This post comes in response to the question from Patheos Pagan via Christine Hoff Kraemer:
As Pagans, what do we hope to build?
Much of the current dialogue in the Pagan blogosphere is about carving out ways to explain and justify our personal experiences and beliefs in relation to other traditions, but without a clear vision of the place our own traditions and experiences might have in an ideal world. Will the Pagan movement become one tradition-heavy set of religions with several “fringes”? Will it split apart into competing factions? Or will we find a way to unite using some shared cultural language? What institutions will we build, or will we build institutions at all? What rights or recognition will we have in the larger society?
What does your Paganism look like in 50 years?
I’m skeptical of the promises of the Age of Aquarius, but I am certain we are living at the dawning of a new age. My hopes for the Paganism of 50 years hence are inseparable from my hopes and fears for the world as a whole.
We live in a world coming to grips with the realities climate change. We live in world where our lifestyle choices fuel the industries that cause environmental devastation. As the world becomes more interconnected, we can see how the actions of nations (and big NGOs) impact the whole.
When I think about the Paganism of the future, I think about the role Paganism must play in making sure future generations thrive. I believe it is time for an earth-based liberation theology/satyagraha. The need for engagement seems most clear to me when I reflect on the challenges above and look to the Goddess I know best, the living-breathing Earth.
We live within the body of the Goddess.
We participate in her wellbeing.
But if this is true, then it also true (on some level) that the Sacred is polluted and the Goddess is sick. The Earth communicating in the form of extreme weather –the Goddess is asking for help. We need new theologies and praxis to address these issues.
To do this we need to embrace our prophetic gifts. In particular there are three prophetic skills I believe we need to hone: speaking truth to power, listening to the voice of tomorrow (future generations), and reshaping symbols to meet those needs.
I am 32 years old. When I think about the future 50 years from now I expect to be living in the long emergency. I hope that, in 50 years, I will be able to tell my grandchildren about how Pagans joined in the work of the Great Turning, how we joined with others to avert ecological disaster.
There are so many gifts we can bring to this work. Several types of direct action are needed. Ritual, prayer, and the teaching of new/old skills (i.e. permaculture, canning, sustainable living, artisanship, etc.) are also required if we are to ensure the Earth is a place fit for future generations. Many Pagan denominations help their members to cultivate these gifts. I also believe it’s time to share our gifts with the broader culture, to teach ways to listen to and honor the earth, even if the folks learning don’t worship as we do.
To accomplish all of these things I think we will need to become more organized and less insular. So many of our conversations seem to be intra-religious dialogue. While there is certainly value to this, I think it’s time we began expanding our circles and dialogues to include non-Pagans. We have paradigms, skills, and ways of knowing that are needed in the broader culture. Pagan culture, as a whole, is good at embracing multiple truths/realities, intersubjectivity, and radical interdependence while simultaneously questioning systems of power, dominant cultural metanarratives, and notions of absolute truth. Our community is able to engage paradox, upholding/cherishing profound personal experiences without feeling threatened by others who experienced the same event as banal. This kind of pluralism and tolerance is desperately needed in the dominant culture.
Similarly, as a part of an earth-based liberation theology/satyagraha, I think it’s time for more organized Pagan civic engagement. This is especially challenging since so many of us (just under 80%) are solitary practitioners, myself included. I don’t know what this will look like, but I hope for better networks/resources that will allow us to join together for skill-shares, organized activities (e.g. wildland restoration work, community clean up days, etc.), and so on.
I can barely guess what institutions we will need in 50 years, and I have even less clarity about what the constellation of traditions that make up contemporary Paganism will look like. It’s easy to forget how young a religion Paganism is. Gardner published Witchcraft Today in 1954, and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance came out in 1979. The first book launched Paganism as a new religious movement; the second reinterpreted and reshaped the movement into an accessible modern spirituality. Since then Paganism has grown by leaps and bounds: diverse traditions/denominations have arisen, print and e-media have blossomed, festivals thrive giving us places to meet and innovate, and we are beginning to see a division between lay-practitioner and clergy develop within some Pagan traditions. Who can say where we are going?
In the end I don’t care if, 50 years hence, ADF Druidry is recognized as a religious denomination in the way Missouri Synod Lutheranism is. What is more important to me is that Modern/Western/Industrialized culture becomes more earth honoring as a whole: able to listen and skillfully respond to the needs of Earth, of future generations, and the non-human co-inhabitants of this planet. If, on top of that, there is greater appreciation for my multifaith practice, animism, belief in magic, and so forth, better still.