Okay, we have heard the pleas from others for Pagan Unity. We have heard the litany against that idea, mostly because it will take away our individuality. Nowhere can I find a list of why we should, other than the articles asking for that unity in tones like unto Oliver Twist asking for more food.
So, let me see if I can make a few points that are relevant but not the same old litany.
And understand something before replying and giving me an earful, I am against total Unity. I think that putting all Pagan and NeoPagan faiths into a blender and hitting “frappe” is the wrong thing to do. I think that if this were to happen that an essential part of Paganism would be lost, the ability to choose. Many of us came to NeoPaganism or Paganism or Reconstructionism or whatever because of the general sameness of the mainstream religions out there. The basic credos were the same; they only fiddled with the details (like whether or not a skirt should be worn by women or if pants were acceptable).
I have spent my time defending the “no Unity” side of things, but in an attempt to understand the OTHER side of the argument, I started thinking and playing Devil’s Advocate in my head. And I almost convinced myself that it’s important to have unity on some level. Which for me is astounding.
Okay, to list my reasons in favor of Unity:
Without Unity, it is very easy for other organizations and businesses and governments to discriminate against us.
This point, in my opinion, is actually the most dangerous. How many of you who are reading this have looked at the situation happening with the Pagan Headstone Campaign and the problems with Sgt. Patrick Stewart and getting the Pentacle on his memorial plaque? How many of you have heard about The Church of Iron Oak’s problem with worshiping out of their home and the resulting legal fight they were going through? How many of you when you read these went “that’s a damned shame”? What about the problems with Tempest Smith?
How about the unpublished casual discrimination of others? Surely you have faced this in your time. Kids running away from you because you are out in your community, eggs on your car, loss of a job, a campaign to drive you out of a job or home. It’s never about the religion, but it all started when you were outed as a witch or Pagan.
How about comments by those in the Government that Pagans don’t have any charity in them? Or that “witchcraft isn’t really a religion”? Or those who serve in the Armed Forces can’t worship their own gods (to the point of legislation being passed against that)?
Do you think that these would have occurred had Paganism been seen in the same light as the Christian Coalition? How about if we were as big as the Southern Baptist Convention? Or maybe the national Jewish organization? Or if we were as large a block of people as the Muslims?
Understand my point here; with numbers comes power. Anytime there is a group of people, normally the discrimination against people who are members of that organization disappears. That’s what makes Unions so strong, and can you honestly think of someone being blatantly discriminatory or even subtly discriminatory against someone who is a member of the NAACP? Can you picture an official of the government saying, “I don’t think black people deserve to have government help.” Why is this do you think?
It’s because those kinds of organizations and groups have power in sheer numbers of people. The individual who is a member of that group isn’t powerful on their own, but adding 20 million people to that one person, and pressure can be brought to bear that staggers the imagination. I’m not just talking political either. Legally everyone donating a dollar to that group can pay for several lawyers to sue the backsides off an official who said that. Heck, a bribe to that official’s boss would take care of the problem too.
Would a business try to pressure a black lady out of her job because she’s black? Would there be an attempt to sexually harass a woman in the same job? Why is this do you think?
Like the large warehouse chains, numbers bring benefits. Lots of people in a group, the more power they have if only because they are in that group together. Buying several palates of sausage gets a heck of a discount for that store, which means more profits. The 13-person coven won’t be much of a force to the local Police, but the Covenant of the Goddess might be.
Without Unity, we are looked upon as having no faith.
Unfortunately, part of the problem we face as Pagans and minority religions is that people don’t understand our beliefs. They will credit Hindus and Muslims with having faith in a deity they don’t understand, but when you say in court that you are Asatru, the court will dismiss that out of hand because of absolutely no understanding of what Asatru is. When it’s clarified that Asatru is a Pagan faith, generally you will get lumped in with the Atheists and the credit goes WAAAAY down at that point.
But, in the same situation, if you say, “I’m a member of the Christian Fellowship of the Gate of Heaven”, no matter how out there and minority that church is, the bare word of “Christian” automatically gives a respect that is hard to gain otherwise. Replace “Christian” with “Jewish” or “Hebrew” or “Muslim” or “Islam” or “Buddhist” and you get the same effect.
