Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Call Me That

I am sure that many people reading this have read Sabina Magliocco's entry on "Pagan Fundamentalism" and if you haven't I suggest you do so now. It is no big secret that this riled up a lot of people, just take a look at the comments on the site, and it has gotten the attention of a few bloggers. The hottest under the collar about the whole deal seems to be Star Foster (who is, by the way, embarking on a new project of sorts)

All the bah-ra-hah, all the anger about this, I just don't get. Let me explain.

Ms. Magliocco's thesis and definition of fundamentalism can be best boiled down to the first substantial paragraph on the post(format copied as closely as posted as possible):

"Let’s start with the first one: what did I mean by “Pagan fundamentalism,” and how can a concept that developed to describe a Protestant movement based on literal biblical interpretations and tenets of faith even apply to modern Paganisms?  The application of the term “fundamentalism” to modern Paganisms is problematic, and I adopt it with some caution, because I’m well aware that it has often been used by those in power to stigmatize worldviews that differ from the mainstream.  I defined it as a form of ideology, religious or secular, characterized by a black-and-white, either-or, us-vs.-them morality that precludes questioning.  It generally involves insistence on belief in the literal truth of some canon, as well as a concern with identity politics and boundary-setting.  Fundamentalisms are inflexible and have difficulty adapting; they have a strong need for certainty and a clear sense of belonging, and anyone who disagrees is labeled an enemy or heretic.  My adoption of the term was both descriptive and provocative: I wanted to foster awareness and discussion about strains of ideology that could be deleterious to modern Paganisms."

This statement hasn't really gotten me riled up, it hasn't angered me in the slightest. I see a lot of people getting hung up on a few sentences though. "as well as a concern with identity politics and boundary-setting" is the one that I have seen a lot of folks getting hung-up on. The problem with that is that it isn't being taken in conjunction with the other qualifiers such as "difficulty adapting" and "anyone who disagrees is labeled an enemy or heretic." which are, I feel, very important in taking in conjecture the with boundary-setting statement (let us not forget that the whole of the "Big Tent" is, in of itself, a boundary.) She also makes a series of statements which are definitely Pagan-as-Religion and not Pagan-as-Culture biased, but that is to be expected I have realized, and this is okay. After thinking on the article, and reading it several times I still don't see what the fuss is about, nor do I feel like the majority of people in my faith would be labeled as "fundamentalists" (though I can think of at least one whose initials are T.A. who even I'd lump into that category.)

I started thinking though, what if someone *did* call me a fundamentalist? Ultimately, I think it is unlikely given my personality (though I may get fierce in a debate.) but what if it did happen? What if I was accused of being a fundamentalist? What should I do? How should I behave? First, I'd have to ask the person why they are accusing me of fundamentalism (my debate style, as I previously said, can get very "aggressive" in the prove me wrong, undergraduate academic sort of way. I'm sure that has no relation to my current phase in life<sarcasm>.) If it was linked to my correction of misinformation, I'd (politely!) remind them that what they feel doesn't override historical fact, and that they can take it or leave it. Ultimately though, I don't give a damn if someone walks away calling me a "fundamentalist" for some petty reason. I owe nothing to those in the Pagan community to make them like me, and those in my faith may be a part of the larger Pagan community, but they aren't "driven" into it like Eclectics or most Wiccans. 

Do I want some people in the Pagan community to like me? You betcha, I want them to be able to worship the Gods alongside me, for them to be my friends and for us to be able to celebrate religious rites in fellowship regardless of if they are a Druid or a Hellenistai or an Eclectic, and here is a little secret, sometimes I participate in non-Hellenic ritual and *gasp* enjoy it! Despite all this though, I care about my co-religionists first, and building up our community first. If this means a few people end up regarding me as something and someone I'm not, as the Wiccans say, "Mote it be." 


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A young man living in North Texas. He is an actor, a Hellenistos, and a proud member of Hellenion.