BT Newberg referenced the concept of Pagans trying to legitimize themselves “in the eyes of the mainstream.” Aside from the other interesting concepts in his post, including a naturalist/hard polytheist dichotomy, I found that an odd idea. I suppose to some degree it may be true, as the Facebook poll I created shows, but it seems to me we spend far more time trying to legitimize ourselves to each other, or knocking down rampant stupidity (such as the idea we are simply lazy Protestants).
One of the recurring discussion loops in Paganism is whether we are copying the Christians, or copying the ancients, or whether we’re not copying anybody but we simply don’t want a bunch of people in our backyard every full moon. Regardless of whether you are intentionally copying ancient paganism or modern Hinduism in your desire to have permanent worship space with a working bathroom, someone is going to come along and claim you’re copying Christianity. That you’re selling out, a secret Jesus Freak, or simply an Uncle Tom trying to please your master overculture. It’s pretty petty and immature. We’re getting old, we’re having kids and sooner or later if we survive we will have infrastructure. Usually it is this topic, or theology, that discussions about “legitimacy” boil down to…
But what makes us legitimate? Is it infrastructure? Buildings? Well both the Mormon’s and Catholics have that but I bet I could scare up a dozen people in my town that don’t think they are real Christians. Is it theology? Reason? Logic? Magnificent liturgy? If any of those things were all it took, then most religious strife would be null and void. Moot.
So really all this talk of legitimacy is about insecurity. It’s why we attack people getting things done, it’s why we attack people who do nothing, it’s why we hate the idea of hierarchy and why we hate egalitarian consensus models. It’s why we go around calling people secret Christians as if “Christian” was a dirty word, and it’s why we claim no Pagan can ever write anything as lovely as the Magnificat.
We’re all so busy running around venting our insecurities on each other we don’t get anything done. We’re afraid to state our very real spiritual needs because some damaged person will come along telling us that’s not what “real” Pagans need and we should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. We’re so busy telling everyone we can do whatever we want that instead of doing what we want we spend our time interfering with others doing what they want.
Legitimacy of faith shouldn’t even be a question. Seeking out like-minded people to pursue achieving your common spiritual needs with is healthy. Maybe you don’t need other people. Maybe you need weekly group sacred ritual. Maybe you need a code of ethics. Maybe your soul needs freedom.
So I’d like to try an experiment here on this blog. In the comments section, without fear, post what you really need spiritually. Don’t worry about whether it’s legit. Don’t comment on anyone else’s needs. Just speak from your heart and state your own spiritual needs and desires. Be brave. Be bold. The comments are moderated, so no one will be able to tell you your needs are stupid, unnecessary, or “unPagan.” Go ahead and share. You may be surprised to find that stating your needs may encourage other’s to state theirs, and maybe we will all feel less insecure and alone. I’ll start:
I need regular joyous worship. I need song. I need dance. I need more joy and less mournful, dark, spooky, death-related Paganism. I need a sanctuary where I can go meditate, pray or just sit in silence without anyone bothering me, where I am made to feel like I belong. I need community that supports my need for joyous worship. I need a Paganism that is relevant to my life here, today, in this place. I need community that is willing to tell someone to take a flying leap, maintains safe space, and doesn’t try to be all things to all people. I need priests who are there to help me experience the sacred, not be a psychologist or play mind games. I need community that is clear about it’s values and seeks to embody and share them. I need family-friendly community, and beyond that, community that encourages family as the foundation of faith community. I need community that judges people on their character and actions, not on their sex, gender, race, age, income, education level, ability, politics or sexual orientation. I need community that values speaking from the heart AND speaking from reason. I need community that is built around a purpose larger than individual religious expression. I need community that has being supportive of each other as a core value. I need community that seeks to create, build upon, and leave behind a deep, rich, complex religious legacy and is not satisfied with a shallow faith. I need a community that insists on thoughtful ritual and a cohesive theology and practice. I need a community less concerned with what other Pagans or other religions think, and more concerned with what feeds the members souls. I need a community that isn’t afraid of magic, or superstitious. I need a community that believes people should be held accountable for their actions, and strives to practice that. I need a community that encourages daily practice, and regular household practice. I need a community where I can be useful, and one where I can find solace. I need a community that doesn’t believe intention is everything. I need a community that believes that the gods do care if we sing on key or pronounce words correctly. I need a community that respects scholarship, but isn’t bound to the archaic past.
Anyway, that’s mine. I’d love to hear what you need. If you think my needs are stupid, or someone else’s needs are “wrong,” then don’t bother to comment. We don’t need anymore of that, thanks.