I feel like there’s a lot of miscommunication that happens in the world of religious discussions, so much goes unsaid that really needs to be understood and disseminated. Christians were historically an oppressed and persecuted people at one point in the past, but today are the largest majority group and cultural influence in the Western world. As it stands, there is no continuity to ancient Christians and modern people. This post is not intended as hateful rhetoric aimed at Christians, merely an means for pagans to take a comprehensive viewpoint of what Christian beliefs have been so ingrained into Western culture as to be generally imperceptible, and is an unknowing influence on reconstructionist religious efforts. To be a pagan who supports reconstruction is to inherently stand outside mainstream belief systems and dissect ancient beliefs and actions from modern ones.
So, let’s start with facts, being a Heathen has been a minority identity with protected social status since it was legally recognized in the United States in 1973 (and Wicca shortly after in 1986). This social shift is earmarked by the social workers handbook “Social Work Practice with Pagans, Witches, and Wiccans: Guidelines for Practice with Children and Youths” by Meg Yardley, 2008; which introduces the idea of paganism as a protected religious culture and how to interact with the children born into this cultural identity. This growing acceptance and understanding correlates to the steady growth of people who now include pagan beliefs of some form into their lives, from an estimated 8,000 in 1990 to last recorded 1.4 million in 2014, with continuous growth.
Despite this, the pervasive idea that belittles the validity of paganism as a viable modern religious culture is that it rubs against the grain of conformity; and thus is perceived through a Christianized lens to be an unhealthy lifestyle. And many pagans struggle to defend their household from this idea, as documented in the case of Sylvia Ruiz, who had guardianship of her children challenged expressly for being a pagan. This unfortunately is by no means an isolated incident; I myself have first-hand experience witnessing the custody struggles of a pagan friend in a courtroom, with her religious choices called into question by a prejudiced judge.
Even though being pagan in the United States is a legally protected minority status, there are many who take this to an extreme level of assumed oppression. Here I am criticizing the quixotic habits of white pagans who beat themselves upon the shores of atheist indifference, and waste their efforts. The only influence being to isolate themselves from the larger community of religious legal discourse, where such efforts would do more good than to be the the self-serving platforming of anti-polytheists, and others for whom ignorance is a current cultural fad. This self-flagellation in social contexts is in itself a Western cultural idea introduced by Christianity, and it’s penchant to self-identify as victims and an oppressed class. User Archer Kasai on youtube posts an excellent video detailing excerpts from the bible in specific passages by Paul who she says quote “self-insert fan-fic’d so hard he had an entire religion built around his own canon.” and goes on to compare these examples with the national domestic abuse hotline examples of abuse. Her video essay helps identify for even someone unfamiliar with Christianity how the bible innately includes self-victimization as dogma. Pagans who seek to step away from these Christian identities and reconstruct ancient faiths need to look at how culturally ingrained and pervasive the idea of noble self-harm is.
Any pagan can choose to readily conceal their beliefs to avoid repercussions, like how I tuck my mjolnir under my shirt, unlike race or sex. Sure, sex and/or gender are mutable, but I don’t think anyone will disagree that shifting gender is hard work; sometimes requiring medical innovation. There’s no pagan who has to undergo a medical procedure to change their outward religious choices, and hence lower such risks of exposure to prejudice. Paganism is reconstructed and any attempt to claim continuity or to associate it with indigenous beliefs, or the beliefs of anyone who practices their native cultural traditions in America, is inherently incorrect and racist. The better way to serve either community would be to fight for religious freedoms and cement the legal identities, and the legal rights, of both cultures. By using the privilege of choice that white pagans have to fight for the religious freedoms of the pagan community, we pave the way for all to shed social stigma; and as warranted, garner reparations for those who have suffered under institutional oppression for their race and cultural identity.