Last week I posted a resource list for more information on Paganism. In the list I included a link to Gods & Radicals, a relatively new website for Pagan anti-Capitalism. A certain colleague who shall remain unnamed told me “Paganism isn’t political,” a statement with which I whole-heartedly disagree.
Here’s why: The personal is the political.
No, there is no political litmus test a person must pass to be Pagan. I know Pagans who are Libertarian, politically conservative, Democrat, anarchist, and a variety of other persuasions. The only type of Pagan I’ve never met is a social conservative, though I’m sure those exist too. Paganism doesn’t have a set of political views that one must subscribe to in order to be “authentic.” If anyone suggests as much, FLEE.
That’s right. You don’t have to get on board with the socialist, anarchist, anti-Capitalist view points of Gods & Radicals to be a Pagan. You don’t have to think that the legalization of marijuana or same-sex marriage is a good idea (though I genuinely can’t understand why you wouldn’t). You don’t have to believe that global warming is real (though I really can’t understand why you wouldn’t). For every political stance someone somewhere can probably find a Pagan precedent.
What I can understand is the reluctance to blur religion and politics the way the Religious Right has done in the United States, particularly since the 1970s and the rise of the Moral Majority. Elections are a nightmare for people who refuse to be taken in with “values voting” and distraction tactics. Political discourse in the US has been dumbed down and we end up arguing over just how finely we should regulate women’s bodies or rehashing the same “values” debates from years past.
Not a single Pagan I know – liberal, conservative, or any other political flavor – wants to be compared to a fundamentalist or Christian conservative in any way.
So I can see the reluctance to appear political and Pagan in the same breath.
But make no mistake, my friends: the very act of being Pagan is political. I’ve said it before (on Facebook) that the very act of my being female, educated, and opinionated is a political act. Throw in witchcraft and ….. well, I’m very much what the Religious Right hates. You’d better believe that my speaking out is political!
As a radical feminist* I think that every decision I make is a political decision: how many children to have; whether I should have children at all; how much and what kind of education to get (I am well aware that my extensive education in theology is a privilege and that, as a woman, it has generally only been possible from the mid-20th century on); what kind of sex I have – or don’t have; to stay at home or work outside of the home; to speak up and to whom about what; what kind of birth control I use or don’t use; and so on.
I can hear some one out there saying “But Paganism isn’t feminism either!” And that’s true (though I can’t understand that, either). You can be a Pagan and not be a feminist – there is precedent. But why wouldn’t you want to be one?
Why wouldn’t you, as a Pagan, want to work for something different than the status quo? All of modern Paganism that I can see – and much of the ancient expressions, as well – stood in direct opposition to the mainstream monotheist overculture. This is particularly true of the way Neo-Paganism developed in the US in the 1960s on. It is also evident in the “back to nature”, Classical Paganism of the mid-to-late 19th century as a reaction to the effects of the Industrial Revolution. I’m also going to take a wild intellectual risk here and suggest that magicians like Aleister Crowley weren’t cozy with the status quo either.
“Being political” isn’t about which party you vote for. Not really. It’s about how you express your values and virtues in the world. Signing the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment is a political statement. It tells me something about your values and the way you wish them enacted in the world. Not signing it also is a political act and tells me something about your values. (Not everything, but something.) The very act of being a Pagan tells me something about your values and how you envision the world.
Paganism is absolutely political. Your expression, like your mileage, may vary.
*I reclaim this word and refuse to let trans-exclusive radical feminists steal this phrase from me. I am a trans-inclusive intersectional radical feminist. A TIRF! As opposed to a TERF.