Thursday, February 25, 2010

The "Pagan Persecution Complex"

Or, "Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!"

In his Annotations to Reynolds' Discourses, William Blake contemptuously wrote that "to generalize is to be an idiot". Nonetheless, I'm going to embrace this idiocy for a moment and hazard a guess that most people who are, or have considered becoming, Pagans of one kind or another have come across the idea of the "Pagan persecution complex". You know, the idea that Christians are all out to convert Pagans with their "Buy-bull" and crosses and crucifixes* and "stolen" rituals that Everybody knows are really Pagan in origin, and if Pagans don't convert, they'll be burned at the stake—"OMG, just like the Burning Times!!!" Christians of all denominations are dismissed as "fundies" and accused of being evil minions of a power-hungry institution. (Just look at the comments over at Wren's Nest whenever anything even vaguely related to Christianity comes up.) We stand in solidarity—or at least, we like to think we do—with the victims of the onslaught of Christian villainy and oppression. Some of us even revel in it, perhaps because it gives us a sense of importance.

Look at us! See how much of a threat this Big Mainstream Religion thinks we are! See how hateful they are! Look at how wonderful we are for being above that sort of petty thing! And incidentally, aren't all of the members of this Big Mainstream Religion terrible?

There's no nice way for me to say this, so I'll just say it plainly: snap out of it!

Yes, there are people who use their religion to kick other people when they're down. The Phelps crew and a lot of religiously-motivated abortion protesters come to mind very quickly. You may even have heard of Tempest Smith, a 12-year-old girl who took her own life in 2001 after being relentlessly taunted and bullied by her classmates because she was Wiccan. These are all terrible occurrences, but you know what? They are not an adequate excuse to see us as a marginalized and oppressed group. We are not martyrs. We are not Virtuous Pagans in a spiritual battle against the Hateful Christians. Self-righteously condemning people who are on a path that you personally do not subscribe to sounds an awful lot like some of the behaviour that you're accusing them of displaying. There's plenty of hatred and evil in this world already. Don't add to it. Point it out. Do something about it. But do NOT whine about it and complain that because we Pagans are still a minority, anyone who isn't, especially anyone who's a Christian, is an enemy and is therefore out to re-create the Salem witchcraft trials or the "Burning Times" as a whole.

We're not martyrs. Whining is useless and annoying. So snap out of it, because you're not really doing yourself—or the rest of us, for that matter—any favours.

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*Yes, there's a difference. A cross is the familiar t-shaped object that's often used to represent the Christian faith. A crucifix, on the other hand, is the same shape but has a human figure meant to represent Jesus on it.

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