- Current Mood: accomplished
I am no fan of proselytization as it usually occurs; anyone who has spoken with me on the issue will know this very well. The reason I am opposed as a general principle is because of the underlying purpose, which is conversion, and the underlying principle which is that people are too stupid to choose their own religion. Much of it impinges on the notion that those, to use a Christian term, witnessing are of the belief that their religion is the only correct one and that people need to know that without it they are doomed. Obviously as a polytheist the very notion of necessity of belief is an alien concept. An Asatruar is not going to suffer because they choose to pay homage to Freyr and not Badb, because it is recognized that they are of a different folk or are drawn to different deities for a number of reasons. The very idea of walking door to door to tell people the “good news” about GRP is patently silly. Just as proclaiming that GRP is the only right religion among polytheists is equally nonsensical. However, and this is where I become uncomfortable for fear of hypocrisy, how do we as GRPs promote our various traditions to a wider audience than those already members or familiar with CR in general? How important is the underlying motivation behind promotion of any given tradition? Does promotion of a religion automatically make it proselytizing, regardless of the motivation behind seeking converts?
Proselytize has two meanings depending on whether it is used as a transitive verb or an intransitive verb. In the transitive form, one is seeking to win converts. In the intransitive form, one is seeking to encourage membership. Is there then an actual separation of the two, as they seem to just about say the same thing? Which gets me back to the issue of motivation; anyone who has studied the recent decline in some denominations of Christianity and the growth of others will often note that those which decline are not nearly as aggressive in their efforts to increase membership as those which are stable or gaining converts (often from those declining, talk about Peter robbing Paul ;P). Many of the less aggressive churches have relied more on family ties, especially people being born and raised in the religion, though as is clearly the case being born into a religion is not enough to guarantee lifelong devotion. Comparatively many in the growing branch of Christianity, especially among Evangelicals, may be born into the religion, but many are “born again” in their adult lives, and this is accomplished by, you guessed it, proselytization.
Which brings me to the conundrum I’m having on the issue; most of the folks I know who have joined religions like CR (and more broadly modern Paganism) were not raised in those religions (of course in CR and GRP especially, many are raised with a particular cultural identity) and so converted or joined at some other point in their life for some other reason, often due to a particular pull or UPG. GRP (and Fálachus particularly) are considerably family oriented, and while many of us are young we do plan on having families and maintaining our customs through the handing down of traditions to our progeny. My concern then, is that alone sufficient in maintaining those traditions? Perhaps I am really jumping the gun on the issue, seeing as CR is still in arguably its infancy, but currently our numbers are quite minuscule, even the broader Pagan religions are quite tiny compared to other religions (of course there has been roughly 70 odd years of the modern Pagan movement, and even that is stretching it because only in the last three decades have such groups ballooned into thriving communities. One could find comfort in comparisons with other recon faiths like Asatru, which has seen wide growth over a relatively short period of time, but it is still largely populated by the same cohort who are currently raising their own children in their traditions, and it has yet to be seen how much of the next generation will continue these traditions. It is arguable that Paganism is not yet something one is born into, and that the majority of its membership (as amorphous as it is) come to it in their teens and early adulthood. This has so far been accomplished by dissemination of information, mass publication of books on the subject and largely word of mouth. The CR community exists predominantly as an electronic entity, many of us having never met face to face or perhaps fleetingly at conferences, but I wonder about the future and whether it will peter out after a single generation or continue to flourish the way it has?
As remedy to this, or perhaps a move to preempt such a concern I am leaning more and more to some kind of effort to at the very least educate people to the existence of such groups. I am fortunate to have met the founder of Gaol Naofa and Fálachus on a now largely defunct CR board and found a group which I wanted to belong to and help grow, and that our members have done a good job of spreading knowledge about the group around. If I do end up going to the local PPD in September this year I would hope to bring some of the promotional material which was produced last year. This however comes full circle to my concern with the issue of proselytizing, and whether I am fine with it to suit my own purposes, but then turn around and criticize others when they do it for their purposes. Is promotion always proselytizing?
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood: contemplative
- Current Music:none
So, modern Paganism has been around for quite a while in the US (and Canada) and even longer in the UK. Pagans (and Wiccan's specifically) have made considerable progress as far as wider acceptance and recognition go, Wiccan (and other Pagan) Chaplains, Wiccan grave markers in the US military, the recent Pagan Police Association in the UK, as well as being able to take of Sabbat days in lieu of stat holidays. This aside from the dearth of published works on the subject (some even by academics), and a fair bit of inclusion in popular culture.
So why is it then, that despite all the progress, despite the 40+ (conservative estimate) years of being out in the open, despite the PPD projects which occur around the world, we still get articles (and a staggeringly large number of them) which have lead in lines like:
"Despite the name, Southern New Hampshire Pagan Pride Day isn't just for crazy people who dance naked around a fire."
