What does it mean to “promote our faith?”

Tafl PiecesThis seems like a simplistic question when we first ask it but the more I think about it the more complicated it becomes. I see three things that must be done in order to help ensure our existence and to help it flourish in the future: scholarship, education, and activism. The first two aren’t terribly divisive but the last one can be.

Scholarship: We have come a long way on this subject over the last 40 years. It used to be that Ásatrú had very little difference from Wicca, particularly in style. This isn’t meant to insult either group, or early participants and their achievements. Had it not been for these early days, and the search for our own identity, we likely wouldn’t be having this discussion now. What changed us was that we devoted ourselves to academic efforts. We chose to move away from “New Age” thought in favor of serious and rigorous efforts to learn about the past. Then, some time in the 1990’s this effort was redoubled and we can see a concerted effort towards reconstructionist methodology to take what we had learned and put it into practice. It hasn’t stopped here, however. There are several highly educated people who have learned the old tongues and are working to bring material to those who can’t read it themselves. We have more translations of content than ever before. We are also seeing exciting new discoveries about our past in the field of archaeology. By working on scholarly efforts, we dig deep into our past and reconnect with our roots. We build from this and move forward.

Education: While scholarship works to teach us about who we are and who we were, efforts must be made to educate the public about our beliefs. This often means we need to put our own biases aside and attend “Pagan” events like “Pagan Pride Day” where we can interact with those most likely to be sympathetic to us. Our efforts shouldn’t stop there, however. We need to start moving forward on serious ecumenical works. This seems to be a bit daunting, however, especially because there are so few organizations or other faiths with which we share enough common ground as to feel like we are benefiting ourselves while helping others. This must happen, however, because the internet can’t do this for us. There’s either a serious lack of information out there or a plethora of really bad garbage that makes us look bad.

Activism: This is the one that I know sticks in the craw of so many people but I see it as the next step in our social evolution. As we gain a better understanding of who we are and how we are to move forward we need to see a vanguard that actively responds to the push-back that we are going to get from upsetting the apple cart of Western society as we begin to demand to express ourselves in ways that are true to our identity and not imposed from outside. We also need to develop an assertive principle of engaging in political discourse regarding activities or laws that serve only to repress our equal expression of our rights. As it stands, we have almost no will for social or legal activism. Some of this comes from disgust with politics. Some of it comes from preconceived notions about what “activists” are. Some of it comes from a desire to not draw too much attention to ourselves. This must end if we are going to build a shield wall against infringements upon our return to our own sense of self and we must actively go after those agendas and goals that seek to limit us. We must defend what we create and this can only be done by being active within the system.

So there you have it, the three things I think need to make up our current and future efforts to build our faith and culture. What do you think?


What does it mean to “promote our faith?” — 4 Comments

  1. I agree with you here. I think our biggest obstacle lies, as you yourself point out, in the third point. I know many of us have our own little isolated bits of activism, but it’s hard to make any serious dent that way. We are not really a very centralized people, however, and that makes it hard to be concerted in any way about our activism. You mention finding common ground with other pagan groups, but can we find common ground with each other?

    • Despite some very serious differences, I honestly do believe that we have far more in common with each other than people realize. As I’ve watched tempers cool off over the last 15 years, I’ve seen more efforts at setting those differences aside for the common good. In the end, I think we have to work with those we disagree with to accomplish those things that we agree on.

      Our decentralized behavior is a limiting facotr on this, but I think it can be put aside when we are talking about joining resources for legal defence matters rather than forming a unifying religious institution. I think it’s more than doable, people just need to want to do it. It’s because there is a lack of desire to take action that I highlighted the third element for our continued growth. If we are going to take what is rightfully ours and stop cowering then we need to start taking the fight to those who infringe on our expressions of our identities.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly, both with your article and Thorin’s comment. Your analysis of how Asatru should push forward is as true for us as for any faith that wants to become a major player in the realm of organized religion.

    But therein lies the problem. Asatru isn’t, and should never attempt to be, a centralized religion. It has no leader, no ‘official’ organization. If it did it would suffer the same fate that always comes from submitting to the voice of a single person, or even a group of people. Their intentions, even if they start out aligned with your own, will eventually lead them to act self-servingly. This is what we have seen with all organized religions in the course of human history, they become cults that generate huge amounts of money for those at the top of them.

    so… I guess I’m just saying that the 3 points you make require an organized front greater than any of the pagan/heathen/Asatru groups that already exist, and that worries me.

    • Thanks for commenting, JB. I’m inclined to disagree with your conclusion because we do not need a unified, organized religious institution to do the work for us, particularly in regards to the third point. Instead, we should be looking at forming a “legal defense unit” that exists to protect our shared interests, beliefs, and goals that is not a wing of a religious organization. Think of it as an “Ásatrúar Civil Liberties Union.” One of the things that we, as Americans, often flinch at the way in which religious organizations insinuate themselves into politics or the way in which social or legal activism by religious institutions is marred by theocratic agendas. We have good reason to fear these things. However, it’s not religious organizations like the Troth or the AFA that I want to see leading this charge. I want independant, unaffiliated groups to organize on local and national levels around the goal of advocating on our behalf for our rights so that we can protect the results of the last 40+ years of our rebirth. As it stands, we are dependant upon others, like the ACLU (hence my play on their name earlier) to take interest in our issues when we have them. We require others to be strong for us. If we are going to prosper and grow then we can’t allow that to continue. It makes us thralls, not free men. On an individual level, we also need to see activism become something that isn’t a four-letter word. We need to be willing to stand up for others, even when we don’t see how their issue directly impacts us. We have to stop treating people who are facing even minor discrimination as being on their own because we aren’t going to stick out necks out for them. The “you’re on your own, pal” mentality needs to give way to “we’re all in this together” thinking or we will never be more than a footnote on the history of Neo-Paganism and Wicca.

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