The Wild Fail

This is something that needs a broader audience than the handful of pagans and polytheists who read this.

I don’t have an irreconsilable problem with all Christians. Some of them, on an individual basis, can be quite pleasant, yes, i know this as well as anybody could. One of my favourite musos ever, Prince, grew up Seventh Day Adventist, famously converted to Jehovah’s Witness in the last decade, and has a career filled to the gills with songs that often juxtapose Christian imagery and frank depictions of sexuality —seriously, he’s barely had three albums that make no references to Christianity at all, and I’m sure I’m overguessing that. Sure, you could argue that when he wrote in “I Would Die 4 U”1 from the Purple Rain soundtrack, the lines “I’m not a woman / I’m not a man / I am something that you’ll never comprehend”, he was infusing his Christianity with Gnosticism, or even, dare I say, a “pagan sensibility”, but let’s be clear about one thing: I read so much biographical information about Minneapolis’ National Treasure that I can say with complete confidence that Prince has always been pretty openly Christian, and has used his music to make this clear, even if the message is riddled with borderline Gnosticism or vague allusions of pagan mythologies (“Adonis & Bathsheba”, anyone?), even if the message is on the same record as songs like “Gett Off” or “Darling Nikki”. Hell, I probably unintentionally (and unknowingly) learned more about Gnostic Christianity from Prince songs than any other source, prior reading over the “Gnostic Gospels” at Barnes & Noble. But I digress….

My first point was this: Christians themselves, on an individual level, are not an issue.

My second point: My problem is with Christianity not only as a religious institution, but as a privileged social status.

Now, as i’ve said in other posts, “privilege” in the sense that is commonly spoken of by armchair/wannabe sociologists with blogs (often on Tumblr) isn’t about having a money vault that you swim in like Scrooge McDuck. “Privilege”, in a sociological sense, is about being of a demographic that the society tends to assume to be the human default. There are other connotations that come along with privilege, but that’s basically how it’s defined in the field. Most people have some degree of privilege, even if it’s just the ability to walk or see unaided, and no serious discussions about socio-political privilege seem to happen anymore where intersectionality of privilege is not considered. In Western societies, Christianity is typically assumed to be the default religion of almost everybody, until there is reason to believe otherwise —like seeing a boy in a yarmulke, or a Middle Eastern-looking woman with a hijab. Compared to Chistianity, all other religions are, to varying degrees, disenfranchised. Judaism and Islam have some clout, especially in large metropolitan cities, because they’re from the Abrahamic umbrella of religions –they all maintain a narrative mythology involving the figure of Abraham and his covenant with his god, but outside those environments, where non-Christian Abrahamic religions are generally accepted, there’s really no telling how people are going to react to it. Now, your mileage may vary, and certainly some places are more accepting than others, but now consider the potential risk of backlash against someone who is of a non-Abrahamic religion. I’ve had potential employers (in the late 1990s, when I was in high school) ask me, point blank, if I was Christian or “if what [their] kid said was true and [I’m] into that devil shit”2. After years of watching news item after news item come up on The Wild Hunt, I have no reason to believe that it’s somehow “better, now”, simply because fifteen years have passed.

That said, I was highly disappointed, to say the very least, when I saw that not only has Matt “Teo Bishop” Morris and his shit-eating grin converted back to Christianity, but The Wild Hunt seems to be letting his continue to post about this personal spiritual journey of his on the Wild Hunt. TWH is not just keeping tabs on him, as a friend and fellow lib-dem religious blogger — TWH is allowing him to make future posts about his journey back to Christianity.

Call me crazy, but that shit is highly inappropriate.

You might as well ask an ex-gay to come talk about their journey to heterosexuality at a GBLT event. Contrary to another commenter’s fool-headed assumption, “ex-gays” have absolutely no place in the GBLT community. None at all.3

I really want to call to a boycott over this, but I dunno, something is telling me that it’ll fail.

