As a homesteader, I know I exist in a primarily christian conservative dominated field, and I am blessed enough to have a few people close in my life who are also Christians who respect that I simply am not. I follow an earth-based pagan faith that I don’t talk about a lot, celebrate old religious holidays based on the seasons, and try to live in harmony with the earth. I generally don’t talk about it much, as it’s my business and not something I want to press onto others.
But every once in a while I really, truly struggle with the willful ignorance of people with the privilege associated with mainstream Christianity when a simple, mild correction results in offense and insult.
Now I will preface this with the fact that I am biased. I grew up with a semi-catholic house, but we weren’t strict. When I was young I went to a Presbyterian church for years because I wanted to sing in the choir. My dad is very Christian and a student of many faiths, so it wasn’t that I had exclusively negative experiences, but they add up over time when you just don’t believe in that faith. For example; going to swimming lessons as a child and being told that you were going to hell by your peers for not going to church. Lectures from your older sister about how dragons and wizards were magic and the devil, and that magic is sinful. Inquiries from your friend’s family wondering why you stopped going to church. Comments from people about how they would pray for you to find god. People telling you that it’s just a “phase” or you are “lost” or just “don’t know any better”. Disgust, hate, fear, people shouting about how awful you are, how sinful you are… You behave differently… So you are simply a MONSTER.
This belittling attitude is especially prominent in homesteading where out of over 2 million farmers (defined as primary farm owner/operators), women account for only 14%, blacks account for only 30,000 farmers in the US. We don’t take religious data on farmers in the US, but in Canada nearly 40% of farmers were roman catholic and only 10% made up EVERY non christian religion, including Muslim and Judaism. There’s a strong possibility that those numbers would be even more skewed in the USA. Farming is NOT a very diverse field and bigotry runs amok.
There was even one point in my career, early on, with a somewhat respected farmer in a semi-distant community who wanted to purchase some rabbits from me. We discussed cages, nutrition, and ideal conditions for rabbits online for some time before he came out and bought some rabbits. Upon meeting me he was floored. He said because I sounded smart, was experienced and confident, and knew what I was doing that he had expected me to be an old white christian man. His words were along the lines of “I was expecting an old geezer sitting on his porch after church”. When he found out I was a young, pagan, woman all of my experience on everything was dismissed. Everything I said as advice he suddenly had to confirm with his “buddies” in the country. Eventually he posted a very offensive post against freedom of marriage online, and blocked me. He proclaimed that marriage was exclusive to Christianity and that nobody from other religions got married because he had never been to a wedding that didn’t say “under god” in the ceremony. I informed him that his scope was limited and he’d clearly never been to a non-christian wedding, as I had never been to a wedding where they DID say under god. This was enough for his to declare I was nothing but an ignorant christian hating child and tried to slander my name in homesteading circles. It didn’t spread far, but could have been much more serious.
It can make someone sensitive, and not everyone is just aggressive. There’s a lot of passive aggression as well, a lot of quiet distaste, frowns and whispers, and things not-quite said. We believe differently than you but we are still humans, and we experience these things. We get edgy. We get sensitive.
So in a discussion about nosy neighbors in small towns when you are a homesteader, someone complained that being nosy was “neighborly” and their cousin was very rude to people who presumed their religion. This was primarily experienced in having moved to a small town and being asked “what church do you go to?”. While this might seem innocuous to people with the privilege of a mainstream faith some of us have a history with the Christian faith that’s not so pretty. We’re never quite sure… Are you ignorantly trying to make friendly conversation, or do you really mean something along the lines of; “We didn’t see you at OUR church… But you DO go the church, right? You’re a Christian, right? You aren’t just skipping church like a dirty, filthy, heathen, right?”. Woe be unto you if you DO follow a heathen faith, as in my experience about half the time this will result in someone informing you that you are a horrible person for it.
Upon attempting to explain these things to this person, (an attempt to explain that the cousin may not see it as a friendly greeting, but rather a passive aggressive attack), I explained that many of us have experienced attacks from that situation, and people should try to be more sensitive to strangers because religion is personal. I hoped they would be a bit more forgiving towards their cousin as they’ve likely experienced suffering from it.
The result was not anything new. I totally expected it. Homesteading circles are primarily white Christians after all. But today it especially frustrated me.
Comments about how dare I say that, and about how I shouldn’t be posting such words (even though it was just a different perspective) because I was just being over sensitive. The comments continued about how people who thought that we were just petty and hated Christians, and how childish it was to feel offended by a “polite invite” to go to their church. How very WRONG I was for being upset by something legitimately upsetting and thoughtless.
Well, I hate to disappoint, but you are absolutely being offensive, and we have every right to protest it. Like asking a black mother with a light skinned child who they are babysitting for. It might be innocent on the surface, but that may very well be THEIR child, through birth or adoption. Or perhaps on a more aggressive example, the word “negro” means black in lots of languages. It’s just a word that means “black” which is not inherently offensive, but I dare you to tell me that calling someone with a dark skin tone “negro” isn’t offensive because of how it’s been used in the past.
For those of us who have actually, legitimately, suffered at the hands of Christianity with “innocent questions” like “what church do you go to”, we are absolutely getting ready for a fight when you ask us that because we have a history of that being nothing but a lead in to an attack. At the very least it’s a slight against the potential that we might not be christian… As in, of course you go to church and are christian, how odd or quaint to not! At the worst, it really is a lead in for an attack.
If someone tells you that something you do upsets them, and it’s not like they are asking you to do anything terribly special it seems reasonable to me to expect you to oblige, but almost to a man (or woman) people refuse, saying they are Christians, they are Americans, and they will behave how they want! How very christian of you to deliberately continue to do something that causes someone else pain, which would cause no expense to you to cease save for being a bit more thoughtful.
Please. We don’t ask you what coven you attend, we don’t ask you to celebrate our deities, we don’t tell you that you are bad people for your faith, we don’t wish you a “Happy Saturnalia”, we don’t proclaim that there is a war on our religion when we are denied religious liberties (even though we have more claim to it than anyone else, as there actually, realistically has been for hundreds of years), and you will not go to hell or be shunned from our community if you don’t follow our faith… We certainly won’t shout at you, insult you, disrespect you or even become violent just because you chose a different path. We just ask for basic, human respect and to put aside your willful ignorance for ten seconds just long enough to give us that respect, and that’s not really so much to ask.
If you’re a homesteader in a minority; I can only genuinely wish you good luck! The cards are stacked against you. You’re the REAL homesteader, you are breaking largely untrodden ground, and you have the biggest fight ahead of you. Don’t let other people make you think you can’t do it because of some twisted form of hate and bigotry. You go!