Paganism & Politics

Paganism & Politics July 18, 2016

I don’t often write about my experiences as Channel Manager of Patheos Pagan at Raise the Horns. This little blog is my space and kind of a refuge from my job here. However, there are times when the two sides of my life here at Patheos cross over, and if you haven’t guessed this is going to be one of those times.

I run our Facebook Page, which means I see all of the comments posted there that pertain to our articles. Usually those comments are positive, but over the past few weeks there’s been an increase in negative remarks, especially when an article might be perceived as political in nature. When one of our writers addresses Black Lives Matter, or when Pat Mosley is interviewing members of our trans-family, I often see comments such as “What does this have to do Paganism?”

"Pythagoreans Celebrate Sunrise" by Fyodor Bronnikov.  From WikiMedia.
“Pythagoreans Celebrate Sunrise” by Fyodor Bronnikov. From WikiMedia.

The easy answer to that question is EVERYTHING. Our individual spiritual practices shape us as people, and our personal values aren’t determined strictly by secular forces. That’s especially noticeable on the Christian Right, but it’s much the same way in other religions, including Paganism. If someone sees the fight for income equality as a spiritual issue, then it is a spiritual issue. Not everyone will see it that way, but those who do should feel free to express those views. And our writers here are free to write about whatever they want, just as readers are free to ignore whatever articles they don’t want to read.

Personally, I’ve always been wary of inserting my Pagan toe into certain political waters. I don’t do spell-work for particular candidates nor do I believe that deity endorses a certain economic system. But I do believe that my Paganism tells me not to be a racist, and not to be transphobic, and allows me to empathize with others.

Wanna hear a dirty little secret? When I was much younger I was a Republican, and often a giant asshole. I was homophobic, close-minded, and a bit of a male chauvinist; and it was Paganism that made me renounce such ways of thinking.

Paganism taught me to value others and to accept them for who they are, and it’s hard to be transphobic when the very deities you honor and worship are transgendered. Sexual identity is a completely Pagan concern, because I believe Paganism generally teaches us that we should be full and complete beings. Perhaps other faith groupings want people to hide parts of themselves from society, but I do not believe that Pagan spiritualities share that desire.

I also care deeply about my community and want to know what we can do to improve it. I will never know what it’s like to live as a person of color, but I can read up on the experiences of people who are and use that information to make better decisions and be a better ally. Being a part of a community means embracing the entire community, and not just the parts I understand or have experience with.

My spiritual path teaches me to respect life and not to judge others based on superficial concerns. Is Black Lives Matter a Pagan issue? If you value life you bet your ass it is. No one should be shot to death for simply driving while black. I also abhor the recent police shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas for the same reason. As an American I believe we can do better on both fronts, and as a Witch I know that we can.

Politics are an inescapable part of our lives, and for many of us so is Paganism. That they are often intertwined shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. Where we take the convergence of those two forces is a personal choice, but don’t tell me that social justice issues aren’t Pagan issues. They may not resonate in quite that fashion for everyone, but for many of us they do. Social activism can be a spiritual calling equal to that of serving a particular deity or spiritual pathway.

Not everyone is going to agree on social issues, and one can be a good Pagan as well as a capitalist. However when we ask people to hide away parts of themselves that might make us uncomfortable we are not doing our community or our Paganism any favors. We don’t have to agree on everything, but don’t tell me something isn’t Pagan simply because it’s not Pagan to you.

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