Rant — the Flake Factor

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.

Cur­rent Mood: 😡annoyed
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
Posts created 4259

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