If you’re one of those Pagans who socialize on the Web, you’re no doubt aware of the current shitstorm in the wake of the arrest of prominent Pagan musician Kenny Klein for possession and distribution of child pornography.
The way I see it, this occurrence has brought out the best and the worst conduct on the part of Pagans.
Among the worst are (1) screaming for his head; (2) protesting in his defense because there’s been no adjudication yet, just an arrest; (3) dredging up all manner of rumor, founded and unfounded, from the past; and (4) untenable ad hominem attacks on other prominent Pagans.
Among the best: Bringing up all manner of past questionable conduct on the part of individuals, groups, and festival organizers. You’ll note that this “best” relates to the third “worst” mentioned above. Many have pointed out that they were silenced when they tried to speak out about someone’s bad behavior (much of which went far beyond the fairly innocuous and relative term “bad behavior”).
Much of this stems from the Pagan, or at least Witchen, emphasis on secrecy. My friend Holli Emore notes:
“Wherever secrecy and opacity trump community values, whenever we think that it is more important to hide ourselves or our group from the rest of the world, dysfunction can then grow rampantly, like black mold in a damp basement.”
I want to point out something that I haven’t seen mentioned yet. That is that the mainstream news reports of this incident never once mentioned any kind of religious affiliation or persuasion on the part of the perps. No mention of the fact that Kenny is known in the wider Pagan community. Not one word. That is as it should be. No news reports ever mention anyone’s religion unless the report is specifically about religion, like the recent passing of Fred Phelps, for instance. That, in my opinion, is one the triumphs of this situations.
So when I see folks griping about how unfairly maligned we Pagans are, it bothers me that they cannot also see that work has been done to dispel misunderstandings about Paganisms since at least the 1970s. So many of our Pagan cultural efforts – festivals, publishing, music, art, blogs, conferences, symposia, seminaries, and the like – would not be experiencing the warm and enthusiastic reception they enjoy were it not for this groundwork having been done.
Some of us old-timers have been working on behalf of Pagan credibility in the overculture for years. We have worked to educate journalists, reporters, and the media in general. Some have worked with law enforcement, even in the investigation of crimes around which such things as Tarot cards, sigils, and home altars have been found. Others have worked in academia, speaking to college classes and seminarians, and some have worked in the arena of local, national, and even international interfaith.
So I choose to see this discussion, with all its fractiousness, as a sign of the birthing of a new, more established Paganism. Labor is messy and painful. All this screaming and figurative bloodletting I see as part of that process.