Breaking Craft Stereotypes:
I recently overheard a bit of conversation that was surprising in its ignorance. It made me think “has it gotten this bad?”
I heard a couple of people talking about a mutual acquaintance or friend. One person said this mutual acquaintance had gotten in trouble with the law. Some sort of felony. We’ll leave off the details of the alleged offense as that is not here the issue. The issue is what came out of the other person’s mouth upon hearing of the crime allegedly committed.
“That’s impossible. He is Wiccan. They don’t do things like that.”
I shit you not. That’s what I heard and it made me sort of do a double take and start to really concentrate on my eavesdropping. It was easy enough to do, since I was sitting in a coffee shop with the conversation taking place at a table right next to me at my left. I merely kept staring into the book I was reading and pretended to concentrate while listening to them.
The person who made the blanket statement went on adamantly about how the alleged offense had to be false because of the person’s identity as a Wiccan. In my own mind, I was wondering why that would be so. As flattering as it may seem for other Wiccans to have someone defend them like that, it is still a stupid thing to say.
We are not saints. Nobody is. (Well there are the Discordians, but that’s for another day.) Why would someone’s Wicca-hood mean that they couldn’t commit a crime? People from all walks of life do things that are stupid and/or harmful to both themselves and others. Why would we Wiccans not have people who may screw-up like that at some point among us? (And you KNOW that we do. Though I would be the first to admit that due to our relatively smaller size as a community, and of our small group focus, we have less trouble with people doing such things. Word gets out fast among us and we tend to call the police to report crimes more often.)
To say something like “Wiccans don’t do things like that” is tantamount to saying “That man can’t be guilty of stabbing that other guy. He is a Christian.” Yet, our prisons are full of Christians who have been convicted of crimes. There are also Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian, and Buddhist convicts. Some of these people, granted, found faith after their imprisonment. But many of them were members of one of the religions at the time of their offense(s).
One could take the argument that if such people were “True [Insert Religious Name Here]” that they would never have done what they did. But then you get into the sticky place of defining what the hell exactly is a “True [IRNH].” And who are you to do so? And what if the offender was well meaning and serious in his/her practice but then made a screw up? Then there is the problem of someone who has screwed-up or committed an offense being always identified with that act, which is also wrong. Some people do bad things. “Bad” people tend to keep doing them.
If such a person had probably followed the tenets of their religion then they probably would have had less of a chance to mess up. But that’s besides the point. The point is that we Wiccans are not saints. Many of us fuck up just as much as any other segment of the population. I can understand why some of us would want to cultivate an image of impeccability because of all the bad press that the Fundies have given us, but We All Know Goddess Damned Well that impeccability is an individual thing that can come from religion but doesn’t apply to all followers as a whole.
Simply look at it this way. How many of you out there are Wiccans, other sorts of Pagans, or Discordians and got screwed over or mistreated by another member of your faith? Many of you reading this now would raise your hands and say “me.” Now I would love it if a lot of the people going around calling themselves Wiccans would start learning to become impeccable and more trustworthy. But I would never assume that because someone belongs to such-and-such a faith, or even that because they are supposed to be so-and-so that they could never do anything wrong. Individuals are still individuals and it is best to with hold judgments, good or bad, until you get to know them personally.
Wiccans get angry and impatient while waiting in line. They cut people off on the expressway. They spit and they cuss. They fuss and fight over who gets to be the big kahuna at the circle casting. They call each other names. They play social games and get involved in office politics. They can be just as judgmental and narrow-minded as anyone else. (Even as badly as the legendary Fundamentalists.) And so on. I am not saying that we should accept this behavior as inevitable, because as adults, we know better. (And within Wicca, this sort of behavior is usually frowned upon by those who know how to practice adulthood.) What I am saying is that we should keep our eyes open.
Has it gotten so bad that we can’t even smell our own crap stinking? Have our own abilities and critical thinking skills gotten so atrophied that we can not ever accept that anyone who is Wiccan might be able to fuck up or commit offenses or even crimes? I know that many of you will take your pot shots at me now because I have voiced something that is not politically correct to voice in the Wiccan world. But frankly I can’t say I give a crap about what you think of me for voicing it. If you are dumb enough to go around thinking that all Wicca-dom is full of only the best most white-light most impeccable most wise people, you are dumb enough to be taken for the mark you are at best, or the BUNNY you are at worst.
Just as we have the right to complain and correct others when they accuse us of nefarious deeds or of being horrible people simply because we are members of a minority faith that Christians don’t understand yet, so we should also stop assuming that we are all saints and could never do wrong. Otherwise, what does that say about our faith itself? Does that mean our religion has no power to persuade someone who has made mistakes or offenses to stop doing such things and to live better?
If Wiccans could not ever be able to fuck up, then the religion would be a New Age sham. Since I can assure you that it is not, then it stands to reason that those who are Wiccan are prey to the same imperfections and mistakes that everyone else makes. And we are admonished to take responsibility for them. As a community it is time to start owning up to reality.
Stop making stupid assumptions. Just saying.
-Irreverend Hugh, KSC
[June 13th, 2005]
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