A perennial problem for modern Pagans is how the press represents us and our viewpoints. Our beliefs are either boiled down to meaningless catch-phrases, or worse, completely misinterpreted. It is a rare journalist who takes the time to portray our perspectives correctly and makes the effort to understand our motivations. One writer who has covered modern Pagans well in the past is Peter Manseau.
Manseau, along with co-author Jeff Sharlet, tried a new experiment in religious journalism that ended up a book called “Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible”. The book featured two chapters in which the authors tried their best to give an voice to the modern Pagans they met during their travels. While their reporting on us wasn’t always flattering, it was honest and sincere, a quantum leap forward in covering our faiths. At the beginning of December (during the media-storm that was the Pope’s visit to Turkey), Manseau delivered his secret to good religion reporting. Role-playing.
“Before I write about any sort of believer or community of faith, I indulge in a little role-playing fantasy. What might it feel like to have such fervor that I find myself speaking in tongues? Who would I be if I was a pagan among Christians in the Bible Belt? What would I be thinking if it were me riding high in a chair at a Hasidic wedding, floating on a sea of black hats? In place of belief I call upon that skill we all had as children but often lose by the time we become adults, or parents, or popes: “make believe.”…If only we could cease praying to our conceptions of God just long enough to wonder what it might be like to pray to another. Just imagine.”
If only more reporters would take the time to see from our perspective, to “make believe”, then perhaps all those poorly written news stories about Pagans would disappear (or at least lessen). Lets say it is my holiday wish for this blog! Oh, and if your looking for last-minute holiday gifts, Manseau’s latest book “Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son” (recently released in paperback) is an excellent read.