A Thought on the Recent Radical Brouhaha

So, I was born and raised in the Northeast. There’s no other place in this country I’d rather call home. I’m a New Yorker by way of New England (although I’m weary of this state), and this stretch of the country is where my roots are. Perhaps the culture which I have been reared and raised in, the culture in which I make my home, is fundamentally different from that of the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest. I do not, really, see the need nor do I have the inclination to mix social radicalism and religion. My religion specifically isn’t radicalism, and I do not generally believe that religion and politics should mix.

I should fill this out with a caveat that I believe human liberties and social welfare are a-political initiatives and human rights transcends this. Before anyone claims I’m seeking to reinforce the system. I am trying to work towards making things better, and I support reform and reconstruction of social and political edifices which will result in a greater degree of liberty for everyone. You will never find me arguing that things are fine with how they are.

So on one hand, I understand the call against the threat of ideological contamination within religious expression. I mean, how can I not? I’m a Heathen. We’ve just been through this, with the big fallout from McNallen and the Freikorps comments.

On the other, I am very much feeling disenfranchised by the rhetoric which has come out of Rhyd Wildermuth’s virtual mouth, and given support both at his pet project of Gods & Radicals, as well at the Patheos Pagan channel. Why? Because of statements like this:

“Paganism in general—and apparently Devotional and Reconstructionist Polytheism in particular—have been long overdue for a reckoning.”

Situated innocuously within his post “The Uncomfortable Mirror”, it seems to have been overlooked in the wider dialogue of the comments section of that post. I do not have the time to, really, parse through the actions, reactions, and counteractions which are resonating within the polytheist community of Paganism. It could have very well been taken up for discussion elsewhere. I do not know. But rhetoric like this absolutely gives me pause.

I want to know, exactly, what type of “reckoning” that I will have to face for being a polytheistic practitioner of a Pagan religion. This statement is made by someone who is an ideological demagogue – a self declared “radical anarchist” who seeks to tear down the edifices of the current culture of Western society with absolutely no guidance on how to resurrect society from the ashes. Who consistently refuses to speak to how he is going to make allowances for the individuals surviving only on things like governmental assistance for medical reasons in his new world. Who, from my position, wants to burn everything down in ideological effigy.

It’s clear that Rhyd and I do not share the same religion. We do not share the same values. We do not share the same goals or political orientation. I don’t even believe we’ve ever spoken, and I only know him by reputation. And I do not expect him to know me, at all. We are, for all intents and purposes, outsiders – utangeard – to each other.

So how am I, exactly, supposed to take this claim that I am long overdue for a reckoning? What accounts do I, personally, have to settle with this man and his followers? What authority does he claim for me to even have to present myself for his satisfaction? How am I supposed to view this call, from an ideological fanatic who does not share the same religion with me, a radical with beliefs antithetical to my own, as anything other than a direct threat on my person, property, and life? Because I, and my tradition, and the people I consort with and work towards a better realization of our religious perspective(s) are all in this fight against destructive ultra-right ideology. I owe him nothing. I owe his people nothing. And I owe no explanations for my belief and practice.

And I’m due for a reckoning, by a self-identified radical.  Sounds chillingly familiar.

And people are claiming that Rhyd isn’t attempting to paint everyone who is not his cabal of believers with the same brush of us-vs-them?


~ by thelettuceman on March 29, 2016.

21 Responses to “A Thought on the Recent Radical Brouhaha”

  1. I never heard of that guy until last week. I’ll be pleased when his name fades back to the general noise level. If his goal was 15 minutes of fame in the pagan blogosphere, he achieved it, but that’s setting the bar pretty low, really.

  2. Wonderful. I hadn’t noticed the “reckoning” thing in his second post. It does seem… chilling in context.

    • I honestly hope it’s just a byproduct of incendiary rhetoric and not intentional as how I interpreted it. But it was unnerving enough that I couldn’t internalize it and ignore it. And so here we are.

  3. Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    I think this blog is spot on. it parses out a particularly disgusting aspect of Rhyd’s post that I think too many of us missed. Read the whole thing here:

  4. “And people are claiming that Rhyd isn’t attempting to paint everyone who is not his cabal of believers with the same brush of us-vs-them?”

    If Rhyd wasn’t attempting to paint everyone who is not of the hivemind he heralds from then perhaps he needs to a) proofread a few thousand times before submitting his vaguely fascistic (albeit from the Left spectrum, no matter since extreme ideologies meet at the fascist point regardless if it’s from the Left or Right) bantering or come clean with his intentions. We’ve seen how things have gone down in history when people are painted with a too broad of a brush stroke. *coughSalemWitchTrialscough* I think Rhyd needs some heavy introspection. If one speaks with an authoritarian inflection, one might be a fascist.

