On several occasions on this little palace of whining I’ve mentioned being Pagan. While each person’s religious and spiritual beliefs are deeply personal, they are also often quite difficult to define.
For me, Paganism is simply Polytheism. I joke to my friends that being Pagan means I haven’t met a god that I didn’t like. I’m not into rituals, ceremony, or anything else like that. I have a modest collection of Pagan books…but I haven’t bought a new one in ten years. I don’t own a wand or Athame, I haven’t performed a ritual in a decade, and I don’t go to gatherings. Sorry, but I’m poor and that shit is stupidly expensive. While I am still Pagan, I no longer really consider myself an active member of the Pagan community.
To far too many within the Pagan community this means I’m not a “true” or “real” Pagan.
This is why the “Kenny Klein isn’t a real Pagan” argument bothers me.
The argument about his being “real” or not is understandable. Our community is a small and often misunderstood one. When others, from more conservative religions, see our community they see sex. Like everyone else, we recognize our sexual selves are a part of who we are…not the definition of who we are. Others, however, tend to use this to try to define everything about us.
They often focus on our (general) lack of concern about someone else’s sexuality or (consenting adult) sexual practices. We have a wide rage of adherents from all walks of life, and that does include a LGBT community, a general acceptance of (consensual) poly-amorous relationships, and a pretty wide acceptance of alternative lifestyles.
We try very hard to be open about the fact that we support an individual’s sexual choices as their own and choose to celebrate love instead of defining it. As well, we accept the human body in all it’s varying forms and celebrate it…meaning that some of us tend to (sometimes uncomfortably easily) get naked without shame.
Which is probably why the more conservative religions tend to see us as a bunch of skeevy pervs. And let’s face it, there’s previously published evidence that some of us are (or rather, could be alleged to be) more than a little outside acceptable social mores.
Unfortunately, we have a secondary flaw we deify our authors. And many of our authors tend to wallow in this deification. Often the definition of “real” Pagan is based on how many books they’ve written and how many adoring fans they have.
Enter the Kenny Klein scandal.
I have to admit, I’ve never heard of Klein. I’ve never met him. I’ve never read his books, I’ve never listened to his music. My first introduction to him was the news that a Pagan is alleged to have committed pedophilia. (alleged is legal terminology, not me saying he didn’t do anything…although I did consider using “confessed” instead, but I have no idea as to his adherents’ reactions to my words and would rather not worry about it, so you get alleged).
But here’s where the question of him being a “real” Pagan or not starts to get to me.
We consider terms that are used in the media, terms like “so-called Pagan” or “self-proclaimed Pagan” to be insulting. After all, no one says “so-called” Christian. When someone says they are Christian we (and the media) take it at face value that they believe they are what they say they are. We hate those terms because it means that someone is making our beliefs less. Making them more imaginary and lessening their validity. (Although we are fine with telling each other whether they are or are not “Pagan enough”)
At the same time though, it’s understandable that our community would want to distance ourselves from Klein. I honestly hate that the only time we ever hear about a Pagan in the news is when they’ve done something bad. The Pentacle Quest is a good example of a case where the media completely ignored the good things we were doing, while still constantly reporting the bad.
I have worked as a Pagan activist. At one point I was so deeply involved in Paganism in politics and the media that it resulted in a four year (literal) Witch hunt by Child Protective Services that culminated with my family being victimized and brutalized by the state, county, and city where we lived at the time, in Dandrige Tennessee. All because of my political activism and want of religious equality.
At the time I was active in the Pentacle Quest. But in the process I was being attacked from both sides. On top of everything I was dealing with from outside the Pagan community, I felt belittled and isolated, by my own community. I hadn’t bought enough books, I liked this author over that author, or I wasn’t wearing certain clothes, or I wore makeup, or I wasn’t familiar with all of the scandals and wasn’t willing to bother taking sides, or I thought that the issue would be better served being helped by others with already established access to political parties….the list goes on.
Which is why I honestly shouldn’t have been surprised by my community’s reaction when I came to them for help and advice concerning my problems with Child Protective Services. This is where the practice of denying Pagans their Paganism end up being very damaging. The little help I did receive was a blessing. But the denial of my Pagan-ness honestly sunk me really low. I was told that I was the bad guy, I deserved what I was getting, and that government agencies wouldn’t have gotten involved if I wasn’t already doing something wrong….by people who had no idea what was actually happening to my family or the terror we were living under.
The exact opposite reaction to what we so self-righteously preach to the outside world.
Klein is a Pagan because he said he is. Simple as that. If I want people to take me as being a Pagan with no further proof than the fact that I have chosen to identify myself as one, then I must give the same to someone else.
That doesn’t mean that his crimes are in any way invalid, or that the victims’ suffering is in any way invalid. It simply means that he is both. And reactionary exclusion makes us look like idiots. Like we’re denying that something like this can happen in our own community…which just means that it’s going to keep happening…
Wait, isn’t this whole denial thing kind of what the Catholics are doing with pedo priests? How’s that working out for them?