This is because these groups have LARGE groups that protect their interests. The general populace knows that even if they don’t understand the actual workings of those groups, they are religious groups that deserve respect. The Jews have been around for some time, so too have the Hindus and the Muslims, but the Nation of Islam is a recent organization. Did that stop people from thinking that Muhammad Ali was a man of no faith? Or that Malcolm X was not a servant of his deity?
The fact of the matter is that in our society the appearance of being a person of faith is more important than exactly WHAT faith or if it’s truly practiced. When being picked for Jury Duty, if you say that you don’t have any Church activities, you are more likely to be passed over than picked. Lack of faith = lack of morals in many people’s eyes. It doesn’t matter that humanism is a valid and true moral structure, it’s the appearance that is important.
Who are the ones yelling the loudest on topics like abortion, prayer in schools, gay marriage and many other hot topic issues recently? “People of faith”. Would America elect an Agnostic or an Atheist to a high office? Probably not. Why not? Because an Atheist has no morals. Just ask anyone. (That is only an example.)
Without Unity, any political credit we would have is lost.
To go along with the previous point I made, political clout is becoming more and more important.
Pagans as a group are some of the most politically active people I know, and that’s a very good thing. There are any number of issues that we need to sound out on, from headstones on graves to charity to Welfare and Social Security and abortion and gay rights. It’s wonderful when I see the local Wiccans getting together to raise money for the local candidate and to make their wishes known to those same Senators and Representatives once they are in office.
But I have heard this time and again: “How many votes can you bring me?”
No one stops to consider that all those single votes add up. The Democrat who is trying to displace the seated Republican will not stop to consider that the Wiccans and the Pagans who are supporting him number in the thousands in the state, they will just see that this coven donated $100 dollars for a group of 5. They will go “Five votes? That’s nothing.” and they dismiss the concerns that coven brings to his attention.
I have had this happen with me in my local races many times. I happen to be in Tennessee, where Senator Bill Frist is from. I don’t like him, I don’t care for his politics, I know he doesn’t pay attention to anything I say as a constituent. But if I were able to go to him with “I am a member of the Brotherhood of Pagan Faiths, and we represent 50,000 votes in the state of Tennessee and we have a concern…” he would sit up and listen to our concerns and us. But getting 50,000 individual letters, each representing a vote, even if they are on the same topic and each say something to the effect of “my vote is on the line depending on your behavior” means nothing. But to have an entire block of people saying with one voice that THIS is an item of concern, well, those are what lobbyists are for. That’s a Special Interest group, and they can have a lot of clout in the Beltway in Washington, even in local elections and state elections. And that means that the issues we hold dear can be aired and actually considered.
But this won’t happen without some sort of unity on some level.
Without Unity, the idiots that appear in the media are the only people that we will be associated with.
It doesn’t matter how many of us get up and say “Kevin Carolyn does not represent Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism, Druidism or any other faith. He’s a nutter and an idiot.” no one is going to believe us. Why? Because invariably the person with the microphone is the one getting the attention, and the media pays attention to those with repeated press conferences.
It doesn’t matter that they treat him as an idiot and make fun of him, by the simple fact that he’s on TV and in the newspapers; he’s got some sort of clout with the populace at large. Fifty of us can get up and say he’s no kind of Priest, and more than likely not one of those letters or statements will be printed, and thus they will never get to the populace’s attention.
The net effect? Witchcraft becomes represented by those same nutters. The Media in general is after the attention of the populace, in the form of ratings and circulation. King Kevin sells papers. Our decrying his actions does not. That is, as long as each of us is speaking for themselves.
But, put the spokesman of the Brotherhood of Pagan Faiths up front at a microphone, and now we have a media showcase. Those press releases start carrying weight and the letter to the editor saying that this person is a dipshit and insane, well, those take on a whole new dimension of importance, if only because that represents another 1000 copies of their newspaper sold to members who do scrap booking.
