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I have literally been overwhelmed by the debate in the Pagan blogosphere over the weekend. It’s been a chore simply processing all the information, and every time I found a point I felt I inclined to speak to, three new perspectives popped up and demanded my attention.
In this debate I have found perspectives and statements I find disheartening. The idea that the only way for a minority religion to be strong is by dismissing other minority religions, or that the only way to not be second-class religions is relegating our spiritual cousins to 2nd class status. The idea that our communities are so fragile that simply discussing this issue will tear us apart, or that some issues are best left unspoken. The idea that it’s ok to impose labels and values on others, or that it’s only proper that to have a place at the table of the tolerant and inclusive you must fight for it. The idea that it is ok to treat our individual deeply held beliefs as something whimsical and deserving of flippant remarks.
Yet I’ve also read things that have inspired me and fed my soul. While written in a humorous tone, the Canons Sannion set forth provided a lot of food for thought. Particularly his definition of Paganism:
“Paganism shall be understood as the natural and proper religion of humanity, excluding those people who have fallen into the ignorant and pernicious error of the accursed sons of Abraham.”
Snark aside, this resonates with my own view of Paganism. I could care less what word is used. I remember reading in a historical novel, and this may be a real quote, that when his detractors accused him of desiring to be King of Rome, Gauis Julius Caesar angrily retorted that king was just a word, and if he liked he could make the word “caesar” mean the same thing. The word is the least important part of this debate. The community, or, more properly, the relationship between communities is what is important.
What Paganism is, essentially, is the organic natural religious and spiritual manifestation of humankind. It is not a construct, but that which grew on it’s own from the rich soil of the human spirit. Like many organic and natural things, it is widely diverse and should be so. I believe strongly in the concept of spiritual cousins, those who practice differently, worship differently and use a different religious language from me, yet I recognize and resonate with the core values they are expressing. In my own twist on the concept of namaste, finding someone with whom I have a spiritual resonance results in a spontaneous “the humanity in me recognizes the humanity in you.”By viewing religion in this way, I claim Shinto, Vodou, Santeria, Cherokee, Mari, Romuva, Lakota, Heathenry, OTO and many other paths as my cousins. We are not the same. No descriptor can comfortably fit all of us. None of us can speak for the other. None of us should treat each other’s faiths flippantly, or as a commodity, or as synonymous with our own faith. We are a diverse wood of many trees filled with bird song, and what we stand against is the pulp-wood farms of sacrificial homogeneity.
While I rarely engage in us VS them language, we are in truth Tree Ents who have only recently awoken to the fact that our forests have been cut down and our woods under siege. To resist Sauruman, we musn’t be hasty, but allow the Willow and Dogwood as well as the Rowan, Oak and Ash to speak and act their part.
The Pagan portal at Patheos will remain so named because it is the most useful descriptor, not the most accurate, yet I hope the content is always reflective of all our spiritual cousins, and I intend that this garden grow wildly diverse, even if that means separate fields at times. There will always be conflict, because it is the human way, but let the conflict not come because we aren’t listening to each other, respecting each other’s humanity or placing barriers in each other’s path.
I don’t care what you call yourself, but I do care how you conduct yourself. I should hope we should all of us, regardless of label or path, conduct ourselves in such a way that our being an ally brings our allies honor. Be strong, honorable, hospitable, sincere, honest, wise and know your boundaries. It is not our labels that bind us and make us strong, but our conduct and ability to form appropriate reciprocal relationships.