I don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to what constitutes cultural misappropriation and what doesn’t. I do think that sometimes though, we UUs set up straw-men (please don’t knock me for not using inclusive language on that word), thinking we’ll be able to show somebody out. And I think that has just happened to me.
mloustau poses the following scenario:
A queer couple wants to get married in a Roman Catholic church, because they were both raised Catholic and they feel a deep connection to their faith. They would like to adapt a Roman Catholic ritual – the marriage ceremony – to fit the circumstances of their wedding – between two people who chose identities of the same gender.
Is this cultural misappropriation? After all, the queer couple, in the eyes of Roman Catholic Church, are no longer members in good standing of the Roman Catholic community, by virtue of their being in a same-gender intimate relationship. Under your guidelines, it would seem that, as non-members, they would not be entitled to adapt the ritual for their own needs. Nor would they would have a way of challenging a Roman Catholic priest who might decide that, as non-members, they are not allowed to have their wedding in a Roman Catholic church.
The point that I am making is that there is a crucial question that is left out of your analysis of cultural misappropriation: Who gets to define “membership” in a group? If we say that membership is the criterion for “owning” a ritual and thus for being able to use it and adapt it, are we not giving too much power to the traditional arbiters of group membership, like the clerical hierarchy in the Roman Catholic church?
Straw man! Straw man! Straw man!
Why do I say that? Because in this scenario, both people had been RAISED Catholic. Just because they are no longer members of a Catholic church doesn’t mean that they aren’t culturally Catholic and aren’t Catholic now. Of course they can adapt the ceremony as they will (Catholics do do this you know). Membership isn’t everything. If membership were everything, then reform movements in any religious group would be considered outsiders (yes I know they are considered outsiders in many cases). Doesn’t mean that they can’t use the rituals that are culturally relevant to them.
This scenario is totally different from the what I am talking against……syncretistic UUism that says that because it’s out there we can use it with no real understanding of the ritual or the tradition that it comes from.
Alright, class is over. Time to get off the computer.