Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Issue Of Silence Pt. 1

I was lucky to grow up in a home where I didn't exactly have to hide who I was. It was made pretty obvious to me that, short of doing drugs and sleeping around (or anything worse than that), my parents knew I was a good kid and trusted me to have a good head on my shoulders.

Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone's father will make them an altar table out of scrap wood. Not everyone's mother will give them only one admonition: Don't summon anything you can't handle.

So, what about when your parents aren't enthusiastic, or even tolerant, about your budding religion? Gosh, that's a tough one for the teens, and not so much for those of us who have paid our own rent. Let me walk you through the wonderful world of "tough titty."

You own nothing until you are 1: Legally Emancipated. 2: Of The Age of Majority.

"I'm new to this religion, but I want to make my own altar. My parents are die-hard Christians and don't want me doing this stuff. I live in an attic room which is private, but how do I hide my altar in case they come in my room?" - Teen poster on a Pagan forum (paraphrased).

For those that live in their parent's homes: Your "room" does not belong to you. It's their room. They pay the rent/mortgage/own the house, they pay the utilities, they own the title on the home. Not a single stick of it belongs to you. As such, legally, as long as they provide you with the essentials of life (food, shelter, clothing, basic sanitary needs) anything else is pretty much left to the whims of their good graces. Most of us had pretty permissive, generous, parents when you think about it that way.

If, as a minor, one's parents disagree with something they're getting up to the parent has every legal right to deprive them of that as long as it does not interfere with essential needs (aforementioned). They can drag your shit out into the yard and set it on fire if they like - you have no legal recourse in the matter.

Subjecting one's faith to the sort of skulduggery required to actively display AND conceal it for any number of years (we'll say "4") will require lying to them, and disrespecting the sacrifices they make for your benefit, and subjecting your own faith to the risks of inevitable discovery and destruction of one's tools, books, and materials.

"I think if you believe in something, you should be able to express it any way you feel, inward and outward." - Same Pagan Teen.

God, I wish I lived in a world like that. I don't, you don't, we don't. The world is slowly changing, but some folks don't feel that way. Some parents worry that religious stuff (specifically witchcraft or other "fringe" practices) are dangerous to their kid. They will do what they feel is best to protect their children and their home - including barring you from your religious practices when/if they do find out, grounding you, prohibiting you from seeing anyone they suspect of being associated with your activities, and so on.

I don't think it's exactly "right" that parents can own you to your last stitch unless you get a court order emancipating yourself, but I also don't think it's right for someone who is a dependent to assume they're co-owner in the home and have the associated "rights" to do things like paint the walls and turn their bedroom into a pagan temple.

"I can just tell them it's my nightstand" - Lying Pagan Teens The World Over.

Your parents aren't that stupid. Well, I dunno, maybe they are, but I can guarantee they aren't so stupid as to think that table in the corner, well away from your bed, covered in weird shit, is a nightstand. Altars tend to have a symmetry and arrangement to them. They tend to contain certain items and have a certain layout or look to them.

One of my childhood friends dabbled in witchcraft at one point and decided to be clever and "hide" an altar in her bedroom. Her parents were (like the Pagan Teen above) very strict Christians, at least in part. Let us merely say that they could always repent Sunday for the overt sins of Saturday. Because of this they kept their kids on a short leash, and of course their kids rebelled.

She threw a scrap of black fabric over a little corner table, and arranged dozens of items on it. To my eye it looked like an altar, to her brother's eye it looked like an altar. To all of her friends it looked like an altar. To her parents? It looked like an altar.

She had lied for months about it being a "nightstand", secreting away the more tell-tale items in places like the folds of her mattress, or a loose floorboard in the closet. But eventually they heard the noise of her assembling it, and discovered the deception. She caught a glimpse of the still-thriving "spare the rod, spoil the child" worldview and all of her things were chucked into a box and thrown in the trash. She managed to save a few items, which were ferreted away by friends in the night - her deity statues, however, suffered the full-blown wrath of an angry fundie.

Ten years later she has never resumed practicing - swearing that the day her things were thrown away, her "power" was broken.

It's not fair!
"You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?"

If I lied to my parents for months (or years) on end, and they found me out in that lie, I'd fully expect (though certainly not enjoy) the punishment that would follow. I would expect that the object of protest (the altar, the books, the "juju shit") would be hauled out to the garbage, and perhaps burnt right in front of me. I might be made to feed my own "sacred texts" to the flame.

When I lived, briefly, with my fiancee's family I kept my goods in a pyrographed box, and that box was in a backpack, and that backpack was in my fiancee's closet. His mother is a devout Christian, and it would hurt her emotionally to have seen those items on display.

Would it have been fair to -her- to have taken in this relative stranger, only to discover that said stranger did things that are -literally- evil and demonic in her worldview? Is it fair to parents to be lied to, jerked around, and discover that deception within their own home?

No. And two wrongs don't make a right, so consider - even if only for a moment - keeping your faith within your heart, silent and still (them waters run deep!) until you can give it the exterior space and respect it deserves.

No comments:

Post a Comment