Wyrd Words: Tea Party Paganism

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I’m going to forgo the usual greetings, and reassure you that you did NOT misread that title! There is nothing wrong with your computer. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We control the horizontal. We control the vertical.

So, before I risk exploding peoples brains, let me give a bit of background to this story. When I’m not wearing my Mjölnir emblazoned writing cape, I’m working Security. I guard an exorbitantly wealthy gated community of 1%-ers from dangers like unseemly lawns, rampaging poodles, and door to door salesmen. (Oh the Glory and Honor of being a security guard…) Now, a few months ago, there was an incident with a new security supervisor, who was hired and fired within EIGHT DAYS. Rumors abounded as to what may have occurred to get this man fired so quickly from a notoriously easy job, but most of these were unconfirmed, and eventually the whole thing was all but forgotten.

A few weeks ago my schedule changed, and I was introduced to another officer who I would be working with on the new shift. In the process of small talking and getting to know each other, I found out that he was involved with getting our One-Week-Wonder fired! I am completely incapable of resisting a good mystery, and here was my chance to get first hand info. As it turns out, the guy was basically fired because he was a violent racist, and using racial slurs over the radio will get you canned instantly and without warning. (My boss is pretty awesome and does NOT tolerate that kind of behavior.)

It was while I was investigating the mystery of the disappearing racist that my coworker dropped THIS bomb on me.

“Yeah, we looked the guy up afterward, and he’s a member of some creepy cult thing.”

Score! Gold! By now you may be beginning to understand exactly how boring my job really is; combined with the previously described inability to resist a mystery, I just COULDN’T let that go uninvestigated! Using the power of Google, my coworker and I sat down to find our culprit. I love studying “cults” (though there are obvious issues with that label). What could he be? A Scientologist? A Raelian? A Jedi? We entered in his name and found the guy on page one, landing two hits with the same picture!

1- A Pagan Space account, where he’s listed as Wiccan.

2- A Tea Party AZ membership

Three thoughts crossed my mind in rapid succession. The first was “Dang-it! Why does the racist Schmuck have to be one of ours!” followed by “How the heck can you be both of those things at once?” and finishing with “Wait a minute, WHO ARE YOU CALLING A CREEPY CULT?!?!”.

I apparently have a better poker face than I thought, because my coworker completely failed to note my reactions and continued prattling on about the weirdness of this schmucks “Evil Cult”. Rather than interrupting him in the middle of his speech, I decided to just type my name into the Google search bar.

Google brought up links to The Wild Hunt, Patheos Pagan Channel, along with a dozen other links with words like “Paganism”, “Heathen”, and “Witch”. I watched as he finally noticed the screen again, his speech slowing to a halt as he tried to understand exactly what he was looking at. Suddenly the guy practically JUMPS away from me like I might have the plague. The following conversation, which has been nominated for the “most awkward interaction of the year” award, went like this:

“But I thought you really hated racists…”

“I do…”

* Awkward Silence *

“But you didn’t sound CRAZY, like he did…”

And here is where I had to mentally plunge into the depths of the giant folder in my head, where I keep all the sentences I never thought I’d have to say.

“I think his crazy had more to do with being a member of the Tea Party than Wicca…”

It’s difficult to describe the amount of self control it took to say that with a straight face, while trying to keep my head from exploding. If you had asked me just a few hours earlier if such a thing could exist, I would have said that while it’s not strictly impossible, it’s basically pretty impossible. Encountering this was kind of like discovering a unicorn… except the unicorn was really kind of hideous, and after you found it you kind of wish you hadn’t… and the unicorn’s a racist… It’s a really sucky unicorn.

After that first round of mind boggling awkwardness I realized that this was the first time I had outed myself as a Pagan at work, and my coworker still looked pretty terrified of me. So I braced myself for a bumpy ride and began to explain. Nothing to complicated. The guy looked like Hel had just tried to give him a kiss so I did my best to keep it simple. No, we’re not a “cult”. No, we don’t worship Satan. No, I’m not a Wiccan, but we run in the same crowds. No, REALLY, we don’t worship Satan. After about twenty minutes he seemed relatively sure I wasn’t going to steal his soul, and had come to some kind of rudimentary understanding of what I was saying. The conversation resolved kinda like this:

“So… You’re religious… but you don’t worship God…” Suddenly, a look of comprehension lit up his eyes. “Like the Buddhists! You got religion but not God!”

