religion

Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas

One annoyance of being Jewish this time of year: Many Christians and secular people in English-speaking cultures treat Hanukkah as the Jewish way of celebrating Christmas. It’s not. They’re completely different holidays. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. That is not something Jews celebrate, because Jesus is not part of Judaism. Jewish people often come under a lot of pressure to celebrate Christmas, which can be very uncomfortable and invasive.

Christmas is a Christian holiday. Some people celebrate it without any particular religious intentions, but it’s still part of Christian culture. When religious Christians say “remember the reason for the season”, very few people in English-speaking countries are confused about what they mean.

Hanukkah is not Christmas. Hanukkah is Jewish, and it is not part of Christian culture at all. It happens to coincide with Christmas, but it is not actually very similar to Christmas at all. There is some overlap in customs for celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas, especially in English speaking countries. That’s largely because winter lends itself to certain kinds of things, and because cultures influence each other. Despite some external similarities, Hanukkah and Christmas are very different holidays.

Christmas is a major holiday for Christians, with tremendous religious significance for religious Christians. Even for secular/cultural Christians, Christmas has tremendous weight. People from Christian cultures almost all prefer not to work on Christmas, and it is a traditional time for major family gatherings. 

Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday for Jews in religious terms. It’s not mentioned in the Bible, and it doesn’t celebrate something with the kind of weight that Christmas has. Hanukkah is very important to many Jews for cultural reasons, but it’s not like Christmas either culturally or religiously. Almost all Jews who live in outside of Israel work on Hanukkah. Jewish children who attend secular schools have no need to miss school in order to observe Hanukkah. The Jewish holidays with that kind of weight happen at different times of the year.

The Jewish holidays that have the deepest religious weight for most Jews are Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur, (in the fall) and Passover (in the spring). There are several other Jewish holidays, with a full range of meanings and practices. (None of which are at all similar to the meaning of Christmas; none of which have anything at all to do with Jesus or Christianity.)

Hanukkah also isn’t exactly at the same time as Christmas every year. Hanukkah is eight days long. Sometimes Christmas falls on one of those days; sometimes it doesn’t. (More information on how to find out when Jewish holidays are here.)

tl;dr Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas. It’s a fundamentally different holiday. The most important Jewish holidays happen at different times of year. Jesus is not part of the Jewish religion, and it’s important to respect the boundaries of Jews at Christmastime.

Updated to add: If you want to know more about what Hanukkah *is* about, I wrote a post about that too.

“I don’t care what you do in bed” is not actually a kind response to being come out to

When someone comes out as other-than-heterosexual to a religious fundamentalist (or someone who for whatever reason has an anti-gay ideology as part of their identity), the conversation often goes this way:

  • Sue: I know you’re really religious and… I think you should know… I’m gay.
  • Fred: No big deal. I don’t care what you do in bed. Hey, it’s not like I tell you what I get up to with my wife, right?

In this scenario, Fred probably thinks that what he’s saying is liberal, kind, generous, and accepting. It isn’t. This is actually a nasty thing to say, even if you mean well.


If someone comes out to you, they are telling you something important about themself; something that was probably hard to say. They are telling you that they have the capacity to love, and that their capacity for love is stigmatized. If they know that you have an anti-gay ideology, they are telling you it is important for you to know about their capacity for love, even though they expect you to disapprove.


Saying something along the lines of “I don’t need to know what you do in bed” in response to that is unkind. It’s implying that you think they just told you something smutty or inappropriate. They didn’t. They told you something appropriate and important.


The capacity of straight men to love women is socially celebrated. The capacity of straight women to love men is also socially celebrated. It’s not treated as something dirty or smutty that needs to be hidden. Even the assumed sexuality of opposite-sex relationships is socially celebrated.


There’s nothing obscene about knowing someone’s sexual orientation or marital status. It’s an important fact about who someone is and how they are in the world.


If someone knows that a man and a woman are married (or often even if they are dating), they will assume that they have sex together. Parts of marriage ceremonies celebrate sexuality (eg: “you may now kiss the bride”). People talk about marriages being consummated, and assume that newly married couples will have a particular kind of sex on their wedding night.


And despite all of this implicit sexuality: If a straight man told someone he was married, and the response was: “I don’t need to know what you do in bed”, he would probably be very offended. He would expect you to respect his relationship and capacity for love more than that, and not to reduce them to something lewd.


It’s important to offer people who aren’t straight the same respect. Even if you disapprove of their relationships, acknowledge them as relationships. Even if you disapprove of their love, acknowledge it as love. Don’t pretend that you’re tolerating something unseemly and unimportant. 


