Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interfaith Women Don Veil as Common Heritage | Womens eNews

Interfaith Women Don Veil as Common Heritage | Womens eNews:

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Niquab.
This is what you think of when someone talks about "veiled women," right? I had been talking about veils in general, out in public the other day, when someone mentioned to me how the US ought to follow in the footsteps of France and other countries, where the veil is banned. I found I had to leave the area, because I disagree with this wholeheartedly! To ban an item is to give it power that it ought not have. Banning alcohol worked SO well, after all, right? How about banning drugs? That hasn't worked so well, either. Why would banning a piece of cloth be any different? After all, we're not talking about Saudi Arabia here, where it's LAW for a woman (Muslim or otherwise) to be veiled. It's not a choice there. Here in America (and in France and Britain and most other places) it is a choice, one that many women have made with a great deal of thought.

Widow's weeds.
After all, we in America have a long history of the wearing of veils, don't we? Europe does, as well. I don't think anyone forced this widow to wear a black veil; likely she chose to wear it both as a sign of her grief, and a sign of her fidelity to the one who had passed on. I've seen many images of frontier women wearing veils during or after funerals, and if you've ever watched Gone With The Wind, you'll note that Scarlet also wears a black dress and veil while in mourning (this clip captures it very well). That doesn't look so frightening, does it? In fact, I'd guess most women think it very attractive, especially the drape of the veil as it flies around her while dancing so passionately with Mr. Butler.  I know that I have envied that dress from the first day I saw it!

Wedding veil.
Then there is this type of veil, something that has come down to us from long past: the wedding veil. Would we ban all women from having the opportunity, the joy, of walking veiled down the aisle (if they so choose) to their husband (or wife!!) to be? Though it's not likely to happen, I know that if I were to marry again, I would very much desire to wear a veil (I did the first time, too - my mother's). I think they are beautiful, flattering, and full of deep and abiding meaning for the one wearing them.

So why is it that so many women are getting told that wearing a veil (yes, the perching of a piece of cloth, no matter the size) on their head in public is now a crime? It's because of that first image, of the niquab. It's because the (sorry ladies, but it's true) feminists of the world are scared, threatened even, by women who truly DO enjoy being that modest.

Mennonite veil.
Oh, I do know that isn't the only reason. There are plenty of others. But pressure from women's groups, claiming that the practice of veiling is abusive and oppressive, is what leads the charge. I've also noticed a few other things. I doubt anyone in France would get upset if a woman wore a wedding veil. I doubt they'd flip out and charge a Mennonite or Amish woman for sporting their veils. I think they'd find themselves in pretty hot water if they tried to take the yarmulka off the head of a devout Jewish woman. These laws are pointed at Muslim women who choose to use more extreme veils, and that has bled over into banning even head scarves and doilies. I find the targeted laws to be very, very disturbing.

I also wear headscarves occasionally. I'm actually wearing one right now (from the cold, rather than because of religious edict at this particular moment). When I worship the Olympian gods (specifically Zeus, Hera, or Aesclepius), I veil myself. I cover my hair, because it feels right, and because it was (and is) considered proper etiquette to do so. No one has forced me to do it, and in fact there have been other Hellenic polytheists who've taken objection to my veiling of myself. I admit to confusion over it. Why is it scary if I choose to cover a part of myself before exposing myself to my gods? Why is it so terrifying if someone else does it?

I do not agree with laws requiring veiling. To me, that takes away the religious joy of the action. When I veil, I do so because of the immense feeling of rightness that comes along with the action. Making it mandatory would remove that joy, make it a duty, a chore, a mere task. It would also mean that others (men or women) would be veiled without feeling the deep and abiding love of the gods that I do. That takes away from my own experience.

Surely, in a country like ours, we can allow people to make choices of their own. Surely we can let a woman decide if she wants to wear a headscarf or not. We should also educate, not just women but all people, that it IS a choice, a decision to be made by every individual to veil or not veil as they feel called.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec. 28

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." -- Benjamin Franklin

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." -- Hal Borland

"The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!" -- Edward Payson Powell

"The new year begins in a snow-storm of white vows." -- George William Curtis

"Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go." -- Brooks Atkinson

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential." -- Ellen Goodman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec 21

"If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm." -- Mohandas Gandhi

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree." -- Roy L. Smith

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other." -- Burton Hillis

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly." -- Andy Rooney

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall." -- Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

"Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart." -- Washington Irving

Monday, December 19, 2011

Interfaith Celebration?

