The Journal of Applied Impossibility
I came across an article alleging that California students were being taught to take an oath to Aztec Gods and accused Christianity of "theocide." There is an article in Newsweek about the controversy, but the only people weighing in on what was actually being taught seem to be conservative Christian news sites and someone named Christopher Rufo. The upshot is that I don't know if the accusation of accusations-of-theocide are real, but they certainly are believable. That is, I don't know whether or not they were actually leveled by anyone against anyone, but it sure sounds like the sort of thing I can imagine happening. And if I can imagine a perspective, I can imagine responding to it.
Describing the Christianization of cultures as 'Theocide' is simultaneously too little and too much. Let's take those both in turn. It is too little because
it was not merely a god, but many gods that Christianity did away with. It was not merely a pantheon, but many pantheons. If anything, the accusation should be 'pantheocide' -- or even better, 'polypantheocide' with a conspiracy to commit 'omnipantheocide' -- because Christianity would do away with all the other gods if it could.
But at the same time, this is too much. Christianity didn't kill any gods, because none of them were alive to begin with. The "killing" of gods is a metaphor at best -- a bit of dressing to show emphasis, not the sort of action that rises to the status of so much as a moral gripe.*
One might complain that this is somehow dismissive (disrespectful even) of the many noble, rich cultures that have been erased by the spreading hegemony of Christianity.† To say that their gods are not gods at all, and that they moreover are not dead because they were never alive? This hardly seems to treat them as of equal worth. To this, I plead nolo contendere -- as I hold no commitments to a principle of the equal worth of all cultures.
When I began this essay, schools across America were celebrating The-Day-Formerly-Honoring-Columbus. (Thus, the charges of deicide seemed salient at the time). I have to admit that 'Indigenous Peoples' Day' has always struck me as odd. Like 'Asian American' it folds a massive plurality of diverse cultures into a single bucket to form an ad-hoc identity movement. And like 'Asian American' it incorporates (and treats as an homogenous unity) multiple groups that until twenty seconds ago were at each other's throats. Seemingly this is to oppose a common enemy. One wonders how someone of Chinese ancestry can get along with someone of Japanese ancestry, when both parties claim to care so deeply about connecting with and maintaining the culture of their grandparents and great grandparents. One suspects that perhaps they care deeply about connecting and maintaining that culture with the exception of years like 1937. As it turns out, part of almost every ancient and venerable culture has a tradition of hatred toward at least one of its neighboring ancient and venerable cultures. And it also turns out that one of the hegemonic dictates of the awful, oppressive, imperialist colonizer is that everyone should more or less get along. The only place that we see Asians-as-such is in America and its allied cultures. In Asia, there are Chinese, and there are Koreans, and there are Japanese. But the idea that all of them have a shared identity to which they are equal participants, and to which they are all welcome? This is something else.
The same is true of Indigenous Peoples. It seems odd to me to think that an Aztec and one of his enemies in the flower wars would see themselves as having more in common with one another than with the Spaniards who, whatever other evils they may have wrought, at least sought to put an end to tzompantli construction. Does it seem strange that those who merely material causes of these towers should identify with those who were the efficient cause of such horrors?
So, yes. to these pantheons, I say, "good riddance!"
* I love swords, but "killing a sword" is not something over which to morn. Swords are not people.
† The fact that it is not the only monotheism with a totalizing world view is uncouth to the point of being unmentionable. So too is the fact that as monotheisms go, Christianity leaves a relatively large amount of the cultures in tact. Worst of all is how little we miss the parts that were rooted out. Everyone blusters about colonialism, yet no one has called for the return to cannibalism or foot-binding.
I write about all sorts of things. This is one of the places where I do it.