sex+politics-religion
September 9, 2009 8:01 AM   Subscribe

How to get along with my girlfriend when the subject turns to her religion?

my girlfriend is passionate about her spiritual path (native american), and usually I am pretty easy-going, but the other night she mentioned that one of the ceremonies the lakota have involves animal (dog) sacrifice. I told her I thought that was abhorrent, and although she had never witnessed such a ceremony, she felt that was/is justifiable. Unfortunately, the argument became heated, ad I regret starting it. I fear that there will be more such arguments in the future. What can I do to avoid them, or at least lessen the strife?
posted by youchirren to Human Relations (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just a data point, a quick but thorough Googling turns up virtually nothing talking about any sort of Native American animal sacrifice. Plus, I'm no expert, but Native Americans are typically incredibly reverent of animals, I find it hard to believe that Native Americans did this.

I think your girlfriend has been misled. Just curious, but are you Christian? Because if you are, you should know that you partake in cannibalism every Sunday. Christians really believe that the bread and wine actually turns into Jesus' flesh and blood. Transubstantiation.

Emphasis added because Christians really, really, really believe it, not because I think it's ridiculous. (I do.)
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:10 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Either you're okay with being in a relationship with someone who's okay with animal sacrifice, or you're not. You need to figure out which it is; sooner better than later.

(This is not a DTMFA answer. You could certainly argue that sacrificing a dog in a religious ceremony isn't any more offensive than having a cheeseburger for lunch. But either you can live with this, or you can't. Pretending you don't have a problem with it when you do is a recipe for potential disaster later on.)
posted by EarBucket at 8:10 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think your girlfriend has been misled. Just curious, but are you Christian? Because if you are, you should know that you partake in cannibalism every Sunday. Christians really believe that the bread and wine actually turns into Jesus' flesh and blood. Transubstantiation.

FWIW, many, many Christians do not believe this. Transubstantiation is a Catholic doctrine that Protestants don't subscribe to.
posted by EarBucket at 8:11 AM on September 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


FWIW, many, many Christians do not believe this. Transubstantiation is a Catholic doctrine that Protestants don't subscribe to.

Oh damn, I should have added that. I was raised Protestant! Big whoops. In any case, Catholics do, as well as many other variants.

But thanks for catching that!
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:15 AM on September 9, 2009


Would you feel differently if it was chicken sacrifice?
posted by odinsdream at 8:16 AM on September 9, 2009


Religion in general would be a dealbreaker for me, but animal sacrifice? I'd call the police.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:18 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Either you're okay with being in a relationship with someone who's okay with animal sacrifice, or you're not.

Oh come on. Surely the number of animals killed in this alleged Lakota ceremony pale in comparison to the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year just at the animal shelter down the street from my house (more than 1000, according to their website).

This has nothing to do with animal sacrifice and everything to do with the attitude that one culture is "better" or "more civilized" than another. Instead of looking at these discussions as an opportunity to moralize, can you look at them as an opportunity to listen and learn?
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on September 9, 2009 [21 favorites]


"Native American" seems oddly broad for a religion. Lakota seems more specific. Is she "native american" religious, or is she Lakota religious? The former seems non-rigorous and something I would be prone to scorn. Does she actually have a specific tradition she wants to follow, and does that include animal sacrifice? Or is she simply refusing to judge those who do practice that one particular ritual that in no way informs her personal spiritual journey?
posted by Nonce at 8:23 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you need to have a conversation in which you discuss the level of interest and support you each expect from the other when it comes to religion. Would she be ok with exploring her spiritual path but not discussing it with you, or only discussing some parts of it? Can she accept that you find certain practices abhorrent, whereas she finds them legitimate and meaningful? Can you accept that she finds value in a practice you find abhorrent? Can you both agree to disagree, or do you feel the need to continue to try to persuade each other?

