As we move through time and head into a new millennium, this topic is on many people’s minds. Where do we go, what happens next, and what should I do to help?
This article will address those questions, and can be summed up in one word, acceptance.
Many of us don’t think that we can do anything much to help paganism out and into mainstream acceptance, but I like to think that we all can do our part. It seems such a big job to bring the light of public acceptance to such a small corner of religion as a whole, and since it IS such a big job, many of us decide that we don’t have the time, resources, and energy to start that job, so we don’t do anything.
In this day and age, this is an intolerable attitude. There are things that all of us can do, must do, to keep events from continuing to happen like they did to The Church of Iron Oak, and many other examples I could name.
What is the largest problem that we as a community have in getting mainstream religions to accept us? It is the misconceptions that have been perpetuated for decades against us. How do we counter this?
The only way to counter ignorance is by education. Since every misconception and fear is rooted in ignorance, then we must educate those we wish acceptance from. That, of course, begs the question on how do we educate them?
Sites like The Witches’ Voice go a long way to educating the average person, but there are not that many people out there who know to look at TWV for true answers to their questions. So, they turn to their co-workers who are Wiccans and Witches for answers.
In order for them to know that resource is available, we have to be out of the Broom Closet. We have to be visible to the public in order to be approached as those who may have answers to questions they have. We have to be available to ease fears and to help understanding along.
Think about this as though you were a concerned parent for a moment. If you knew your kid was getting involved in a religion differing from yours which you are leery of, who would you want to talk to, your child, who may lie to you, your child’s teacher who will probably lie to you, books on the subject which may not give you all the information, the Internet which has 4 sites of bad information for every site of good information, or a co-worker who you trust who has been involved in this religion for years?
Most parents will take all of these different approaches; discussions with their children and the people teaching their child, plus some independent research when they can find the material and trusted co-worker, which is probably the easiest source of information. However, they can’t get that information they need and desire to put their mind at rest unless they know someone who is involved in the religion the parents are nervous of.
This is the first thing I see needing to happen over time, a general out of the broom closet for most Wiccans and Pagans. The time of fear is over; it’s time we told our base instincts that, the source of the fear of being different, the place where we are afraid of being ridiculed or attacked.
The next stage is for all of us to stand up in support of those groups and organizations that work to make sure we have our full rights under the law of the United States. Such as the ACLU, the COG, and many more out there who are working to ensure that Pagans/Wiccans/Witches/Jews and so on are all granted the rights that we are entitled to. The only way to do that is to support them through donations and volunteer work. Sending an extra postage stamp may be the difference between solvency and bankruptcy for many.
As Fritz Jung of the Witches’ Voice has advocated many times, and as I have also stated, without this help, the places and organizations that are the counter to the Religious Reich (as Isaac Bonewits so eloquently put it) may disappear. Without our continuous support, they will cease to exist, and so will their work to help us all out and secure our rights.
For example: The Christian Coalition solicits funds from conservative churches, which in turn solicit funds from the members of the congregations they have. These funds, ultimately, come from the pockets of the member of the congregations themselves in amounts from $2 to $100 dollars. Not too much for one person to bear. But if you take a $2 donation, and multiply it by the 500 members of one church, you are talking about $1000 in total. Now, multiply that by 52 weeks a year. Each person, giving just $2 a week for one year, results in $52,000 for church improvements and other necessary expenses. Now, if they donate only 10% of that to a political group, working for the same aims as they do, and multiply it by the 3000 churches in our (fictitious) state, we have $15,600,000 for this group from the fictitious state. When multiplied by 50, you find that this group, who is working for the “moral standards” that the community support, now have $780,000,000 to work with, not including the direct personal solicitations that they have in the form of fund raisers. All from the $2 donation, each week for a year, which totals $104 per person.
Now can you see how some organizations can afford to spend $20,000,000 to support the campaign of a candidate who’s policies contrast with our rights? Do you see the fight that many of the pagan and Wiccan organizations out there are up against? That kind of money is simply not available in the Pagan community as a whole. Not because it is not there, but because our means of collection are not as simple as a Church Organization’s.
Very few of us go to Circle on the Esbats and give a tithe to the Priest/ess. Many of us may become offended if it was asked for. Because of that, the individual covens out there can’t give part of that to the organizations that need that help. Last time I looked, the Witches’ Voice, as non-profit as it comes, was paying for most of the organization out of the personal funds of the founders and heads. In other words, Fritz and Wren are paying for most of what you see and experience when you go to http://www.witchvox.com out of their own pocket, and working 60-70 hours a week to support themselves and this site as a result.
Which is why you see just about every Pagan organization out there asking for donations from the Pagan community. Begging for those funds, in fact. If you are one of those who send a few dollars into those groups, pat yourself on the back, you are in the minority.
This is the second thing I hope to see in the future. All of those Pagan/Wiccan organizations that work for our good fully supported by community donations, volunteers working at soup kitchens and charitable work going on in every community that supports more than one Coven or even a group of solitaries. A paid pagan clergy, so that your local Coven leader can afford to do nothing but take care of the spiritual matters they have an internal drive to do would also be one of the goals that I wish to see. For those Pagan Clergy to be able to take classes in psychology and in counseling in order to talk to those they give their time and energy to in some form approaching what the law states a “Priest” should be.
I envision a time when a child can say that their parents are Wiccan, and not have that child become an automatic outcast in the local public school community. I would like to see a time when Wiccans, Druids, Asatru practitioners, and every other flavor of NeoPaganism can sit down with the leaders of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and all other mainstream religions out there, and talk about the problems facing religion in the 21st and 22nd centuries; a time where we are invited to religious conferences as a matter of course and courtesy, rather than having to shame those convocations into inviting our religious leaders and spokespeople; and finally a Pagan Parochial school that is run by members of the community, with all the rights of any other religious private school out there.
Right now, we are in the same position politically and religiously that others were in when they left the European continent to immigrate to another land, so as to begin to build a society that they would be proud to be a part. We have a chance now to build something that will far outlast ourselves, something to be proud of, something to show how much we care about this religion that believes in equality of all people, regardless of minor problems like what your exterior looks like.
In order to do that, however, we MUST start supporting those who we have chosen to lead us. We must support the authors of good books, and demand accurate information from authors, no matter how distasteful to personal sensibilities that information may be. We must begin to plant the seeds to build Paganism into a group that cannot be conveniently ignored by some politician simply because it doesn’t dovetail with his personal religious views as what a religion should be. We must stop the “Witch Wars” that occur in every pagan community, and begin working together with those we may not agree with. We must loose this mindset of being the victim and begin looking at ourselves, collectively, as a group that is worthy of respect and admiration.
We can do it if we choose to. It only takes a few minor steps to start it. Change your mind on how you will view your religion, and then take concrete steps to support those groups and organizations that you agree with. The rest will snowball from there.
Isn’t that the best to show the Lord and Lady how much we love Them? By making sure that Their love for us is not lost to other generations?