May seemed to be the month for the Witches’ Voice to pine about “pagan community.” Two articles in particular caught my eye:
In this essay the author bashes Gardenarian and similar Initiation-based branches of Wicca as inauthentic, and longs for a “true paganism” in which people
gather simply for the concept of community. They gather to share ideas and camaraderie with like-minded folks. Not to make a buck like some snake oil salesman. In true pagan communities, when an elder/teacher takes on a student, it is not to make money off of that student, but to enrich that student’s life and to pass on the heritage and traditions of that particular pagan belief.
There’s a bit more bashing about evil Xtians who apparently do everything for profit only. (Slamming a tradition that glorified aestheticism and poverty as virtuous by complaining that it instead glorifies wealth while coming from a tradition that places no inherent virtue on aestheticism is a new hieght of irony. It even beats out the author’s insistence on equating religion with belief, which is a very Protestant idea.)
And then there’s some more complaining about these pagan pretenders who know nothing about community. After all,
neo pagans continue to talk about ‘community’. This is a good thing within itself, except that the majority of such talk is over the Internet. Take five hundred of these folks away from their computers and take them on a walk in the woods and then ask them to point out ten medicinal plants. You may get two or three who are capable of such a simple task. Is this the standard of community that depicts neo paganism?
Because I define community as “group of people who can identify plants.”
Then we have this article:
[Christians] have volunteers… vindictive (sometimes) , gossiping (who doesn’t) , cliquish (never!) , reluctant (often) volunteers. People touching people in need. Even without a single cohesive vision, they set aside their own bitter internal arguments to reach out and provide. Yes, they shamelessly plug and advertise but when you’re standing in line at the food pantry because you make just enough money to be denied government assistance — but not enough to buy food after you juggle the electric bill, gas, and rent — what else are you going to read? Of course! The nifty little packet that says “Life Sucks, But Someone Cares and Has a Plan!”
Where is OUR presence? The world isn’t stopping online to read our blogs and web posts. Where are the coven food pantries? I certainly hope we aren’t too busy to start one because we are complaining over our ritual feast about why no one pays attention to us. Let’s pour some more wine and honey at the feet of our deities’ statues and ask Them to make the world a better place. (I am not self righteously condemning you; I am one of the many trying to affect the world while sitting at my computer… more shame to me. This is more an exhortation for correction than a complaint against the Community.)
How can we touch the world if we are not in it? I see a few examples of interfaith community action but sadly, compared to the need, it has no more impact than fodder for the human-interest section of the newspaper. The Goddess provides for her children. What better offering could we give than to help our community? Think big. Would it be better to offer the finest mead to our gods or to give bread to our brothers?
And this guy seems to get it. Instead of complaining that the pagan community doesn’t match his vision, he asks why we don’t start by doing the simple kinds of works that Christians do all the time as religious obligations.
Does it seem odd to anyone else that most of the pagan “community” seems centered on the same 101 level workshops and working groups, but there don’t seem to be many pagan charities?
The two authors here seem to have a disparity in what they’re imagining by community. While the former gives lip-service to a community where people gather together to share ideas, he seems much more interested in building a “community” that consists of the kind of people that are “pagan enough” for him. In short, his version of “community” reflects a romantic utopian fantasy.
The later author looks at a “community” as a group of people living together, and hence helping one another. His concern is not constructing a utopian pagan world, but improving the world we already live in. We already exist in communities, and as pagans we might as well make our presence and contributions to those communities known.
Of course, one reason why it’s a little more difficult for pagan charities to develop is because of the fragmented nature of paganism as a diverse political coalition more than a religious organization. The very quality of Christianity that so many pagans reject — it’s organizational nature — allows it to excel in this regard. Of course, some have proposed a loose coalition of pagan groups that might facilitate such charity works …