When something horrible and shocking happens (like Sunday's shootings at Jewish community centers in Kansas) we're often left scrambling to make sense of the situation, to find meaning in its brute meaninglessness.
When it came out that this violence was racially motivated I'm sure a lot of Heathens across the country whispered the prayer, "Oh Gods, please don't let him be one of us!"
Turns out he was according to CNN "reporter" Daniel Burke. At least at one point in his life Frazier Glenn Cross claimed association with the white supremacist strain of Odinism. He's also identified as a Christian, an atheist and a general monotheist over the years so it appears that this man was either deeply confused in his religious identity or an opportunistic predator who used faith to recruit people to his twisted, hateful ideology.
People in our communities are doing their damndest to distance themselves from this man's beliefs and actions and rightly so for they are utterly reprehensible. Not only is there no valor to be had in such actions but racial purity is a modern conception that played no part in the lives or worldview of our cultural ancestors. Ancient Germanic peoples had extensive trade and military relations with the populations of Europe, Asia and Africa and often happily and seamlessly intermingled with these local groups, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with history and archaeology can tell you. Moreover, the sacred stories of our Gods show the same multi-culturalism.
And yet the fact that many of us were concerned when this story started breaking shows how infected with this vile poison so much of contemporary Heathenry has become. I've written about this topic at length, including for my 2009 Master's thesis in religious studies which was subsequently published through Sanngetal Press as "Transgressing Faith: Race, Gender and the Problem of Ergi in Modern Heathenry."
This is a problem that we cannot continue to ignore or downplay. It's not enough to simply distance ourselves from racist Heathens, to paint them as a small but vocal minority on the fringes of the community. We must provide no room for this insidious evil to take root and be uncompromising in our intolerance for the intolerant. When we cowardly give these racist wingnuts a pass in the interests of avoiding conflict and maintaining "frith" we make ourselves culpable for their actions. If we don't stop them from speaking for us, we must live with the consequences of them doing just that. We've seen what's happened in Wicca and contemporary paganism when people look the other way, make apologies and try to sweep the nasty stuff under the carpet for the sake of appearances and harmony - we Heathens can and should do better.
We may not be able to change the culture at large but we can damn sure do it in our own kindreds and groups, in the events we attend and organizations we participate in. All the pretty sounding policy statements in the world don't amount to a hill of beans if we look the other way when someone tells a racist, sexist or homophobic joke or worse. We must be willing to take a stand, to say, "Not here. Not among my people." Because all evil requires to flourish is the indifference or acquiescence of good people. Let us, as Heathens, fight the good fight and take an uncompromising stance against hatred and ignorance.
Perhaps then we can find some meaning in the aftermath of this terrible event.
In the meantime, Heathens Against Racism have started a fundraiser to raise money for the victims of this Kansas tragedy.