Disabled have the right to be religious

withasmoothroundstone:

realsocialskills:

So, I hear this a lot:

“People think we’re all religious fundamentalists, but actually the disability rights movement is secular and not based on religion.”

And there’s an important sense in which that’s true. Secular voices exist and are important. A large percentage, perhaps the majority, of the disability rights community is secular. (And hardly any of us are fundamentalists or affiliated with the pro-life movement.)

But, at the same time, some of us actually are religious. And being religious isn’t a bad thing - and religion can be a powerful force for justice.

Those of us who are religious should not renounce this power. Religious outrage is powerful. Naming sin and calling for repentance is powerful. Those of us who believe that it is an affront to God to murder people with disabilities can say so, without being embarrassed.

Religion is not the only source of power or moral authority or spiritual strength. (Outright rejection of religion can be powerful in related ways.) But religion is important to many of us, and we have as much right to it as anyone else.

We have been excluded from and devalued in the same religious communities that ought to be championing our humanity. And it’s ok to be outraged by that, too. 

It’s ok to be secular. But, if you’re religious, that’s ok too. People with disabilities have the same right to freedom of conscience as anyone else. We also have the right to speak the language of our culture and our beliefs. 

withasmoothroundstone said:

And besides all the moral and ethical stuff you’re talking about here.

Disabled people get a lot of weird assumptions about our religious beliefs.

If you have temporal lobe epilepsy, then your religion and spirituality can never be valid because there’s the off chance (and it really is an off chance) that you’re having seizures masquerading as spiritual experiences.  Hell, even if you have that kind of seizure you can have a legitimate religion or spirituality, and even spiritual experiences that are not seizures.

(What I was always taught was that if an experience doesn’t change you for the better in a long-term way or teach you something important about life on a deep level, it’s probably not an actual spiritual experience.  And you can apply that to seizures, drugs, lots of things that can mimic spiritual experiences.)

I also have heard a lot of “The poor dears, they’re religious because it’s their only comfort, and they’re such simple souls that they’d never question what they’re taught.”

I’ve heard that all autistic people ought to be atheists.

I’ve heard that all nonverbal autistic people have a direct line to God and a telepathic connection with each other.  (Because people just can’t help mixing up ‘psychic’ and ‘spiritual’, can they?)  Admitting that I don’t have a telepathic connection to other nonverbal autistic people has meant I’ve been told I’m not a real nonverbal person.  WTF.

I’ve heard every argument that any given kind of disabled person is so stupid and naive that they’d believe any religion they were taught.  And I’ve heard every argument that disabled people have no place in religion.  And I’ve heard the indigo and crystal child bullshit where disabled children aren’t disabled, we’re just the special new kind of person who will usher in the new age ™.

Recently I got an ask from someone who was very upset with me for being spiritual, because they thought I was smarter than that.  Because they associate being smart with being an atheist (or maybe agnostic).  

Spirituality is at the center of my life.  In my case it involves a connection with a particular location.  I should be able to talk about this without being told I’m stupid.  I should be able to talk about spiritual experiences without people assuming I’m being arrogant or something — these experiences are things I see as open to anyone.  But what got me about the ask was the person thought that being religious was being dishonest and spreading lies and dishonesty.  And that’s just… not how I see it, at all, no matter what the religion.  Most believers are honest and are not trying to dupe people.  The only reason I talk about my spirituality is in case anyone else out there identifies with it, because I’ve felt so alone in terms of my spiritual practice.

But it’s not because I’m stupid and it’s not because I’m epileptic and it’s not because autistic people are closer to God and it’s just because I’m a human being and most human beings are religious or spiritual or both.  And that’s fine.  I don’t care what you believe or disbelieve, just leave me alone about what I believe.

Disabled people have the right to be religious

So, I hear this a lot:

“People think we’re all religious fundamentalists, but actually the disability rights movement is secular and not based on religion.”

And there’s an important sense in which that’s true. Secular voices exist and are important. A large percentage, perhaps the majority, of the disability rights community is secular. (And hardly any of us are fundamentalists or affiliated with the pro-life movement.)

But, at the same time, some of us actually are religious. And being religious isn’t a bad thing - and religion can be a powerful force for justice.

Those of us who are religious should not renounce this power. Religious outrage is powerful. Naming sin and calling for repentance is powerful. Those of us who believe that it is an affront to God to murder people with disabilities can say so, without being embarrassed.

