Protests Against Pagans

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.


3 responses to “Protests Against Pagans

  1. Not too long ago, there was a JW protesting in front of a courthouse, holding some sign I didn’t bother to read. I clapped him on the shoulder from behind — nicely — and said “Hail Set, brother! Have a beautiful day.”

    I can’t lie, I enjoy screwing with people like that. I really, really do. But I employ kindness. Fundies don’t know how to react to kindness, or intelligence, or anything exemplary or “good” from a Polytheist. It reduces their stunted perception of reality to mind-melting fractals.

    I did the same to a Fundamentalist Christian girl who absolutely hated my guts, simply because I was/am Polytheist, who was in one of my travel groups during my sophomore year of college. I kept my distance from her most of the time, but when I had to interact with her, I was as sweet as orange blossom honey. All her anger and resentment served to do was pitch her out of favor with the rest of the group — including some of her other Fundamentalist friends, whom I ended up befriending (who are genuinely nice, good people who actually lead a Christlike lifestyle, not a Christian one, and never tried to convert me).

    In short, don’t ever lose your temper with people like that. It’ll only serve to justify their fear, hatred, and suspicions. They do these things to garner a negative reaction, nine times out of ten. Kill ’em with kindness.

  2. I would just ignore them.

    One time I went to a gay rights event in Dallas. Part of the way through, a handful of Christians carrying a six-foot-tall wooden cross and a bunch of Bibles showed up. One of them began speaking through a megaphone about how homosexuality is an abomination to God. Some of the people shouted back at them, until a man said, “Don’t care about those haters. Let’s go back to what we were doing.” Then everyone turned around and the event resumed. The Christians yelled some more through their megaphone for a while, then gave up, sitting down on the sidewalk looking sullen and defeated. After a while they went away.

  3. What an interesting question! I never thought of it. Probably I would cancel the event and reschedule it more privately.

    Not because I’m allowing myself to be cowed, or returning to some kind of spiritual Dark Ages where certain practices must be assimilated into Christian normalcy, or thrown out altogether. Rather because I think there’s merit to keeping mysteries mysterious, whether they’re formal rituals or casual social gatherings. It keeps the energy focused on the intent of the gathering, rather than opening everyone up to irrelevant issues.

    It’s kinda like how meditating monks prefer peace and quiet, even though THEORETICALLY they could practice just as well in a noisy city. They could, but as long as more suitable spaces exist, why not go there instead?

    Furthermore, there’s no better way to baffle a group of protesters than to just not show up. XD They only do it for publicity, and how foolish they’d look attempting to wage war on a country they cannot reach.

    In sum, I would “just ignore them, honey!” But of course, I would feel differently if they were aggressive or seriously oppressive (i.e. if they had, or were physically attempting to gain, real power over us). Then it’d be time for a fight.

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