“Ministry is fundamentally about serving the congregation, in contrast to being primarily about serving the gods,” wrote Sam Webster. That is essentially the role a journalist fills, and its particularly true for journalists who write for and about minority religious communities, such as we do here at The Wild Hunt.Just as a minister must sometimes stand apart from individual relationships to understand the spiritual needs of the entire community, Wild Hunt journalists commit to the credo that “we don’t stir the cauldron; we cover it.” Determining the difference between interpersonal conflict and newsworthy events requires what is perhaps the most slippery of spiritual tools: discernment.
While in many polytheist and Pagan traditions, ministers by any name do not hold explicit authority over others, the respect and deference given them may cause them to be apart from the community that they serve. Similarly, while all Wild Hunt writers at this time consider themselves a part of these intersecting communities, their role can affect how others see and treat them, separating them to some extent from the community that they serve.
Ministers may lead members of their congregation toward truth, better yet toward understanding. However, they cannot compel anyone to accept the information. Journalists are sometimes lauded or decried, not for the content of a particular story, but for whether it fit the reader’s preconceived expectations. Truth is a dish which should never be served as a substitution.
Nevertheless, there remain times when a minister must reveal truth which is unwelcome, to individuals or the entire community. Journalists, too — perhaps especially Pagan ones — are called upon to peel back layers concealing parts of human nature that would be easier to pretend no longer exist.
Bigotry, oppression, and general misunderstanding of the other lifestyles, cultures, and people remain challenges even when the attainment of spiritual awareness is a common goal. Messengers with bad news are rarely welcomed at the feast table.
Like ministers, journalists carry a tremendous responsibility to use their influence in positive ways. The power to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable can make all the difference for a high school student whose teacher think she’s made up her religion. And it can also bring tremendous scrutiny upon the unsuspecting. As Heisenberg noted, sometimes just observing an event can be enough to alter its outcome. That mantle does not sit lightly on the shoulders of any who wear it.
Generally speaking, Pagans and polytheists have affirmatively chosen their spiritual paths. Journalists, too, frequently speak of their professional work as a calling: the passion is for ripping away the webs of rumor to expose what lies beneath. That act can be both terrifying and purifying, for subject and reporter alike. It can require plunging into a morally grey morass to discover and organize this information. More than one Wild Hunt journalist has opted to perform purification rites after writing particularly difficult stories.
It is often said that no news is good news. However, at a point when leaders advocate for a society that’s based on a thin slice of Christian thought, no news about Pagans and polytheists may be the first step toward complete erasure. Even as TWH writers minister to the communities by bringing clear and concise facts and analysis from a Pagan perspective, our presence also makes us a voice in the world, proclaiming that we are here.
We are not a flash in the pan.
Journalism in such a small community can mean asking friends and colleagues uncomfortable questions, badgering public figures for quotes and clarifications and, at times being an ambassador of these many, diverse faiths. It can also mean access to some of our most cherished elders, opportunities to set the record straight, and opening the way to understanding and healing.
Ministry is about serving the community. Journalism is as critical a ministry as any other, and it’s one through which we are honored to serve.