Interfaith Celebration Scheduled After Santa Asked to Leave

A school in Calabro has a long standing tradition of letting the students have pictures with Santa. A Jewish mother complained this year, stating "no other religions were present." I'm confused... the jolly red clad man really has nothing to do with *Christmas* at all. Why is it that the one Jewish set of children (or child... the article doesn't say) couldn't just sit out the voluntary pictures (anything that costs $1.00 is voluntary!). Now they have pictures with Santa, a menorah (for Judaism), or a Kwanzaa symbol. Um... now Christianity isn't represented. And neither is Solstice! Or Yule! I think perhaps someone, somewhere in Calabro has missed the point.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Interfaith Couples Face December Dilemma - WestportNow.com - Westport, Connecticut

Interfaith Couples Face December Dilemma - WestportNow.com - Westport, Connecticut:

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This article is brief but interesting. The Rabbi involved in the discussion talks about how new parents who are Christian/Jewish mix can raise their children. She comments that parents should not try to blend traditions, but pick one or the other, something I disagree with strongly. There are most definitely things which should be held up as part of one tradition and not the other(s), but there are definitely appropriate times to blend things together, and to show children that more can be made of their connection with the gods in whom they believe.

A good example of this is the Christmas tree. The primeval roots of the Christmas tree to back long before Christianity or Judaism, to a time when worshippers of ancient gods saw the trees as representative of the spirits or gods of winter. Decorations came down through a variety of traditions including Italian, Greek, Roman, Jewish, Christian, and others. Presents, too, come from a wide variety of traditions. No one religion "owns" the decorated winter fir tree with the presents under it, and it can be a marvelous blending point.

In my own interfaith family (Hellenic polytheist, Christian, agnostic, and children still working it out), we celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Yuletide, and just plain ol' Santa day. We express our love of each of these holy days separately, as well as touching on the ways they are similar and different. It always warms my heart to hear our largely Christian educated children saying, "Is it time for the 8 days of Hannukah? Is it time yet for the stories?" They love the quiet time of lighting the candles, sharing the stories of the oil in the temple of Jerusalem, and the contemplative silence afterward. They also look forward to the arrival of the Christ Child, and the wassailing of the trees in the forest by our house. And then there's Santa, our purely secular gentleman who bridges all traditions in our home.

How do you blend traditions in your household? What traditions do you encompass?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman: The Rituals of Mourning in an Interfaith Family

Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman: The Rituals of Mourning in an Interfaith Family:

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This is a beautiful blog entry by Rev. Eleanor Bregman. She talks about how she goes about mourning her mother's death a few years ago, and how she commemorates that passing each year around this time. She is a Christian minister who is married into a Jewish family, and they celebrate many different rituals together. Her commentary about her children building bridges really touched my heart.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec. 14

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?" -- J.B. Priestley

"When snow falls, nature listens."  -- Antoinette van Kleeff

"There's one good thing about snow, it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor's." -- Clyde Moore

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec 7

“As far as her mom was concerned, tea fixed everything. Have a cold? Have some tea. Broken bones? There's a tea for that too. Somewhere in her mother's pantry, Laurel suspected, was a box of tea that said, 'In case of Armageddon, steep three to five minutes.” -- Aprilynne Pike, Illusions

“When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night,the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.” -- Alice Hoffman, Here on Earth


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How an interfaith family can celebrate the holidays - On Parenting - The Washington Post

How an interfaith family can celebrate the holidays - On Parenting - The Washington Post:

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This article is a fairly good (though very short) one about how Jewish and Christian families can blend their holy days together. The idea is great, but I found some of the article to be a bit untimely. For instance, it's suggested that the couple/family start talking about things "a while before" the holiday in question. For me, that's the kind of thing I advocate people to discuss before marriage, before children, before truly forming a *family*. If you haven't discussed these things before moving in together, then I have to ask myself, what reason do you have for being together? These are basic, essential questions about faith and belief, regardless of the religions involved.

My own additions to the article's suggestions would be:

* start talking about religious beliefs BEFORE being serious, so that nothing blindsides you later on
* form your own family traditions, such as not turning on the Christmas tree lights until you are done with the Menorah lighting and prayers, or taking the time to honor different ancestors as candles or tree lights are lit
* involve your children, if you have them - this time of year is magical no matter what tradition you belong to, and allowing them to create rituals and traditions will warm their own hearts as well as yours
* don't be afraid to share "single tradition" stories, provided you're taking time to share various other stories at other times - read The Night Before Christmas on the 24th, and the story of the Oak and Holly Kings on the 21st, share the joy of Kwaanza stories on yet another night

I like to remind people that interfaith is not about picking one faith over another, nor is it (necessarily) making a messy smashed up version that bears no resemblance to any of the originating traditions. There can be times set aside for honoring each faith singly, as well as finding comfortable and honorable ways to blend them together into a true holy day season.

My own family celebrates many things at this time of year. Throughout December, we like to decorate, put up lights, and just generally feel festive. We sing carols from the Christian traditions, gather Yule logs from my pagan traditions, light the Hannukah menorah from the Jewish faith, and as much else as we can figure out. It's a beautiful time, and our children learn about the blend (of lights and song, of warm fires and joyous family togetherness) and about the single faiths (Christian, pagan, Hellenic, Jewish, agnostic).

What sort of family traditions have you created? Are they interfaith? multifaith? How did they come to be?