All posts by Jarred

Jarred has been blogging for roughly ten years now and loves to ponder both life's great questions and the completely inane and surreal things that randomly pop into his head. When he's working to get paid, he's a software engineer. In his spare time, he likes to write, hang out with friends, go for long walks, and watch movies and cartoons.

A few Yule Thoughts

Happy Yule!1

This post should go live right at sunset here in Rochester, NY. When it does, I should have about an hour and a half left at work before I run home, pick up Hubby, and head to the covenstead to prepare and share some tasty stew and share in one another’s company. What better way could there be to face the longest night of the year than with good food and good company?

Some days, I think many Wiccans and Pagans (or maybe I’m just incorrectly generalizing from my own experiences) forget the importance of community when it comes to the Sabbats, especially this one. Traditionally, this was the time of year when people in Europe were staying inside and out of the cold as much as possible. They relied on the food stores they had managed to gather up over the warmer months and hoped and prayed it all held out until they could start growing food again. And they relied on one another to make it through that process. If your neighbor was running on supplies, you gave them as much as you could simply because you might need your neighbor to help you with as shortage next year.

To the best of my knowledge, no one is my coven is in danger of running out of food this winter. But we do rely on one another in other ways. At least some of us do tend to suffer from seasonal depression at this time of year, and I think having the group to turn to on nights like this is a comfort that helps us to navigate through the emotional lows. It also hopes give us hope that just like this longest night, this will pass, the days will grow longer, and our moods will brighten along with those days.

That is something to celebrate. Or at least something to think about while we eat yummy stew and ride it out together.


1Happy Summer Solstice to any readers from the Southern Hemisphere. Sorry, but as is my tradition, the rest of the post will focus on Yule, as that’s what I’m experiencing right now.

Musings on Gaining Understanding

The first step to gaining wisdom is admitting ignorance.

Several years ago, I frequented a number of online message forums that centered around discussing Witchcraft and Paganism.  On one of my favorites, I included the above statement in all of my posts. What most of the other posters did not realize was that I included the line as a reminder and comfort to myself, because it was a reality in my life I was struggling with at the time.

This was back when I was still relatively new to the Pagan paths.  I had a lot to learn (of course I still do and always will, as that’s the nature of any spiritual journey).  In many ways, this was frustrating to me.  Particularly because of my Christian background, which left me brimming with a great deal of knowledge about that religion and culture.  I could tell all of the major Bible stories, quote and explain several different verses in the Bible, and was even knowledgeable enough that I ended up preaching a number of sermons over the years before I eventually left my church and the faith I was raised in.

All of that was behind me.  Being the knowledgeable one was in the past. Instead, here I was having to learn everything about my new spiritual journey from step number one. Frustrating indeed.

I realized if I was going to progress on my journey, I needed to make peace with that reality. I realized that I had to accept that I didn’t know everything — or much of anything, really — so that I could get down to changing that.  So I typed up that sentence and started putting it places where I would see it, remember my goals and what’s needed, and even be comforted by the fact that it’s all part of the journey.

I’ve never forgotten that statement, because I realized there was a greater lesson there. Towards the end of my experience with the Christian faith, I had also grown prideful. I had started to think that I knew it all, which made the realization that my knowledge at the time would no longer serve me.  i was forced to eat a double portion of humble pie.  So I also remind myself of the above statement to avoid that trap of pride again. That sentence reminds me that even though it’s been over a decade since the first time I wrote it down and even though I’ve learned a lot over that time, there is still much I don’t know and understand.  That statement serves as a constant reminder to acknowledge where I’m still ignorant so that I can continue to seek out an even greater understanding, and hopefully do so in humility.

 

Let’s talk about how “Good Men” should be responding.

[Content Note: Sexual harassment and sexual assault.]

I’ve been a constant reader of Shakesville for some time.  I’ve come to learn a lot from Melissa and the other members of the community she has built up there.  I’ve also been following her recent posts about the numerous revelations about male celebrities sexually harassing and even sexually assaulting the people — mostly women — that they work with (or who work for them) as well as Matt Damon’s troubling and inexcusable comments about the whole things.  There’s something from a Damon quote she included in today’s post that I wanted to comment on.  Here’s the quote:

We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole shitload of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.

First, I will note that Melissa is right.  There’s absolutely no need to talk about the men who manage the most basic human dignity required to not sexually harass or sexually assault women or anyone else. This is basic human decency that is and should just be expected. Meeting it requires no comment, let alone praise.

