I was challenged the other day by a Heathen in my community. He did not see the value in being a part of something like Pagan Pride. After all, Heathenry doesn’t have a lot in common theologically with general Neo-Paganism. I can’t argue that point. However, I think there is something fundamentally Heathen about being involved in interfaith groups, both in the Pagan community and in the wider community as a whole.
Let me take you back to the year 2014. The main organizers of Arkansas Pagan Pride were a church called Seeker’s Temple. They attempted to get approved for a variance for a church in their backyard garage. Their variance was approved until the mayor found out that the church was a Pagan church. At the same time, the church across the street began harassing the priestess and priest by shining a bright “lighthouse” light into their front windows, disturbing their children’s sleep.
Seeker’s Temple was a small group of about 20 people in a very Christian town. A town so Christian that this was the mayor’s campaign speech:
It is my opinion and the Beebe City Council’s that government leaders must pray to God as the true leader of the nation and that a nation cannot exist if they are not one nation under God trusting in God as the leader. It is my opinion government has allowed non-believers far too many liberties taking God out of our daily lives. As mayor of this city I will continue to open our meeting with a prayer and a pledge to our country – one nation under God.
Please remember in the coming November election for leaders of this nation to elect only those who will stand firm doing the will of God and not their will. If placing God or the simple mentioning of his holy name in this newsletter is offensive to some; so be it. I do not and will not apologize, ever, for giving him the praise he is due for all that he has done for our blessed country. Not now, not ever in the future, should we turn our backs to our creator.
When Seeker’s Temple went to the city council to ask the zoning ruling to be overturned, the place was packed, but not just with Christians. Pagans from all over came in support. Suddenly, the church of 20 had bloomed into over 100 pagans who showed up to support Seeker’s Temple in getting the same rights other 46 churches and nonprofits had in that city with the same zoning as his home.
For pictures and video of the amazing turnout, go here.
Many Heathen groups are at the point in their maturity that they are looking to buy land, and establish their own properties. If the same thing happens to you, who do you expect to come to your defense if you are not active in the Pagan community and the interfaith community at large? Who will come to your defense when your children are fighting for their rights as Heathens in public schools?
Being a minority religion is a challenge. We have to be willing to build community among other minority religions. This means showing up at not only Pagan Pride, but also other events where other minority religions need support. We need to make friends with liberal Christian sects who will come to our aid. We need to cultivate an army of allies who will stand up and say “No!” when our rights are threatened.
Are you doing interfaith work? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.