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Home My Articles, Rant The Fallacy of Pagan Unity


The Fallacy of Pagan Unity

Well, up until now I have not been one to comment on the various efforts to Unify Pagans into one big group, mainly because I had supported it.

Yeah, Daven, professional cynic, pagan, Druid and all manner of other things, supported unifying Pagans into a group to do many good works.

Please note what I did NOT say, I didn’t say that I supported the homogenization of Pagandom into something that is acceptable to the Fundamental Christians out there. I did not say that in the process of this unity that I expected to give up my core beliefs to join this group. I did not say that I support one overriding “statement of ethics” like has been proposed various times.

I think that a group of pagans getting together to support a political candidate and contribute to his campaign is a GOOD thing. I think that issuing a press release to the media stating why this group is supporting him could really help at various times, especially if the more moderate Pagans started speaking up. I think that using that influence to set up a Pagan run Mission who does work for the homeless is an exceedingly good idea.

Yep, radical that I am, I think that since most of the world goes by “Ye shall know them by their works”, or some variant of that statement, that it becomes important for us to do things in public to show others that we are charitable and kind, that we actually care about the Environment, that we want to help those in need.

I know that when I was living on the street with my family, I would have appreciated a community center that could have given me a hand in getting back on my feet. I would have loved to see a Pagan soup kitchen.

One of the most ironic things I have seen in recent times is a Druidic grove that decided to Adopt-a-Highway, right in front of Jerry Fallwell’s church. I mean 2 miles of roadway in front of his church and that the parking lot emptied onto. They are very obvious about going out and picking up the trash. It’s an event and they do it in ritual garb. Kinda sticks it in his eye, since as far as I know, Jerry’s organization has never adopted any road at all, despite taking in billions of dollars a year.

I would love to see a check presentation from WADL or The Witches Voice to Jerry’s Kids, nationally televised, while it’s going on. I would love to see Fritz and Wren walk out on the stage and hand whomever it is who MCs the telethon a novelty check with a lot of zeros on it, collected through many months of contributions on the Witches Voice, probably through the medium of PayPal or something similar. It would be fantastic.

Probably not going to happen though.

What I’m describing here is a limited group of Pagans, who may or may not necessarily agree with each other on all issues, who come together to accomplish a limited goal, be it to clean up a road, or to help cure MD. We could even use some of the umbrella organizations that already exist for these purposes, like the ADF, WADL, WARD, CAW, CoG and others to do this. Heck if the goal were important enough, I swear that I would stand shoulder to shoulder with people like Norm Vogel and Mark Ventimiglia to accomplish some of these.

But, what I see happening is the homogenization of Pagan beliefs. Let me take you through what I have seen as the life cycle of a Pagan Charity or Political Action Committee.

  • Three or four people who can be classed as Pagan are sitting around and one of them says, “We should have a Pagan Charity”. The idea gains general acceptance among the group and every one of them get enthused about doing this.
  • Time passes and interest among some may wane, but the idea continues forward. One person may be researching how to get grants and money; others may be talking to other like-minded individuals to find common support. Everyone agrees that it’s a good idea.
  • At some point a decision is reached by some to actually have a meeting and start discussing issues. So, they decide to do this in public and tell others about the meeting, so their voices can be heard. The meeting happens.
  • It may stay at the previous stage for a good long time, with infrequent meetings and general get together on this project. But eventually there will be a decision to actually incorporate and make it official; they are NOW an ORGANIZATION.
    • If one becomes an organization, one has to have rules, so rules are drawn up.
    • Someone may suggest elections of officers, after all, who appointed those people as the ones to lead?
    • Official meetings are scheduled and held
    • (here’s the dangerous part) An ethical statement is drawn up as part of the rules. What do members of this organization believe and what is the goal? It was to create a Pagan Charity, but somehow things tend to get sidetracked into solving the world’s ills.
      • Where previously it was simply “Let’s set up a Pagan Charity” now it becomes flowery and legal. “To set up and execute an organization to distribute goods and services to the greater (city) homeless population, without regard to race, creed, religion, sex or any other factor besides need. To do so in the most expeditious manner possible and to service the needs of those who ask for help and to do so in the manner best suited for the individual and their families.” What?
      • Some of this may be due to legal requirements and grant money requirements.
      • At least one person is going to stand up and say “that doesn’t represent MY beliefs” and modifications to the statement are demanded. And this is where trouble starts.
      • Now, one must not only define their organization, but they have to define Pagan too. A Pagan does THIS and a Pagan does THAT. But if one doesn’t do THAT then is one no longer a Pagan? If a Pagan does THIS but does not do THAT but does THIS OVER THERE, are they still a Pagan? What does one do with those who don’t conform?
      • In an effort to be everything to everyone who wishes to participate, the ethical statement is made vague. This causes a whole slew of other problems, mostly stemming from having a statement that is so vague that it can describe anyone anyplace regardless if they are Pagan or not. “We recognize an overriding deity consciousness that is inherent in everything and everyone, and we honor that deity or spirit in our works and in our daily lives.” This causes problems because Christians believe in an overriding spirit and so do many others, but it excludes the atheists. Deists may or may not actually worship a consciousness as described. Others may not honor a deity as such, and may see themselves as living breathing worship of that deity. So for everyone this covers, it doesn’t cover just as many.
        • It is at this point that many such organizations get sidetracked and lose their focus and/or fall apart.
  • An inordinate amount of time is spent revising and clarifying these rules and ethical statements, to the detriment of the rest of the agenda. Everyone wants to be recognized and to be part of this, and none of them wishes to have their beliefs overlooked.
  • Other meetings may be scheduled to elect officers and to ratify what is becoming referred to as “The Charter”.
  • Once this Charter is ratified by all present, it becomes a static thing. People who seek to join this organization are required to agree to the Charter as it is written, and if they balk at some point, they are politely shown the door.
  • —Please note that all this assumes that the PEOPLE involved are mature enough to actually work at this goal they all profess to want. There are no trolls to cause problems, and those who are involved are not having infighting and personal problems with other members. Those problems can bog an organization like this down just as fast. —

