Jason Pitzl-Waters from Wild Hunt posted a fascinating and alarming blog entry today about an evangelical Christian group called Repent Amarillo and their bullying tactics against anything they perceive to be immoral, including Paganism. * This is very frightening to someone living in a predominantly rural setting with, in my opinion, limited safe havens for liberals. I’m surrounded by Christian churches. Right now, they seem more welcoming and peaceful than anything else, but there’s always that fear of what they would do if they knew about my beliefs. What could I do to protect myself?
That doesn’t mean we need to out-militant them, but it does mean that Pagan communities, especially small and vulnerable Pagan communities, need to prepare for the coming storm. They need to come out of the “broom closet” now to their employers and family before they are outed by these “soldiers”, they need to be prepared when the faux-military trucks and loud-speakers roll up to their events, they need to know the law and how to use it, and they need to be ready to network with the larger Pagan community and other sympathetic minority faiths so we can get the word out, show solidarity, give aid, and withstand these bully tactics. They may have come for the swingers first, but if we show no shame, and stand up, it can end with the Pagans.
At the moment, I stand with one foot in and out of the “broom closet.” I’m very open with close friends and family. I was very open in college and where I used to work. In my current field I’m extremely reluctant to confide this side of me in anyone. I’m lucky enough not to be the only vegetarian at work, but I don’t want to tempt alienation anymore after such a short time there. (For the record, my diet has not alienated me, but it was something I kept to myself until I learned of the other.) I suppose, if I were faced by the “coming storm,” I would have to first research and make certain my boss and HR people weren’t involved with any such militant organization. Then I would probably request a small meeting with my boss, HR, and even mentor to let them know what I am and that I want to be up front and protected. I would hope that my actions now would speak volumes about who I am and that an added label wouldn’t damage my reputation.
In the meantime, I’m not going to go into a panic about it. Everyone I’ve met is, for the most part, a wonderful, welcoming, helpful person. Barely anyone has even attempted to discuss religion with me, and when they do it’s fleeting – what kind of wedding they plan, etc. At the moment, I’m not worried.
That said, I do wholeheartedly agree with Jason about networking. The Pagan community is fractured and it is such a weakness in these instances. We’ve been able to put aside differences and work together to get pentacle headstones and throw lovely Pagan Pride Days… But thats only the start. It’s what I’m hoping to get going in NY State with the transitioning MVPN. I would love to see the forum become more of a networking site for Pagans all over upstate NY. We need to come together as a community instead of wallowing in our perceived isolation. We need to have bonds so that, if we ever get negative press, we have solidarity. We need to know who in our community are lawyers, cops, and politicians. We need to know who we can turn to and what their reputation is from the get-go. We need physical meet ups to feel comfortable.
So those are just some thoughts. As always, thanks again to Jason for a thought-provoking and informative article.