Primarily, these pieces exist in mainly small scale or local press, and serve primarily as fluff pieces (imho), although at the very least some information is being disseminated along with it.
Partly I think the problem is often self inflicted, and one need look no further than a local book store to find texts which do not foster much in the way of understanding Paganism (albeit Paganism as a whole is a rather amorphous group, based primarily on self identification, although there is always an undercurrent of what it understood as Paganism by the community and what it not) focusing less on theological issues, and more on spell crafting and rituals. Many of these books are essentially watered down Wicca, with some cosmetic changes here and there. It is not surprising then that if some small town writer gets handed the task of covering a PPD event (the primary coverage topic of Paganism in print/ digital media) that they might nip off to a book store and pick up a book on the subject, get a Wicca 101 book (the predominant type of books on the subject of Paganism, unfortunately) and then get the wrong idea.
Not to say that journalists are free from guilt, I've read many a 101 book, but would still not lead off with a "Paganism isn't just for D&D rejects and spooky goth kids anymore...". Certainly sensationalism continues to sell papers, and while I'd not go as far as believing that the misconceptions are intentional, I do believe they are certainly unnecessary. It dos not help matters, that one of the quoted lines of the local Pagan who is interviewed are ether, "We don't have green skin" or "We don't worship Satan", the later is found in at least 75% of all such articles. To be fair, there is no way of knowing how much of the interview has been cut, or which arts any given journalist or editor will pick, but I really do believe we are past the point of making such unnecessary statements. I mean even Christian evangelizing sources point this fact out (okay so tacitly Pagans still do; but so do Buddhists, Hindu's, Muslims, and everyone else who is not part of which ever Christian denomination.) If the people who were primarily responsible for this misconception in the first place are not even (overtly) teaching this now, why are we still on about it?
Would any other religion frame itself by explaining what they do not do, as opposed to what they do?
Then again, would any other religion have a lead in which so negatively characterizes the religion?
Which raises the other issue, and a much more difficult one, which is the way Pagan's speak about Paganism, particularly the issues of theology. This is difficult because of the problematic nature of what "Paganism" is, and being largely self identified, the problem becomes compounded by presenting a very broad milieu of concepts, which when understood within context is fine, but to someone who has no knowledge, looks fractious. Frankly, I see little which can be done about this, other than adding in provisos, "other Pagan may differ" or " I believe". What can be done much better is providing actual information, making statements like "Pagan is a derivative word for native" (it actually means in the original Latin, paganus: rustic, and later civilian) or that "Wicca is more of a New Age philosophical tradition..." when it is common knowledge among the community that Wicca predates the New Age movement by a considerable time frame. Again it gets back to where people get their information from; how can outsiders be expected to represent Paganism in a factual manner, when its own members are unable to do so? I absolutely applaud the willingness of people to share their beliefs and try and correct misconceptions, but replacing "we're not Satanists" with other misconceptions is hardly beneficial.
I believe this is something which the community can (and has been doing) to improve upon, but as always it is up to us to try and influence the way in which we are perceived and (more frequently) represented.
We can do better.
- Current Mood: cranky
Well since today was a fine day, one of the finest we've have this year, I had figured to start it up again. Yesterday was a big to do at my mothers home for our annual Easter feast, just a small gathering of 20 or so of us, buffet style and grab a seat where ever you may. The green beans I made were a resounding success, so much so that several of the dinner guests asked for my recipe, not bad for something I threw together at the last minute when we had some friends over two weeks ago! With the distance between us and our schedules events like these are about the only time I'm able to see my brothers and my nan, though I really need to make more of an effort to visit her more often, seriously. She's really the only grandparent I've ever known and while she is still hale the years do go by, though her spirits only seem to brighten.
Today we visited with my fiance's family at her grandparents home. As usual we were the first to arrive, though the others weren't far behind. Her cousin and his wife have a new baby girl and this was the first time I had seen her, terribly cute and a firm grip, though I'm rather uncomfortable around newborns, or rather I'm uncomfortable with the thought of holding them; visions of dropped babies and screaming parents always seem to stay my hand, not that my dexterousness is in question, quite the contrary; no it is more of an irrational fear, and I'm comfortable with it. The food was good (as always) and spirits were quite high altogether.
This evening consisted of my conquest of the new Super Mario Bros Wii, and all that remains is the secret 9th world, which I will likely tackle tomorrow (well today now, the peril of writing a blog near midnight, now my verb tenses are askew.)
Well off then to bed, perhaps a bit of reading (I've recently begun rereading the Lord of the Rings and have finished the first chapter of the second book in the first novel.)
- Current Mood: content
Ah well, such is the way of things.
- Current Location:Home
- Current Mood: hopeful
- Current Music:White Squall- Stan Rogers
- Current Location:Toronto (Etobicoke)
- Current Mood: cheerful
- Current Music:none...
- Current Location:Toronto (Etobicoke)
- Current Mood: accomplished
- Current Music:The Mary Ellen Carter