Also, it's not clear if she would actually partake in an animal sacrifice ritual, or if she simply thinks it's a justifiable part of someone else's religious practice. I actually think this is an important distinction. I don't think killing animals is inherently morally wrong, so if I read about ancient cultures performing ritual animal sacrifice it doesn't bother me and I can sort of see how it fit into their religious and social world. If my neighbor decided to sacrifice his dog, however, I would be completely horrified.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:25 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Native Americans are typically incredibly reverent of animals, I find it hard to believe that Native Americans did this.

I think your girlfriend has been misled. Just curious, but are you Christian? Because if you are, you should know that you partake in cannibalism every Sunday. Christians really believe that the bread and wine actually turns into Jesus' flesh and blood. Transubstantiation.


A) In some Native American cultures, for example the Plains people, it was believed that game, generally buffalo, who were killed had 'sacrificed' themselves for the benefit of the people. Also, some members of the Iroquois Nation/League/Confederacy did practice animal sacrifice.

B) Transubstantiation is not a pan-Christian belief.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:25 AM on September 9, 2009


Just a data point, a quick but thorough Googling turns up virtually nothing talking about any sort of Native American animal sacrifice. Plus, I'm no expert, but Native Americans are typically incredibly reverent of animals, I find it hard to believe that Native Americans did this.

Quick but thorough? Try again. There's a direct reference to a dog sacrifice as part of the 1998 Wakpamni Sun Dance, a Lakota religious observance. Following the sacrifice, "all participants were offered communion with the wakinyan oyate through partaking of sacred dog soup."

Or maybe this, from Lewis & Clark's journals: "The Lakota kept dogs for many purposes, some for hunting and as watchdogs and pets, others to pull travois loaded with household goods from one camp to another. Still others were kept as meat animals, and several Lakota ceremonies involved eating dog meat, considered to be a special treat."

So, this is a bona fide part of the Lakota religious practices, and the answer to the question will not be found in suggesting that it is otherwise.
posted by jedicus at 8:28 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know, let's talk about Native Americans and animal sacrifice instead of transubstantiation! Here's information about an Iroquois dog-sacrificing ritual. Not Lakota, I realize, but another data point that suggests it might not be entirely a myth. (There's also a band called White Dog Sacrifice that has the best website ever.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:29 AM on September 9, 2009


I suspect that the derailing of this thread might be related to the fact that there doesn't seem to be much to say to your question directly, OP. If all else is good in the relationship, and if she's not hacking up dogs in your living room, just try not to worry, if you can. It's OK to disagree about some stuff, and you haven't given any evidence in your question that this specific part of her religious path is about to become really central and overwhelming to her. If it ever starts to look that way, think again. She knows how you feel now and that's a good thing.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:35 AM on September 9, 2009


gross oversimplification

I think this is actually the main issue--not just in the transubstantiation derail, but in your situation with your girlfriend as well.

I think that to learn about a culture that incorporated ritual animal sacrifice as part of the social and religious life of its people, and to see that culture as having found a way to make meaning of their existence is fine and potentially edifying. I think that to zoom in on one or two practices (animal sacrifice, particular prayers, particular rituals) without the context of culture, and to say "This is good, and I could appropriate this and have it give meaning to my life" is a gross oversimplification of how and why one does religion.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:36 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


To actually answer your question, which was "How can I avoid this/lessen strife" you can just not bring it up. Just don't talk religion. Or, if you do, try to keep an open mind and don't judge her beliefs. She is entitled to believe whatever she chooses, and you are equally entitled to leave her if her religious beliefs horrify you.

You can also try letting her know that while you accept her beliefs, you are not interested in discussing the ins and outs of the traditions.

Religion has a way of influencing someone's entire life and outlook. Are you worried her acceptance of this sacrifice will lead her to take part in it? Does that make you hate her or find her disgusting? Then she may not be the girl for you.

My point is, try to accept her ideas rather than chirp in with your own opinions.
posted by caveat at 8:36 AM on September 9, 2009


In any case, this seems like when my girlfriend decided she was Wiccan. She thought it was neat, but she is effectively atheist. Never practiced it or went into it any further than reading some books. You don't tell us how actively your girlfriend is practicing this religion, so it could be difficult to answer. When you say that she has never witnessed this ceremony, does it mean that she belongs to a group that partakes in these sacrifices, but she has never had a chance to be there? Or does it mean that, like most of us, we've never witnessed it because we're just not inside a culture that participates it.

