Going deeper into the Issues in the Pagan Community

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John Beckett wrote a post recently regarding The Future of Pagan Leadership.  After reading his post, I feel compelled to further discuss my hypothesis regarding inclusion that I wrote about last week.

In his post, Mr. Beckett wrote a statement that, on the surface, someone could lump my opinions in with:

Some want to include everyone no matter what and get upset if anybody starts talking about the differences between, say, polytheism and non-theism: “what difference does it make – just dance!”

That’s not quite what I mean when I talk about inclusion.  It would be very easy to try and go this route and force everyone to get along, but I don’t think that is very beneficial to any movement.  I’m talking about going deeper.

In her book “Truth or Dare”, Starhawk talks about how our reactions change when we are confronted with something that brings up something uncomfortable in ourselves.  The basic premise is if there is something in our lives that we have not dealt with, or if there is a belief that we hold that is not solid, we as human beings tend to throw up a defense mechanisms when dealing with topics that speak to those beliefs or issues.  We do this because when discussing those things, we become uncomfortable.  I know this to be true, because I have seen it in myself time and time again.

So here is my thought – what if those who are so quick to judge or classify others as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are simply not realizing that their own defense mechanisms are guiding them?  What if they are not as sure about their own beliefs as they think they are, and thus are ready to go onto the attack the minute a belief is challenged?  And what if they allow this defense mechanism to fester long enough that they start to display white-hot anger and even hate?

The next logical conclusion in this process is that the one on the defensive is to blame.  But I don’t want to jump to that conclusion either.  Someone could be insecure about a belief and not even realize it.  It took me many years to understand that fact.  Further, another way hate and anger can be introduced into a situation is if the behavior is learned by someone who is insecure; perhaps a father to a son, or mother to a daughter.  It isn’t their fault, to a point.

As someone on an alternate religious or spiritual path, it is our obligation to seek out that which makes us uncomfortable and question why.  We have made the purposeful choice to go a different route than ‘mainstream’ religions.  In order to grow, we need to continue to make purposeful choices.  We don’t have a book to hide behind and say “because the book tells us to”.  By choosing this path, have become active participants in our religion and spirituality.  Therefore because we are active participants, we have an obligation to question everything, including ourselves and our own beliefs and actions.

In the same vein, there are things that should make us uncomfortable.  If the answer to the question we pose ourselves is because someone else is being hurt, being bullied or abused, we need to say something.  If the reason we are uncomfortable is because someone else is doing something morally wrong, we need to say something.  Last but definitely not least, if someone is excluding someone because of their race, ethnicity, practices, beliefs, sexuality or gender, we need to say something.  Things that purposefully diminish the rights of another human being must be consistently challenged.

Mr. Beckett, in the post I mentioned previously, puts the reason for this questioning very eloquently:

Before we go any further, let’s be clear about one thing: yes, you’re a leader. If you plan and facilitate rituals for more than yourself, you’re a leader. If you talk about Pagans and Paganism in person or on social media, you’re a leader. If you wear Pagan jewelry or t-shirts, you’re a leader. You may not be an elder, or a high priestess, or a senior Druid. You may have no organizational status or responsibilities. You may be leading at a level far below that of Pagans who are generally recognized as leaders. But if your life influences others – whether you want to influence them or not – you’re a leader.

We are all representatives of our beliefs.  We need to act that way.  We need to be comfortable enough in our beliefs to be able to listen and accept those who have differences, or let their input change our own belief systems for the better.  We need to show each other and those outside the alternative religious communities that we are sincere in our desires.   The way to do that is to know ourselves and continue to challenge ourselves to grow more deeply into our beliefs and practices, not by arguments about what is and isn’t included in what type of belief system, or excluding others because of something they have no control of.

Thanks for reading, and as always I welcome any comments or questions.

Blessings

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Author: Karlesha

I am a martial artist, historical fencer, yogi, runner, intuitive / empath and pagan. My passion is learning about myself, where I fit in the world and where I can do the most good. I am dedicated to Loki and Odin.

3 thoughts on “Going deeper into the Issues in the Pagan Community”

  1. “We are all representatives of our beliefs. We need to act that way. We need to be comfortable enough in our beliefs to be able to listen and accept those who have differences, or let their input change our own belief systems for the better…” Which is why we met…Another good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for steering me to Beckett’s thoughtful article. As someone new to a particular path and in solitary study and practice, it gives me much to think about. This is particularly true in Heathenism, where you have the concept of “garth” which someone is either inside or out, and in the lore you can find a basis for treating them differently. I think there was some wisdom in today’s reading in my Tai Chi class, No. 49 from the Tao: that the leader trusts or honors or loves those who are un-whichever-worthy. That is certainly not in the traditional Heathen lore, but we are not living in Viking times, either. One doesn’t need to practice with, or even spend much time around, someone who is on a different path. One ought, one must respect them to the extent the deserve respect. If an Xian relative learned the way I am going and got in my face about it, I would not turn the other cheek. But I wouldn’t waste a lot of time on them, either. Respect my choice and I’ll respect yours, and there is nothing more to be said about it. This is not how holiday dinner tend to go once the wine is open, but it is the right way to behave.

    In my admittedly limited (newbie) reading so far, there is a basis in the lore to measure out Hospitality, one of the Nine Noble Virtues, according to the relationship to once’s faith views, usually expressed as inner or outer garth. But I see nothing that says to be intolerant or even simply rude to those in the outer garth. If you are in my garth (and that would in my world view include friends not inside my tradition), I’m going to buy you a beer. If you’re outer garth and I don’t know you, I’m probably not going to spontaneously buy you a beer. And I’m certainly not going to stay in conversation with a proselytizing or simply judgemental jerk long enough to get to the point where it is time to buy rounds. As everyone used to say when I was young and giants roamed the earth, “Have a nice day.” And bye.

    I have begun to wear a Mjöllnir, which given its chain length falls under my clothing. It did come out of my t-shirt at Tai Chi because of some of the contortions involved, and if someone were genuinely curious I would be very conscious I was “representing.” And if someone called me a racist simply because I wear it I would try to correct that view, as briefly and clearly as possible, without engaging in a pointless argument.

    Now I feel like I need to go on to the underlying article on Paganism in 100 years, which I did not see and I can see my afternoon trainwrecking. I at least need to go bookmark it.

    Like

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