Warning: This is a rant. I fully expect people to be unhappy about it. I don’t mind. Forward the link to whomever you please so that they can come flame me, too. If I were worried about such things, it wouldn’t be public.
I’m a pagan. I’ve used that label to describe myself for 15 years now. I’m not part of anyone’s tradition. I don’t acknowledge any mortal spiritual leaders or authorities higher than myself. There are teachers and authors for whom I feel respect, but I do not take anyone’s words as my “gospel truth.” I believe it is every person’s duty to examine all information rationally, using discernment and experimentation to find what is and isn’t truthful for her.
I’m eclectic. I realize that some people recoil at that word, but I do have the sense to avoid simply mashing together disparate or contradictory bits from various paths. You won’t find me calling on Kali as a nurturing spirit or anything similarly stupid. I prefer to learn about beliefs and practices in the context of the originating culture as much as possible.
I have, however, checked out a far number of pagan groups and traditions over the years. Unfortunately, I found the majority of their members to be people with whom I didn’t care to associate, so there was no chance that I’d join. I call it “the flake factor”—Those People.
We’ve all encountered them.
They feel a need to be “in your face” about being pagans, and in my experience, they spend more time bad-mouthing Christianity than they do speaking about their own paths. They are often very elitist, in fact, believing that they are more “advanced” or “evolved” than those who aren’t on the same path.
They don’t function well in the real world, and as a result, their lives are full of crises and melodrama. They frequently spend money on gathers, ritual tools, books, and tattoos while having trouble keeping their kids fed and the utilities on.
Despite all that anti-Christian ranting, they have absolutely no qualms about using Christian charities. In fact, some of them know every food pantry and similar program in the area extremely well. They are remarkably capable of working the various social service programs, too.
Instead of doing anything practical to straighten out the chaos in their lives, they’re often looking for a spell or ritual or asking others to send energy/reiki, to help them.
They constantly get help from others in pagan groups, but never seem to be available to help others in need.
Some of them claim to be “otherkin”—actually insisting that they truly are not human. I know of one person who, while driving a truck that has LOTS of iron, insists that she’s fey and allergic to iron. Some insist that they’re vampires. The list goes on and on.
Why the bloody hell do we associate with these people? Or, more accurately—why do YOU associate with them? Why is there such a preponderance of these types among pagans? Why do we tolerate, and often enable them?
As pagans, we’re on the fringe. We’re different. Having experienced life as outcasts, we’re very accepting of differences in others. Honoring diversity is certainly good, and I’m glad most of us do so. We’re afraid of rejecting others as we have often been rejected.
There is a difference, though, between honoring diversity and enabling slackers. We have absolutely no obligation to accept, much less associate or socialize with, people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and their offspring.
I realize that there are Christian flakes, too. However, having grown up in a series of closely-knit Southern Baptist congregations, I know that they are encouraged to get their lives in order, and they are usually given concrete help in order to do so—as long as they’re willing to help themselves. If they won’t do anything for themselves, they use up the automatic store of goodwill the congregation has for them very, very quickly. After that, they move on to another congregation.
In pagan groups, though, they stay as permanent fixtures, constantly sucking up the energy and resources of many people in the group. In fact, they’re often leaders of some sort! They always seem to be the ones interviewed by the media, so that the rest of the world gets the worst possible image of what pagans are like.
WHY? How can anyone acknowledge people who are not functional, responsible adult members of society as leaders in any realm? I’m not about to place that kind of trust in such a person. The mind boggles that it does happen so frequently.
There is no conflict between being pagan and using discernment in our lives.
As a community (for lack of a better word), I truly believe that we need to be discerning. I believe that we need to practice and expect others to practice responsibility. If we want to be taken seriously, we must be worthy of it. We know that we will examined critically by authorities, individuals and organizations due to our differences, so we need to be ready for that scrutiny. Enabling the slackers is completely contrary to that goal.
The same kind of problem occurs in other groups on the fringes of society—fandom, gamers, poly people, etc. I’ve simply seen it in the pagan community more frequently and in worse extremes.
Disclaimer: I make no claims to perfection in my own life. I freely admit that we have had financial difficulties. We also work in concrete ways to overcome those difficulties, and continue with our low-drama lifestyle.