Bishop can practise whatever religion he feels his heart is called to, and TWH can publish whatever other writers that Jason Pitzl-Waters feels are appropriate, I suppose, but if JP-W is going to bill this as “a modern pagan perspective”, concentrating on current events and pop culture as they’re relevant to paganism, then why allow this self-indulgent narrative about one man’s journey back to Christianity? No-one reads TWH for that. No, if we wanted to read that, there is no shortage of liberal Christian blogs for that kind of story.

And contrary to JP-W’s ridiculous idea that any other media outlet would do the same? Hardly. Find me one major Christian blog of similar focus (current events and pop culture as related to their religious group) that would let some self-indulgent column about their journey AWAY from Christianity happen, and I’ll give you a dollar. Too many Christians abide by the notion that “true faith is forever” to allow such a thing to happen. In this case, on the other hand, it is both inappropriate and unnecessary, even considering that many pagans encourage the questioning of one’s faith in their gods.

It’s inappropriate because, at this point in time, especially in the Anglosphere, the religious abuses committed by Christians is a well-established fact that often prompts many people into exploring paganism in the first place. Someone who hasn’t properly healed from that sort of experience neither wants nor needs to see Mr Shit-Eating Grin joyfully detailing his re-conversion to Christianity and pondering the potential long-term relevance of paganisms, as an outsider. No matter how much he leaves the option on the table that he “might end up some kind of Christopagan”, as it currently stands, he’s admittedly an outsider. In theory, I have no real issue with Christopaganism; it’s an historically valid thing, to varying degrees, but at the same time, it’s something I have a bit of a tendency to be suspicious of, if for no other reason than that narrative mythology is important to Christianity, arguably more so than in any pagan religion I’m aware of, and much of that puts itself squarely at odds with pagan/polytheist religions; some people have creative ways of reconciling this, so in practise, I take each one as I see them and abstain from generalising this sort of liminal group. That said, there’s a petty apparent difference between some-one who does identify as a Christopagan, and one who simply puts that option out there for himself, as a potential future occurrence. Bishop has done the latter, and as it stands, while certainly debatable, I stand that his presence as a “leading voice” in the pagan blogosphere is at least somewhat inappropriate.

It is also unnecessary. You need only load up Bing (or any other search engine) and type in a few keywords to learn why: There is no shortage of narratives from people converting to Christianity on the Internet. Many are even from liberal Christians writing for liberal Christian blogs. He also has his own blog, where he can yammer on about what he did for Yahweh today, how ritual circles still confound and perplex him, how polytheists are so niche we’re practically irrelevant, and catching up with his old Mickey Mouse Club buddies all he wants. I don’t care that his shit-eating grin has literally graced the cover of Witches & Pagans magazine’s latest issue4, it’s no longer his reality. In a world that is already so saturated with Christian narratives, pagans don’t need Christian narratives in pagan spaces anymore than any other disenfranchised group needs to hear or read the narratives of the privileged, cos we already hear and read about it more than we really care to.

As I’ve already said, this just strikes me as an example of cronyism at its finest because some-one inverted Spock’s monologue and now they think it’s the precious fee-fees of the individual (especially when he’s your buddy) that are more important than the needs of the community —news flash, it’s the other way around.

…but hey, The Wild Hunt has been full of fail for some time now. The more I think about this cronyist bollocks, the less surprised I actually am by it.


1: Prince has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, when asked about that song in particular, “it’s about God”, ostensibly that of Christianity.
2: This was already circulating my school when i was in seventh or eighth grade. I didn’t discover LaVey’s writings until after I left high school, so this was all because I was simply open about my interest in paganism.
3: Nor is heterosexuality ever a “queer experience”.
4: I also don’t trust self-proclaimed journos who use non-words like “irregardless”, but I’m kind of a snob like that.

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27 thoughts on “The Wild Fail

  1. I hadn’t realized how full of fail I have been. As I said in my initial response to you, I don’t know how things will proceed, but felt that people should know about Teo’s shift in belief. Anyway, don’t worry, things will be changing soon.

