By Peter Dybing
It is a normal human desire to seek acceptance, approval and understanding from those with who with we participate with in community. After all, this is where we nurture our sense of collective identity, connection to divinity and place among peers.
What presents a struggle for Pagan activists within our ever more diverse community is when our efforts place us squarely in the bulls eye of criticism from our spiritual cousins.
Many individuals in our community seek to expand their practice and network of contacts by sticking exclusively to theological pursuits ignoring the connections our beliefs have with the environmental, political and social issues of the day. Such an approach, while minimizing the potential for discord, leads to a “Pagan light” approach to daily practice.
For an activist, the spiritual is political, personal and weaved fully into our understanding of our path. If this is so, how do we avoid the many conflicts that arise from our activities? The simple answer is we don’t. If our beliefs and actions lead to strife among our co-religionists, it is a reflection of our effectiveness in pursuing our deity inspired concepts of social justice.
At the center of this divergence is the ability to hold those within our circles with whom we disagree in what I term “Sacred Regard” as teachers, clarifiers of our path and respected seekers on their own journey.
As a very left leaning activist I have encountered Tea Party Pagans, extreme conservatives and our ever present group of trolls who wish to engage in escalatory debate. Each of these groups serves a critical purpose within our community, insuring that concepts, actions and events within our community are inclusive, discrimination free and transparent.
It is incumbent on all of us to respect the diversity with our community and respect differences and to apply the ethic that our actions be ethical and well intended; others who oppose action do not necessarily reflect a nefarious intent or inherent “wrongness”.
If you’re an activist, you’re going to take some arrows, hurtful speech and disrespect within the community. Those who engage in environmental, social and racial justice issues are fighting the good fight. It is not a popularity contest and it insures that you will never become a “BNP” with wide respect within the community. For us activists, the greatest compliment is when we are controversial. We push boundaries, call on others to examine their own internal attitudes and generally support the recognition of cognitive dissonance that is so healthy for growth within our community.
Service, inherently rewarding, is not easy!
With deep respect to those making a difference in the world!