A conversation about “cultural appropriation” can get downright ugly.
It’s a term that can be applied to many things: The art that someone borrows from another culture or their own culture.
The food, clothing, or music that someone appropriates.
The way they act.
And the people they dress, talk, and act with.
But it can also be used to describe the actions of an entire group of people that are not part of the same cultural group.
This week, I wanted to address the cultural appropriation debate in an effort to make my point about the “appropriation” of religion and culture, a concept I coined and coined myself to tackle in this series: Is cultural appropriation of religion or culture?
“It’s a bit like saying ‘you can’t steal anything that’s Christian,’ or ‘you’re not a Christian, so you can’t buy your own wedding band.'”
The word “cultural” is used to refer to the collective cultural heritage of a society.
This heritage, however, is something that belongs to everyone, and is not just a set of ideas.
It includes ideas and practices, traditions and customs, and traditions and beliefs.
It can be a set and a collection of ideas, traditions, and beliefs, a history and a place, all of which make up the identity and culture of a particular group.
“If someone says they’re Christian, they can’t just steal anything from the church,” said Dr. Richard Dawkins, the co-founder of Theosophical Society, a British spiritual movement that believes that religion is the ultimate source of all life on earth.
“The idea that you can steal from the Catholic Church is absolutely wrong.”
A Christian “Christian” can be any religion.
A Hindu can be Hinduism.
A Muslim can be Islam.
And a Jewish person can be Judaism.
This is why it’s important to keep the discussion about appropriation in perspective: This isn’t a debate about whether or not someone is appropriating something.
It isn’t even a debate on whether or how they should or shouldn’t do it.
Rather, this is a discussion about what the definition of “appropriating” is.
How is it that people have a right to steal something, and the rights to do it in the first place?
Is it cultural appropriation?
Is there a clear and clear distinction between appropriation and copying?
Is a person’s right to take something from someone else’s culture a right they’re free to exercise?
Or is it something they’re obliged to pay for?
Does the appropriation have to be the same as the copying?
If it’s copying, then why can’t we just copy someone else?
Does it have to go through a formal process, such as a copyright?
If a Christian or Hindu or Muslim is stealing from a Christian church, why can they not just steal from a Muslim church?
Does that mean the Christian church is infringing on the rights of the Muslim church to make the same products?
Is the Christian stealing religion?
Or should we be questioning whether or whether a religion is legitimate at all?
Is copying an appropriation, even if it’s a religious one?
If so, how can we distinguish it?
“When I first started thinking about this, I thought, this would be pretty easy,” said Dawkins.
“There’s no reason that a Christian could do something that a Muslim could not.
It would be like a Christian painting can be done by a Muslim, and they both need to be in the same church, and it would still be a Christian.”
So I thought it was possible to take a different tack.
“This is the kind of thing that can easily go wrong in a conversation,” Dawkins said.
“It can be very difficult to get people to think about the distinction between what a Christian is stealing and what a Muslim is taking.”
I want to start this conversation in a way that people can get it right.
“I’m not a big believer in cultural appropriation, but I do think that it is an important thing,” Dawkins continued.
“You have to think through the definition and what it means to say something is a ‘cultural artifact,’ or a ‘religion,’ and that this is the way in which a person is appropriatively taking something from a different culture or from another tradition.”
I asked Dawkins what he meant by this.
“What I mean is, what I’m saying is, you can have the same view of ‘Christianism’ as somebody else, and say ‘we’re all going to be Christians,’ and you don’t have to worry about whether you’re taking something out of another tradition or religion.
It just happens to be a completely different one.”
When I told Dawkins that he was not going to argue the matter of whether or when a Christian should steal something from another religion, he agreed that he should.
“Yeah, that’s fine.
I’m not going back to the debate of ‘if I steal from your church, you’re going to say ‘you stole my Christianity,’ and