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    • Dude, there has been all of one exception in nearly two years where you mention the Hellenic community **without** GD Nazis (that would be Elaion’s new charity). I can’t think of a time where you, or any of your current columnists, have mentioned anything from Heathens that wasn’t a tie-in to prison ministry or Neonazis/racism. I’m also hard pressed to think of an instance where you’ve mentioned African Diaspora religions without a preface of suspected animal sacrifice, or that didn’t highlight the new book by some well-meaning white person in the religion. This kind of constant connection of recons to racism and AD religions to animal sacrifice can make an indelible association between the two items to people outside those particular, much smaller communities.

      I’m not even going to go back to remind myself of the specifics of the “Pantheacon vs Trans women” debacle; I do, though, remember a lack of reporting from trans women and their own feelings on that –only those (ostensibly cisgender) women acting as allies, and of course Budapest and her ilk.

      I get that you cull most of your stories from mainstream news and some of the most popular pagan bloggers and panpagan events, but what about the various smaller religious communities allegedly represented in paganism? I know people have used the contact form to pass along notable events and occurrences to you, but I don’t see much of that reported on. That alone is an immense disservice.

      I’m not “worried”, I’ve just been disappointed for so long that my expectations in TWH have gotten pretty low. In any given fortnight (and that’s being optimistic), there might be one article that’s relevant to traditional/reconstructed polytheism, and during an especially good week, there might be one article reported that’s of any real interest to me, at all. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of your intent to report on events of relevance to the community, it’s clear to me that you’ve been writing for one particular kind of paganism for quite some time, and that kind of paganism doesn’t include my religion or certain similar ones.

      As an aside: My teabag is wearing weak as I get older. I sat on a pretty nasty comment back at you last night that I thought twice about posting, until I noticed you’d closed them.

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      • Well, I am limited by the cooperation of the communities I report on. Many polytheist groups have decided they want nothing to do with the Pagan community, and that has made it hard to do more coverage. I do, actually, write up press releases sent to me by polytheist/recon groups when it happens. I’m curious as to what major events I’ve been alerted to that I’ve ignored? If you feel I snubbed something important, my apologies.

        I did ignore the recent huge Internet debate that happened within the polytheism community, because I didn’t think either side would appreciate me involving TWH.

        My recent reporting on the Golden Dawn was spurred by Pagans living in Greece who wanted me to write about it. Who contacted me personally. Plus, I included a Hellenic group condemning the Golden Dawn. I made i clear that there was a distinction.

        Just about every mention I make of African Diasporic faiths has been positive, criticized bad journalism about those faiths, and defended their rights. I’m sorry that my coverage is shaped by the mainstream press, but AD faiths are even more hesitant to engage with Pagans than polytheist recons are.

        As for the PCON trans issues, I highlighted just about every blogged voice I could find. I’m sorry if you felt it was unbalanced.

        Also – I hadn’t actively closed the comments. They automatically shut down after a few days. I had nothing to do with the comments shutting down.

        Anyway. I’m open to better coverage of polytheists.

        I’m not perfect, and The Wild Hunt isn’t perfect. I fully expected that I would be part of a larger ecosystem of news at this point. But that hasn’t really happened. In any case, I’ve been doing this daily for 10 years, and I do the best I can with the limited people-power I’ve got.

        I apologize for TWH’s shortcomings.

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        • I’m curious as to what major events I’ve been alerted to that I’ve
          ignored? If you feel I snubbed something important, my apologies.

          Well, there’s the Hellenic gathering in the works for next year, and I know Sannion isn’t the only one to have forwarded you information, he’s probably just the one most openly bitter by it being snubbed.