Second, my face is completely squinched up over the idea that none of this affects men who don’t sexually harass or sexually harass women or anyone else. I don’t buy that at all. Sure, we are in no danger – contrary to alarmed rape apologists everywhere – of losing our jobs over some big misunderstanding. Nor are we impacted as directly or intensely as the victims of these predators. But for me to say I’m not affected at all would require me to not care that women and other people are actively being victimized.

So yeah, for Damon to say that men who aren’t sexual predators are not affected by this screams a monumental lack of empathy and compassion for those predators’ in my book. And I find that unthinkable.

We “good men” — as Damon might call us — need to do better than just not engage in sexual harassment or sexual harassment ourselves.  We need to be concerned about the women and other people hurt by those who harass and assault them.  We need to listen to those women, believe them, and support them.

We also need to be mindful of and fight back against the culture that lets other men harass and assault women. We need to fight back against the idea that men are ever entitled to women’s bodies, affections, attention, smiles, time, or anything else. Even when those ideas come from our own subconscious minds. We need to learn and respect women’s boundaries and call out guys when they’re violating a woman’s boundaries, no matter how small that boundary seems to us.

We should quit saying “I don’t do that,” and start asking, “How can we better respect women and their boundaries and fight against those who don’t.”

 

Prayer to Tyr for Justice

Having recently run across a couple of posts where I wrote various Pagan prayers, I decided to bring back the practice.  As today is Tuesday and I’m very much interested in social justice, I decided a prayer to Tyr was an appropriate thing to write.

Great Tyr, I call out to you on this day, which is named after you. Guide me and teach me to be an instrument of justice. Help me to be mindful of the ways, both large and small, that those less fortunate are wronged and harmed. Instill in me the obligation and help me to find the courage to speak out against those who would injure and exploit others.

You who gave your own hand in order to bind the Wolf of Destruction, remind me that justice comes with a price. Help me become more aware of the luxuries and comforts that I will have to give up so that those less fortunate may enjoy more freedom. Urge me to develop the compassion that I might make those sacrifices and count it both my duty and honor.

By your guidance and my will. So mote it be.

 

Then and Now: Weddings

Occasionally, I read through all blog posts just to see what I wrote (and if applicable, what people had to say in reply). During my most recently perusal, I rediscovered a post where considered what I might want to do for my wedding. Seeing as I just recently (16 months ago this coming Wednesday!) got married, I thought it would be good to take another look at that post and compared it to what actually happened.

It turns out that after dating many (mostly non-devout) Christian or non-theistic men, I found Hubby, who is a Witch like me.  So we ended up getting a handfasting like I wanted. Also, while members of my family became much more open to my relationships and might have come to a wedding, we decided to keep the whole thing private.  We asked the members of our coven to perform the handfasting and be the sole attendees of it as well.  Out of the six coven members (including Hubby and myself) at the time, five of us were able to make it for the big day.  We all met at one coven member’s cabin in the woods and performed the rite at one of the outdoor altars that had been constructed in the woods.  We wrote our own vows.  I don’t think I remember any of mine and very few of Hubby’s.  I will say that Hubby was creative and crafted vows that were both sweet and funny.

After the rite itself, we built a nice bonfire in the “front yard” and set our vows on fire as an offering to the gods.  Then we celebrated with food we all cooked together and some fireworks.

It also turned out that we had enough people that we were able to treat the handfasting as our marriage ceremony.  The person who presided over the rite signed the marriage license and the other two acted as witnesses.  So we didn’t have to do a civil ceremony afterward.

Overall, it turned out almost exactly as I wanted, but even better.

 

A Storify in Response to an Adam Ford Webcomic

So for whatever reason, I check Adam Ford’s webcomic almost daily. I decided I had to tweet about his latest comic. I’ve embedded the resulting Storify below:

 

Side A, Side B, Moralizing, and Heterosexual Silliness

In Christians circles, especially among those associated with the Gay Christian Network (GCN), there’s much talk about Side A and Side B. They’re shorthand for what an individual believes about same sex relationships and how gay people should choose to live their lives. A person who is Side A believes that gay people should be allowed to enter into same sex romantic and sexual relationships — though possibly with some caveats, such as only with a long-term partner with whom one is committed to lifelong monogamy. A person who is Side B believes that gay people should seek to maintain a life of celibacy.

As I understand it — though I can’t find the sources that led me to this understanding to confirm it — the concepts of Side A and Side B originally started among gay Christians themselves and indicated a personal choice of how the individual felt it best to respond to their sexual orientation in their own life. This is reflected in that GCN welcomes both people who are Side A and people who are Side B.

