I fully support freedom of speech and all that (except for hate speech–I can’t support anything so harmful) as long as you aren’t hurting anyone by your words or actions. So when I saw a link to this story via the Wild Hunt about a Christian group holding vigil outside a pub in which apparently there will be a Pagan event, at first I was indifferent. Then I laughed because there people were holding vigil outside a pub. Then I was annoyed with their pitying and fearful ways.
It’s probably a futile wish, but I do wish that these groups would stop doing things like this. [This is NOT a sweeping generalization of all Christians, but referring only to these kinds of groups, by the way.] As far as I am aware, most Pagans wouldn’t even consider doing something similar. It really gets tricky when you realize that what these people do is, in a way, a much lesser version of that the Westboro Baptist Church does in their protests. The Westboro people preach so adamantly against anything not overtly Christian because they fear it. That is what all of that hate speech really comes down to: fear. And they want other people to be just as afraid of the same things in order to get rid of the thing which they fear. These smaller, quieter vigils are indeed more peaceful than the Westboro folks, but the spirit is one and the same. It’s all about fear, and inciting fear.
I cannot agree with their actions not only because the things these kinds of groups tend to say is so hateful, but because they do their best to inject fear into other peoples’ hearts, and is there not enough fear in this world? This also comes down to not respecting other peoples’ right to believe and worship as they wish. Although this particular news story took place in the UK, they have the same basic rights we enjoy in the US, and I know that there have been similar vigils publicized on our side of the ocean as well.
These people would be horribly offended, I am sure, if we were to turn the tables on them. What would happen, hypothetically speaking (and ignoring for the moment the fact that Pagans don’t proselytize or convert), if a group of Pagans suddenly showed up outside some church service and began a ritual to turn the souls of the people in the church away from Christianity and scare off any potential newcomers by saying Christianity is evil? Does anyone want to bet that at least one person would cry religious persecution/discrimination? (I’d take that bet.) At the very least, they wouldn’t welcome such an intrusion.
Neither do we. I wouldn’t particularly welcome any protesting group outside my religious service, no matter the reason for them being there. While I understand why the people in this particular case did not get involved or ask them to leave (they were respecting the right of these protesters to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and would have welcomed their questions as well), I’m not sure I would have been so OK with the group’s presence. Although I don’t know what I would do if ever in that sort of situation, I do know that I would want to do something. I would want to either make them leave, or have them come inside and overcome their fear enough to learn that Pagans are not the evil-doers they seem to imagine.
What would you do in this situation? Would you take action? Or would you allow the group to stay while you went on and conducted your gathering? Is there even anything a person could do in this sort of situation to make such people leave?
I welcome your input, lovely readers.