Religion is not the only source of power or moral authority or spiritual strength. (Outright rejection of religion can be powerful in related ways.) But religion is important to many of us, and we have as much right to it as anyone else.

We have been excluded from and devalued in the same religious communities that ought to be championing our humanity. And it’s ok to be outraged by that, too. 

It’s ok to be secular. But, if you’re religious, that’s ok too. People with disabilities have the same right to freedom of conscience as anyone else. We also have the right to speak the language of our culture and our beliefs. 

Mobility impairment and worship

karalianne:

realsocialskills:

Do you or any of your readers have suggestions for how someone who is mobility impaired can demonstrate respect when it is conventional to stand or to kneel? I’m asking on behalf of a young-ish Catholic friend whose arthritis makes it hard to impossible to rise and kneel during the Mass. Simply not rising or kneeling and not doing anything alternative is an option, but that leaves her out of the collective show of devotion, in which she’d like to participate.
realsocialskills said:
On the communal level, it can help if whoever is leading the services says something like “please rise/kneel in body or spirit” to acknowledge the participation of people who can’t or shouldn’t kneel or rise.
I’m not sure about on the individual level, what someone can do to symbolize their intentions. I suspect that it depends a lot on the culture.
I wonder if it would work to lean forward when people kneel, and to sit up particularly straight when people stand? Then she would be moving in at least somewhat the same direction. I don’t know if that would have the symbolic weight that she wants it to have, though.
Are any of y’all Catholics with mobility impairments? Do you have ways you’ve found to demonstrate respect during the Mass when others stand or kneel?
Have any of y’all who are from any religious background in which body positioning you can’t do safely is part of your tradition found alternative symbolism that works for you?

karalianne said:

Leaning forward for prayer and sitting up straight for standing is what people at my church do (most of the people who go there are retired, and many of them are elderly).

My dad usually invites people to “sit or kneel as you are able” to allow for those who can’t kneel, and he also brings the Sacrament to people who are unable to approach the rail for the Eucharist.

(We are Anglican. It’s similar to Catholic but may not be close enough for this to be an option that priests would even consider. Also, I don’t go to my dad’s church, he lives in a different city. But he’s always done what I said above. He’s an Anglican priest.)

Mobility impairment and worship

anonymous asked:
Do you or any of your readers have suggestions for how someone who is mobility impaired can demonstrate respect when it is conventional to stand or to kneel? I’m asking on behalf of a young-ish Catholic friend whose arthritis makes it hard to impossible to rise and kneel during the Mass. Simply not rising or kneeling and not doing anything alternative is an option, but that leaves her out of the collective show of devotion, in which she’d like to participate.
 

realsocialskills said:

On the communal level, it can help if whoever is leading the services says something like “please rise/kneel in body or spirit” to acknowledge the participation of people who can’t or shouldn’t kneel or rise.

I’m not sure about on the individual level, what someone can do to symbolize their intentions. I suspect that it depends a lot on the culture.

I wonder if it would work to lean forward when people kneel, and to sit up particularly straight when people stand? Then she would be moving in at least somewhat the same direction. I don’t know if that would have the symbolic weight that she wants it to have, though.

Are any of y’all Catholics with mobility impairments? Do you have ways you’ve found to demonstrate respect during the Mass when others stand or kneel?

Have any of y’all who are from any religious background in which body positioning you can’t do safely is part of your tradition found alternative symbolism that works for you?

nyxbyproxy:

evred-harvaldar:

Mobility impairment and worship

realsocialskills:

Do you or any of your readers have suggestions for how someone who is mobility impaired can demonstrate respect when it is conventional to stand or to kneel?…

nyxbyproxy said:

At my Catholic church, it was generally accepted that the old, pregnant, and sick were not bound to perform tasks that were too physically taxing for them. Bowing your head and closing your eyes is enough.

Tangentially related, this is also true for Russian Orthodox services. If you are incapable of standing up for the entire service for health reasons, there is a bench in the back.

Something that can make a difference in religious services

If you’re leading services in a church, synagogue, or other place of worship. Or leading the pledge of alliegance or some other situation of telling people to stand up.

“Please rise if you are able” can be a good thing to say.

Because some people can’t or shouldn’t stand. And it’s good to acknowledge that they’re not doing anything wrong. It’s good to affirm that they are still valued members of the community even when the way they show respect for God doesn’t involve standing.

This should go without saying. But it doesn’t. So it’s good to say it.

The value of preaching to the choir

The choir has spiritual needs and oftens spiritual commitments. That is why they show up every week.

They need a sermon. They need to keep learning and growing.

