Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pagans in Prisons and & Press

A few weeks ago I was contacted by referral by a reporter for Associated Press, Kristen Gelineau, who was writing a story about an Asatru man on Virginia's death row who evidently killed another man as part of an Asatru ritual in prison and claimed his religion as part of his defense. I found Kristen to be a thoughtful listener who asked intelligent questions. I referred her to both Patrick McCollum and Prudence Priest; she'd already interviewed Patrick about it. I felt reasonably confident -- well, as confident as one can in such undertakings, given the editorial process, etc. -- that she'd present us fairly.

The story hit the wires this week. Shortened versions of it were published in the NY Times and elsewhere to which some Pagans took offense.

Here is the full story, in which both Patrick and I are quoted. I'm not among those who took offense; I think it's fair.


Cat C-B (and/or Peter B) said...

Well,reading the full version (I can't find the shortened one) I can see why some Pagans would find it offensive. I don't--but I think I understand. It certainly deals with an uncomfortable aspect of Paganism: not Asatru, per se, but the attraction Asatru has historically held for white supremacists and for people who may idealize violence. Of course both of those notions are perversions of what Asatru is really about... just as believing that destruction of the environment is OK because the rapture is coming is a perversion of Christianity. But the shadows are there, for our community as much as for the Christians'.

The big difference, of course, is that Christians constitute a majority in this country, and that there are few or no groups spending any serious resources, at least in this country, on trying to create anti-Christian propaganda. It's not easy to own our shadows, given the risk it will all be taken out of context to justify more persecution.

I know I wrestle with this question a lot, both on our website and in the blog. How much of what truths can I tell? Should I sanitize my experiences so as not to shock the cowans? On the other hand, does thinking about the impact of my audience at all distort the truthfulness of what I write?

I am glad that Paganism has become a broad and diverse enough movement that we have varied opinions on these questions. I'm also glad that my country may be becoming a tolerant and diverse enough culture to have room for them. But I know that it's still an uneasy balance.

Glad we've got spokesmen as mature as Patrick McCollum to speak for us, in any case.

PS--Thanks for stopping by my blog. Be sure to let me know if you see me watering down my honesty there, OK, Macha? You're one of those "weighty Pagans" I depend on to let me know when my eyes begin turning brown...

Be well. :)

Broomstick Chronicles said...