“…” Eh, I’ll take it. “Well, you’re not wrong.”

Baby steps….

Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/

  • Rob Simpson

    I liked it ,man i did dot see that coming . The guy is a fucken pagan, It’s sad world when being a pagan is not as bad as being Tea Bager .Good Job !!

    • Wyrd Wiles

      I’m not sure what you mean, but I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

  • Lloyd Hargrove

    I know a few tea party types and I know a few pagans both of whom I am somewhat sympathetic with. I also know a few racists but I don’t know any Tea party people or pagans who happen to also be racists. I do know “minority” types who deem themselves the victims of racism who definitely are racists themselves. So much for labels.

    I’m sorry if I don’t follow the convention of automatically recoiling at the mention of all such unmentionables. I’ve learned to walk the Earth gently and be somewhat selective about whether I pause and smell the roses and yet not pause to smell the turds, but rather I give them a wary glance and perhaps a ray of sunshine if the opportunity presents itself nevertheless. Sometimes it’s from the turds that roses eventually will spring, particularly if there’s a good gardener around. ;)

  • Dirk Folmer

    Well played, Sir, well played.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      Pleased to be of service!

  • Mikal

    At least he didn’t pull this after pulling the racist shtick.

    • Mikal

      I uh, meant this to be included. Yeah.

  • Bianca Bradley

    Yes Conservative Pagans exist. Yes some of us actually like the tea party. No we aren’t racists. Seriously, this is a topic?

    • Wyrd Wiles

      My intent was not to say “All Tea Party members are racist”. Rather my intent was to say “I’ve never seen a Tea Party Wiccan, and this particular one was a racist.”
      I’ve met conservative Pagans. Not usually Wiccans though. (Obviously not impossible, just uncommon)
      The Tea Party is usually so dominated by the Christian right, that I’m honestly surprised many pagans would be interested.

      • Bianca Bradley

        The tea party is more dominated, at least when I met them, with Conservative Libertarians. Many have strong Christian leanings, others not so much.

        Many Pagans usually aren’t, because it the way they operate, argue, and are, a strong disconnect from what many of those Pagans agree with. However, I think that has more to do with the polarity of the positions and not taking the time to look past the politics to see the person and their context.

      • Jarred James Breaux

        I live in south Louisiana where there are just as many liberal pagans as there are conservative pagans, several of witch support the Tea Party. As Bianca said, most Tea Party Republicans are conservative libertarians. I think this article comes off as presumptuous and idealizes what a Wiccan should be: liberal. In my years, I have meet just as many conservative Wiccans as there were liberal Wiccans, none of which were racist. I have only met one group of racist pagans ever, and let’s just say that was the first and last time I had a run-in with them.

        • Wyrd Wiles

          Again, the intent was not to say “Tea Party members are racist”. This PARTICULAR guy was.
          I’ve met Republican Wiccans. I’ll admit, I don’t understand them, but that’s because I’m not a Republican! I had never encountered a Tea Party Wiccan before, and found it surprising. This is not because I’m trying to lay down some law that says “ALL WICCANS MUST BE LIBERAL! RAWR!”, but because in all of my years I’d never MET one, and considering I live in a red state where the Tea Party has a decent following, I assumed that they were rare and/or POSSIBLY non-existent. The Gods have a way of making one rethink their assumptions :)

  • Pat Booker

    Violently racist pagans are, sadly, among the best-organised and most dedicated of the bunch. The rest of us don’t talk about them and they don’t tend to mix with us, but check out Gods of the Blood by Mattias Gardell to see just how widespread this is. There’s something about the ideas of ancestry and tradition and the old religion that just calls out to assholes and anti-semites looking for a new identity. Also, wicca owes a debt in some respects to Mme Blavatsky, whose theories included racial hierarchies. In addition to those who are ideologically racist and tie this in with their spirituality, I have found that pagans are as prone to casual racism as anyone else – we are neither better nor worse than the world around us.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      Indeed. Well said.
      People will be people, regardless of what they call themselves…

  • Prophet-Terrell Potts

    My Friends,

    Please listen to what I say. I value your creativity in shaping the way you see the world, but your world view is 100% wrong. GOD, the Father of JESUS Christ, is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. If you believe on the God of the Holy Bible, you will be saved. Anyone who refuses to bow the knee, (in their heart), to JESUS, will be nothing more than a pawn of satan.