    • A lot of either / or thinking will turn me off, immediately. Too much of what might be meritorious is lost in overreach and portrayal of their perspective. And I don’t really think that now is perhaps the best time for this rhetoric to be received by the wider American people, given how politically charged the climate is, both religiously and not.

      My first inclination when reading his original post was that he was claiming that anyone else but his perspective had the potential to be taken and used by the “New-Right”. I was told that was me, and not the actual words. Then this was claimed, and now I’m wondering if I was correct the whole time to interpret his statements as such.

  5. Yes…this gets to the heart of the matter. Thank you for discussing it here.

    There are other bits that I have read in both his statements that disturb me (though I’m staying out of lengthy comment on them–I don’t have the blood pressure reserves to wade into this, and I’m not interested in blog hits over something this trivial, even if it might end up being destructive), but this one, coupled in his most recent statement at Patheos with “I’m not an outsider, I’m one of you,” and nonetheless “You’re all due for a reckoning” sounds extremely ominous, and anyone who thinks it isn’t hasn’t met a fundamentalist preacher, who doesn’t care what one’s particular religious viewpoint or practice or affiliation is, but assumes that their ideas and their theo-political views will have the last laugh over anyone who doesn’t already agree with them and assent to their authority.

    • I was more than willing to rage privately about Rhyd’s words – so much that gets said isn’t worth the effort in really bringing it up. And, after all, the PNW is a very far distance from me. Ultimately the majority of these words just exist in the ether that is the web. But what I quoted just..gnawed at me. And I didn’t see anyone really bringing it up in the comments on the Patheos article. I had been concerned it was lost in the more obvious contentious issues.

      The words, the tone, and the rhetoric, don’t speak to cohabitation. It speaks to subjugation. There were a hundred, hundred, other ways to approach the topic without being as purposefully volatile as this was, and in no way is “a reckoning” or “a day of reckoning” at all neutral.

      I just. Blah. I don’t know. I’m glad my words brought some notice to it.

    • “You’re all due for a reckoning” sounds extremely ominous, and anyone who thinks it isn’t hasn’t met a fundamentalist preacher, who doesn’t care what one’s particular religious viewpoint or practice or affiliation is, but assumes that their ideas and their theo-political views will have the last laugh over anyone who doesn’t already agree with them and assent to their authority.”

      ^ This. In reading his first screed-piece — though I had all kinds of choice opprobria going through my head over nearly every inane, incoherent, and frequently historically-revisionist sentence he wrote — all I could think was “God, could Rhyd possibly be more wannabe-Puritan Evangelical than he is now?” And then he wrote his screed about “reckoning.” That about cemented it for me: he’s demonstrated himself to be a wannabe-Puritan Evangelical trying to impose his moonbatty designs of petty theocracy over a collection of pretty vulnerable minority religions, just for his own solipsistic sense of edification, and not the long-term survival of anything beyond himself.

      My Temple could lose its hard-won 501(c) status, were the leadership to ever bow and scrape to the inane purity politics of the hour to “prove” its “purity of belief” in the eyes of unhelpful blowhards like Rhyd and tell its members what political ideologies to embrace, “or else.” I am not okay with that. I will never do that. And, fortunately, the leadership of my Temple isn’t inclined to do that, either. Separation of Church and State is a very good thing indeed, and though American Protestant Churches violate the laws upholding it with great frequency (and what Rhyd is asking, I shall firmly make note, is no different than what many American Protestant Churches unlawfully do and advocate to their congregations), these laws exist for a reason and we’re not about to violate what ultimately protects our freedom to engage in our tradition of our own volition. My Temple isn’t a rally. My Temple is not a polling station. It’s a Temple. Not wanting to force any political ideology through its doors (both real and metaphorical) DOES NOT EVER MEAN “my Temple is okay with Nazis.” Especially when a lot of us Kemetic Orthodox are minorities and of mixed ethnicities ourselves. You know, the kinds of people that Neo-Nazis and other manners of racist tend to resolutely hate, being outside their idiotic concepts of “racial / ethnic purity” and all. Nevermind the whole “engaging in ‘Brown-people’ religions” thing.

  6. […] “A Thought on the Recent Radical Brouhaha“, Of Axe and Plough. […]

  7. As someone who is mostly blind and who lives off, if not somewhat thrives off, disability benefits, I find a lot of Rhyd’s goals and ideals to be very dangerous, especially when he supplies no answers to how people like me would survive in such a world if he and his ilk had their way and everything was simply burned to the ground, so to speak.

    I also find his strawman argument about Devotional Polytheism to be very problematic! Just because I place final authority upon my gods, doesn’t mean that I blindly follow them on every little thing. Oh, there is much discussion, arguing, and compermise to it. WTF Gods and Radicals!

