Preaching and Writing About Faith
Both are engines of controversy, and can especially be within Paganism. I wonder at times about the places of both within the community. I hear ‘preaching’ nowadays like it is an ugly word; even my Dad uses it derisively. The Princeton Wordnet Dictionary defines preachment as “a sermon on a moral or religious topic”, and so a preacher would be someone who delivers that sermon, or preachment. Sermons, to me, are an opportunity, and have gained a lot of negative press, some of it earned. Yet I am somewhat saddened by this because Pagan paths can have so much to say on ethics, cosmology, political issues of the day, and comments on spiritual reality. Yet so many voices are silent. Likewise, there is a dearth of material that Pagans can write on any given subject on magic or religious praxis, but when it comes to something like where they stand on a given moral issue or what their lore says about x or y, there tends to be a lot of silence unless there is an argument going on.
I saw a pretty good example of this when the entire situation at PantheaCon blew up with the Lillith ritual. Suddenly there were words flying back and forth about how this or that Tradition said this or that on gender equality. Then came different releases about how x or y group felt toward transgendered people. So in my view, a lot of the Pagan community does preach, but it is largely reactionary. Sometimes it is in response to the latest controversy or some transgression in the community. What I would like to see happen is that if we do have reactive articles it is more in reaction to one another’s speeches and writings because they made us think about something. I’m not asking us to agree on everything; far from it. I am asking us to engage in active information dissemination; letting people know where your religion stands on x or y just because you have the ability to speak and put pen to paper. Exercise your right to free speech, and do it often. If you don’t have a lot of stances from your religion, fine, but talk about your morality, or moral issues. Put discussion points out there, let people know where you stand, generate understanding.
I’m not preaching for people to develop FAQs, but do develop deep-seated religious thoughts on subjects near and far to them. Even stating whether or not, and explaining why, your religion is involved or not involved in your politics is deeply important. It helps other see a religious framework, and may even have them, through reflection, modify their own viewpoints. It helps you develop where you stand with and in your faith; writings like these certainly help me. There’s been so much said and written about ‘the right way’ to do something or other, but I have seen so very little written on why someone feels that is, or where those ideas come from, or why they feel they are right. I don’t need to agree with you to want to understand your viewpoint. I just need to be curious and open-minded enough to be willing to listen to your ideas and suspend my judgment for a little while. I can’t very-well hear your words or get your message if I’m already thinking up a counterargument while you’re talking or while reading your latest post.
Preaching about faith is something that can be very tough. After all, you’re putting your religion out of front street when you do it, whether you’re talking to a friend about a personal belief you hold, or representing a faith or group at a summit. You’re delineating your beliefs down into language, from raw experience and intellectual study, into more common parlance that may not hold the vocabulary for your experiences, so you stumble through the language trying to convey something of what you know. Sometimes you’re doing that with people who simply don’t have the background to get it, or do, and don’t want to. Sometimes you get people who get so attached to your ideas that they take them in, and other times you have people who respond and make you think, or piss you off. You’re opening yourself up when you share what you believe, to an incredible amount of responses. Whether you’re writing about why you make offerings to your Ancestors, and perhaps why more people should, or why you view the Gods through a polytheistic lens and can’t see them otherwise, that is preaching, and you are making yourself vulnerable. Yet you are also making yourself strong: you’re talking about your views and not being cowed or intimidated, and you are expressing what you believe which I look at as a strength in and of itself. You are exercising your rights to speak, to be different, be heard, and be argued with as well as be agreed with. To my view, the more voices we have talking about our various faiths, where they lead us, where they direct our lives, is an incredible gift we can give to one another in this great community umbrella.
I think of Pagan Coming Out Day and how different Pagan people react to this idea, let alone if they engage in it and why. I think of posts like T. Thorne Coyle’s on the word Paganism, and Archdruid John Michael Greer’s on Green Wizardry, of Galina Krasskova’s Highway to Hel series, and Drew Jacob’s The Heroic Life. These people all preach from their particular experiences, expound on their various ways of expressing their spirituality, and provide deep insight into the why questions that I think are so vital to developing a deeper spiritual practice. Drew Jacob is willing to ask tough questions and preach to strengths that he believes in; T. Thorne Coyle is willing to ask penetrating questions and give deep insight into a singular word. I think that the Pagan community can go as far and further into our own practices, and I hope that as time goes, more will.