At some point, heterosexual people who started joining the conversation about gay people in the church also began to adopt the labels Side A and Side B for themselves. The thing is, heterosexual people are not gay, so the original understanding of the concept that which “side” they belonged to no longer represented how they chose to respond to their own sexual orientation. Instead, for heterosexual people, their Side A or Side B status mostly began to represent how other people — namely people who actually are gay — should choose to live their lives1.

This has apparently caused some problems for at least one person.  Yesterday, Misty Irons blogged about the misunderstandings that tend to be formed when she identifies as Side B:

A recent article written by Stephen Parelli, who was present at the conference, called “Celibacy at Gay Christian Network: What’s that all about?” characterizes me as advocating celibacy for all gay Christians.

She spends a good deal of time in her post making it clear that she does not advocate celibacy for all gay Christians. She makes it clear that she believes that Side A Christians — even Side A gay Christians — are saved. She states that she believes Christians should follow their own conscience in this matter.

I would argue then, that calling herself Side B is pointless, meaningless, or both. She’s not telling other people what they should believe or how they should live. She’s not making a choice about how to live her own life since — to the best of my knowledge — she’s heterosexual and she doesn’t even have to answer the underlying question for herself.

So why pick a “side” at all? Why not simply say “I believe those who are in a position where they need to make that choice need to pray and follow their own conscience” and leave it at that?

If a heterosexual is not prepared to moralize — that is, tell others how they should live their lives or even look down on those who choose to live their lives differently — then declaring oneself Side A or Side B serves no real purpose. Other than possibly to promote the silly notion that their opinion on the matter is actually important. And who has time for that silly notion and the privilege it represents?


1I suspect at least some gay Christians also feel that other gay Christians should be making the same Side A or Side B choice they are and would like input on how other people are living their lives as well. Moralizing is not the sole domain of the heterosexuals after all. However, at least with gay Christians, there’s still the sense that being Side A or Side B is (hopefully) about a personal choice in their own lives first.

Spirituality Corner: On Teaching and Traditions

Over the past five or so years, I’ve found myself in the position to help various people on their spiritual journeys. Most particularly, I’ve found myself helping people to learn to communicate with spirit, be it spirit guides, individuals who have passed from this life, or even deity. My most recent experience has been helping someone make a connection to and contact with a particular deity he felt drawn to.

This last experience has been most interesting and even a bit challenging to me, as I have no real knowledge of or connection with this deity myself. If someone were ask me how to connect with and contact Freyja – or even one of the other Norse gods and possibly even a few of the Irish ones – I’d have a plethora of experience and knowledge to draw on. I’d be able to recommend stories to become intimately familiar with, suggestions on offerings to give, and recommendations on how to craft an invocation for calling out to that particular deity.

In this case, I simply had to show the other person how to figure out much of that information himself and explaining to him how he needed to enter a meditative state, set up a sacred space where he could meet the deity, and how to call out to said deity in his own words.

The good news is that it worked beautifully. Contact with the deity was almost immediate and awe-inspiring, which I credit to said deity’s own deep interest in working with and teaching this person. I am pleased that I was able to help make this happen, but I have no delusions that I was anything other than a helpful middle-man helping two individuals meet sooner than if they had to arrange said meeting by themselves.

Back to the struggle to help someone contact a deity I personally have no knowledge of or connection to, though, the experience has given me yet another appreciation for what it must be like to work with a more narrowly defined tradition. I imagine that those covens that focus on working with a specific deity or small group of deities must have a great advantage when it comes to teaching new members and interested people. I imagine they have a great deal of lore and very specific techniques (such as detailed visualizations and invocations) they can employ and teach those seeking to make that same connection. I imagine that said tools have been developed as a result of the tradition and learning what works best for that specific tradition and working with that specific deity or groups of deity.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t plan on leaving my eclectic coven to join or form a tradition with a narrower focus. Nor do I plan on trying to change my current coven into something other than what it currently is. I love my coven and its members exactly for who they are. They are my family and I wouldn’t change or leave them for the world.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t form an appreciation for the way others have come to do things.

Going to Church and Attending Sporting Events are not Comparable

Yesterday,  Hemant Mehta wrote a post about about meme where some pastor mocks excuses people use for not going to church by turning them into excuses people use for not attending sporting goods. He also posts a video response from someone that is absolutely wonderful. However, I wanted to take a closer look at some of the things that make this meme ridiculous right from the beginning.

A sad meme comparing apples (going to church) to bicycles (going to sporting events).
A sad meme comparing apples (going to church) to bicycles (going to sporting events).