I could see arguing with you about how it is justified. I love animals, but if I wanted to play devil's advocate to defend my, or her, religion, I'm sure I could find plenty of ways to make it justifiable.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:37 AM on September 9, 2009


So either the OP is YAY ANIMAL SACRIFICE or a moralizing jerk? There's no middle ground there? He or she couldn't possibly understand the significance to his/her girlfriend's people and still be appalled at the need to to actually kill the dog?

Dogs were domesticated as a food source. It is our own learned, cultural taboo that makes it so squicky to eat them, along with cats horses. Their utility meant that they produced more calories alive than dead, so we develop a cultural proscription against it.

He can go ahead and be appaled at the need to kill a dog, and also recognize that he's being a jerk for making a big deal about it, considering that most people in Western European/American cultures consume vast quantities of meat.
posted by muddgirl at 8:37 AM on September 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


[few comments removed - please stop with the transubstantiation derail and the OMGOMG stuff, be helpful or stay out, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2009


Yes, but it's a vegan cannibalism because Christ gave himself freely to us, consenting to us eating him.
Seriously, though, the cannibalism thing, while facile and sometimes amusing, is a pretty sore point with many Catholics because it is used by some Protestants as a slander against us in some pretty terrible ways. Please don't compare Transubstantiation to actual sacrifice of a living dog -- it's very different morally, ethically, and practically, and making the comparison perpetuates the anti-Catholicism that has historically been strong in the U.S. and is quite offensive.

Back to youchirren's question, one way to keep the arguments from escalating might be to ask questions rather than make statements. Telling her it's abhorrent sets up an adversarial dynamic from the get-go. If you ask, seeking to genuinely gain information (rather than just asking so you can trip her up with her own words later) it's not as adversarial; she gets to educate you about something she's passionate in. By learning more, you can decide whether you agree with her, whether you disagree but can respect her belief, or whether you can't respect it or her and need to move on. In this case, asking for more detail might reveal that what she's heard is sketchy and ill-informed, or you might learn about the whys and wherefores of the practice and know more about why she thinks it could be justified.
posted by katemonster at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


What can I do to avoid them, or at least lessen the strife?

Not mention to your girlfriend that you find her religious practices distasteful. And don't engage her in discussion if she mentions it.
posted by Solomon at 8:43 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, just let it go. You don't need to agree on everything.

Unless she actually plans to participate in dog-sacrifice, this is purely academic. Arguing about it isn't going to change her mind or yours, and it will just drive a wedge between the two of you.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:48 AM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Seconding Meg_Murry's advice, and also the request for some important clarifications --- does your girlfriend actively follow specifically-Lakota practices? Also, are you vegan, or have very strong beliefs about killing animals for human use?

I am areligious myself, & grew up around ultra-religious/devout friends whose views about spirituality and God often made me deeply uncomfortable. We just would completely avoid the issue altogether after it was clear that I didn't like listening to them and they didn't like listening to me when it came to religion. I lost touch with them after high school --- I've always regretted that I never took the opportunity back then to learn more about something completely beyond the realm of my personal experience rather than focusing on my own profound discomfort on the topic.
posted by phonebia at 8:48 AM on September 9, 2009


This should not be a referendum on the practice; it is not the asker's question. If you want to lessen the strife, youchirren, and you want to remain together, you need to refrain from discussing it at all.

Oh come on. Surely the number of animals killed in this alleged Lakota ceremony pale in comparison to the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year just at the animal shelter down the street from my house (more than 1000, according to their website).

This has nothing to do with animal sacrifice and everything to do with the attitude that one culture is "better" or "more civilized" than another. Instead of looking at these discussions as an opportunity to moralize, can you look at them as an opportunity to listen and learn?
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on September 9


To address this, there is no ethical difference between a Lakotan dog sacrifice and, say, a Satanist kitten sacrifice. There is a difference between these two and the sad but necessary euthanization of animals for whom there is no hope for a better future. If you don't understand this, go volunteer at that shelter.

