Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Pagan Controversy

When I was a Christian, I wrote often about how my faith influenced my daily life. I look back and think I often went overboard. I wanted so much to show that I was a good Christian, and I never ever felt good enough.

When I finally left the faith, and then stepped back onto the Pagan Path, I didn't want to go overboard again. I didn't want to make it all about my faith all the time. I didn't want to drive anyone away, or be overbearing. And in many ways, this path is far more personal.

I may need to write about it more.

I am aware that while some of my readers are Pagan, many are not. For them, this blog may be the only thing they know about Paganism. I feel a very strong responsibility to represent what I believe in a way that casts a positive light. After all, it's a minority faith, and often misunderstood, if not distrusted.

But of course, Paganism, like any other faith, has a variety of beliefs held by different people. And some people will represent it well, while others represent it poorly. We're not free from people or stories that embarrass us, shame us, or cause controversy.

This past week, a prominent Pagan "outed" a number of other practitioners. Many of us still live in communities, or have personal situations, that make it unsafe for us to be open about the faith we practice. I find the practice of "doxing" or outing people, to be incredibly disrespectful of the autonomy of others. And it violates what I believe is our most important ethical rule, "If it Harms none, Do what Thou Will".

This set off some kind of internet flame war, and when one woman complained to the man who had doxed her, that it put her in danger from her stalker, he replied with something so wildly inappropriate and disgusting, that I won't repeat it here.

There are many in our community who support him. Who know him. Who believe that the apology he issued is sincere, and that forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can provide to each other. There are others who would like his head on a stick. I have seen people defend him, and be attacked for things as petty as their name. I have seen his comments dismissed as just being from someone who was young.

I'm not going to tell anyone how to feel about the things said. I'm not going to tell anyone which side to take. I'm not going to say who is a "real" Pagan and who isn't. It's just not my place to decide whose faith is valid and whose is not.

What I will say is that I'm saddened by the tone that the discussion has taken. Clearly there are things we still need to address within our faith community. Clearly some people don't understand the importance of pseudonyms, or that an offhand comment about rape is not a small thing. And we clearly need to remember that we're being watched by people looking to understand us. I don't think this is the way we want to be seen.

The basic premise of everything I believe, is that divinity isn't something outside of ourselves, but something that flows through both the natural world, and all of the living creatures within it. I believe that the Great Divine flows through the gentleman who made the offensive comments, and the woman who was the target of his vitriol.

When we harm one another, we harm that Divinity that connects us. We hurt ourselves. And we hurt the image of our faith community at a time when we are doing so much to educate people who don't understand us.

Wherever you fall on this particular issue, and make no mistake, I have a side here, I would urge you to combine your anger with compassion and love for others, even the ones with whom you disagree. Which isn't to say that we shouldn't stand up for what we believe in, because I absolutely believe that we should. But I also believe that we should do so in a way that respects others, because I believe that's who we are.


I hope that I will always be respectful of those who read here, whether they agree with me or not. And let's face it, I can be a giant pain in the ass, sometimes. I'm aware.

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