Archives For From the Comments

There’s been some good conversation sparked by my post yesterday on the effects of anti-Pagan propaganda (in this case from Catholic exorcists and the Catholic media outlets who shine a spotlight on them). First, for those who wanted to hear more about the incident I mentioned concerning the Indiana Pagan Pride event, and the tensions that resulted when a Catholic youth event overlapped with it, check out the inaugural post from the new Indiana PNC bureau.

Torcyr Storm Gull, who has been the security coordinator for Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day for the last nine years, commented, “Everything worked out beautifully. I had no issues with the organizers of CYO. There was I feel a lot of miscommunication between the parks and CYO. Honestly the only issue all morning was from a stereotypical soccer dad that threatened me with violence for conducting traffic safely so the children were NOT in danger. He seemed to settle down or at least grumble to himself after I pointed out if he wished I would let the park officers deal with his disruptive behavior. There were no vehicles driving across the grass. The problem is CYO believed they had free run of the whole park and tried to use it despite the fact that the 52 vendor locations were clearly staked out. I would like to thank CYO for being so understanding and helpful after things were explained to them. All of the uproar over this wonderful event is being caused by a few rowdy parents who have no clue as to what happened .

Of course, one of those “rowdy parents” called the media, which is what brought the entire situation to our attention. A few commenters here at The Wild Hunt pointed out that the matter was resolved peacefully, and thus wasn’t a good example of how anti-Pagan propaganda has negative effects, but I think that “rowdy parents” angry enough to call the media and essentially argue that we shouldn’t be allowed equal treatment speaks volumes about how ongoing rhetoric against our faiths erodes civility and peaceful co-existence. Propaganda, in my mind, doesn’t suddenly turn human beings into violent monsters, but it does erode our compassion for those branded as “other” (or demonic).

Here are some other thoughts from yesterday’s Wild Hunt comments that I thought were noteworthy:

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn't be able to use public parks.

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn’t be able to use public parks.

“I find that in prejudiced people (like the “concerned Catholic Parent” shown in the video, there is a kind of “cognitive dissonance.” He considers the Pagans “silly” (even laughing at them), and yet he is OUTRAGED by them. Why be outraged by silliness? It just doesn’t make sense. (I think HE finds them “silly,” but his Church teaches that they are something to be outraged by. Therefore, he must keep these 2 thoughts in his mind, and the dissonance of those 2 thoughts is what is disturbing him.)”Obsidia

“Certainly there are adherents who cling to the party line and cause trouble for the likes of us and this absurdity with increasing exorcisms is definitely problematic for us. But the farther The Church goes against all sense and reason, the more members they will lose. They’ll be reduced to the whackadoos ranting about demons and throwing salt in people’s faces. And yeah, that’s dangerous, but I’m not going to hold any hostility or anger toward Catholicism because of the hard-line whackadoos.”Sunweaver

“Jason, props to you for highlighting a serious problem, not just within contemporary Catholicism, but contemporary Christianity as a whole. I first encountered the “Pagans worship the devil” narrative within evangelical Christianity, and it remains as entrenched in certain corners of the Protestant world as within the Catholic right. Meanwhile, please remember that many Catholics (and Protestants) seek to promote positive interfaith dialogue and psychologically healthy models of spirituality that eschew these kinds of narratives. Any religion is capable of demonizing outsiders (yes, even Neopaganism). It’s certainly more pernicious when Catholics or other Christians do it because of their social influence and privileged status within our society. But it’s a problem of the human condition that unfortunately can be found anywhere that people settle for ethnocentric rather than world-centric systems of ethics and morals.” – Carl McColman (a Patheos columnist, and former Pagan turned contemplative Christian)

“As Jason says, this is something that actually does trickle down. As a Pagan married to a Catholic, I happen to attend Mass every once in a while especially recently as I’ve just moved to Massachusetts and my wife wanted some support as she ventured into various churches to try and find one that she likes the best. Attending Mass a few weeks ago, during the homily, the priest was fairly specific in his denigration of Pagan practices. He didn’t specifically link them (us) to evil or to Satan, but it was still an unsettling moment for myself and for her.”Dashifen

“Occasionally, when listening to some of the more, shall we say excitable adherents of other faiths, I find myself thinking, “Hang on a minute, they’re talking about someone they think is me!”. Trying to ride out that uncomfortable moment is always problematic.”Purple Pagan

Thanks to everyone who’s contributed their thoughts on this matter. I think that openly discussing how anti-Pagan propaganda actually affects us personally helps put a human face on an abstract concept peddled by the Catholic exorcism lobby. It’s only by seeing us as human, as realizing that we  are simply adherents of a different faith, not demon-ridden monsters, that interfaith efforts and understanding can find fruit.

My post on Wednesday talking about the anti-Pagan bigotry of Jacksonville, Florida City Council candidate Kimberly Daniels has sparked quite a bit of shock, outrage, and discussion. One reoccurring question is how did Daniels end up on the Democratic ticket, and make it to a run-off, when she held rather retrograde views on gays and non-Christians.

