Code Pink Makes Some See Red

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 12, 2008 — 7 Comments

There has been a conservative news field-day over a themed protest held by anti-war activist group Code Pink in Berkeley last Friday. The theme? Witchcraft against the war.

“In a call to activists on the Web, the antiwar group appealed to “witches, crones and sirens” to come to the center to “cast spells, weave magic, invoke the foremothers, share wisdom, lead rituals to banish war and violence and bring peace” … Fox News cameras, which were there to capture the showdown between the Code Pink’s theatrical coven and counterprotesters from the pro-military group Move America Forward, which had vowed to stage a “witch hunt” in response to Code Pink’s eye-of-newt action.”

Some Pagans, most notably Chas Clifton and Anne Hill, took exception to activists appropriating Pagan religion to create a spectacle so they can get more media coverage.

“…they pick the stereotype green-faced Halloween witch instead. They parody our religion for their futile cause. Somehow I don’t feel the compliment. One ex-military Pagan wrote to conservative columnist Michelle Malkin to say he was embarrassed by Code Pink too. And that is the thing about today’s Pagans: for every lefty pacifist there is one (or probably more) military Pagan.”

Which comes to the point that modern Paganism is a religious movement, not a political one. There is no idealogical entrance exam to be a polytheist (or pantheist, or duotheist). Diversity of thought is a hallmark of Pagan existence, and attempts to politicize our movement, for whatever end, are ultimately doomed to failure and marginalization. Code Pink sought to make media waves by sensationalizing Pagan practice, but may have created a magic not of their choosing.

“Ironically, it’s actually helped us by putting our name out. We’re now well known. And people know who we are, and where we are, and they come in to talk to us about enlisting. They’ve gotten us the publicity that we could’ve never afforded to pay for ourselves,” Wheatcroft told “Just in the last three weeks, 10 people came in looking to apply, looking to become Marine officers, and that’s much higher than normal,” he said.”

Meanwhile, the Pagan community in Berkeley held their annual Pagan Festival and Parade. An event that didn’t ignite the newswires, but was possibly more accurate in portraying our shared goals and values.

“People from all walks of life joined in the fun Saturday at the 7th Annual Pagan Festival and Parade. It was a showing of acceptance and celebration across all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and faith traditions at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The event, organized by the Pagan Alliance, brought out a large crowd under this year’s theme, “We are Change.” The mission of the Pagan Alliance is to promote acceptance of faith and to work for justice. The aim of the event was to foster change, connect communities and promote spiritual diversity. Organizers said they also wanted to dispel common misconceptions that paganism is about devil worship.”

Not to sermonize, but modern Pagan faiths embrace both the pacifist and the soldier (not to mention all the people between those two poles). Our diversity and commitment to a personal connection to the gods makes any attempt to codify a single and universal “Pagan politics” frustrating at best, and dangerously fractious at worst. Media feeding-frenzies like this may help Code Pink in the short-term, but can possibly damage outreach and dialog efforts by modern Pagans in the longer term. As Pagan faiths head into the future, we will have to find a way to avoid polarizing our movement into “right” and “left” camps, and maintain the common ground needed to advance rights and privileges for us all.

Jason Pitzl-Waters