Sticking Around

Are we human, or are we dancer?
My sign is vital, my hands are cold.
And I’m on my knees, looking for the answer.
— The Killers, Human

You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty fed up with NeoPaganism for quite a while now. I have theological, political, and even liturgical axes to grind, and more and more recently I’ve been taking people to task about it. And yet, I was pretty floored the other day when a friend asked me a fairly simple question: “So, Johnny, why do you stick around?”

Simple questions rarely warrant simple answers, but let me try to explain… This “explanation” may amount merely to an exercise in thinking it all out for myself. Let me start by describing exactly what my “sticking around” entails.

I’m not a Wiccan. I’m not (really) a Reconstructionist. Nor do I identify as a “solitary,” whatever that means, since I do involve myself with a community of Pagans here in Chicago. I formally belong to one Pagan organization, but I find myself moving further and further away from it because of theopolitical differences. So, I find myself swimming around in that vaguely-defined space “between Paganisms.”

It’s easy to believe whatever you want and still be a Pagan, in the no man’s land. What’s hard is having to deal with everyone else, I guess.

Therefore, “sticking around”, for me, involves a cleaving to the community or communities into which I have integrated myself over the last 8 (although especially 3) years. I stick around because I care about the future of Paganism, being aware that the movement(s) is painfully young and still forming. I stick around because all of my friends are Pagan. I stick around because, well, when someone asks me what religion I follow I am only now growing unabashedly comfortable proclaiming, “I’m Pagan.” I stick around because there’s no other religious movement out there that allows me to engage in various practices and paradigms that I hold dear. I stick around because I hope, someday, that Paganism will become the eco-Feminist neo-ancient dada mindfuck that I wish it were today.

I guess this has become less explanatory than I had hoped, and more emotional. I’ve said before that there are three ways in which to deal with personal differences between you and your religious community: 1) Leave. 2) Learn and grow along with the difference. 3) Rebuild the community as you are able. I’m choosing the latter option, but feeling it out as I go. Maybe I’ll have left by next month–but I don’t think so. I’d rather do the work. Paganism is important to me, as much as I hate it some times, and I’m not always exactly sure why that’s the case. That’s why I stick around, I guess: To figure out why I can’t seem to get away from the tree-huggers, the horn-raisers, the circle-casters, and the bread makers.


About John Harness
John Harness is an artist and educator in Chicago. He is a member of Socialist Alternative and the Klingon Language Institute. He writes about political activism and roleplaying games.

3 Responses to Sticking Around

  1. gospelpagan says:

    Good answers. 😀 I asked because I think it’s an important question for us to ask ourselves, particularly those of us who spend a lot of time in critical angel-wrestle-mania mode. To articulate reasons why we love Paganism. If we are going to stay, we should know why and for what. What it is about it that is so engaging and beautiful that you stay despite the innumerable fork-in-the-eye moments? What does it look like at its most sublime? Why Paganism and not some Abrahamic mysticism, or Taoism, or Hinduism, or Quakerism?

    Because I hope, someday, that Paganism will become the eco-Feminist neo-ancient dada mindfuck that I wish it were today.

    LOL. Well that’s one answer I suppose.


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