In a bit of an aside from the Pagan Values Blogject (I figured a rant/ramble in a PVB post wasn’t pertinent) I find it interesting that once again (as it was when I last participated) that the to-call-thyself-Pagan-or-not debate has apparently once again gone viral (or did it never go away, and I stopped paying attention?) and reared its superficial head. Yes, I *really do* consider it a superficial debate–you don’t generally notice Catholics being so petty as to go stomping off, disavowing the term “Christian” because the Mormons claim it as well. Instead they just disavow each other…something that is often ridiculed amongst some Pagans (evidently with more than some hypocrisy) .
What I *can* get behind, in the vein of the move to consider “Christianities”, is the concept of “Paganisms”, except that there is still a problem of what makes a paganism (big-p) Pagan, and wouldn’t that still make the practitioners of any (big-p) Paganism, well…Pagan?
To me at least, it all comes down to the idea of defining the term Pagan polythetically, a checklist sort of approach of the characteristics of many of the Paganisms (and I am not the only person that has thought of this concept), to describe what can be considered a wider descriptor of Pagan…because, at the very least, I don’t know many non-Pagans that want to read a dissertation or listen to an hour-long monologue about someone else’s religion in response to small talk along the lines of “What church do you belong to?”. Lets face it, depending on the deliverer, that either makes us look like like a bunch of elitist jerks, or a bunch of flighty morons.
Even if we don’t agree on every point, having a univocal label gets more mileage in terms of recognition and respect (look at the VA headstone issue, now pentacles are allowed and there is a framework for the fair approval of symbols for Druids and Heathens any other path that is interested). While individual practitioners may not care about respect or recognition, for those of us that have been in environments where we are an unknown, alone, and often disparaged quantity (like the military), where “in the closet” can literally mean that there is no where to go or practice (there is no such thing as “personal space” on-board a ship), having that greater term that covers all the bases, so to speak…that word means a lot, even as it often means so little.
Instead of stagnating the discussion of what it means to be Pagan (and more than occasionally sounding to this momma like a three-year-old in a temper tantrum), how about moving it forward? Or as a friend of mine is fond of saying, “Start cooking with whatcha got, or get the heck out of the kitchen and order pizza…people are hungry and waiting!”
What criteria can you come up with that would both be inclusionary to the wider Paganism, while being selective and adaptable to individual Paganisms?