I Don’t Want To Live In A Pagan Ghetto

I Don’t Want To Live In A Pagan Ghetto April 27, 2012

Gate of the Kraków Ghetto

I’m taking this blog off-track for a moment. I had an eventful day yesterday involving my vehicle and the vehicles of my friends ending up in the shop for various mechanical failures. Which was ironic because one of the astrology blogs I follow mentioned some gloom and doom, and I brushed it off.

So it was only this morning that I noticed Gus diZerega’s latest post on Beliefnet:

I think in the absence of a sincere apology from Kerby (NOT “I am sorry some were hurt” or “mistakes were made” but an honest discussion of the issue.) the time has arrived for me to move on.  What Kerby wrote was unacceptable.

I can’t express how sad this makes me. I suppose technically Bnet is my competition, and I should celebrate any loss they have, but I don’t feel that way. As long as Gus was at Bnet there was at least one strong Pagan voice over there. If Gus leaves, there’s silence. As someone who was once a Bnet forum regular, I can’t rejoice this change.

This morning as I mulled over Gus’ post, and sent him a message of support for whatever decision he makes going forward, I was suddenly struck by the enormity of this incident.

Gus is telling Beliefnet no. Not the other way around.

I remember the early days of Beliefnet when we had to fight for a place at the table, and often had to settle for just having our own forums. And to some degree, we felt that was ok. We were just grateful a major religion website gave us forums. There was a time when we were grateful for any crumbs we could get, but that time is long gone.

Today, the Pagan web is thriving. Sure, Patheos is pretty happening with The Wild Hunt and some fantastic columnists and bloggers gracing our pages, but just look at Patti Wigington over on About.com, at the growth of the Pagan Newswire Collective, and at all the independent bloggers doing amazing things. Witchvox is still growing strong after a decade, and there are Pagan podcasters galore.

We have reached a point where we don’t need platforms, however large, that aren’t willing to respect us.

As I mull this over, I realize what a huge responsibility that puts on my shoulders. Patheos has been good to Pagans, but honestly, a site like this isn’t easy to maintain. A diverse bunch of folks running around the site, and sometimes running into each other, can make for headaches now and again. Giving Pagans a platform to speak on doesn’t make Patheos popular with some folks, including folks who buy ad space. And giving Evangelicals, Catholics and atheists a platform to speak authentically from can make Pagans uncomfortable at times.

There have been times here when I have felt like I was holding two barking dogs at bay and my arms were getting tired. There have been times I’ve had to explain that censorship in the name of political correctness is not what Patheos is about. This isn’t a place where people of all faiths hold hands and sing Kumbayah. It’s a place where people express their faith passionately, and I love that. We are multi-faith, not interfaith.

There have also been times when I’ve had very pointed conversations with Patheos HQ to stand up for my community and writers. Luckily, this has never resulted in my receiving the sack, and Patheos has defended me just as much as I have defended them. They are good people, even though they sometimes need words like egregore and gythia explained to them. The Pagan Channel here has been good for Patheos, a bit of sharp spice and surprising sweetness that offers a counterpoint to the sea of monotheism, even though it truthfully isn’t a big revenue generator.

The other day in a meeting my Catholic co-worker said something that has remained with me. She said that she had to remind her community that the Catholic Channel on Patheos is not a Catholic ghetto, but that it’s a robust part of a diverse faith community, and who wants to live in a ghetto anyway? As I read Gus’ words today and realized their import, I had to ask myself what makes Patheos useful to the Pagan community. The answer I came up with is that I don’t want to exist in a Pagan ghetto.

For the Pagan Channel to not become a Pagan ghetto, then it has to live alongside the other faith channels, even when the authentic, passionate expression of those faiths includes suggesting that we are an untouchable caste. I’m not going to recount the heated discussion “behind closed doors” regarding that article, but disgusting as that expression of faith is, I defend Lisa’s right to express it. Yet if we are not to become a Pagan ghetto it means that I have to have those discussions, and I have to fight for my community.

You see, what will keep Patheos from going the route of Beliefnet isn’t money, or traffic stats, but me. What will keep Patheos on the straight and narrow is the fact that there is a staunch Pagan running the Pagan channel, a feisty Catholic running the Catholic channel, and a devout Muslim running the Muslim channel. Each of the Channel Editors pray for wisdom and strength, manage the tension that results from not living in a faith ghetto, and fight passionately for their community.

I didn’t intend to turn this post into an advertisement for Patheos. Really I intended to rail against the ghetto-ization of the internet. That is something that worries me, that simmers in the back of my mind as I weigh the concepts of comfort and safety against isolation. But what I’m really doing is recognizing why Gus is making the choice to leave Beliefnet, and justifying why I remain here at Patheos.

To write, to debate, to argue, to share, to celebrate and to analyze our faith we don’t need a bustling online faith metropolis, but we risk living in a Pagan ghetto. Learning from Warsaw in the 40’s and East Harlem in the 50’s, ghettos are not places with a lot of hope or future. So on days when I question the value of what I’m doing, I think I’m going to make a point to go look at Pagan writers featured on Patheos’ home page, or featured at the bottom of every article in the Editor’s Picks.

I’m here because I don’t want to live in a Pagan ghetto.

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