Religion has long been one of the dividing factors of humanity, a division which is becoming more and more pronounced as time goes on. The president uses the language of evangelical Christianity when speaking to terrorists of Islamic faith. The name of religion is used to advance causes such as the denial of queer rights, war, criminalization of abortion, censorship of mass media, and elimination of family-, environment-, and children-friendly policies. This seems like a continuation of history, the logical conclusion of tacit acceptance of Nazism by the Catholic church, of the Crusades, of witch burnings. As a result, many of us who fight for social justice have turned our backs on religion.
Many of us have turned on our own backgrounds, holding them disdainfully away from us as if to keep the stench of hateful, small-minded beliefs off ourselves. I myself left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for these exact reasons. I know I'm not alone here.
But in the process of doing so, we have turned our backs on a rich tradition of social activism that is rooted in religious thought. The Southern Christian Leadership Council, alongside the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was instrumental in bringing the civil rights movement to national attention. The Quakers have steadfastly agitated against war for as long as I can remember. Buddhist monks have burned themselves in protest of violence and oppression. Catholic nuns such as Sister Helen Prejean, among many, many others, do difficult but utterly necessary work with prisoners. Protestant bishops in the US helped women obtain illegal abortions prior to 1973. bell hooks has written about her Buddhist faith in the past. Many great black leaders were Muslims. The list is extensive and inspiring.
The list should be longer. A study of the great belief systems of the world show that most of them have one thing in common - the belief in the transformative power of love. Lao Tze taught that harmony between all living things is the end goal we should all strive to attain. Buddha taught that respect for all living creatures is essential to escaping samsara. (I don't know enough about Judaism or Islam to speak with any authority on these religions, but I do know that the belief in brotherly love is present in these as well.) Jesus Christ, whose teachings resonated deeply with me as a teenager, believed we should love our neighbor as ourselves. When stripped of all of the sociocultural baggage attached to the idea of religion, what you are left with are the ideas of wise men who were deeply concerned with the suffering around them, and tried to alleviate it the best they knew how. The problems we associate with religion didn't arise from the teachings themselves, per se, but rather from the human failings that even we in the progressive/radical communities experience.
Many of us would rather prefer that religion did not exist, that it has no bearing on who we are and the beliefs we hold. This is understandable, as we feel our faiths rejected us. I want to create an alternate narrative, one that continues in the tradition of Sister Prejean and Rev. King and Malcolm X, a narrative of progressives and radicals whose moral foundation originated in the faiths we were raised with. We don't necessarily need to embrace these beliefs today for them to still be relevant to who we are as human beings; I myself am agnostic with secular humanist tendencies.
At the same time, the cruelty of religious practice has also shaped my passion for social justice, as it has for many like me. Being taught as a child that black men and women were marked by Cain's crime against Abel inflamed my sense of right and wrong. Hearing that I was somehow inferior to my brother because he was a boy and I wasn't, and that the best I should hope for was life as a mom and a wife made me all the more passionate about seeking gender liberation for all. Seeing the wealth of my church juxtaposed with the economic hardships of the people I knew gave me a crash course in class inequities.
What I am asking is for writings on the way your religious beliefs, both past and present, have informed your political convictions, which I will then compile into a zine. Stories, poems, essays, artwork - any way you seek to express your thoughts on this subject is acceptable.
There are a few restrictions:
- I will not publish any works that are a step-by-step dissection of a particular religion. There is a time and a place for that kind of discussion. This zine is not that time or place.
- I will not publish anything that says people who believe X, Y, and Z are stupid or going to hell or whatever. I hate that kind of bullshit and refuse to perpetuate it.
And of course, the usual disclaimer - any racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ablist, sizist and agist work will be sent right back to you with a pissed off note from moi.
I'm looking for a mix of all religions, all ages, all backgrounds. I'm sure Christianity will be heavily represented, but I'd also like to hear from Buddhists, Taoists, Jews, Wiccans/pagans, practictioners of Native American spirituality, etc. I am not interested in solely presenting viewpoints of white, middle-class kids. Any suggestions as to where else I can post this would be GREATLY appreciated.
The deadline for this is November 1st, as I would like to have this out by the end of the year. Please spread the word about this project as far and wide as you can. In today's cultural climate, it is more important than ever that we find common ground with each other, that we build bridges with those who we might not immediately consider our allies.
Any questions can be directed to my email address: saltonmyskin at gmail dot com. I will provide my home address to those who contact me about submitting.
Cross-posted to: zinesters, zine_scene, stolensharpie, crimethinc, girlyaction, no_wavers