Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, here on Agora!
Recently the Pagan blogosphere has erupted into yet another massive debate, this time over the proper course of action when community ‘Elders’ say or do something that is harmful to the community. As Jason Mankey once pointed out, there’s this unfortunate tendency in Pagan circles for those holding the title of ‘Elder’ to be held as somehow above reproach. As if questioning these people at all is somehow showing a lack of proper respect and deference for an empty title. It’s Paganism’s own personal brand of ad verecundiam, and it REALLY needs to stop.
Any small child can tell you that ‘Respect your elders’ is a B.S. line made to shut down an argument. When my 7th grade science teacher taught the class biblical creationism during the chapter on evolution, I complained both to my mother and to the Principal. I was told by both to stay quiet and respect my elders. It didn’t matter that this elder was doing something illegal and blatantly lying to the entire class, he was not to be questioned. That is not only ridiculous, it sets a dangerous precedent of blind acceptance.
There’s a common phrase among Heathens which I feel applies here; “We are our deeds”. Respect is earned through action, not station. Deference is given to those who have proven they are worthy of trust by acting in the best interest of the group, not by standing up on a soap box and proclaiming one’s self Supreme Mugwump. Even the most sacred things in Heathenry are not above questioning or reproach; that’s one of the many things I love about this community. We’ll question ourselves, our sacred Lore, and even our gods. Why in all the worlds wouldn’t we hold our leaders accountable?
In fact, our own traditions regularly encourage us to hold that which we hold dear to an even higher standard. When a member of our family or community does something harmful we are encouraged to stand against them, both for the sake of the victim as well as the community which they are dishonoring with their actions. When supposed ‘Elders’ attack andostracize vulnerable members of our own community, or promote bigotry in the guise of faith, it is our personal duty to call them out. The tacit approval of silence is not a luxury we can afford, if we don’t want the actions of others to become a stain on our own honor.