Rotten Apples: A Sad Rant on the State of Pagan Community

Rotten Apples: A Sad Rant on the State of Pagan Community August 9, 2012

I decided to defrost a chest freezer by myself, which resulted in a pulled back muscle, which resulted in the inflammation from the injured muscle aggravating my sciatica. All of which means I am cussing like a sailor and mostly stuck in bed until the inflammation goes down. But even without this injury I think I’d still be irritated as hell today.

I want to know when Paganism is going to grow up. Because it’s really tempting to check out for a few years and come back when it’s reached maturity. There are days, and not just today, when it feels like Paganism is plagued by waves of stupidity and high school politics.

I’m not going to comment on the current wave of people acting stupid in public. Literata Hurley is doing a fine job on that and I encourage everyone to read her blog to get up to speed. Start with the post I just linked and work backwards. I’m not going to comment on it here because it’s just the current wave. There have been waves of pure stupidity in the past, and there will be waves in the future. It’s not really worth it to get too worked up over the current self-inflicted crisis.

What I want to know is why this happens? Why are we plagued with rampant immaturity and stupidity? All religions have immaturity and stupidity, but why do we seem to have such a bumper crop? I think a big part of it is we keep refusing to admit we actually are religions. That what we are doing is religion.

We’ve been saying that religion isn’t what we do for decades. To the point that it’s subconcious. Spirituality, magic, light-working and all the other terms we prefer to religion sound so much less formal and relaxed. So we treat everything as informal and relaxed. And then community centers go bankrupt or major organizations succumb to high school politics or nothing ever gets done, ever, because we don’t want the hassle of authority figures.

We don’t even take our own values seriously. I used to say that a Bill Clinton or Eddie Long type sex scandal couldn’t happen in Paganism, because we recognize that someone’s sexual life is separate from their service, and as long as they aren’t committing nonconsensual sexual harm, we generally don’t give a damn about what happens in their bedroom. But that’s not really true is it? I’ve heard Pagans use VA’s criminalization of adultery to make their case recently, without even stopping to say “Why the hell is VA regulating it’s citizens sex lives?” I would have said that most Pagans would have found this law abhorrent, not because they want to cheat on their partners, but because the government has no business in our bedrooms!

Not only are we overly concerned with who is sleeping with who, we are also overly concerned with defending monotheism. I stood up and in no uncertain terms stated that I was not a Christian in any sense, and that we should remember that being as disorganized and passive as we are we are in danger from the majority. I didn’t get a single Christian response. Instead Pagans tried to get me to see the light and accept Jesus. I felt as if I’d walked into Bizarro world.

We are a messed up group of people. We think it’s more important for clergy to know elemental correspondences than pastoral counseling or conflict resolution, and then marvel at how local groups rarely seem to last. We open businesses and community centers thinking that good intention will see us through rather than sound fiscal practice. We harp on how belief isn’t as important as practice, without noting the connection between the two, only to try to beat the “truth” into those who believe differently.

We have no accountability to each other, to our values, or to our gods. We are more devoted to chaos, discord, shallow faith, personal whims and childish drama than to building communities that can support each other and share our better natures with future generations.

If you judge a tree by its fruit, then Paganism is a pretty damn disappointing tree sporting a lot of rotten apples. I don’t know why that is. I don’t think the tree is bad, but maybe it needs pruning. Maybe we need better boundaries. More maturity. A sense that what we’re doing is religion, therefore we need to be prepared to properly handle the issues inherent with religion: volunteer time, money, counseling, interpersonal conflict, permits and taxes, property, multi-generational services, etc…

Maybe my view is simply sour today, but it seems that we have all the problems of mainstream religious communities with none of the benefits. Over and over again I hear people express that Pagan religions aren’t their problem, but Pagan communities. The solitary movement began out of necessity, but has thrived out of choice. It seems at some point we have to admit we have a problem and set to fixing it, or simply dissolve as nothing more than an interesting blip in religious history.

Maybe my view is simply dim today and will be brighter tomorrow, and my back has certainly made me more irritable. But I do think we have some significant problems that we have to address or we perish. And part of the problem is that for many Pagans having their faith perish with them on their death bed is a good thing. We are busy railing against the wrongs of the past and providing no solutions for the future.

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