Earlier this month, pope Francis declared that Donald Trump wasn’t a Christian, because of his harsh political position to the immigrant problem. In response Trump exclaimed that he was a very good Christian indeed, and that it was he who would prevent the further weathering of the good old Christian principles in the United States.
Who is correct, which one is a Christian, and which one isn’t.
Liberal Muslims claim that ISIS has nothing to do with the Muslim faith, since Islam demands respect for all human beings. The self-proclaimed Caliphate on the other hand claims that it is the moral duty of all Muslims to destroy the non-believers as well as those that do not adhere to their own ruthless and rough interpretation of the faith.
What these 2 examples show is the ancient contradiction is societies between the left wing of a society or belief system and the right wing. The right wing claims to defend the basic and fundamental truths their society stands for, and the left wing claims that in doing so the right wing destroyed the very values their faith stands for.
The same contradiction is quite evident in Asatru. Our religion keeps on being haunted by the shadows of the atrocities of the second world war, the European collective feeling of guilt. The fact that one of the main architects of the third Reich, Himmler, was greatly influenced by Germanic mysticism doesn’t do much good to this dilemma.
We could go as far as declare that those events had nothing to do with Asatru -and I’ve seen this in many books-, but by doing so, aren’t we putting ourselves in the position of the Muslims and ISIS. Shouldn’t we just accept that certain believers in the old Gods did dreadful things, and in the same time proclaim that we do believe in the same Gods, but not in the same vision on society? And, let us never forget that many of the main supporters of the Reich declared themselves to be firmly believing Christians.
To get back to what the pope said, I personally believe he is wrong in his quite explicit statement. Donald Trump is indeed a Christian, believes in the same basic Christian principles and God, and firmly believes he is acting in the best interests of his faith, just as the pope does. What the pope should have done, is point out that the Christianity proclaimed by Trump isn’t the Christianity he as Pope likes to see develop.
In the same way, we as Asatruar, should try to avoid to negate the fact that right wing and left, (and not to forget centre) oriented believers do fundamentally share the same basic set of beliefs. There is no need to discuss, based upon any political vision, who is a righteous ‘Asatru-believer’ and who is not. Each of them has made his or her own assessment of the situation they encounter, based upon the same set of values. They merely come to a different conclusion, mainly because the weight they attribute to certain values shifts in function of their own situation. Thus in my opinion, Asatruar can freely and without (much) limitations choose between right or left wing in politics, without risking to be called an untrue Asatru believer. Religion offers a set of values, adaptable to each and everyone, not forcing anyone in any corner of society.
A very “hot” example is the present immigration crisis, I have talked to many people and Asatruar on that subject in the last months. On one side of the spectrum you have the people who are oriented to the left side. They refer to our old customs of hospitality and claim our old ways demand we welcome immigrants. They claim that in remaining true to our fundamental values in stressful situations we prove that our values are true and firm, and this is certainly a valuable point to be made. On the right hand side of the spectrum you have those that claim that in admitting too many of these immigrant in our society, we are destroying or at least diluting our own values, and that in the end this could even result in the final destruction of the values that are so dearly held by the left wing (a.o. hospitality). This also is a valuable argument. In fact, both are defending the same very basic values, but they have made another assessment of the situation. Left wing adherents generally focus more on the individual needs of the immigrants, whereas right wing adherents feel the needs of the community outweigh the needs of the individuals. Yet they still defend the same basic ideas. Who is right, who is wrong? None of them is right, none of them is wrong, they are just part of the wide spectrum of opinions that all together constitute the whole truth of society.
Thus the question isn’t whether right wing should consider left wingers to be untrue believers or the opposite, the question is whether modern society, which has been and still is being formed by the commonly shared values of both, can accept certain points of view.
And this is where it -scientifically- becomes interesting, since society is constantly forming and the boundaries of the accepted are constantly shifting. I am quite sure a Viking of the 8th century considers us to be weaklings, yet not because of our religious views. He would be far more culture-shocked by the softening of our ways in comparison to his age.
Until a few hundred years ago, the church had no problem forcibly converting adherents to other religions to their own so-called true faith, and they certainly would have opposed to immigration of large groups of Muslims into the western world. The present pope proclaims exactly the opposite.
Less than 40 years ago, adultery in Belgium was punishable by imprisonment (although this punishment was rarely executed) and even today the subject of equal gender marriages is quite controversial in Southern and Eastern Europe. Whereas North and Western Europe consider this to be one of their basic values. The idea of complete equality between men and women only emerged in the 70’ies through the eighties and is now considered as the very basics of our modern society. Thus we mustn’t be amazed that many elderly people still cling to their old role pattern.
Society is divers, and any religion that wishes to survive in this society must be equally diverse, since it is this diversity that will ensure its adaptability and future survival.
As such I have a personally quite allergic to statement such as “with those people, you can’t talk at all because do not understand that value X is supreme. “ The only thing such a statement proves is that the person uttering it isn’t ready to be talked to. It is my experience that most normal people can be talked with, it is merely the truly brainwashed fanatics that cannot be reasoned with. Most people just want to belong to…. . A social experiment I recall in this context (unfortunately I can’t recall its source) was conducted in the late nineties in Germany. Sociologists stated talking to skin heads and found that most of them could be reasoned with and in truth didn’t really care to much for the harsh visions of their “group”, yet they claimed to adhere to these visions and lived up to them because they wanted to belong.
And that is the main, and as far as I am concerned principal value of Asatru, community, the belonging to, the sense of a common set of values centred around the beliefs of our ancestors. The fact that we centre around those ancestral beliefs is part of our wish to belong to that history and to create a community across these ages. Another important element is the thing of equals. The principle that everyone’s opinion has the same value and everyone has the right of speech, although limited to the laws convened upon by that community. The extend of the community isn’t fixed, each Asatruar and Asatru organisation has the right to determine this for itself, spanning the whole human race, or limited to the dozen participants of a kindred. And I would like to remind you that the concept of the thing presupposes different opinions on society, if not no thing would be needed
As such almost all layers of politics can appeal to Asatruar, without any one of them rightfully claiming the others false believers. Only such extremities that go against our very basic values cannot be accepted. What these are is a question to be answered differently in every era and time by its own right. What we now consider barbaric was quite common until recently and who knows what will be thought of our ways within some decades.
What am I? right-winged or left winged, or centre, I am none of those, I have some very explicit views on certain subjects, some of them can be considered to be explicitly right others extremely left. Some float in between. I guess I am a bridge builder. In my view, the important thing is never to stop listening and questioning both others and yourself, and to realise the relativity of all things human.
If one thing can be learned of the myth of Ragnarok, it is that all things, even the most firmly founded come to an end eventually, whether it be right winged or left winged.