With unity, we have the implied backing to be able to speak authoritatively as a representative of a large group of people and be believed. You don’t see Jerry Fallwell standing front and center and saying he’s the leader of all Christians in England or Europe because every Christian organization out there would be publishing letters saying that he’s a nut and that he does not represent anyone, most especially them, within minutes of him being quoted as saying that. Heck, the Pope could arguably claim that he is the head of all Christianity, but he won’t because of all those little groups who have power and members who would jump up and say “NOT US!!!”
Then there are interfaith relations. One thing that I have heard is that there was a distinct lack of response from the Pagans when Pope John Paul II apologized to the world for the crimes of the Catholic Church over the centuries. Everyone who has been injured by the Catholic Church sounded off, but not the Pagans, not the Witches, not the Wiccans. Why was that?
Who could the media contact for a quote? They could have contacted some of the Big Name Pagans, the ones who wrote books and such, and they did. But that only gets one person’s opinion. Much better to have a contact in a Pagan Group to get a quote and sound byte.
Individuals can get with Native American groups and try to foster interfaith unity, but those groups know very well that one person representing a coven and not a large group is not going to be very effective in promoting an association between them, because ultimately that one person has no power. They can’t negotiate with that High Priestess to have Native ceremonies and rituals (see cultural appropriation) removed from the liturgy of the Wiccans, since that High Priestess only represents herself and her coven. And this is ironic considering that the American Government went through this same problem attempting to negotiate with the Natives themselves.
So those who want to have that interfaith discourse will look in the papers to try to find someone who represents more than one or a handful of Pagans. And what are they likely to find? The “King of all Witches” standing there, with no letters or articles from the rest of us saying that he’s a nut. So now, King Kevin is the defacto representative for all of us, by default.
Without Unity, the truly dangerous members of our community will be free to do their damage in many places.
Does anyone remember that predator from about 10 years ago who said he would initiate any girl from 10 to 18 with a sexual rite and she could go on and initiate any others? Remember the fallout from that? There were all kinds of groups up in arms who were all working at cross-purposes to try to lure him out to help the police catch him.
Did he ever get caught?
Does anyone remember a man in Texas who was abusing his children by sticking 6 year olds out in the woods overnight with only a knife “to teach them survival skills”? Has anyone been able to stop Son_of_Art or Mark Ventimiglia?
Frankly I would be surprised if those reading this were familiar with all these situations. One was local to the Southeast region of the United States, another was local to one metropolitan area, and two others are on the Internet. And I’m sure that every city could tell me stories of those who claimed to be Wiccan or a Witch, abused their power and their influence and hurt people severely and moved to another city, just to repeat the cycle over again.
How did this happen? Why didn’t those who were hurt do anything?
Frankly, who could they go to to tell their story of woe and abuse? There is no group who they can say, “this person hurt us and raped us (either literally or figuratively). They left when we drove him out, but this is who he is, this is how he operates and this is what he did. We got justice, but we don’t want anyone else to get hurt.” Even if such a thing was done, and the groups of the new city could be found, those same leaders wouldn’t listen to the information. Most of them would be going “That was there, this is here.” Some would simply wonder what axe the people warning have to grind and probably treat that information as nothing.
Occasionally there are calls for a “Council of Elders” to keep information like this, so that true predators can’t harm others, but invariably those get shot down with “how do we police it” and a litany of abuses. An organization that was nationwide would avoid a lot of that.
Please understand something with this article, I’m not saying we should unify and lose our individual identity in the Pan-Pagan group of ‘Love Trust and Peace’ like some ask. I have stated time and again that it is possible for there to be a limited group, brought into existence to do specific things, and I believe that in this case it is very possible and workable.
The problem is you. It is changing your mind and convincing you, the reader, that this is a good idea. I can say it is a good thing all my life. I can invest time and energy in setting this up, but until you decide that you will support this and will work to be a part of it, then nothing will happen. CoG started that way, the ADF started that way. There are groups out there who are more than just a few dozen people, and it can be done to take the next step WITHOUT losing our individual Ways.
All it takes is a lifetime of dedication and commitment.
I’m ready, are you?
It has come to my attention that this is simply a call for a Political Action Committee. Well, if that’s it, then so be it. I think this is a necessary step, and one that we desperately need to do in order to make sure that we are represented and that our voices are heard in the Government. We may be a legal religion, but we are still ignored.