Back after interregnum

I’ve been terribly sick this summer, which is why I’ve been so quiet, even with all of the important things going on in our society. I hope to get back to more regular posting soon, although now that I’m better, my dissertation is going to have to be the focus of my attention again, so I’m still figuring things out.

For the time being, here’s a bit from my latest at Pagan Square, on how I don’t want Orson Scott Card’s idea of “redemption,” as displayed in his lesser-known novel Pastwatch, nor do I want his religion to control the civil liberties of QUILTBAG people:

This for me is a demonstration of how all civil rights are bound up together. I have no idea if Card thinks the actions of his protagonists in Pastwatch would be moral and ethical. I do not know if he has been active against Pagan civil rights directly. But I do know that here in the real world, he has used his religion as justification to try to control the way others live and love, in direct contravention of the tenets of my religion. I think that his actions and his writing together demonstrate the deep connections between a willingness to disregard or ride roughshod over others’ religion and attempts to control others’ actions and bodies in pursuit of their definition of “redemption” – something we as Pagans should be especially sensitive to.

Read the whole thing.

Lies and double talk, double talk and lies

Yesterday I made an Orwell reference (Eastasia) when talking about conservative Christians and their growing opposition to contraception. It was kind of passing comment, but it deserves its own post.

Unfortunately, I’m not the person to write that post. You might say I’m memory-challenged in this area, because I can’t remember things that happened before I was born – like when Roe v Wade occurred and nearly every church organization besides Catholics agreed that abortion was a difficult issue, but one that a woman and her doctor could handle by themselves. Fortunately, Fred Clark was there, and he has been writing about it. Here’s another piece on how Hobby Lobby and evangelical groups are trying to rewrite the past for political gain in the present:

Absurd? Sure. But once you rule out all regard for fact and memory, then there’s no avoiding the absurd. If evangelicals let their leaders get away with this “abortifacient” lie and with the Orwellian pretense that it’s not a contradiction of their past teaching, then those leaders can get away with anything.

The parade of absurdity goes on when a Catholic hospital insists that potentially viable twin fetuses couldn’t possibly be considered human beings for the purpose of a wrongful-death lawsuit.

The ones who lose in this, over and over again, are women. Period. Salon had a piece that links to a shocking study about how often pregnant women’s rights are infringed simply because they’re pregnant. Increasingly, this is done by law enforcement officials simply deciding that certain laws about children apply to fetuses – a sort of personhood-by-sherriff move. Salon describes this as an anti-abortion tactic. It’s not. It’s an anti-woman tactic. They’re not stopping abortions by pretending that pregnant women aren’t allowed to drink wine or be in a bar, they’re controlling women’s behavior. The study’s author concludes:

There is no gender-neutral way to add fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses to the Constitution without subtracting all pregnant women from the community of constitutional persons.

The double talk shows that the motivations they claim are a lie; the only truth behind it is a desire to control women.

I don’t exist, and other important news

Another GOP politician has revealed his magical powers of anti-science, and he’s come to a startling conclusion: I, dear reader, do not exist! Apparently this post is writing itself.

No, really. I fall into the same category of mythical beings as unicorns, because according to Rep. Joe Walsh (R-My Uterus), modern medicine has made it impossible for a woman to need an abortion to save her life or her health:

With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance…There’s no such exception as life of the mother. And as far as health of the mother, same thing, with advances in science and technology, health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime under any reason.

It seems I need to get busy imagining a future where I’m allowed to exist.

This guy’s running for re-election. These are the people who make the laws, folks. They believe I don’t exist. And if they get to write the laws they want, eventually, they’ll be right – but not because their failure to grasp basic biology will magically solve my problems. No, they’ll be right because women like me will die.

In Virginia, they’re working hard along those lines. A member of the Board of Health resigned her position because of the efforts to legislate women’s health clinics that provide abortions out of existence.

In good news, Obama finally diagnosed what Romney’s been suffering from: it’s not lack of backbone or actual devotion to any particular policies, it’s Romnesia. Good thing pre-existing conditions are covered under Obamacare.

I can only hope that the law is upheld so that we can say the same thing about reproductive health care.

The cost of doing religion

I tweeted earlier this week that it’s hard not to get angry when people who are anti-choice and anti-women’s health care see my potential death as the cost of doing religion.

We usually talk about the cost of doing business. It’s bad enough when politicians make arguments that treating some people as disposable (the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, etc) is acceptable as “the cost of doing business” to keep the American economy strong and free, yadda yadda yadda.

But it’s absolutely appalling to see religious leaders arguing that they don’t have to take into account the effects of their actions.

Take, for example, the latest statement from the US Catholic bishops. They claim to be the aggrieved party, crying out that if they have to be involved in women’s health care, among other things, then their religious liberty is being taken away.