    • I agree very much…when I wrote about this very topic last year, Rhyd pretty much got very defensive, said “How can you say that about me?” and then a bunch of his friends dog-piled on me for suggesting he had no plan for all of us who are disabled; then he boo-hoped about how he works with homeless disabled people (okay, great? So what about them?), said that people like us would be taken care of, but just so we know, if the big collapse does happen, then the means of production (i.e. factories producing medications, etc.) might be burned down by the capitalists on their way out of town. Okay…so, we’d be even more screwed, then, and there’s nothing you or I can do about, and you (Rhyd) don’t actually have any plan to help those of us who would be endangered as a result? Great, thanks, big help. I won’t say that he just made a fan of his opposition out of me, but it doesn’t make the collapse any less stress-inducing for those in our position.

      • I was speaking to Camilla about this very fact the day leading up to this post. I hate deconstructionist mentality and those people who have no plan for what comes next when there are people who are *required* to have State assistance in order to *survive and live* and not even have a “better chance” of it. As much as I try to shy away from using this word, I think Rhyd’s position is a very privileged one that does not take into account the realities of what people go through. I count myself lucky that I do not have to rely on assistance to survive (theoretically, outside the shitty job market), but I’d like to think myself a better human than to assume that it is applicable to everyone.

  8. People like these make me feel like I’m being squeezed from both sides. Here in Texas, Heathenry is usually seen as the place to go if you are a pagan but also a Republican. (As opposed as Wicca which is for the liberals). That’s changing a little bit, but most Texas Heathens are basically still standard Republicans but without the evangelical Christianity part. Being a Ron/Rand Paul style Libertarian is also very popular. Being a Bernie Sanders style socialist democrat makes me unusual among them (even though what I usually say is that my politics would be completely mainstream in Germany or Scandinavia).

    When dealing with local Heathens, I find I often have to just agree to disagree with them on certain things like the extent to which we should have government regulations. Sometimes that works out and we can maintain frith, but some Heathens refuse to have anything to do with me if they find out I was against the Iraq War or support same-sex marriage. Heathens can’t do that, according to them. If you are a Heathen, you HAVE TO agree with them on these political issues. And whenever anybody gets like that, it seems like they think they’re speaking for the gods themselves. That Odin himself is pro-war, or Freyr is anti-gay and therefore you need to be too if you worship them.

    But then I get online and suddenly I’m in this alternate universe where I’m not liberal *enough* to be a Heathen or polytheist. At least that’s how I feel when I take a peek at Gods and Radicals. I thought I’d like that blog at first because I am in total agreement that capitalism is the cause of many of our problems in society today, but I had to unsubscribe from it pretty soon.

    I don’t think that politics and religion can ever be completely separated, but the problem when you keep narrowing who you think is allowed in this religion until there’s hardly anyone left.

    (Of course, at this point in the conversation someone may accuse me of having an “anything goes” approach and having no boundaries. Of course we need boundaries. Just not ones that are so narrow that maybe only a dozen people at most fit inside them.)

    • Amanda, I very much agree. I find myself increasingly pinned between two different extremes, and am unsatisfied with the options in expression out there. I have been called a fundamentalist right wing fascist for being too willing to define terminology (define polytheism in very simple terms) and too liberal for advocating an anti-racialist stance in these expressions of religion. Too much ideological demagogy, not enough critical thinking.

  9. […] What kind of reckoning? I first came across this point in detail when I read The Lettuce Man’s A Thought on the Recent Radical Brouhaha, and it’s gnawed at me since I read it.  It still does.  Were the right to use this rhetoric […]

  10. I haven’t followed the current discussions mentioned in this article, however, there are way too many who confuse Paganism with a radical left wing political agenda. Several writers on Patheos Pagan channel are among recent examples but not the only offensive examples. They are quick to attack anyone who doesn’t side with their leftist politics and call any who
    disagree, “not pagan” or worse.

    • It’s a known problem on both sides of the spectrum. The Left is no less culpable in this instance than the Right. The problem is that the Left often receives an allowance by the general population, where the Right will be more frequently met with furor and outrage. This blog post was shared to the /r/pagan Subreddit community and the consensus for a while was that “radicalism is okay, as long as it’s Leftist radicalism”.

  11. […] who doesn’t just identify as a Marxist but actually worships the man – throws down a gauntlet such […]

  12. […] Marc’s “A Thought on the Recent Radical Brouhaha“ […]

  13. […] I am an unrepentant polytheist and animist.  That should go without saying, if you know anything about me.  I believe in the multiplicity of the divine and the pluralism of the religious spheres through a polytheistic and animistic religious system.  And, as such, I have been targeted by specific rhetoric implying I am religiously and ideologically contaminated. […]

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