          While I understand that your post specifically on the history of Hellenic polytheism and GD was spurred on by and involved those against Nazism, and at least attempted to make a clear distinction, that wasn’t my point. My point was twofold: 1) In nearly two years, I can think of a single instance where any coverage of Hellenism did not somehow involved GD, and 2) in a very short period of time (maybe a fortnight), there were at least three posts to TWH about Hellenic reconstruction and racism; one was a quote from my resignation letter to PaganSquare, one was the piece you reference, and the other was a reference to another newspoint about Golden Dawn. With regards to #2, that kind of saturation in such a relatively short period creates a link in the minds of others, especially people outside the Hellenic community, a link that can become very hard to undo. You kept my hyperlink from that aforementiond PaganSquare post to SHARP, you know i cavort with skinheads, I am very intimately familiar with how that kind of media saturation, even if a distinction is attempted to be made, creates an indelible link in many people’s minds. Do you have any idea how infuriating it is to me to see people say “skinheathen” when they mean “Neonazi heathens”? The song “Skinhead Moonstomp”, one of the first widely noted uses of the word, was written by Afro-Caribbeans in the UK about Doc Marten boots –but that doesn’t matter at all to people who’ve already been saturated with the idea of “skinheads = Neonazis”, even if there was an even measure of pieces in that saturation making a distinction between trad skins and NF boneheads. The same principle applies when there’s a saturation of stories that link polytheist reconstruction with Nazism, AD religions with animal cruelty, and so on. I get that you’re trying to make a clear line drawn, but that just doesn’t seem to be how people tend to remember things, later –I remember a piece you did on the Neofolk scene that fell victim to the same principle, when most of the “murky politics” associated with that scene seem to specifically lay in the sub-sub-genre of “martial industrial”, and there’s more damaging evidence that Eric Clapton (who more-or-less stood by his racist remarks and support of NF leader Enoch Powell) is a fascist than Tony Wakeford (who has long since admitted that his previous associations with the NF were “the [worst] decision of [his] life and one [he] very much [regrets]“).

          I understand that you’re mostly limited to what you can find from mainstream sources, and what people send to you, and I know that can be difficult –I was music editor for a very short-lived gothic subculture ‘zine, and know how that works; if people don’t send you stuff, you can’t report on it, especially with a relatively small staff who have other jobs and lives to tend to. One can only expect another to seek out so much on their own, I get that.

          That said, I also want you to get that many of the polytheists I’ve known who have dropped out of the pagan community have done so because of feelings of being underrepresented, and that there’s only so much that you can represent on your own before it’s necessary that others involve themselves. I can’t think of an easy solution for this, either, but I know it cannot begin with continuing to blame polytheists, a relatively tiny minority in the pagan community, as the some arbiter of our underrepresentation in the community.

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          • I checked my email archives, and nobody emailed me about the Hellenic Revival Gathering, which I now see was announced on 10/19. I will happily include it in my community round-up on Thursday.

            I’ll try to do better.

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              • It is possible, I get a lot of email, and it sometimes gets overwhelming.

                I’m glad we can discuss this, I respect your intelligence and analysis. I take your critiques seriously. Maybe we can discuss finding someone to do a hard-news monthly update column on happenings within the polytheist/recon world?

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              • I definitely appreciate the compliments, and I do like that idea of at least taking on a monthly update column focusing just on polytheists. I would offer to take that on, myself, but I would need a few days to think about that –what kind of time I have, what kind of contacts I have that can be strengthened, and so on. If I can’t do, I have two people in mind who could do that kind of regular column in a relatively balanced manner.

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            • How peculiar because I could have sworn that I brought up Monte’s organizing of the Hellenic Revival Gathering in the same e-mail where I mentioned what Ivy Vine was doing with Polytheism Without Borders. It did seem strange that of the two stories you’d choose to go with PWB over the HRG since I’d have thought the notoriously volatile and schismatic Hellenic polytheist community actually coming together in such a tangible way would be the more newsworthy story, but what do I know? I still can’t figure out why pagans are talking about Miley Cyrus or why more people are discussing the state of Teo Bishop’s soul than the closing of the Tempest Smith Foundation. I’m not sure how, but Facebook is certainly to blame for this in some manner.

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              • So, checking the letter you sent me, Sannion (on 9/24), you highlighted this link:

                http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/09/24/its-now-your-polytheism-without-borders/

                You’re right, I did mention Polytheism WIthout Borders, and didn’t travel to the other link. I have no defense. My explanation is that the post in question seemed to emphasize PWB over the other matter. If you had couched the Hellenic festival in the terms you use here, I would have dug deeper at the time.

                Luckily, the festival is a year away, and there’s plenty of time to write about it!

