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.