I would not date someone who killed animals for religious reasons, even though I eat animals and believe that animal testing for scientific and medical reasons is morally sound, but it does not have to be an issue for the couple if the asker is willing to just ignore it: as I doubt the dog sacrificing happens all that often.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:00 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is she Native American herself?

As far as I know, there is no animal sacrifice as part of the Seven Rites of the Lakota religion. Self-inflicted torture, on consenting adult men, yes. Killing dogs? Never heard of it. You sure she's not falling in with a bunch of bullshitters?

Years ago a Native student told me how the other Native students could tell when a white wannabe joined their Native students email list. The interlopers always had names like "Moon Rises Over Mountain," while, as she said, all REAL Indians are named "Leonard" or "Pisses Behind Tent."
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:03 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love dogs, had them as pets since I was very young, couldn't imagine deliberately hurting one, let alone killing one (for whatever reason).

And yet, step outside of my cultural blinkers and take a good hard look at something like a Chow, and man, there's a lot of good meat on those things.

muddgirl nails it above: the issue here is about cultural taboos and only moral if you insist that it be so. So, as to how to avoid future arguments "or at least lessen the strife", all I can say is, DON'T GO THERE. This means:

1. don't bring it up yourself. period.
2. if she should bring it up, take a deep breath, count to ten (or perhaps fifty) and remind yourself, she's NOT saying these things to drive you crazy with her inhuman savagery, she's just sharing a profound cultural difference.

Also, if you haven't seen it, I'd recommend the movie LITTLE BIG MAN as it's very much concerned with the humanity (and the tragedy) of the Cheyenne Nation ... and yes, they ate dogs.
posted by philip-random at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you a vegan? If not, how is dog chopped up and eaten as religious ritual different than cow chopped up and eaten as Labor Day BBQ?
posted by hworth at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I would not date someone who killed animals for religious reasons, even though I eat animals and believe that animal testing for scientific and medical reasons is morally sound

It seems like in the Lakotan ceremony described here and in many Native American ceremonies, the animal is eaten after the sacrifice. So yeah, still missing the difference. But you're right, this doesn't really answer the question beyond the asker's implied assumption that he has a right to argue with the morality of her cultural background.
posted by muddgirl at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2009


I'll take a crack at interpreting what's going on in her mind. Not saying this is true in her case, but this is what I tend to do:

You say:

"That Lakota tradition is abhorrent."

She hears it as:

"The Lakota do abhorrent things."

She mentally interprets that as:

"A major part of your identity is abhorrent."

Which immediately puts her on the defensive, and that's how the argument starts. She doesn't think she's just defending dog sacrifice, she thinks she's defending the Lakota and, by extension, herself.

Not saying it makes sense...but it's difficult to mentally separate that stuff. It's too personal. I still bristle if my atheist boyfriend makes a disparaging comment about Christians, and I haven't gone to church in years. I can't help it, I feel like I have to defend myself for some reason, because it was a major part of my upbringing and my family.

Try not to pass judgment on what she says are her cultural traditions, even if they seem extreme. Avoid a knee-jerk reaction like "That's sick! Why would anyone do that?" I think saying "Really? Why is that? Tell me more about it, why is it important?" and acting interested in learning more, will probably go far in defusing any potential conflict. At the very least, try to just nod and say "Huh. I didn't know that" and then change the subject.
posted by castlebravo at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


this doesn't really answer the question beyond the asker's implied assumption that he has a right to argue with the morality of her cultural background.

I hope there's no serious argument here as to whether or not the "asker" has the RIGHT to argue the morality of his girlfriend's cultural background. Of course, he does. The question is, does he WANT to? (ie: what does he hope to gain from it, except division?)
posted by philip-random at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I told her I thought that was abhorrent, and although she had never witnessed such a ceremony, she felt that was/is justifiable. Unfortunately, the argument became heated, ad I regret starting it. I fear that there will be more such arguments in the future. What can I do to avoid them, or at least lessen the strife?

