The O’Donnell “Dabble-Gate” Feeding Frenzy

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 21, 2010 — 4 Comments

Apparently this story isn’t going to just go away. I expected some mainstream coverage, maybe even some attention in the 24-hour news cycle, but this amount of attention seems far out of proportion to its actual importance. Joining ABC News and the Huffington Post in quoting Pagans about Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s teenage “dabbling” in “witchcraft” comes USA Today’s Faith & Reason blog (quoting Star Foster at Patheos), a Washington DC CBS affiliate interviewing local priestess Katrina Messenger, and The Daily Beast, who actually interviews some Delaware Pagans.

[Ivo] Dominguez said that the surfacing of O’Donnell’s past comments is particularly unfortunate for Wiccans because it comes near “our least favorite media cycle,” the run-up to Halloween. “My biggest concern is that we will be receiving negative depictions on one side from the people that traditionally don’t like us, which are folks that believe the only thing that is a valid spiritual path is a narrowly defined kind of Christianity, and on the other side people that are progressive that we would normally see as our friends but who will be using the witch angle as a way of attacking a conservative candidate.”

I’m very glad to see these comments from Ivo Dominguez because I think a lot of people aren’t grasping the deeper meanings to this tempest in a tea-pot (no pun intended). Yes, some religious conservatives are pulling out their “devil” card for this occasion, but it’s the added mockery from the left that is really setting us back. The implication that dabbling in any faith outside the mainstream is toxic to winning elected office in America.

“Pagan faiths are sent the message that while they may enjoy some perks of mainstream acceptance, they, like other minority faiths, are not fully welcome into the halls of political power. Those trying to use this clip as a political club to hurt her candidacy may not realize that it is also damaging the advances of modern Pagans trying to work for equal treatment and an end to unspoken litmus tests.”

While we stick to the “it’s not Satanism” talking points of old, a larger narrative, and one harder to easily refute is taking shape before our eyes. That any taint of Paganism, of Witchcraft, of the occult, is political suicide. That we are a joke and nothing more. Grist for satirists and a boon for political opponents. While some claim we are “undoubtedly reaping the benefits of the spotlight”, I don’t think that’s the case. We have to think about what the lasting message will be two, five, or ten years from now. Will it be “Witches aren’t Satanists”? Something tells me it will be “crazy anti-sex witch candidate”.

What does this mean for our Pagan politicians already in office? Would Dan Halloran stand a chance in a Senate race in such a climate? Would ? If a solid Christian conversion narrative makes you too wacky for primetime, what does it mean for someone who is actually a practitioner? How about Pagans trying to fight for equal treatment in adverse situations, how will this affect them? This has not been a good news cycle for our faiths, despite all the interviews, and it will present problems down the road.

Jason Pitzl-Waters