ve had a touch and go relationship with some of his opinions. When I examined my thoughts on certain aspects on his books, I realized this wasn’t an issue with my thoughts on Mark Stinson’s ideas, but on Mark Stinson’s rhetoric.
In Heathen Gods, Stinson says in the preface that he isn’t anti-Christian saying “This collection is not an anti-Christian manifesto.” and “Out kindred and these essays focus on moving beyond Christianity”. As the book progresses, Stinson frequently talks about people converting from Christianity to Heathenism. In one of these essays, the following quote may be found.
“For me personally, it was easy to transition from the mess that is Christianity, with all of its dogmatic guilt-mongering and fear-based brain-washing. It was easy to leave behind the abandonment of physical enjoyment, the condemnation of life-affirming action, and all the pathetic hypocrites hiding in every church pew”
Now, some may suggest that taking this quote outside of the essay it came from is taking it out of context; I don’t buy that. The statement, even in context, is inflammatory and pejorative statement. This isn’t showing the strength of our kin; it’s showing our pettiness.
Now, will be the first to acknowledge that there is some absolute dross within the ranks of Christianity. Jack T. Chick. The anti-charity and pro-objectivism Republicans that claim to be devout and pious. The entirety of the Westboro Baptist Church. Christian hate is a real thing, and it’s a real problem. There are people who distort history and fact for the sake of their own faux-morality.
My problem is that statements take us down to their level. Let me take that inflammatory quote, and change some words around.
“For me personally, it was easy to transition from the mess that is Heathenry, with all of its dogmatic hate-mongering and race-based brain-washing. It was easy to leave behind the abandonment of compassion, the condemnation of the broad palette of diverse culture, and all the pathetic posturing in every kindred.”
That’s a load of bullshit right? Well, of course it is; that quote talks about the worst of us and misses the bigger picture in favor of someone’s personal bias. It takes the very worst of us, and presents it as the standard. I hated writing it, and I can barely stand posting it.
The problem is that it’s the exact sort of statement Stinson made about Christianity, simply turned around and pointed back towards us. It was using the worst, most crude and unformed part of a faith’s following, and using it to create a census on which all members of that faith are to be judged.
We’re supposed to be better then that. Yes, our faith was destroyed by a bunch of politically motivated yahoos, but I’d hardly call that a modern problem. The people who attacked our faith have been dead for centuries, and much raking isn’t going to help anyone. Heathenry has a second chance now, and whatever was done before our great-grandfather’s, great grandfather was born is so much dust in the wind.
It gets worse when you consider that this hatred isn’t just silly; it’s actively counter-productive. As a Heathen, I am to honor my ancestors, their deeds, and the gifts they passed to me. Well, a great deal of my ancestors were Catholic. I am never going to be Catholic, but their faith gave them some of the vestiges of morality and etiquette that were passed onto me. Am I supposed to abhor my ancestors for their firm faith, which they would have fought tooth and nail to defend?
My grandfather was a carpenter, a brewer, a decorated soldier in World War II, a talent pool shooter, had the will to quit Cigarette smoking cold turkey, and has inspired me beyond words. He was Catholic. If you’d consider that a weakness? Then I will tell you that your hatred blinds you, because some of the very values that the Heathen faith praises were given to me that very same Catholic man.
I don’t think Stinson is being malevolent and purposeful with his statements, but they’re not helpful regardless of his intent. In trying to bolster our faith, he has insulted other faiths by putting them down. That’s not the actions of an honorable man, which is troubling; Stinson seems like he is trying to be a very honorable man.
Earlier in the same essay that the above quote came from, Stinson put forth the following question:
“Isn’t Heathenry rich enough and complete enough that we can describe it without having to compare and contrast it with Christianity?”
That a very valid question. It’s a question that refers to Christianity, without having to debase it or sunder it. In that same spirit of constructive reflection, I’d like to turn this quote around as well.
Isn’t Heathenry rich enough and complete enough, and that we can raise it up without having to lower Christianity? Has our fledgling attempt at rebuilding the faith of our ancestors been so successful that we can waste time with name calling and finger pointing?
Is the Heathen religion so perfect that we cannot look at it and see things that need improving? Of course it’s not; we have a lot to do.
So let’s do it. Let us spend more time creating us, and far less time trying to tear down another. Regardless of what Stinson’s intent was? That’s what that looked like to me, and I feel we are all poorer for it.