My advice would be to realize that religion is not really something that you can have a logical argument about. If it gets to the point that one person says they agree/disagree with some religious doctrine or practice, and the other person has the opposite opinion, there's not usually a lot of middle ground to work towards. Sometimes being able to agree to disagree on esoteric issues that don't affect anything in your real-life interactions is the best way to get along with people who have views different than you.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2009


youchirren: Unfortunately, the argument became heated, ad I regret starting it. I fear that there will be more such arguments in the future. What can I do to avoid them, or at least lessen the strife?

Just so you know: this is one of three or four subjects that are the most difficult and most important for partners to navigate. It's certainly not a simple thing, the question of what to do when religious beliefs clash between partners; and, like it or not, you are not going to be able to avoid these discussions.

Most likely you'll have to sit down and decide where each of you stand in association to faith, and where each of you stand on the question of living with someone you disagree with. 'Agreeing to disagree' is harder than it sounds; be careful not to marginalize your own feelings about animal sacrifice. If you think it's abhorrent, then you can't just pretend you don't feel that way in order to calm the waters; you either must face your feelings and decide that you're okay with being with someone who disagrees, or you'll have to end the relationship. Likewise if she feels as though these things are essential and sacred, she has to either decide that she's okay with being with someone who thinks certain aspects of her beliefs are abhorrent, or end it.

A good measure of how successful both of you are at facing down the religious question is this: are you able to talk about things like this in a detached way, without taking each others' opinions personally? Are you able to discuss issues relating to faith in a way that's passionate and yet which never moves beyond the unspoken agreement that this is not a more important topic than your partnership, which is never in question? If not, then these issues will keep coming up again and again and again, and they will never be pleasantly resolved.
posted by koeselitz at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


In other words: keep talking about this with her. There's no way to avoid the discussion; this issue won't be resolved until you can both talk about it honestly and directly without getting upset with each other.
posted by koeselitz at 9:31 AM on September 9, 2009


I fear that there will be more such arguments in the future. What can I do to avoid them, or at least lessen the strife?

You could come around to her way of thinking. I know it sounds snarky, but I'm serious. What is it that bothers you about killing and eating a dog as part of a religious ceremony? Do you eat meat as part of your diet? If so, what makes eating this dog different? Can you expand upon exactly what makes this awful to you?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Um, I think there's a pretty huge difference between "practicing animal sacrifice" and "knowing and respecting that your ancestors practiced animal sacrifice, making it a part of your cultural heritage, and acknowledging the part your cultural heritage plays in your identity, especially in a society where Indigenous people are often subjected to a lot of racist stereotypes and bullshit".

If it's the latter, my advice would be to be supportive of her comfort with her cultural identity. If it's the former, I dunno. I'd find out more about it - does she eat dog meat? Lots of people eat cows and chickens, and some of those people pray over their food to thanks the animal for being sacrificed so they can eat. Is that the kind of ritual you're talking about?

As to avoiding strife, part of the strife may come not from the fact that you're against animal sacrifice - totally reasonable stance! - but from her feeling like your anti-animal-sacrifice stance extends to condemning her cultural heritage as bad and wrong - not such a reasonable stance! If you end up discussing it again, be sure to frame your views in such a way that doesn't imply "omg only SAVAGES would kill innocent dogs!" Keep in mind that Indigenous people faced massive persecution from white settlers for their religious beliefs when those white settlers took everything over and established governments. In Canada, First Nations religious ceremonies were actually made illegal for a while, and First Nations people were forbidden from passing on their beliefs and their languages to their children, who were (often brutally) forced to learn christianity and english instead. She may feel that you are unconsciously condoning this kind of repression by condemning her elders' beliefs. Be sure to acknowledge that Lakota people were hardly the only - or even the first - people to practice animal sacrifice, especially for food, and that if you disapprove, it's not because you feel the beliefs of Indigenous people are inherently invalid, but because you like dogs and have a hard time thinking about anyone killing them.

