Guest Post: Laura LaVoie says Pagans need to present United Front

Find other posts related to this topic on the link round-up post!

I use the term Pagan to describe myself. I am neither a reconstructionist nor am I Wiccan so Pagan seems to be the most reasonable description. Polytheist would also suffice but I kind of like the term Pagan and it is easily recognizable so it suits me. If I want to get more descriptive I would say Hellenic Pagan. What an individual wants to label themselves is none of my concern, ultimately.

However, where I start to get concerned is when the labeling or the lack of labeling or the change of label starts to affect the community as a whole. You might say “What community?” That is precisely my point. I think that all Pagans, Polytheists, Wiccans, Heathens, Reconstructionists, or anyone else who believes in some form of “The Old Gods” or “Multiple Gods” would be better served by providing a united front to gain acceptance outside of our own communities. When we are all so concerned with what we’re not or that we aren’t the same kind of polytheists as those polytheists over there, the community begins to break down.

I think it is important that we do come together for some things. If a Polytheism-identified group wants to promote their community out side Pagandom, that’s fine. But I also think it would be a good and separate PR move to also maintain ties to the Pagan community so when we are in a position to make a real difference in society we can come together to do it. (This is, of course, why I was so involved with Pagan Coming Out Day. It is an issue that is very important to me).

Laura LaVoie

  • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

    Could you help me out here?  Are you only really saing ‘what we call ourselves isn’t important”, or are you calling for action?  I found your article too vague to understand what actually want.

    What, exactly, are the things do you want that ‘united front’ to do? 

    What exactly would a ‘united front for acceptance’ look like?

    Really.

    Our community’s ‘looks’ resemble the variety of ‘looks’ in the GLTBQ community.  And our politics – and policies on how to do things politically – are just as wide-spectrum.  Yeah, we vote.  But we are NOT one issue voters, on the whole. 

    There is a world of difference between a pagan soccer mom PTA member’s acceptance in society and the acceptance of a polyamorous goth group, etc. 

    I, personally, don’t CARE if other individuals don’t ‘accept’ me, if some other religious groups have their OWN religious views by which they see all other religions as ‘satanic’.  I’d say that they have the full Constitutional right not NOT ACCEPT me/my religion.  Just like I have the right to say that their particular religious tenets are foolish.

    What, to you, does ‘acceptance’ look like?

    Or, was this just a way of saying “What pagans/whatever call themselves doesn’t matter to me”?

  • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

    Could you help me out here?  Are you only really saing ‘what we call ourselves isn’t important”, or are you calling for action?  I found your article too vague to understand what actually want.

    What, exactly, are the things do you want that ‘united front’ to do? 

    What exactly would a ‘united front for acceptance’ look like?

    Really.

    Our community’s ‘looks’ resemble the variety of ‘looks’ in the GLTBQ community.  And our politics – and policies on how to do things politically – are just as wide-spectrum.  Yeah, we vote.  But we are NOT one issue voters, on the whole. 

    There is a world of difference between a pagan soccer mom PTA member’s acceptance in society and the acceptance of a polyamorous goth group, etc. 

    I, personally, don’t CARE if other individuals don’t ‘accept’ me, if some other religious groups have their OWN religious views by which they see all other religions as ‘satanic’.  I’d say that they have the full Constitutional right not NOT ACCEPT me/my religion.  Just like I have the right to say that their particular religious tenets are foolish.

    What, to you, does ‘acceptance’ look like?

    Or, was this just a way of saying “What pagans/whatever call themselves doesn’t matter to me”?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

    I agree that we’d be better served channeling our combined energy together rather than against each other. I’m not certain we have any truly common goals or identity under the horizon to horizon umbrella of “paganism” anymore, if we ever did. Anytime anyone these days tries to proffer even the mildest non-denominational definition of paganism to make generalizations about being nature based polytheistic, seasonally based, magick or non-magick using, you name it, somebody jumps down your throat. “My trad isn’t any of those things. How dare you presume we’re Wiccan or anything at all like anyone else. I’m not even sure we want to call ourselves pagan anymore.”

    Fair enough, but it doesn’t leave much room to craft a movement of any sort, does it? If our only common trait is that we’re not Judeo-Christian, that’s not much to hang a hat on as far as common agendas or identity goes. Satanists, pastafarians and Wahhabist Muslims also share that trait, but I don’t see any productive (or even safe) interfaith meeting shaping up among them.  I’m not even sure we can define paganism as non-Judeo-Christian….some Christo-Pagan or trad rooted in Judaic mysticism is sure to object.

    About the only common goal I can envision for us is religious liberty and separation of Church and State causes. Even that isn’t something uniquely pagan. It has a particular relevance to us as minority religions, but it’s an issue that also involves atheists and plenty of mainstream Christians as well. I think we do, at bare minimum, have common cause where our civil rights are concerned. We have done some good work together on that, and I think it can continue.