Preaching isn’t just about telling people to care. It’s also about telling them how. And reminding people who already care that their efforts matter and are appreciated, and that they still have room to grow.

No group can be outreach-oriented all the time. Not religious groups, not activist groups, not social groups - everything has to, at times, focus on the needs of committed members.

Preaching to the choir isn’t enough. But it’s not something you should neglect, either.

Some things I think I know about cultural appropriation

Some things that are not necessarily appropriation, depending on how they’re done (but can get into really dangerous territory really quickly):

  • Learning from another culture
  • Admiring another culture
  • Seeing things in another culture that are better than in yours, and trying to figure out how make what you do more like that
  • Learning values from another culture that are better than yours, and trying to incorporate what you’ve learned into your culture
  • Learning musical or artistic styles from another culture
  • Learning how to make food associated with another culture

Pretending that what you’re doing is literally the same thing people in a culture you admire do is always obnoxious appropriation, though. Here are some examples:

  • Claiming to be a member of a culture you’ve only read about because of how strongly what you’ve read resonates with you
  • Using religious ceremonies lifted from other religions completely out of their context (eg: Christians who are really into seeing Jesus as a Jew often do this with modern Jewish rituals; white environmentalists often do this with Native ceremonies)
  • Saying that you must have some distant relatives from the culture you’re interested in, or that you must have been a member of that group in another life, and acting as though this makes you yourself in this life a member of that group 
  • Reading a book written by an anthropologist describing their perspective on the childrearing practices of a group they spent a few months with, then claiming that you’re raising your kids just like that culture does

Denigrating "The Old Testament God" can be antisemitic

In Christian culture and secular-ish culture in English-speaking majority-Christian countries, it’s popular to talk about how awful the “Old Testament God” is.

This can amount to casual antisemitism, even if it’s not intended. Because this kind of talk is often a coded way of claiming that Christianity is loving and good, but Judaism is backward and violent.

What Christians call the “Old Testament” is what Jews call “The Bible”. So “The Old Testament God” is the God that Jews believe in. It’s not so cool to claim that Christians believe in a loving God but that Jews believe in a violent and vengeful God. It’s not accurate, and it’s a claim that has been used to justify a lot of horrific violence.

The Old Testament God, according to both Jews and Christians, created the world and gave humanity the Ten Commandments. Christians base a lot of their theology on things found in the OT. Christians do not really reject everything done by the Old Testament God. Denigrating the “Old Testament God”, more often than not, is an implied rejection of Jews.

It’s true that the OT depicts God doing some fairly troubling and violent things. But that’s also true of the Gospels. For instance, the Gospels depict a lake of fire in which certain types of sinners are tortured forever. That doesn’t mean that Christians believe in a bad God who likes torturing people. It means that ancient religious texts are complicated and that it’s up to religious people to interpret them in a way compatible with human dignity and human rights.

Christians who believe that the New Testament is a new revelation are entirely capable of doing this. So are Jews who do not believe this. Members of both faiths can be religious in a respectful and good way.

Most people who invoke these claims about the Old Testament God don’t mean any harm, but it is part of an antisemitic tradition that hurts people. There are other ways of opposing the brutality done in the name of religion. It’s counterproductive to invoke the antisemitic trope of denigrating the Old Testament God.

It's important to care whether you and others are ok

In some groups, people are taught to follow rules. And told that, if they follow the rules, things will be good. And that following the rules is the only way things can be good.

And then… the consequences of the rules aren’t actually what people say they should be. People get hurt. And then, people who get hurt are pressured to think that nothing is wrong. And that’s bad.

Because you matter. Everyone matters. And if the rules are hurting people, there’s a problem with the rules. Magical thinking won’t make the rules work better, but it will prevent people from fixing them.

Some examples:

Religion:

  • If you’re in a religious group that has rules and,
  • Following the rules as your community requires is causing you serious problems, and…
  • …everyone tells you that if you just keep following all the rules, pray harder, and have more faith, everything will be ok…
  • …something is seriously wrong.
  • (Common examples: gay men being told to pray harder and date women, women being told to pray harder and accept that they shouldn’t have as much power as men because God gave them a different role)

In social justice space:

  • If you don’t feel safe in a Safe Space
  • Or you have reason to *think* you’re not safe in a Safe Space
  • And everyone is telling you that the space is definitely safe and that you’re just imagining the problem…
  • …something is seriously wrong, and you’re allowed to care that it’s wrong and seek to fix the problem (whether within the space or by finding somewhere else to be)