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              • You really can’t use my not really being aware of that as an example. Hell I wouldn’t have been aware of Teo Bishop going back to Christianity, if not for having Ru’s blog up all the time. TBH I really don’t know who Teo is or why he is a BNP.

                I oftentimes have other things I focus on.

                Sigh. I think that is more cogent in my head, but for the life of me, right now, I can’t figure out how to make it more understandable. meh.

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              • Oh, I wasn’t faulting you for not knowing about it! I wouldn’t have known about it myself if it wasn’t for the Wild Hunt story. And that’s kind of my point. That’s the only place I’ve seen this mentioned whereas I can point to double digit posts about Teo’s conversion. Why? Why does one story catch on and another doesn’t? These things intrigue me as a propagandist.

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              • Not trying to come across as cynical. But I’m going to speculate, Teo offers gossip(larger Pagan community not the wild hunt in particular) whereas the other one is something different.

                My background, and what I was studying in college before I had a omg, I don’t want to do this moment, was Photojournalism. There is a saying in journalism. If it bleeds it leads. Teo stuff is more eye catching.

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              • Eh, I didn’t think that Bishop’s re-conversion was worth saying anything about, myself, until the end –where he said the intention was for him to stay on TWH’s (paid) staff, and tell everybody about the details of his journey back to Jesus. On such a wildly popular pagan blog, writing for it at all is a privilege, and giving a Christian a regular, prominent voice on that blog is a privileging action (and thankfully, I’m not the only intelligent person who agrees) –my comparison to bringing an “ex-gay” to GBLT events to speak about his experiences is pretty apt. I would take the analogy one step further and say that, by giving Bishop a prominent voice *on a pagan blog* to talk about his re-conversion to Christianity, while currently having no polytheists updating about the polytheist communities is akin to inviting an ex-gay to speak at your GBLT event at the expense of inviting trans people to speak, but I get enough drama from other TS/TGs, as it is.

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              • As best as I can tell, Teo Bishop is only a BNP cos he used to be Matthew Morris on The Mickey Mouse Club with Britney and Christina and all them. But I would’ve also brought a plucked chicken to Plato’s symposium after he defined “man” as “featherless bipeds”.

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  2. Pingback: Some good news, I hope… | Of Thespiae

  3. The defense is that you’re a busy man! I should have made things clearer. Mentioning both Ivy and Monte in the e-mail, and then giving you a post that linked to both of their causes as well wasn’t sufficient. (Clearly, since I ended up being credited with PWB! LOL) Next time I will leave no room for misunderstanding. I do not envy you, Mr. Pagan Media Baron. You’re pretty much damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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    • I’m sorry if I’ve messed this up, I really wasn’t trying to snub anybody. I misunderstood, and emphasized one at the expense of the other. I will be mentioning the Hellenic Revival in Thursday community news round-up.

      I don’t think of myself as a Media Baron, and sometimes it really does get hard to hold onto everything and not mess up.

      In any case, I’m sorry if I’ve inadvertently offended the polytheist community, I really am trying to do the best I can.

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      • You’re providing a valuable service to your community, and it’s such a large and contentious one that you’re pretty much always going to be pissing someone off. If there’s guilt here, it’s my own. When you didn’t mention the Hellenic gathering I should have inquired why but I didn’t really trust myself to do so in a non-bitchy way, so I just let it slide.

        And just to clarify, I was bitchy because I was trying to get word out about what Ivy was doing with PWB without having that project become associated with me, since a) I was actually doing anything with it but cheer-leading and 2) I was concerned that if people heard I was involved they would – quite reasonably – run the other way and it was too important a project to let that happen. So I came to you to see if I could get them some attention and then bam, you post pretty much cemented the association I was trying to avoid, especially in the minds of people who were hearing about it for the first time on TWH. Nothing wrong with your post, it just conflicted with my agenda. I’ve stopped mentioning PWB and so I don’t think there’s been much collatoral damage – out of sight, out of mind and all.

        But again, I sympathize. No way in hell I’d want to do what you’re doing, but I’m glad you are.

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