Pagans Coming Out and National Prayer Day

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Today, May 2nd, is International Pagan Coming Out Day (Facebook), a day when modern Pagans are encouraged to share their religious identity with friends, co-workers, and family.


“Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so. IPCOD encourages Pagans who are ready to come on out! There are benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, as more Pagans come out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety caused by living a double life and creating a climate of greater acceptance for all Pagans.”

Event co-founder Cara Schulz noted on Facebook how important this day has become in only a few short years.

“People may think that Pagan Coming Out Day doesn’t do much of anything. But they aren’t reading the emails sent to me from people who experience real and serious discrimination or have been disowned by family and are hopeful that if more people come out it will be safer for them one day, too. Or the ecstatic emails from people who came out and are so much happier. They couldn’t believe what a weight it lifted from their shoulders they didn’t even know was there. And even better, the email updates I get from people who came out 2 years ago who are thanking me for how their life has continues to improve and get better now that they are living more openly and authentically.”

In the recent wake of an out Pagan being threatened with bullets and chemical bombs in Florida, our continued growing solidarity in the public eye is essential if we are to combat those who would seek to isolate and intimidate us. As Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League said recently in relation to the Florida attacks,  “whenever hate against Pagans surfaces, we need to work together to dispel it and to stand strong, collaborate, and support those who have been targeted.” That work can only be accomplished if enough Pagans are willing to stand up to change people’s perceptions of modern Pagan faiths. Obviously, not everyone is in a safe place, but I believe there are many of us who have chosen to not come out for reasons not connected to safety or security.

Pagans in danger are certainly one reason to come out, but that isn’t the only one. It just so happens that today is also the annual National Day of Prayer in the United States.

“All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly. Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.” – Barack Obama

This day, despite the somewhat inclusive rhetoric from the White House, has long been co-opted by conservative Christians who would like to shape the United States into a “Christian nation.” A place where religious minorities are marginalized even while those who reject any easy label continue to thrive. The way to prevent marginalization is through engagement, whether that be activism, outreach, or interfaith work.

“When interfaith cooperation is done well, it not only helps people from different faith and philosophical backgrounds get along, it creates space for the diverse identities within each of us to become mutually enriching rather than mutually exclusive. When interfaith events raise the question, what do I have in common with people of different religious and national identities, the natural internal dialogue that ensues is: What do my own diverse identities have in common with each other?”

Modern Pagans recently played a key role in saving the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a feat that could only have been accomplished by Pagans willing to not just be out, but to engage with other people of faith as Pagans.

“I’ve just received official word that the Council for A Parliament of the World’s Religions was able to raise the necessary funds to pay off the debt that had threatened the survival of the organization, and its important work of promoting peace through interreligious dialogue throughout the globe. Pagans contributed approximately 10% of the needed amount — a very impressive response, we should be very proud of ourselves!” – Andras Corban-Arthen, EarthSpirit Community

Coming out isn’t about ego, or seeking attention, it’s about how identity shapes our culture, our society. The amazing recent victories for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals have only come after decades of “coming out” because they understood that putting a human face on their communities was the only way forward. Likewise, modern Pagans, whatever their faith or practice, need to engage in the work of putting a human face on our religious movement. Thanks to some brave pioneers and visionaries we’ve already come a long way, but the next steps come only when it becomes apparent that we truly are everywhere, that we are indeed your brother, sister, parent, child, co-worker, partner, or friend.

As many bow their heads in prayer today, we should hold our heads high, and state that we want our full inclusion in the tapestry of faiths and philosophies that many take for granted in our societies.