“Is this one of those districts that always votes Republican and the only reason the election is close is because this particular Democrat is a wing-nut and is actually pulling voters from the right of a more main-stream republican candidate? Or is there a viable democratic party that swings this way regularly? Putting it another way, is this a fluke for the region, or a trend? Some context would be lovely.”

Providing that context is Brandi S., a Jacksonville resident and Pagan who initially voted for Daniels.

“She’s running in an At-Large City Council race, which is city-wide. While there are more registered Democrats in Jax than there are Republicans, the initial race was 76% Republican candidates to just 16% Democratic candidates and 8% running with No Party Affiliation. Daniels was one of just 10 Democrats running in the first election in March. Two Democrats won their races decisively in the initial election (one of whom ran as a fiscal conservative and one of whom ran in a contest where his only opponent was another Democrat in what I presume is the city’s sole liberal voting precinct). Most races in the March election had multiple candidates, so 40% or more of the vote was required to win decisively, and there were run-offs in 8 different races city-wide. TWO of those races have Democratic candidates – the mayoral race, with a candidate who has major Democratic endorsements, and the At-Large Group 1 race, which is the race Kimberly Daniels is running in.

She got enough of the vote to make it through to the run-offs (including, admittedly, mine, as I knew that she was religious but had no idea about her bigotry, hatred, and ignorance at the time of the election), and her opponent is a Republican running on a slogan of Faith * Family * Fiscal Responsibility, so he is definitely a more mainstream Republican capable of getting the Republican votes. Jacksonville has a large African-American population which may swing the vote in Daniels’ direction because she is one of the few African-American candidates running, and the issues she talks about in interviews and on her webpage are things like tackling substance abuse, which is a big problem in Jacksonville, plus she’s a military veteran in a heavily military town, and Jacksonville also has a very disenfranchised Democratic voter base who may not know all of this about her radically right-wing religious views (as I did not until last week – I knew only that she was a church pastor but not what that particular church preached) or may not care simply because she’s one of the only Democrats running in a heavily Republican city, so she may actually stand a chance of winning on that basis alone. I won’t be voting for her this time around, but I won’t be voting for her opponent either. In fact, I’ll be leaving every race on my ballot blank except the mayoral race because there are no candidates in the other races that I can even think of voting for in good conscience.

However, other Jacksonville voters may not feel the same way. Religious views and church participation factor in heavily in Jacksonville elections, and nearly every single candidate is using his or her religion as a selling point in their bid for election. Also, despite having more registered Democrats than registered Republicans, the votes go overwhelmingly to the Republican candidates (and the fact that there are almost nothing BUT Republican candidates running in most races probably helps with that as well). I moved away from Jacksonville for 16 1/2 years after graduating from high school and only recently returned to help care for my elderly grandmother, but I would never, ever choose to live here again for any other reason than that because it feels like being stuck in a time-warp between the pre-Civil Rights-era 1950s and a heavily Republican and Tea Party-influenced present.

As to your first question about how she became the democratic candidate, I honestly don’t know. There was another Democrat running as a fiscal conservative in another local race who won his election decisively in March and I would never have considered him a Democrat based on his running platform and I wrote the local Democratic Party to complain about how few Democrats were running in the first place, and the fact that those that were included conservatives who should have more rightly been running on the Republican ticket. I never got a response, so I never found out quite how this was allowed to happen, but my guess is that candidates just had to file to run – they didn’t necessarily need their party’s endorsement to run as a member of that party. It probably helps, as with the mayoral candidate, but it can’t possibly be a requirement with candidates like this running on the Democratic ticket.”

Thanks to Brandi for providing some context on this election.

I’d like to highlight two comments from yesterday’s post on the treatment of Santeria and Vodou in the media. The first comes from Jacquie Minerva Georges, who notes that adherents to Afro-Caribbean faiths are engaging with the media, just not the mainstream English-speaking media.

“Thank you, Jason for your devotion for defending the Afro-Caribbean/Latin American based religion. I do believe practitioners of African-based religions are speaking but not the “mainstream” media or certain individuals. I often must read French, Spanish, Portuguese written [typed] articles to find out what practitioners of such faith[s] are speaking about. Recently there was an article, originally written in Spanish but somehow was translated into English, regarding practitioners of Santeria being really upset and embarrassed by individual practitioners leaving offerings to the orishas in [the] public community [parks for an example where masses commune]. “We” are educating the recently migrant practitioners that “our” rituals must adapt to our times and/or the “general” public. Here is a link to what I am speaking of: titled “Offering to the Orishas”.”

Georges follows up to say that “some of ‘us’ we don’t care what others think about our faith[s].”

The second comment I’d like to highlight from yesterday’s post comes from Rev. Heron Herodias, a Wiccan priestess from the Church of the Sacred Circle in Utah. She was interviewed by a local Fox affiliate about one of the stories linked in yesterday’s post.