  • This charter and ethical rules list starts becoming codified as a thing to compare all Pagans to. After all, it works for this group, why not the rest of the groups out there? It may get passed around. It may be reprinted. It may be included in books.
  • Because of this pressure, the fact that the definition of Pagan is either too narrow or too broad to be able to work on a practical level, the organization is probably going to fall apart.
  • Years later, whether or not the organization survives or not, someone may use this statement as a benchmark or you are not a real Pagan.

And all this is what I see happening EVERY SINGLE TIME someone comes up with a good idea that they want to include all Pagans in. It’s happened many times before, from groups to honor the victims of the Burning Times, to those who wish to educate the public on what it is to be a Pagan or Wiccan.

Someone on some list someplace trots out the “We need to create an organization” line and I get REALLY nervous, and I generally run the other way. It is not because the idea is wrong or bad, but because the execution of that idea gets so caught up in politics and grudge matches and infighting that the message and GOAL are lost, or they want to take my beliefs, run it through their “Borg-o-matic” and dictate to me what I believe, whether or not those actually reflect my beliefs or not.

This is what I expect happened to the “Principles of Belief”. It was written on the fly, quickly on the back of a napkin or something, it was revised and voted on, and it was not meant to become what it has become today, namely a statement of beliefs for all pagans everywhere (as many will have you believe).

So it is because of this reason that I feel that “Pagan Unity” is never going to happen. Those who start organizations, with the best of intentions, always try to dictate to those who join them what they will believe. There are literally too many Ways out there to allow for this “one size fits all” spirituality.

I believe that an organization can work that has limited goals and who is crystal clear on what they are trying to achieve. If they stay away from the “we must define Pagan” quagmire, it could be a good group, one that does a lot of good in the world.

This is a short list of some causes where a Pagan group can make a difference. They can raise public visibility on these issues, while simultaneously having a membership that is made up of all the different non-“big five” religions. I believe that with this set of goals, a Pagan Unity group could work.

  • Voter Registration
  • Park/highway cleanup
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Volunteering at shelters
  • Can drives for hunger
  • Park maintenance
  • Political activism for a specific candidate
  • Bookstore opening
  • Defense of a person/group/store against those who protest it (a sit in or something similar)
  • Blood donation
  • A protest at the Capital (state or federal) to rescind a problem or item of concern that is in a bill or law

In each of these cases the participants can be in ritual garb, clothed as outlandishly as they want, and one person can be in front of the camera to answer questions if it’s high profile enough. And each of these can easily be turned into a more permanent event, say, once a quarter.

These are also things that are desperately needed and routinely have a screaming need for volunteers. But they are also the kinds of things that don’t make national news unless there is a “hook”. We could be that hook and a way to raise interest in them. Just so long as the person speaking to the cameras is cognizant enough to not be trapped by the “what do Pagans believe” trap that some reporter or bystander will ask. It’s easy enough to deflect, but unfortunately it always gets answered with a laundry list of beliefs.

Do I think there should be an organization that is over all Pagans? No, I do not. Each group has their own leaders, their own support structure. For example, The ADF has their organization, the Asatru have their clans, and the Wiccans have their own tradition support structure and so on. There is no need for one “Pagan” organization since these support structures are already there. It becomes redundant. And no matter how carefully you craft things, there is NO way that any statement of beliefs or rules list is going to be able to encompass all the possible combinations of belief.

Should this belief stop local communities from trying to start some sort of charity or school or community center? No, this should not. It should encourage them to do so, just with the caveat that in the process of creation of the organization, they understand that there is no need to have a statement of belief or that if they do, it will exclude some and cause as many problems as it solves.

And for the sake of all the Gods, if you do have a group like this, DO NOT assume that because someone is attending and helping with project X that means that they have bought the whole package of belief. I had this bite me once where a HPS assumed that because I supported ONE ideal that I was fully supportive of her and all her works. And that came back to haunt me.

I have seen groups work, and I have seen groups melt down. But beware of falling into the “no TRUE Scotsman would…” fallacy. It’s one of those things where no matter what you say you are going to be wrong. It applies to Paganism too, for every pagan you say would not ever do (whatever), I will guarantee that I can find one who would.

Originally posted 2009-11-11 21:51:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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