Assuming that's how you feel. If you actually do just feel that her cultural heritage is wrong because God and the Bible, um, well, there's a lot more I could say. But I'll just say that maybe you should consider breaking up with her, for her sake.
posted by ellehumour at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


There seem to be a number of different layers going on here, which may be making it difficult to sort out. Perhaps reflecting on which part of this issue pings with you most strongly may help you figure out what you want to do here.

To wit.

* Is it the idea of ALL animal sacrifice which you find abhorrent? In other words, if this were a chicken sacrifice instead of a dog sacrifice, would you still be uncomfortable?

* Was your girlfriend expressly stating that she had a wish TO participate in this ritual, or was she just mentioning this fact as a point of academic interest?

* How do you feel about your girlfriend's practices otherwise?

Depending on how you feel about each of those things, you may want to consider the following points.

* If it's animal sacrifice in general that squicks you out, consider: animals are killed for eating anyway. Most religions who practice animal sacrifice of any kind generally have more reverence for the animal than your average butcher does. The fact that there are still animal sacrifices wigs me out on an intellectual level a little too, but compared to the number of cows, chickens, turkeys, sheep, and pigs slaughtered by the food industry, the number of animals slaughtered for religious reasons is really comparatively low. If I have a wig about animals being killed, the food industry is a far bigger culprit in this.

* If it's dog sacrifice in particular that wigs you out, that's in part a cultural difference. Consider that in some countries, even today, dogs are regularly eaten as food (in which case, consider the above).

* If your girlfriend was just telling you "hey, this thing happened," but wasn't saying she wanted to actually DO this, consider: this is a part of her religious belief she is trusting you with. She may have mentioned to other people that her religious practices had a ritual involving dog sacrifice in the past, and those other people may have reacted with shock as well -- or worse. And yet, she still trusted you enough to tell you this. Because yes, there's a taboo against killing dogs in mainstream North American society, because we see them as pets. It wasn't always thus, but it's definitely the exception rather than the rule; she took a risk by telling you that this happens, because who knows how you could have reacted. She still trusted you with this.

* If your girlfriend was saying she wanted to DO this, you are perfectly within your rights to say that for your own comfort, you'd rather not be there, or rather not have it in your house. Something tells me, though, that this is an unlikely scenario.

* If you're otherwise okay with your girlfriend's faith but it's just this one point that wigs you out -- there are a lot of particular rituals of all faiths that even people WITHIN that faith have issues with. This doesn't necessarily render that ritual illegitimate for all believers, though; I personally may have an issue in my own mind with a given ritual, but for someone else, they may be perfectly able to wrap their brain around it, and so it brings them some manner of comfort and consolation. They may in turn object to something that you value. Of course, this all raises the question of "so where do you draw the line;" my own yardstick is that if another human being is not being directly and immediately injured (as in, HUMAN sacrifice or injury I'd have a major problem with, and religious tolerance be damned), then....you're free not to do it, but other people may decide other things.

In terms of what you should do now -- I think it may be worth having a conversation with your girlfriend about this specific issue, since it's come up and you've already had a talk about it and you've reacted to it. Maybe after thinking about exactly where your objections lie, have a clearing-the-air conversation in which you spell out exactly where your head is at, to reiterate that "it's not the whole religion I object to, honey; I've just done some thinking and what I specifically think is bla-bla-bla, I'm curious to hear what you have to say, and if we just have to agree to disagree on that one point then that's all we can do."

And as to what to do in future, just....more of the same. You can't stop yourself from having natural reactions to ideas and concepts, but working out with someone who disagrees with you involves a lot of discussion, particularly when you're dealing with something as intimate and deeply-felt as religion. You may find yourself treading more carefully in time, but don't beat yourself up if you have a strong reaction to something; we're all human, and that just happens sometimes.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:59 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had never heard of animal sacrifice by American indians. Of course the ancient Greeks did this sort of thing. But having that as a part of a tradition (assuming it was or is) is not the same thing as doing it herself where she might live at present. My religion, sayeth the good book, allowed for a man to have servant women who he might "go into"while the wife was doing the dishes or whatever, but that I am told by my wife is not a possibility for me today.
posted by Postroad at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


My wife and I have been together for nearly 20 years, and religion is one of those things we just decided outright not to discuss. And we're still OK with that.
posted by ducktape at 10:45 AM on September 9, 2009


In his autobiography, Lame Deer talks about sacrificing a dog and making soup out it.