“They interviewed me about this – classic Fox News move “Hey, let’s ask a Wiccan about Voudou!” I’m embarrassed to say that they got some good “out of context” and reporter-fed quotes from me, while completely cutting out the point I was trying to make which was that animal sacrifice is not only a legal practice in the US, but that many “mainstream” faiths including Christianity have a history of it as well. They interviewed me for a good twenty minutes, and BOTH of the statements they showed were fed by their reporter. For instance, I followed up the statement about human remains being a concern with the acknowledgement that most mainstream Santeria practitioners discourage the use of human remains (having read some prominent Santeria practitioners say the same thing) even while other practitioners do not. i thought that by being interviewed that I could help dispel the “OH NOES, ded animal” hype. Lesson: don’t be a patsy for Fox News when they come a-callin’.”

I think both comments add some great context and additional information, and I’m glad they shared it with us here. I’m thinking of taking a page from Andrew Sullivan and highlighting smart, relevant, comments that expand and clarify an issue more often.

Yesterday’s post concerning the state of the Pagan press and Pagan periodicals has generated some interesting commentary on the continued survival of print publications and the future of Pagan news. Many seem to have accepted that the Internet is where you go to get up-to-date information concerning the Pagan community. Baruch Dreamstalker admits that he “long ago gave up dead-tree media as a source of “hot” Pagan news”, while Erynn Rowan Laurie opines that “Print can never hope to keep up with developing stories”. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, one of the strongest voices concerning the future (or lack of future) of print media comes from professional journalist Victoria Slind-Flor.

“I guess my question is why Pagan print media should escape the fate of the rest of print media? Bottom line, as I see it, is that we’re three-quarters of the way through a major technological revolution in journalism and print is not a media that will survive … We Pagans are smart savvy users (and, in many cases, creators) of the Web. We know and love the immediacy of Web communication. And I doubt very much we’ll ever embrace any form of print journalism again. Why get our Pagan information at the speed of post-office delivery when we depend on all our other information sources at warp speed?  Over the years I’ve contributed pieces to most of the Pagan print publications. And I have to say they largely share the same faults: they were/are produced on a shoestring, are indifferently edited, come in unattractive formats, and are published on irregular schedules at best. So why would anyone expect them to survive?  I wish them all well, but I am not sanguine about their prospects of survival. On the other hand, I’m immensely impressed with what Pagans are doing in Cyberspace.”

It wasn’t all bad news for Pagan publishing, Michael Night Sky argued that we should “support what printed zines do, serve the greater Pagan Community.” Night Sky also stated that he couldn’t imagine a would “without printed pagan magazines”. Finally, Jordan Stratford praises the PanGaia/newWitch merger, and agrees that “the “Abraxas” lit-mag style is the way to go – semi-annual publications of meatier articles, professionally edited, and landing in the $15 – $20 range”. Have something to add? Why not join the conversation?

Turning our attention outward, let’s look at some recent developments in the Pagan blogosphere and beyond. First, Chas Clifton announces that fellow Pomegranate editor Michael Strmiska has started a new blog entitled The Political Pagan. There is already a facinating post up about Nazism, Paganism, and Christianity, so be sure and add him to your blogrolls and feed-readers. Speaking of Nazis, over at Beliefnet, Pagan blogger Gus diZerega has a two-part essay exploring a Pagan perspective of fascism.

“People who don’t know much history, or are blinded by their ideological preconceptions, have often argued that Pagan religion has a tendency towards devolving into Fascism. I’ve encountered such stuff over the years, and had a debate with Peter Staudenmaier in the journal Pomegranate on this issue with special reference to environmentalism.”

Moving on from fascism and Nazis into the (slightly) less controversial topics of polyamory and Woodstock, we find the Get Religion blog covering both. First E.E. Evans wonders why recent high-profile coverage of polyamorous relationships have left out the religion angle, specifically the religions that are (generally) more welcoming to polyamorous families.

“While this particular triad is not, polys are also engaged in religious communities. Among them are Unitarian Universalists, pagans and those who represent other faiths. There’s no discussion of the religious connections here. But does the existence of approximately half a million polyamorous families mean that “traditionalists better get used to it?” That’s at least debatable. It’s also snarky, distracting readers from taking the piece seriously.”

This blog has tacked the, sometimes tense, issue of polyamory within modern Paganism in the past, and you can expect that conversation to continue as polyamory (and its intersections with modern Paganism) continue to gain mainstream attention. Meanwhile, Terry Mattingly explores the recent journalistic love-fest over Woodstock’s 40th anniversary, and how that pivitol festival changed religion in America.

“Now, on the religion side of the equation, you knew that someone was gonna connect the dots — Joan Baez and “Amazing Grace” right on over to Ravi Shankar — and make the argument that Woodstock is, in many ways, the tipping point that turned religion into spirituality for the Baby Boomer generation and, thus, for America. We’re talking sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and do-it-yourself visions (often a combination of the previous three ingredients).”

The 1960s certainly did see modern Paganism, specifically British Witchcraft and various home-grown faiths, take root. But was Woodstock the “tipping point”, or simply the last gasp of the free-love/anti-war hippie era as it morphed into back-to-the-land movements, identity politics, and more mainstream/populist political endeavors? Woodstock may continue to reverberate through Protestantism, but in my mind the 1970s were far more influential a decade on the development of today’s religious diversity.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!