Gumbo Soul brought up a good point in her comment on the last post when she said, "I think you should support a cause because you believe in it and not solely because of religious convictions." And I agree, to an extent. But my thing is...as a Pagan--at least as the kind of Pagan I'm trying to be--I feel like believing in some causes is due to religious convictions. If I believe that the Earth is a living, breathing embodiment of the female deity (which I do, most of the time), then supporting environmental causes is spiritually grounded and to say otherwise would be denying a part of myself. In fact, it denies me a powerful argument to the wholesale raping of our planet by industrialists (ahem) NOT to use my spirituality in the fight to change policy. There are other causes I support that, perhaps, don't have anything to do with my Paganism SPECIFICALLY; immigration reform, gay marriage, et cetera. But--and now we're getting to the meat of the argument--I feel like, in a certain way, the person I am that lead me to Paganism also leads me to support those causes. A sense of justice for ALL people is one of the reasons that I search for a faith that provides it or at least gives me the framework from which to argue about the need for that justice. One of the reasons that Christians (forgive me for being reactionary, my muffins) are such a powerful social and political force is that they LIVE their religion. They might not follow the letter of the law as spoken by their deity (bitter much, Heather?), but when they make a political move or support a social cause, I would say that the majority of them can back up their actions with Scripture. I don't understand why Pagans are so hesitant to live this way. I mean, I UNDERSTAND it. I do. Hi. I'm in the broom closet, duckies. (Although I totally "came out" to some Christian pals the other day and they barely blinked. Love them so.) So here's what I'm getting at: why should the personal acts of faith (prayer, rituals, meals...you catch my drift) be the only acts of our faith?
Now, don't get me wrong. I have no problem with NOT sharing the personal acts of faith with others. Goodness knows that the Pagan community here and I don't practice the same way, and it prevents me from joining up with them. BUT--I wonder how different our community at large could be if we worked together to get bike lanes and added to our argument the fact that as a religious people, we wanted to stop causing harm to our goddess? It's a logical argument, and even more than that, it promotes religious freedom while hurting nobody.
I think that part of the resistance to Paganism as a means for social or political change is that much of the social and political change influenced by Christianity has run counterpoint to Pagan beliefs. But it doesn't make sense for the response to this cycle of influence to be to sit around and wait for those wacky Christians to come up with something wacky for us to protest. What makes more and more sense to me is for Pagans to start coming together proactively in the name of our faith to affect change.
And here's where organization comes in. I don't want any council or circle of elders or whathaveyou to tell me how to worship or to define my faith. I understand very clearly that Paganism, in particular, is impossible to pin down. Just yesterday, I read an article wherein a Pagan (I think a witch, but I was unclear) said that Pagans don't believe in hell. But, frankly, I have a hard time NOT believing in a big bad heaping of punishment for the morally bankrupt. Whoever came up with Jersey Shore sort of NEEDS to be pushing a big boulder up a hill for a few decades....
Right...organization. So, anyway, the organization of the Pagan community in my mind has less to do with rules and more to do with power. That's right. I said it. POWER. Does anybody out there honestly believe that all Christians practice the same? The Protestant/Catholic divide itself is monumental. And it gets even pickier when you get down to Protestant denominations. Sprinkling or dunking, anyone? It's a big deal to some how the sins are metaphorically washed away, y'all. But conservative Christians can and DO rally around certain leaders or organizations, and those organizations DO highlight issues that the conservative Christian movement embraces.
Do I want Pagans to operate that way? Erm...well...I don't know. Is it possible for Pagans to operate that way? It's hard to imagine it, really, the Wiccans and the Fae and the Norse and the Neo-Classicists and the wandering, maybe-I -should-just-give-in-to-Brigid's-voice-but-I-really-would-rather-just-pay-attention-to-the-moon-and-oh,-look-a-pretty-tree-ists unifying under a common umbrella with no bickering or infighting or secret hexing. (Sorry. You KNOW somebody would do it, my peeps.) But it occurs to me that the bickering, infighting, and hexing is no different than ANY group or family. My personal family fights like cats and dogs half the time, but we can do amazing things when we work together.
Because of this, I welcome the idea of a council of folks from various beliefs coming together to create a strategy and guidelines for Pagans to affect social change. Do I think it will be easy to get to this point? Maybe not...but maybe so. Social media has helped us do great things recently...I think it will again.
I mean, consider this: Mrs. B JUST POSTED on FB about what Pagan gathering we'd most like to attend. And I'd never heard of several of them...Pantheacon? Do WHAT? Awesome with awesome sauce. I looked at the programming for some of those conventions and they were so interesting and educational. How cool would it be to watch a discussion of a panel of folks debating what an integrated Pagan community could focus on to enact social change. For me, it would be so. cool.
So here's the notification part: I'm going to do something. I'm not sure what it will be in total, but it will begin like this: a website, with links to issues that are important to Pagans. I don't know where it will go, but I DO know a few things about it:
- It will be educational. It will include links to articles, databases, blog posts, et cetera that provide information about Pagan practices, from Wicca to dowsing to Solstices.
- It will be political. There are issues that specifically affect Pagans (the chaplain in California, for example) and there are issues that could be influenced by a Pagan mindset (environmental, mainly.)
- It will be social. I want to link to blogs and businesses of Pagans across the country and world and encourage communication and action.
- It will NOT be reactionary. It will not seek an argument with ANY person or organization based on faith differences, in particular. It will seek to be a means of social change from a Pagan perspective, but it will NOT try to change people, nor will it seek to react to situations that are not Pagan-specific. For example, if a Christian high school student wants to pray before a football game, I don't want to have articles there that decry that student. Instead, I want us to encourage Pagans to embrace the religious protection that allows that student to do so.
If you're interested in helping out, give me a shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be working on this off and on for the next few weeks, with the hope of having something "live" by August.