I’m not sure if this is a larger problem, a sort of human-thing, or if it’s specific to Pagandom, but I’ve noticed something: we want to be able to say our words, but we don’t want to take responsibility for them. We consider our words sacred (some of us), but we don’t want to own up to what that means. We want to be heard, but we don’t want to have to answer when we are listened to.
We want debate, but we want our opinions to be untouchable. (After all, it’s “just an opinion”.)
This post today is in response to Sam Webster’s article here. I’ll be upfront: I didn’t like the article much at all. (Probably why I’m writing a response to it…) It read as a lot of excuses. It read as ‘I don’t have to take responsibility for my words’. It read as, “It’s just my opinion.” His statement was a ‘rhetorical flourish’. He knows he irritated people, but he didn’t intend to (oh, could I write essays on intent), he merely meant to focus us. And, really, why should we be bothered by what he says – it’s not like he can enforce what he writes, and it’s entirely up to us whether we agree of not.
What got a lot of people’s hackles raised was that he said that one cannot worship Christ and be a Pagan. I wasn’t really irritated. That’s a common statement in most Pagan circles, not exactly a new proclamation. I was irritated, and a little bit shocked, at his second article though.
No one has to agree, as he said. But to act as though your words exist in a vacuum is bordering on dishonest.
I admit, I’m probably losing a lot of important nuances to the argument he’s making. I’m not well-educated, and I’m pretty young, and I love me some simple words. I may always have my nose in a book, but I sure don’t sound like it when I talk. Which suits me just fine. I ain’t trying to be smart, I’m trying to be myself. My words are not gonna be pretty when I say them, but I’m gonna say them just the same. And I’m gonna take responsibility for them, and I’m not going to say, “Well, you don’t have to agree.” Of course people don’t! We know that!
But we speak and dialog to learn and influence. Humans are social, we listen to each other. It’s a common opinion that Christ-worshipers shouldn’t call themselves Pagan, regardless of anything else – that is not a new proclamation. And because of that opinion, groups are closed off to Pagan-identified folks who still involve Christ in their practices. Our words influence, and we shouldn’t act like we want them not to, and they have actual effects on communities and people.
Webster’s right – we can’t enforce our opinions. I doubt any Pagan group will send its members into each others’ houses to make sure they aren’t worshiping Christ. But we sure can make spaces hostile by saying them. I don’t care what people believe when we do ritual together, but you can bet that if someone says, “Ugh, atheists aren’t real Pagans,” or, “Polytheists are so weird, I can’t believe they think the gods are real!” somebody is gonna be making scarce. It doesn’t matter that those are just opinions. They effect people.
Your words do not exist in a vacuum.
With that, though, I’m going to have to stop – this week has been a harsh reminder of why I enjoy solitary practice even as my soul longs for company. The next week of posts will hopefully all be spirit- and practice-oriented rather than on the usual kerfluffes in the wider communities; though, being who I am, I’ll probably find myself unable to keep my mouth shut about something.