I am amazed that so many pagans/polytheists choose to regard bigoted, racist, anti-GLBTQ and sexist behavior indulgently, either because they are not themselves the target, or because the perpetrators are regarded as too good-natured, witty, scholarly, mystic, or profound to confront.
Too many of our communities permit sexist posts, racist comments, and bigoted behavior to persist. By not addressing this behavior, we are dissuading other good natured, witty, scholarly, mystic, and profound people from being part of what we do.
By doing nothing, we are tacitly allowing paganism/polytheism to be the bigoted, racist, anti-GLBTQ, sexist, intolerant and distinctly unwelcoming religion so many people regard it to be.
This is NOT a call for escalation of any way, kind, or variety – quite the opposite. If you know someone who has said or done something oppressive, please take them aside and gently explain how their behavior was/is hurtful. Call them on the phone, send them a message or email, if that’s a more comfortable option. Let them know why it’s important that we support marginalized people. Remember to let that person talk, too, and listen respectfully. They might not realize how their behavior harms the credibility of pagan and polytheist religion. In the heat of the moment, perhaps they lost sight of the respect we owe individually and collectively to the autonomy, growth, and rights of each person.
Try not to be discouraged or angry if, in spite of your best efforts, your message is rebuffed. That person may be so tangled up in their rhetoric that they don’t realize the harmfulness of their behavior. Your sincere message and openness to further discussion may slowly sink in. They may want to continue the dialog with you at another time.
What’s important is that you have chosen a side, and have exercised compassion to explain and dissuade hurtful and oppressive behavior, at the same time having behaved compassionately to the responsible person. You have made an effort to educate and help that person grow, and helped to nurture your group, our religion.
I recognize and am very sorry that I have not always taken this option in the past. By having become angry, I know my message was completely lost. Disrespect on my part only made the problem worse. I’m trying to learn from my mistakes.
We love our gods, and hope to sustain our religion. By being pagans/polytheists, we understand what it is to be marginalized by society. May that knowledge and empathy help us to make our groups – online or in the real world – more welcoming and compassionate.