[This post is based on, and motivated by, some recent conversations on social media.]
On the 10th of December, The Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) released a statement in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Or, I think they thought they were doing that, but they gutted it until what was left said essentially nothing. Our friend Caer Jones took it apart in detail, and so did the Rock of Eye blog,so I won’t flog the corpse.
So far, the main consequence is the resignation of Crystal Blanton’s coven from CoG, but I’m sure that’s not the only fallout coming.
It’s too bad, too, as CoG has sponsored some very good initiatives in the past. I’m not meaning to ignore those or completely bury the organization.
I considered the case of my own organizations and others I’m most familiar with. They’re mystery schools; they have no real warrant for having positions on the issues of the day. We could have a debate about the values embodied in that stance, but not about the fact that they exist.
From my first involvement in public Paganism, about 15 years ago now, I noticed that there were many assumptions made by some Pagans: Paganism makes everyone politically and socially liberal, Green, sexually experimental, and so on, varying by individual tastes. Many thought that since we have some (barely-definable) core to our Pagan spiritual ways, we should be alike in other ways, too.
It was not true then, and it’s less true now. Pagans come from everywhere on the political grid. We don’t have very much in common beyond the sense of building or rebuilding spiritual frameworks that seem more organic and integrated to us.
Many religions have this characteristic. A few, like the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Unitarian Universalists, have a commitment to social justice built in to their charters, but most don’t even have that.
It’s not something that can be grafted on, either. So, if you are forming a new coven, magical lodge, grove, or whatever now, you should decide whether it should have a political orientation, by intention. If you have a group small enough to agree on a change, but active enough to matter, add it to your charter. If not…you might want to make your own statements and take your own actions, looking to secular committees for support, instead of wrecking a perfectly good oven because it doesn’t work like a car.
Whatever we do about this needs intention and consensus, otherwise, it will just raise friction that impedes progress.
To be clear: I am not saying this is the way all Pagan organizations are or should be. I know there are a number of Pagan groups that DO have social justice as a built-in objective and mechanism; some of them are out in the streets and otherwise doing active support. Good!
If yours doesn’t work that way, it’s still true that what we do individually is up to us. I will continue to speak out against injustice, and I’m planning an appropriate esoteric response (that’s meant as a word to the Wise; I won’t be saying more publicly).