    The road you are on will lead you directly into an everlasting fate in Hell, where worms will eat your flesh, and the fire will not be quenched. I type this in love. Yes, there are “Christians” out there who are full of religion and “fundamentalism”, but even they are far from the Creator’s Heart.

    Seek JESUS for yourself, don’t just take my word for it, and He will blow your mind!! He will show you LOVE, TRUTH, POWER, GRACE, and a FRIENDSHIP like you’ve never been able to imagine. These words I say to you are Spirit and Truth, and in no way decieve you. JESUS is worthy of all praise, of men and Angels. Find out what this means.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      My Friend,

      Please listen to what I say. I value your creativity in shaping the way you
      see the world, but your world view is 100% wrong. Óðinn, the father of Thor, Baldr, and Vali, is the creator of Miðgarðr. If you follow the Æsir, of the Eddas and the Sagas, You may have a chance to fight for Valhalla! Anyone who refuses to fight with courage, and honor the Gods, will be
      nothing more than sleeping spirits and timber for Naglfar.

      The road you are on will lead you directly into an everlasting fate in
      Helheim, where worms will eat your flesh, and the chill of Niflheim
      seeps into your bones. I type this in love.

      Seek the Æsir for yourself, don’t just take
      my word for it, and they will blow your mind!! They will show you
      HONOR, TRUTH, POWER, GLORY, and a LEADERSHIP like you’ve never been able to imagine. These words I say to you are Spirit and Truth, and in no way to deceive you. The All Father is worthy of all praise, of men and jötnar. Find out what this means.

      Dear Mr. Potts,

      I did not write this to insult you, or mock your beliefs. I didn’t even write it in order to change your mind. I wrote this so that you might understand what your speech sounded like to me. As you read through it, I imagine you may be confused. The values are strange, the terms are foreign, and it’s probably difficult to see how this could ever change you mind and convince you to abandon your god and turn to these “Æsir”.

      If I’m correct then perhaps you might understand, just a bit, how your words sound to those who don’t follow your god. I don’t look to Jesus for saving, because I don’t need to be “saved”. I don’t fear Satan or Hell, because they have no effect on me. Warning me that I’ll burn in Hell, seems about as plausible to me as telling you that you’ll freeze in Niflheim. You probably don’t believe Niflheim exists, so why fear it? I don’t believe in “Hell”, so why should I worry about it?

      I understand your desire to help. I understand that you probably did this out of a sense of kindness. What I want to help you understand, is that this kind of proselytizing doesn’t help. The things your saying only have meaning if you’re already a Christian. We Pagans, (with all of the religious communities that word entails), already have our own gods, our own traditions; and precious few safe places for us to gather and talk about them. It’s ok for you to have your beliefs as well, all we ask is that you allow us the same courtesy.

      I wish you safe travels.

      • wlinden

        “Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with
        it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think
        blasphemous thoughts about Thor. I think his family will find him at
        the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.” — Chesterton

        • Wyrd Wiles

          That’s a fantastic quote! What is it from?

        • Gwynn Morgan

          ROFL. So true and amusing. Words are just words anyway and I really doubt if any Deity gets too torqued by what us petty peoples say about him/her/it!!

    • Gwynn Morgan

      sorry, I cannot buy into this and have not for nearly 60 years. Go in peace with your beliefs but do not try to sell them to me nor force them on me.

  • wlinden

    “Cult” means “I don’t like Them.” Period. It has ZERO denotational content.
    My church is on every list of “cults” I have seen promulgated by self-styled “real” Christians.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      I completely agree. (Hence my issue with the term).
      I think, in the colloquial usage, it could probably be narrowed down to “I don’t like that minority”.

      • RK

        Religion: n. A large, popular cult.

        Cult: n. A small, unpopular religion.

  • anonymous

    I am a constitutionalist, also someone finding many issues with Christianity. I am searching for a faith that makes sense to me. I think people don’t understand the importance in preserving our Constitution, for by this document am I able to do this without fear of persecution. I personally believe that it does not matter if you are Republican, Democrat, teaparty, Libertarian, Green party, or whatever. The main thing is to preserve our personal liberties. For if you are not allowed to practice your faith then how will I be able to find mine.