    I don’t agree that “gaining acceptance” is a worthwhile goal. I’m all for doing some interfaith work to show friends and neighbors and reasonable folk what we’re about, but I’m not interested in signing up all of middle America. Gaining full acceptance or popularity ultimately means compromising all that you stand for to make yourself safe and light and breezy for middle class white suburban consumers. We would have to become a movement of congregational and mega churches full of cheesy self-help lingo and “outreach ministry.”  Even now there are clergy striving to get a table at that scene, wanting their Masters of Divinity and vestments and trying to distance themselves from any pagans who look at all freakier than the folks in an Old Navy commercial.  Bully for them, but that’s not what I came to my path for.

    • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

      My motive for arguing for an umbrella term such as pagan has absolutely nothing to do with common goals or definitions or acceptance.  My motive is that we really do participate in a complex and diverse milieu.  Attempting to define “pagan” is a sure way to exclude some of that diversity.  On the other hand, we aren’t separate bounded entities.  The reality is that individuals participate in multiple practices, with other individuals who participate in different multiple practices, with still other participants who…  It is those cross-cutting ties that motivate me to argue for an umbrella term that can include the full complexity and diversity of that network.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

    I agree that we’d be better served channeling our combined energy together rather than against each other. I’m not certain we have any truly common goals or identity under the horizon to horizon umbrella of “paganism” anymore, if we ever did. Anytime anyone these days tries to proffer even the mildest non-denominational definition of paganism to make generalizations about being nature based polytheistic, seasonally based, magick or non-magick using, you name it, somebody jumps down your throat. “My trad isn’t any of those things. How dare you presume we’re Wiccan or anything at all like anyone else. I’m not even sure we want to call ourselves pagan anymore.”

    Fair enough, but it doesn’t leave much room to craft a movement of any sort, does it? If our only common trait is that we’re not Judeo-Christian, that’s not much to hang a hat on as far as common agendas or identity goes. Satanists, pastafarians and Wahhabist Muslims also share that trait, but I don’t see any productive (or even safe) interfaith meeting shaping up among them.  I’m not even sure we can define paganism as non-Judeo-Christian….some Christo-Pagan or trad rooted in Judaic mysticism is sure to object.

    About the only common goal I can envision for us is religious liberty and separation of Church and State causes. Even that isn’t something uniquely pagan. It has a particular relevance to us as minority religions, but it’s an issue that also involves atheists and plenty of mainstream Christians as well. I think we do, at bare minimum, have common cause where our civil rights are concerned. We have done some good work together on that, and I think it can continue.

    I don’t agree that “gaining acceptance” is a worthwhile goal. I’m all for doing some interfaith work to show friends and neighbors and reasonable folk what we’re about, but I’m not interested in signing up all of middle America. Gaining full acceptance or popularity ultimately means compromising all that you stand for to make yourself safe and light and breezy for middle class white suburban consumers. We would have to become a movement of congregational and mega churches full of cheesy self-help lingo and “outreach ministry.”  Even now there are clergy striving to get a table at that scene, wanting their Masters of Divinity and vestments and trying to distance themselves from any pagans who look at all freakier than the folks in an Old Navy commercial.  Bully for them, but that’s not what I came to my path for.

    • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

      My motive for arguing for an umbrella term such as pagan has absolutely nothing to do with common goals or definitions or acceptance.  My motive is that we really do participate in a complex and diverse milieu.  Attempting to define “pagan” is a sure way to exclude some of that diversity.  On the other hand, we aren’t separate bounded entities.  The reality is that individuals participate in multiple practices, with other individuals who participate in different multiple practices, with still other participants who…  It is those cross-cutting ties that motivate me to argue for an umbrella term that can include the full complexity and diversity of that network.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1362174498 Lillitu Shahar Kunning

    “I am neither a reconstructionist nor am I Wiccan so Pagan seems to be the most reasonable description.”

    Are those our only two choices? I am neither of those but pagan is not a good fit, either…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1362174498 Lillitu Shahar Kunning

    “I am neither a reconstructionist nor am I Wiccan so Pagan seems to be the most reasonable description.”

    Are those our only two choices? I am neither of those but pagan is not a good fit, either…

  • Yankeerose73

    I took her statements as saying that no matter what you consider yourself, we all need to come out and say it to our community. I think this is a very important article, and so much that i posted it to my FB wall. Well said, Laura…:0)

  • Yankeerose73

    I took her statements as saying that no matter what you consider yourself, we all need to come out and say it to our community. I think this is a very important article, and so much that i posted it to my FB wall. Well said, Laura…:0)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josiah-Mead/100000231246334 Josiah Mead

    Pagan is an easily recognizable description? I don’t mean to troll, but none but fellow practitioners have understood the word Pagan; to get the point across I usually say “It is similar to the old faiths of Indian tribes, shamans, and druids; with a primary focus on the natural elements of our planet.” It does not begin to cover the full expansion of paganism, but it is enough to get on the same page.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josiah-Mead/100000231246334 Josiah Mead

    Pagan is an easily recognizable description? I don’t mean to troll, but none but fellow practitioners have understood the word Pagan; to get the point across I usually say “It is similar to the old faiths of Indian tribes, shamans, and druids; with a primary focus on the natural elements of our planet.” It does not begin to cover the full expansion of paganism, but it is enough to get on the same page.