The most obvious is that church attendance is often seen — at least by many Christians — as an absolute and even universal obligation. I’m not aware of anyone who views attending sporting events — either occasionally or regularly — as an obligation. Certainly not a universal obligation. No one has ever questioned my moral character for not attending sporting events. No one — not even exuberant sports fans — have treated me condescendingly for not attending sporting events. No one is trying to convince me that I will be condemned to eternal torment if I don’t attend the Amerks games and believe that their players are the best hockey players ever.

Instead, attending sporting events is entirely optional with little to no pressure on me to do so. I can simply choose not to attend any sporting events. The only “excuse” I need for not attending one is “I didn’t feel like going.” In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of even five instances in my forty-one years of life where anyone even inquired — let alone demanded to know — as to why I didn’t attend some sporting event.

I have had people ask why I don’t go to church. Several times. And each time, there was a clear implication that the person asking felt I needed a good reason — good enough as determined by them — why i didn’t go. This is why people make all kinds of excuses for not going to church, and seldom make any excuse for going to sporting events. No excuse is needed for the latter.

The excuses in themselves are equally problematic. For example, the first excuse makes no sense because there’s no expectation that a coach at sporting event will come visit me1. That’s not the case for a pastor of a church. There is an implicit — if not explicit — understanding that a pastor is there to provide spiritual care and guidance for the people in his church and even the rest of the community.  When a person says that they quit coming to church because the pastor hasn’t come to see them, this means that the pastor and the church as a whole has failed to live up to their obligations. (John Pavlovitz put it perfectly on Tuesday when he wrote, “If you have no scalable system of pastoral care other than telling people to get into a small group, you have a lousy pastoral care system….
Pastor, if all you want to do is preach from the stage or the pulpit, stop calling yourself a pastor and admit that you’re a preacher or a religious celebrity.
“) So it strikes me that it is perfectly reasonable for a person to leave a church that is failing to meet its obligations to that person.

There are similar issues with the meme-creator’s other “excuses” when you consider the fundamental differences between the nature of church attendance and going to sporting events. Sadly, this is just another case of a Christian leader thinking he’s being clever when he’s really just demonstrating that he hasn’t really thought any of these issues through. This also leads me to conclude that he’s not really trying to convince people who offer these excuses to come to church so much as he’s sharing a moment of smug self-righteousness with those who already agree with him. Frankly, I find that sort of thing ugly when displayed by an alleged spiritual leader.


1Naturally, I’m assuming that I’m a spectator rather than a player. If the latter were the case, then I see that this could be a legitimate reason for not only not attending those sporting events, but quitting that team.

what do if you have a homophobia brother and your gay

[Content Note: Homophobia]

The title of today’s blog post is based on a search term that someone used to find my site the other week. Strangely, I had a friend who was offering guidance to a young lesbian facing a similar situation ask me for any advice I might offer her several months ago. As such, I thought it would be good to talk about this subject.

First, I have a great deal of sympathy and empathy for anyone in such a situation. One should not have to deal with homophobia – no matter how minor or subtle – from one’s closest families. It can instill a real sense of betrayal and that you don’t belong. So to anyone who is reading this and is facing anything less than perfect acceptance from their immediately family, know that I would totally give you a hug right now if I were able to and you were comfortable with it.

To address the question, we first have to understand what we can do and what is our responsibility to do. For example, many of us – myself included at times – often think that what we need to do is convince our loved one to stop being homophobic. And in a perfect world, our loved ones would end their homophobia. (Well, in a perfect world, they never would’ve been homophobic in the first place, but hey.) But here’s the thing: we can’t make people change their mind or their behavior. It just doesn’t work that way. And trying to do it will only leave us even more frustrated and possibly (more) depressed and a lot of other things. In the end, we have to give our loved ones the freedom to address (or not) their own prejudices and their own actions in their own time.

So instead, we need to look at what we can do. And the thing I think we most need to focus on is the same thing we really should be focusing on anyway. We can and should focus on doing what it is that we need to do in order to feel good about ourselves. We can and should focus on making sure we like ourselves.

Liking ourselves and finding the good in ourselves can be difficult, especially when we have people saying or implying negative things about us. Doubly so when some of those people happen to be close and dear loved ones who are supposed to embrace, accept, and encourage us. In those cases, we have to struggle even harder to remind ourselves that we’re amazing people. (And if you don’t believe you’re an amazing person, please find someone safe to talk with about that fact as soon as you can!) Look at the things you enjoy and the things you are good at. Do you like to write? Write your heart out and cherish what you write. Treat yourself like you’re the next literary genius in training. Do you like to draw? Draw your heart out and treat your drawings like they’ll be hanging in the Louvre some day. Think of all the great qualities you offer the people in your life and the parts of yourself that you have to share with them. The sting of homophobia will never fully go away – especially when it comes from a loved one – but being able to confidently see yourself as a valuable and wonderful person does help.