I wrote about this for Hail Columbia, and I tried to write in such a way as to open room for discussion. But here, let me state my personal position more clearly.

They’re arguing that their right to swing their censer doesn’t end where my religion begins – that it extends all the way inside my body, in fact, and can put my health and life at risk, because their institutions which serve non-religious functions can’t be held to the same standards as everyone else, even when they’re receiving public funds for what they do.

If individuals get hurt in the process, well, that’s just the cost of doing religion. You can’t make Communion wine without crushing some grapes.

And I’m one of the ones who might get caught in the press.

Edited to add: The inimitable Sarah Posner does a great job of debunking the bishops’ arguments by showing how they ignore relevant legal rulings. H/t to Makarios for pointing it out!

I also missed the point that the bishops are not trying to claim “conscientious objector” status – they simply state that the laws are unjust. That’s good; for a minute there I thought we were going to argue over whether since institutions/corporations are people, they have consciences.

More proxy Mormon rites: Jefferson and Hemings?

Trigger Warning: Rape

Like proxy baptisms, Mormons also perform proxy “sealings” – what most people would call a wedding or handfasting. It turns out that plenty of historical figures have had this rite performed for them, including Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.

An article at Slate points out

The nature of the Hemings-Jefferson relationship has been one of considerable historical debate. Could love actually pass between the most influential man in America and a mixed-race slave he owned? Could Hemings genuinely consent to Jefferson’s sexual advances? Could she really say no? Because slaves were denied control over their bodies, what went on between Hemings and Jefferson—and, of course, countless other slave masters and slaves in antebellum America—is rightly regarded by most as abusive. Perhaps on rare occasions these sexual acts involved true mutual intimacy; but because of the inherent power dynamic, today we’d consider this sex forced. We’d call it rape.

Sealing a slave master to his slave is at least as troubling as the baptism of Holocaust victims, the practice of which the LDS Church has officially condemned.

I’ve been raped by an intimate partner. I’ve been through the murky confluence of consent and coercion, not as badly as a slave, obviously, but badly enough that I can say this is reprehensible. Consent belongs to each person, and each person alone. This isn’t just like rape apology, this is rape apology.

And I’ve heard the explanations: this is an act of love, it’s not binding unless the souls involved want it to be so, etc, etc, etc. To which Joanna Brooks has a pretty good reply:

But one element that has consistently gone missing from conversations I’ve witnessed in LDS circles is the acknowledgment that other religious traditions also have theological views of memory, the afterlife, and the connection between the dead and the living. From these non-Mormon perspectives, Mormon posthumous rites appear as a presumptuous claim on humanity’s dead.

The Slate article also has an example of a proxy baptism rite that I would have no problem with: two young Mormon men died before being baptised, so they were baptized posthumously by proxy. Fine; we have good evidence that this was what they wanted while they were alive. I’m glad it was a healing experience for the families involved.

But no one, NO ONE, gets to tell me who I’m linked to for all eternity. When done that way, it’s not an act of love. There is no way that Mormons can in good conscience refuse to acknowledge that others have different views of the afterlife and that acting as though they have a lock on both metaphysics and sexual consent is disrespectful to everyone who disagrees – dead and alive.

Catching up but still speechless

I haven’t been posting much for a variety of reasons. It’s spring break here, in more ways than one, and I’ve needed the rest. But I’ve also been alternately too appalled, too angry, too depressed, too scared, and too speechless to even begin to summarize my reactions to the assaults on basic humanity and women in particular the last few weeks.

Sometimes I hesitate to write about these kinds of things because I worry that my blog won’t be “Pagan enough,” whatever that might mean. I decided to stop worrying about that because this is my Paganism, my Witchcraft. Here, in this body.

One of the things that makes most forms of Paganism different from most forms of monotheism is that Pagans tend to hold pantheistic or panentheistic beliefs and certainly tend to practice in ways that honor and respect the presence of the divine in the physical. I will resist my natural tendency to go all theaological about this, since it would mostly be a diversion from my main point. (For theaology junkies, I’ll get back into it later, promise.)

The point is that a key tenet of my religion is that the divine is present here, now, in me, in my body, in you, in your body, and in everybody. My body is holy, and sacred, and most of all, it’s mine. Mine to live in, not yours.

So for me, protecting women’s rights to their own bodies – pregnant or not, on birth control or not, having sex or not – is an expression of a fundamental value of my religion. It is a practice of my religion.

I recently had a very dear friend express concern over the state of my reproductive health. She rightly acknowledged that it wasn’t her business, and that she was trying to walk a fine line between being loving and caring and not being too intrusive – which she did with a grace and elegance I am in awe of. But she was driven to discuss a personal matter with me because she was genuinely afraid for me, given the trends in US law.

