Today at the Unitarian Universalist service, there was a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. Growing up I was vaguely aware that this kind of patriotic thing was done in some churches, but we were Catholic so it never came up, disloyal Papists that we were.
The UUs make no attempt to hide that they are very political. My church is small and more conservative than a lot of my friends, but my friends are super liberal, and the UU folks are trying very hard. UUs march at Pride and take positions on human rights laws and talk about why Black Lives Matter. We’re not perfect about it but this work is a huge part of what it means to be a UU community.
Even when I was Catholic, I grew up with the understanding that religion and politics were intertwined. I grew up in a state and at a time where it was not uncommon for Democrats to be pro-life, and while I never got more conservative than “I wouldn’t choose it but other people should be able to” I knew very clearly how my church expected me to fall. In high school I learned about liberation theology and I think on some level I never forgave the church for failing to live up to it.
Part of the appeal of paganism for me at that time, as a queer teen, was the liberalness of it. I had as much experience with angels as I did with gods and powers, but paganism seemed to be a place that I would be a person, while I was increasingly aware I would always be a person-shaped pile of sin that needed correction in a Catholic church. The need to correct me is what I’d always heard, and what I continued to hear, from society at large. My church, my school, the voices on the television and in the newspaper and just talking around me, they were always letting me know the myriad ways in which my existence was a glitch in an otherwise smooth-running society.exe.
Paganism, at least at first, felt different. Since then I’ve learned that pagans are no better and no worse as a whole than any other group. I’ve learned to accept that I am a glitch, a monster, a danger lurking in dark corners. I do not want my code to be cleaned up by respectability politics, but there they are again. Politics. My existence is inherently political; it must be, because laws are crafted against those like me. I believe in a cosmology that allows for and can even celebrate monsters and glitches, and defends their right to exist, so my religion is inherently political as well.
I exist, and in a country where that is a political statement, a religion that would allow me to exist is political. Demanding life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness is political.
Happy 4th, to those who celebrate.