    • Gwynn Morgan

      Well said and I totally agree. I have not been Christian since I was a teenager but by golly I DO believe in the Constitution of the USA as it was written and do not feel it needs to be changed or is out of date! We NEED these protections to continue to live as free as we were meant to; they are eroding very fast. I do not want to be a Muslim or a peon for the 1% but that does not make me a radical, does it? There is room for a lot of beliefs and creeds so long as we have the Constitution and its guarantees to protect all of us.

    • Wyrd Wiles

      Indeed, well said!

  • Gwynn Morgan

    Actually I am pagan and not quite but almost a Tea Party person–not racist, not radical, not KKK or baby killer or any of that kind of s**t, honest. I’m a 70 year old woman who is a devotee of Brighid (basically Druid) but I am not a Demoliberal at all. Shocked? Scared speechless? Please don’t be. I really do want the government to be smaller and get the eff out of my bedroom, medicine cabinet and stop playing nanny to the whole dang world. I own some firearms, too. Scarier than ever, eh? So my point is you cannot put folks in a box or draw a big black line around them and say, “you are this so there is no way you can be that.” To do so is as much stereotyping and racist/sexist etc as anything!

    • Wyrd Wiles

      I’m thrilled to see so many perspectives and so much conversation going on here!

      I’m curious how you deal with the religious elements within the more conservative political culture? Has that ever effected your interactions with the broader conservative population?

      I’d love to hear more about your perspectives here :)

      • Gwynn Morgan

        I find a lot of the conservative people I know are not rabidly religious. Most of them know I am not a practicing Christian and most of them just avoid any deep discussions about religion and accept me as a “good person” even though I may not follow their creed. I do not try to convert them to paganism and they don’t try to ‘save’ me. I have said most of my life that one’s spirituality or religion is a private thing and I don’t respect anyone who is “selling it on the street.” I turn missionaries away as politely but also firmly as I can–and not all of them are ‘conservative”. I will argue with left-leaning friends on abortion and gay marriage for example but politely. I do feel abortion is not a valid alternative to birth control but the option should never be taken away. A few will snort and walk off from me but mostly we either agree to disagree or work around this particular difference for some goals we do share such as defense of the Constitution and the right to bear arms..

        • Wyrd Wiles

          Interesting. You mention that you argue with your left leaning friends over Gay marriage. I’ve heard Pro-life arguments from a Pagan perspective, but I’ve never encountered an argument against marriage equality that wasn’t founded in some Biblical reference. Would you mind sharing your thoughts on that?

  • Wyrd Wiles

    I’m intrigued by what people are taking away from this article. The primary focus of my piece was a story about being outed at work, and attempting to explain that not all of us should be judged by one mans behavior.
    I’m loving all of the conversation that is being spawned here though! I’m thinking of doing another piece about the perspectives of conservative Pagans. :)

  • Prophet-Terrell Potts

    Who here desires Truth?

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      I think, perhaps, you should read my previous response to your first post. :)

  • http://nonpcheathen.wordpress.com/ Erik Lundrbeck

    I just happened upon this article by chance and I have to say it’s pretty well written and even better are the comments. There’s an actual civil discourse that was happening. I’m a Heathen who is just simply stuck in the Center politically and I’ve had experiences with the Tea Party and regular fundamentalist Conservatives. The Tea Party was actually, and surprisingly, more tolerant of having a Heathen amongst them then the fundamentalist Conservatives. I still try to build a bridge between Christians and us Heathens. They, like us, aren’t going away so it’s better to try and forge ahead together rather than separate. Some might think it’s futile, but to me it’s important for the future of all people. If we can’t share this planet peacefully and without destroying it than we don’t deserve it.

    But as it goes for me concerning political ideologies, I have no time for such divisive nonsense. It’s heart breaking to see people so divided (and conquered) by political ideologies. I don’t care what a person believes as long as their character is kind and not vile.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      Down here in Arizona, most of the Tea Party members I’ve met tend to be fundamentalist Christians who’s lost faith in the Republican party, and have thus become SUPER REPUBLICANS. Thus it was strange for me to see a Wiccan among their number.
      Right after I wrote this piece however, I had some interesting conversations in the comments section that prompted me to write a follow upon conservative Paganism. It was an interesting experience. :)

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