How sick is our world when women express love and look out for each other by discussing how to keep politicians and theocrats from putting their lives on the line?

So as a Witch, I’m going to try to work with my speechlessness; I’m going to go inside, to accept and experience those feelings, and figure out how to bring that back to my work in the real world. And though I may be speechless for now, I will not be silent, nor will I be silenced.

A prayer to Justice

Since conservative Christians have decided to go on a prayer offensive about the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act, and will do so again in hopes of trying to take away women’s freedoms, here is my prayer to Justice:


Justice, be not blind, but look into our hearts with piercing gaze and discern the ill intent of those who would rule over others with theocratic mandates full of hate.

Let their will be weighed as naught when you lift your scales that judgment be not swayed but find the rightful balance to help us live together in pluralistic peace.

I stand with Sandra Fluke

Add Janet Mefferd to the (apparently long) list of people who think I should die. She thinks I should “pay for” having sex. Well, I have paid, and it wasn’t cheap. But the alternative was death.

Reproductive health care isn’t about sex – it’s health care. And for entirely too many women, like me, it’s absolutely essential health care.

I’m not even going to try to express my wordless howl of rage at Limbaugh. Fred and others already said it better than I could anyway.

So, in short: I stand with Sandra Fluke.

From the trenches of the war on women

If in some aching dreams you too could pace
sleepless with the choice we find ourselves in,
and hear the fear and loathing we will face
as people tell us aught we do is sin;
If you could feel, with every cramp, the blood
ready to gush forth from ectopic wound
to salve your conscience in its crimson flood
and leave behind my lifeless form marooned,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To women ardent for a martyr’s glory,
The new lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro blastocyte mori.

With homage to Wilfred Owen and respect to veterans, I would like to point out that the war on women is still going strong. So-called personhood was defeated in Mississippi. Almost 60% of people voted against giving fertilized eggs all the rights of corporations  people, which would take away fundamental rights (like life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) from the real, live people who would become little more than incubators.

I’m happy that it was defeated, believe me. But that vote was the result of tremendous work by women’s rights organizations, and even after major investments of time and money, somehow 40% of voters still thought the bill was a good idea. Why are we even having to fight this fight in the first place?

But fear not! Personhood USA is going to expand its efforts and bring similar legislation to more states. Satan won’t win every time, they insist. Others are misappropriating the history of the Holocaust to try to convince people that it’s a good thing to let women die. And in the next election cycle, graphic, gory ads may be coming to a TV near you – but they won’t show the horror of the pre-Roe days.

That’s my war today. It’s one I was drafted into the minute I was born with a uterus and a disability. And in that metaphor, I desperately want to become a veteran, to lay down arms (and coat hangers) and rest secure in my person and in my right to appropriate health care. So I pray, today, for all the veterans of the past, and for current wars to end so that there are more veterans and fewer soldiers, and I reflect on the value of life and how I fight for it.

Why I work on women’s health issues

Lit Spouse and I were recently deciding on our donations through the Combined Federal Campaign, an all-in-one fundraiser that allows federal employees to contribute to non-profit groups through payroll deduction. We talked about how to apportion our donations to different causes we care about, and I skimmed through most of the catalog of charities.

I was interested in donating to groups that work on women’s health, especially reproductive health care. As I paged through the catalog, I noted that there were several anti-abortion organizations of one kind and another; various groups that talk about “life,” and even some “crisis pregnancy centers.” I sighed and shook my head at the strange feeling of seeing groups that work at direct cross-purposes listed near each other.

Then I realized something. Reproductive health care was the only cause for which I could find directly oppositional groups listed. Think about the equivalents: there are charities for taking care of homeless animals, but no Kick The Puppies Foundation. There are charities for taking care of needy people, but no Give Money To Rich People Association. There are groups doing medical care or feeding the hungry both at home and overseas, but no one organizes a non-profit group for the purpose of making people sick or denying them food. These don’t even exist, let alone solicit funds from federal employees.

The closest equivalent is that there are some single-issue (or nearly so) anti-gay groups, some of which have non-profit status. I didn’t see any of them listed in the catalog. There are also groups like the one that promotes the idea that Christians are persecuted, which personally I see as an approach that’s likely to support limitations on the religious liberty of others, but that’s not their announced purpose. There are lots of other groups that deliberately or not support the hegemonic status of Christianity in the US, but again, oppressing minority religions is generally not their announced goal.

When people ask why I care so very much about reproductive health care, and why I am willing to work for it, this is the answer. There is no other single issue that I care about that is under attack in the same way. It is socially acceptable for people to raise funds to deny me and other women our rights to control our own bodies – even in cases where we would be badly hurt or killed.

Let me say that again: It is socially acceptable in this country to raise funds to institute laws that will kill women.

That’s why I work for women’s access to reproductive health care.