Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Young, the Rebellious, and Paganism

There is a lot of talk that goes around on Pagan chatrooms, forums, and mailing lists about what to do with people who come to our forms of spirituality because it's "the thing to do" if you're trying to be rebellious, strike out against society, or raise the hackles on people for the sake of tweaking them. There's a couple of fun names for said people, like Playgans and Fluffy Bunnies to name a couple. From discussions I've seen sadly quite a bit of this talk comes from Pagans who are usually much longer in tooth, wise, experienced, and well-learned who in many cases had little or no help for them to reach where they are now or were the first forging ahead into territory left largely spiritually unexplored since the dawn of the second millennium AD. Speaking as a younger Pagan who just finished college and started on the path I'm on now when I was 12 there seems to be a degree of condescension on the part of those who speak out against the Playgans, the ones who fell in love with Charmed or Buffy, and the rebellious kids who smoked behind the auto shop during lunch and are now crashing rituals and festivals.

I find this attitude distressing to say the least. As much as such voices may protest we are a serious spiritual movement, not a "fad" or an act of rebellion, we have to stop and look at the long view of things. Paganism is in the modern day, like Christianity was during the Roman Empire, as much a new form of spirituality as it is a rebellion against the current state of affairs spiritually speaking. Most Pagans come to our paths not just because of what makes our belief systems so elegant and inclusive but also because of dissatisfaction with what mainstream spirituality offers. In fact from what I've seen and heard in person I'd be willing to bet the vast majority come to Paganism first out of dissatisfaction with Christianity, not out of attraction to Pagan thought and Pagan beliefs. If that's not an act of rebellion as much as an act of fulfillment I don't know what is.

So why now should people be dismissing individuals or groups they view as "not serious" because of how they came to our faiths out of inspiration from something they saw in a movie, read about online, saw on TV, or overheard at lunch because they both are dissatisfied with their current belief system or out of an act of rebellion? I'm sure most established Pagan Elder regardless of what they believe now started in a similar place and on the way probably believed all kinds of things that now they would scoff as uninformed or dare I say part of a fad.

Why should we scoff at them now because they are uninformed or ignorant? They may not know much but what matters most is that their hearts are in the right place and that is the most important part of the whole exercise. It does not matter how well-educated, informed, or pedigreed someone is if they lack the desire to live by what they have been taught. We shouldn't be turning the uninformed or poorly instructed away just because they don't believe the "right" thing or haven't been properly taught. So what if they came because it's the "cool thing to do?" With the people who do we have the opportunity to determine who are genuinely interested and believe from those who are just along for the ride because it looks fun.

We shouldn't toss all aside just because of how they come to us. Why should we tell someone just because they came to Paganism out of a desire to be "rebellious" or because they "hate Christianity" they don't deserve to REALLY learn what we believe and have help in understanding what we believe? Why should we exclude them from our public events, from classes, and from events? By refusing to give them a way in they're more likely to go to people who may have unscrupulous or self-serving motives instead of those with their eyes lifted to the Gods.

We need to look beyond the trappings of how those new to our beliefs come to us and instead look to see if the faith that burns inside them is real. After all, that punk kid in biker leathers with two full sleeves of tattoos or the airy-fairy hippy high schooler with guidance could be the next great writer, leader, or artist for our community if we just lend them a helping hand.

After all, isn't judging someone's faith for how it came to be the kind of thing we're not supposed to be doing?

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree Ryan! It makes me sad when I see or hear "older" pagans getting annoyed at rebellious and fad-based pagans. Being judgemental and closed minded is what other religions promote. I left Christianity because of their constant judging. Pagans shouldn't start to be like Christians. We are an open religion that believes everyone's spirituality is their own path! Plus if reading a teen vampire book leads someone to the Pagan path-who cares where or why they started-it is about where they end up!