And frankly, if you can be objective for a second, ritually killing a few dogs in a pretty rare ceremony is surely less abhorrent then what goes on in factory farming. The way to avoid these relationship flash points is to get off the cultural pedestal.
posted by milarepa at 11:02 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you have objections to animal sacrifice, those are certainly reasonable objections to have. You and your girlfriend don't have to have the same religious beliefs: I'm a religious person married to someone who hates all religion, and it works out fine because we have agreed to disagree.

But you have to be comfortable agreeing to disagree, and so does she. If it really bugs you that her religious tradition includes rare incidences of the ritual killing and eating of animals, you've still got to let that go if you want to stay with her. Similarly, if it really bugs her that you're squicked by certain rarely practiced ceremonies in her religious tradition, she's got to let that go if she wants to stay with you.

The ceremonies described above are extremely infrequent, even for Lakota who are observant in their culture's religion. If your girlfriend is not highly observant in the Lakota tradition, she will never encounter this ceremony--it's not like she's going to celebrate it in your living room.

And this brings up another point: I don't understand what you mean by "Native American" as your girlfriend's spiritual path: that's like saying "Holy Land" as a spiritual path--do you mean Jewish? Christian? Muslim? Sufi? Or some other religion whose origins are in the Middle East? The different religions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas differ from each other as much as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam differ from each other.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:11 AM on September 9, 2009


Establish boundaries. If you're OK with staying with her, even though you know she has/will take part in dog sacrifice, then just make it clear that this is not something you want to hear about in the future. It works both ways, so be ready to avoid discussing your own beliefs which she's not comfortable with (i.e. that sacrificing dogs is abhorrent).

In general I find that just making religion an off-limits topic works best. Current boyfriend of almost 7 years is a christian, I'm an atheist, and I can count the number of religious discussions we've had on one hand.
posted by reticulatedspline at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2009


I would avoid relationships with anyone whose values I felt were 'abhorrent'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:16 PM on September 9, 2009


She doesn't think she's just defending dog sacrifice, she thinks she's defending the Lakota and, by extension, herself.


I think that is exactly right. Abhorrent is a pretty strong term. In the future when she says something that shocks you like this, and I doubt there will be much bigger shocks, it is probably best to hold your tongue at first and think things through before offering an opinion. The best thing is probably to just nod and accept things as interesting rather than opine on their merits. Someone who believes in a religion usually does not much care for your opinions about their religion anyway. You can be of different minds on the subject without criticizing one another's beliefs etc.
posted by caddis at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2009


Something to remember about native cultures: Many of their traditions and ceremonies are forgotten because they were outlawed or their practitioners killed. In order to regain some semblance national, cultural or religious identity, they often have to piece together or reinvent aspects of their cultures that are lost.

For us to say that natives shouldn't ressurect (or originate) some practice because it isn't part of a quaint, fictional repetoire that we find palatable is as racist and patronizing as anything else the colonists have done to them, particularly in light of the environmental and cultural barbarity exhibited by the us over the centuries.

Still, this is a difficult point for even me to defend. The Nuu-Chah-Nulth tibal council has been talking about resurrecting the whale hunt as an exercise of national sovereignty and cultural regeneration. I'm desperately opposed to hunting whales, but... maybe it's simply not for me to presume to tell people what to do, given what my ancestors have done to them and how many tasty pigs, chickens and cows have given themselves up to fill my belly.

Plus, as above, a common thread among North American indians is that humans have a more complex relationship with the animal world than Europeans do. There are the "salmon people" and the "elk people," there's transformation and posession, and animals voluntarily sacrifice themselves to help the humans. None of this is any crazier than anything any other religion proposes.
posted by klanawa at 6:24 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older "poking" around for vaccination information   |   Need a very small (less than 9 inches height)... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.