  • Erin

    Hello!

    ” I think that all Pagans, Polytheists, Wiccans, Heathens,
    Reconstructionists, or anyone else who believes in some form of “The Old
    Gods” or “Multiple Gods” would be better served by providing a united
    front to gain acceptance outside of our own communities.”

    This is only a valid view when agreeing that gaining acceptance outside of our own communities is a need.  It’s not a need I have.  I don’t expect fundamentalist xtianity to ever ‘accept’ religions other than their own, as that is their creed, so I just steer clear of them.  Religious freedom is already constitutionally guaranteed and any infringement upon it is actionable, so that should take care of any transgressions.  They aren’t going to like us no matter what we do, though, so there is little point in striving for it.

  • Erin

    Hello!

    ” I think that all Pagans, Polytheists, Wiccans, Heathens,
    Reconstructionists, or anyone else who believes in some form of “The Old
    Gods” or “Multiple Gods” would be better served by providing a united
    front to gain acceptance outside of our own communities.”

    This is only a valid view when agreeing that gaining acceptance outside of our own communities is a need.  It’s not a need I have.  I don’t expect fundamentalist xtianity to ever ‘accept’ religions other than their own, as that is their creed, so I just steer clear of them.  Religious freedom is already constitutionally guaranteed and any infringement upon it is actionable, so that should take care of any transgressions.  They aren’t going to like us no matter what we do, though, so there is little point in striving for it.

  • Lady Charissa

    I think I understand what she is saying.  Acceptance by the outside world does not mean we need to compromise who we are.  Acceptance is just that.  Acceptance.  What acceptance could mean is that our children could wear their pentacles to school without fear of teachers giving them a hard time like those in the large organized religions wear their symbols.  We could have schools and community centers that proudly display exactly what they are without fear of demonstrations by churches that don’t understand what we do.  Other benefits accorded the more traditionally accepted religions would be available to those in our community that want them.

    Acceptance doesn’t mean compromise.  But it could mean a lot to future Pagans or whatever you want to be called.

  • Lady Charissa

    I think I understand what she is saying.  Acceptance by the outside world does not mean we need to compromise who we are.  Acceptance is just that.  Acceptance.  What acceptance could mean is that our children could wear their pentacles to school without fear of teachers giving them a hard time like those in the large organized religions wear their symbols.  We could have schools and community centers that proudly display exactly what they are without fear of demonstrations by churches that don’t understand what we do.  Other benefits accorded the more traditionally accepted religions would be available to those in our community that want them.

    Acceptance doesn’t mean compromise.  But it could mean a lot to future Pagans or whatever you want to be called.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AradiaMagick Heather Weidman

    I agree, we need to be upfront and open in our beliefs, even when they arent the same. I don’t feel that our individual beliefs are the issue, it is the ability to be able to express them openly without recourse that I am seeking. For example, if I want to use or rent a space to pratice or observe a sabbat then I should be able too just like any other religious group (Christian/Muslim etc.). This is a problem in my area since I live in the bible belt south.

    • Erin

      I agree, yet disagree.  Yes, one should be able to rent a space as well as anyone else for religious purposes.  But no, we don’t all need to be up front about our religious affiliations.  My kids aren’t Wiccan, they don’t wear pentacles or call themselves pagan.  We celebrate our feasts together as a family, and no one else need know what we are up to or what we hold sacred, as it doesn’t have anything to do with the community at large. 

      I really like this position on how minority religions can work together for mutual benefit without taking on a label they do not relate with (also listed on the link round up):

      http://gospelpagan.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/that-troublesome-term-again/

  • http://www.facebook.com/AradiaMagick Heather Weidman

    I agree, we need to be upfront and open in our beliefs, even when they arent the same. I don’t feel that our individual beliefs are the issue, it is the ability to be able to express them openly without recourse that I am seeking. For example, if I want to use or rent a space to pratice or observe a sabbat then I should be able too just like any other religious group (Christian/Muslim etc.). This is a problem in my area since I live in the bible belt south.

    • Erin

      I agree, yet disagree.  Yes, one should be able to rent a space as well as anyone else for religious purposes.  But no, we don’t all need to be up front about our religious affiliations.  My kids aren’t Wiccan, they don’t wear pentacles or call themselves pagan.  We celebrate our feasts together as a family, and no one else need know what we are up to or what we hold sacred, as it doesn’t have anything to do with the community at large. 

      I really like this position on how minority religions can work together for mutual benefit without taking on a label they do not relate with (also listed on the link round up):

      http://gospelpagan.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/that-troublesome-term-again/


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