On Facebook, Cat Treadwell asked the following question on one of her statuses:
What would a non-Pagan person expect to see from a Pagan during Interfaith Week? How can we show them the reality?
I think its a questions that merits a bit of discussion – as well as a possible answer. So I will gladly attempt to tackle this. I will, however, remove one aspect of the question – that of “Interfaith Week” — the definitive aspect of that can be very wide ranging and be somewhat confusing. So, I’ll tackle the question as: “what would a non-Pagan person expect to see from a Pagan?” and the follow-on as “How can we show them the reality?”
The hard part of the first question is trying to determine how another person, not of my Spiritual Path, may perceive me with no foreknowledge of who I am. There are many paths to walk along in this area of thinking. Perhaps, the individual hears the word “Pagan” and conjures images of a many in a dirty loin cloth, covered with tribal tattoos, a bone pierced through his nose, and wild unkempt hair. Or maybe, the individual may see me as a mischievous soul, able to manipulate the energy fields of electricity and turn the lights on and off – sort of a Nicky Holroyd without the handsome Jack Lemmon features. Or perhaps, I’m to be perceived as exactly who I am – just another non-descript face in the crowd of today’s modern America — but with a belief in multiple Gods and Goddesses – an individual that may be in dire need of some medical help under today’s Affordable Healthcare Act. Whew, its a damn good thing they passed that. This guy could probably use a shake-down cruise with a therapist. If I am lucky, I’ll have an individual waiting for me, who sees me as that average schmoo on the streets, but is not making any assumptions beyond that.
It would be obvious, given the notion that this is part of an Interfaith event (I know I said I was going to throw it out – just let me set the general idea back here in the background as a prop) – perhaps our intrepid seeker here is here to converse a bit with me on my ideas of faith. Perhaps, a little discussion over the differences between Pagan and Christian faith. And hopefully, I didn’t spike the tea with something to turn our seeker into a salamander or frog. ::grins:: Truly nothing of that sort though. I would not mind a discussion over the differences between our points of faith – what I believe versus what this individual believes. Provided he or she doesn’t see this as a contest of whose faith is better. I’m here for a discussion, not a debate. I don’t want to be converted or to convert you. I just want us to understand that we’re no different than one another.
So how do we, as Pagans, show these folks that there’s really not that much difference between us? Its simple, in my eyes. We just be ourselves. I think back to the DFW Pagan Pride Day that recently happened. Several non-Christians wandered through our area – some looked skeptical at us, others looked quite disapproving. There was no chance to have a conversation with these folks – they already had their minds made up over how they perceived Pagans. Nothing any of us were going to say or do would dissuade them. But there were a few Christians that did wander through. And they did converse with several folks there. And they (the Christians) realized that they had a misconception about just who and what Pagans were. They discovered that we were no different than them – aside from the fact that we looked at the Spiritual side of life from a different vantage point. What did we show them? That we were parents, scholars, students, families, friends, acquaintances, people from all walks of life – who do a wide variety of jobs for our careers…we were just there living our lives out loud and out in the open. How do we show them what the reality is? By not hiding the reality of who we are behind a facade. Once we start building those walls – come to events dressed differently than we normally would – treat people differently at events than we would in real life – that’s where we lose those folks. If we just be ourselves…100%…we can show those folks we’re no different than they are. And to be perfectly blunt – if we want them to treat us openly with respect, should we not start by just being ourselves? Anything else would be a dishonest representation of who we are…and if you are looking for respect, that’s the exact wrong way to go about getting it – in my opinion….