Sunday, September 2, 2012

Finding a Home vs. Finding a Place

I saw this article recently about a Wiccan group that recently found a home in a building in Memphis, TN. This is, of course, the heart of the Bible belt. 

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to all of the members of the community. Their courage to practice what they believe in an area that has the potential to be very intolerant of their spiritual path is an example to all of us. 

I'm thrilled they've found a space that they can all their own and worship freely. Can you imagine what it must be like to be an out-of-the-closet Wiccan or Witch in a place like Memphis? I really hope they don't have any trouble with their neighbors, which, according to the article, includes a number of other churches. 

I find it disappointing that religions such as Christianity that teach tolerance seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Wicca or Witchcraft. I understand it, though..."thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" is one of the more common themes raised from the Bible, in addition all kinds of condemnation or astrologers or fortunetellers and "worshiping false idols". Some Christians think of the Bible's word is absolute, so it's hard to make a case for tolerance here.

On our side, we don't do a lot to help ourselves. I've met Witches or Wiccans who go out of their way to antagonize practitioners of other faiths because they have experienced persecution themselves. So they make it a point to bash Christians at every opportunity. Two wrongs don't make a right, folks, no matter how you slice it.

Certainly, not all members of either of these spiritual communities are guilty of bigotry, so I'm not painting with a broad brush. Every faith is going to have those who believe fervently that anyone who doesn't follow what they do is wrong. This is nothing new and it even extends out to our life choices. Think about it: Straight vs. Gay, Pepsi vs. Coke, you name it, there are always those who will malign others for their choices. 

Would you be threatened if a person you cared for very much said, "You know what? I've been a Big Mac eater all my life, but I've found that I love the Whopper so much more"? You'd say, "To each his own," and move on with your life. 

What all spiritual paths need in the United States is to find not just their home where they can worship, but a PLACE in society. Every religion has gone through it at one time or another. Look at Northern Ireland, or countries in the Middle East where Christianity is not considered the norm. Every faith has to carve out their spot, and Wicca and Witchcraft have to do the same. 

It's a true shame that Wiccans and Witches cannot practice openly. Many won't even wear a pentacle or other symbol for fear of being ostracized. Unfortunately, while you can legislate freedom of religion, you cannot legislate respect for a particular religion. To me, you can't go out there and demand that people respect you, because it doesn't work. It needs to become something normal that people are comfortable with. Those who do practice openly need to be excellent ambassadors for our faith, but there are so few of them that it makes it difficult.

Do we as Wiccans and Witches need to be who we are not for acceptance? Absolutely not. But we need to be brave enough to slowly come out of the broom closet and act like normal people to gain the respect of others. Doing charity work is one way to do that, for example, but the best way, in my humble opinion, is by just being good people who are kind and respectful of the spiritual practices of all. What you put out you should receive in return, right? 

For those of you who have come out of the broom closet, you have my respect and gratitude. Understand, however, that perhaps more than any other faith you have an enormous responsibility to pave the way for future generations of Wiccans and Witches so they won't feel the need to practice in mystery and darkness.

I have dealt with religious intolerance many times, and while I don't like it, it's not going to drive me back in the broom closet, nor will it make be so bitter that I hate every member of another faith due to the actions of a few misguided believers. As Gandhi so eloquently put it, "Be the change you wish to see in the world," by being the bigger people. Only then can we take our rightful place in the spiritual fabric of the United States.


  1. This is such a timely post. Thank you for reminding me that not all Christians are a-holes. Being an a-hole is an equal opportunity state of being. Just as being a good person is as well. I needed this reminder to practice the tolerance and acceptance that I hope for.

  2. You are welcome, Sarah. I think this a reminder we all need every once in a while! :)