Another thing that you can do is find the love, support, and encouragement you need. After all, that’s one of the really sucky parts about homophobic loved ones. Loving, supporting, and encouraging you is supposed to be THEIR job, and they’re failing at it in at least some ways. So it’s time to find people – and there are a lot of them out there – who would be happy to take on at least part of that job. Find and focus on other family members who are more supportive. Be honest with them and let them know that you need their support. Focus on friends – and make new ones if you need to – that will give you the support you need. When I came out nearly twenty years ago, I built an entirely new circle of friends. Oh sure, I kept in touch with some of my older friends and even have the occasional contact with some of them to this day. But my new friends were the ones who were both able and willing to walk with me through the process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. They were also the ones who felt safe to go through that process with. Those are the kinds of friends you need.

So if you don’t have them, find them. If you’re in school, see if your school has a GSA. See if there’s an LGBT community center or LGBT social groups in your area. See if there’s an active PFLAG chapter in your area.

Don’t rule out online friendships, either. For the first ten years after I came out, a lot of my friendships were online. Even the close and supportive friends I knew in person were people I mostly stayed in touch with via the Internet. An online friend may not be able to give you hug, but they can listen to you and tell you that you’re okay and that what you’re feeling is okay too. That’s extremely valuable.

You’ll notice that I talked about finding support after talking about learning to love yourself. There’s a couple reasons for that. The first is that while support is important and good, other people ultimately can’t make you feel good about yourself. That’s a gift you give yourself and you need to give it to yourself.

The other reason is because knowing what you like about yourself also helps you think about what you have to offer friends and possibly how to find them. If you’ve figured out you love to write, then finding friends that accept you for who you are and share that love of writing is an excellent plus. Maybe you can find a writing group locally or join a writing site online. The same is true of drawing or any other talent or interest you have. And the bonus is that they’ll encourage you and remind you that your talent or interest is awesome and valuable. Hey, other people can’t make you like yourself, but they sure can remind you of what there is to like about yourself!

The last thing to consider about finding love, encouragement, and support is to consider whether you want to and would benefit from talking to a trained mental health professional. If you have someone who is frequently – or even only slightly frequently – saying and doing things, that can really take a toll on you. It may be helpful to have someone in your corner who is trained to help you sort through that.

The final thing that you can do to take care of yourself in such a situation is try to limit your interactions with said loved one as much as possible. This can be tricky, depending on your circumstances. At 41 living on my own, I can get away and stay away from any homophobic relatives I may have as much as I want. If you’re a younger person who’s still living at home, you may be stuck living with a homophobic parent or sibling. If that’s your situation, you again have my sympathy. That totally sucks. It especially sucks if there’s more than one homophobic person in the house with you, or even if others in the household doesn’t see what the big deal is with the homophobic person’s behavior. Maybe they think you’re overreacting. They’re wrong.

In that situation, you can only do the best that you can do. If you can stay in your bedroom – and the rest of your family will leave you alone rather than barge into your room and try to force conversation on you – that may be what you need to do. You may need to find ways to keep yourself busy. (Again, this is where having those loving and supportive friends may be helpful – as you can go spend time with them whenever possible and get away from the homophobia.)

You may also want to consider calling out the homophobic person’s behavior when they’re being hurtful and disengage. “I feel what you just said or did was hurtful to me and I would like you to leave me alone now.” Then walk away if you can. Be aware that this can be a difficult thing to do. The other person is likely to get offended. They’re likely to try to get you to tell them exactly why you found what they said or did was hurtful – most likely so they can tell you that you were wrong to feel that way. If you decide to go this route, don’t let yourself be drawn into an explanation or an argument over it. Simply say, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I need time to be alone.” Stick to your guns. Go talk to one of your supportive friends or loved ones, someone who will totally understand why you’re hurt and will tell you that it’s okay to feel that way.

At any rate, that’s the best advice I can offer to help anyone going through such a situation. My readers are welcome to offer their own insights in the comments. Maybe some of you found something that helped you. Please feel free and encouraged to share.

Moderation Note: All comments complaining about how “easily” the word homophobia gets thrown around will be deleted. Any commenter trying to open a debate about what does and does not constitute homophobia will be banned. This is not the space to get defensive over how your words and actions are properly labeled. This is a space for you to listen and carefully consider how your words and actions impact the LGBT people in your life. If you try to do the former rather than the latter, than you’re part of the problem, and likely a bigger part than you want to admit.