The Pagan Heart
Myth, Magic, and Madness

April 2005 Issue

The Culture of Fear and Propaganda

By Axiom


With the rise of Christianity to dominance within the West, Paganism fell out of favour and under threat. For the last 1800 years practitioners of the old faiths have found themselves persecuted and forced into conversion. Often public ostrasization, torture, exile, and death were used to pressure people into reneging their covenants with the old gods. Much of what was once used is still in existence today.

Pagan property has been stolen, religious icons and traditions wiped out - or appropriated for the evolving Christian faith - holy sites polluted and/or built over with Christian buildings, and the myths altered and Christianised.

Now, before I proceed any further, let me make clear that these actions in and of themselves are not the issue. Every society has engaged in such methods to assimilate and conquer their neighbours. It seems, lamentably, to be natural to the human race. I know that the old rally cry of Christianity against Paganism, "They sacrifice babies, and drink their blood", actually began as a Pagan cry against the Christians. The Pagans took the "eat my flesh, drink my blood" bit a little literally. There is blame on both sides for the beginnings of this. It is where we are now that concerns me. I see a continuing culture built on fear and propaganda on both sides. Oh, I know, we are the persecuted Pagans. But we certainly have our own selection of stereotypes and inaccuracies about Christians that many of us fail to address or destroy.

This can only bring harm to us all, Christian and Pagan alike.

The hatred spewed by the Christian side is expressed in a variety of ways. The two major methods, for me, are:

One: the continual insistance that not only is the Christian path the only way to God, but all the traditions used today to worship Jehovah are soley Christian in origin and thus good. Except when they are proven to be Pagan (and the Christians finally accept this truth). Then suddenly these same traditions are anathema.

That's dishonest and weak. That the Church chose to use Pagan ritual, myth, and symbol indicates a belief that they were acceptable to God. Regular usage with holy intent for so long sanctified it for that use.

A child inherits many things from his or her parents - and chooses to take on some traditions as well as creating new ones. There is a historical value, a continuity of family tradition linking the generations, in that, and also the wonder of something new. Religion is the same. Get over the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. Even the purely Jewish aspects of the faith evolved from pre-Judaic religions.

Two: The refusal by so many Christians to live and let live. To offer mutual respect, if not understanding. To let go of all those old stereotyped images and concepts - some current attitudes stretch back almost 2,000 years. Yes, there are historical Pagans who engaged in ritual sacrifice - both human and animal. So what? Modern Pagans do not kill people, and most do not kill animals either. There are also historical Christians who engaged in the wholesale slaughter of those who believed differently - often utilising horrible torture in the process. We are expected to recognise this is an old, long abandoned tactic of conversion, even though the last occurences are much more recent in history that Pagan sacrifice, but at the same time our faith is foul and degraded because of a practice utilised over a thousand years ago?

Sorry, but what's good for this goose is good for that gander. Either no sins of the fathers and mothers, or we all cry "mea culpa" and begin atoning.

One of the most common stereotypes is that of the witch. Propaganda created during the Inquisition and the Witch Hunts is still passed around today as "true" material about Pagans and Witches. Yet try using chemical information, or medical practices, or even relationship advice from that time and see how far you get. Or racist propaganda from only forty years ago describing the inferiority of non-whites.

Hate and fear-based propaganda material is characterised by its lies that play upon childish fears. Its ability to bolster feelings of superiority in the chosen elite (in this case Christians), while playing upon their fears, makes it a powerful weapon. How powerful is clear when you consider that material over 1,700 years old is still being touted as valid. Twenty-first century, civilised peoples reduced to fear by a pack of fairy tales - would seem humourous if it wasn't so accurate.

So we face continual accusations about our morality, ethical standards, intelligence, and anything else they can throw at us.

Of course, the existence of racist, white-supremist groups that steal our sacred symbols and gods, the crazed anti-Christian Satanic cultists (as opposed to the humanist Satanists and Luciferianists), the occasional "dabbler" in Black Magic who does so only in order to proclaim it to the world, and even the "fluffy" (as opposed to actual, practising, thinking) Wiccans doesn't help matters. That only the "fluffy" Wiccan comes close to actually being Pagan doesn't matter. The public sees them all as indicative of what we are, and thus we are branded.

Our lack of regimented cohesion, our preference for peace, and our often solitary practice are a disadvantage in this. We are so individual, that we have not got the strength of unity our persecutors have. We face the propaganda alone - even though it targets us all. If the situation were reversed, millions of Christians worldwide would unite in common cause to correct matters.

But it's not all one-sided, either. There is a strong swell within Paganism to reject all things Christian - including the people. This culture of fear and propaganda has soured us and poisoned our ability to accept others at face value. The actions of a vocal minority - and much of the anti-Pagan activity today is by a select few - create a blind reaction in many Pagans. We push back, and in doing so we often lose support and acceptance from potential allies within Christianity itself. There is a growing number of Christians expressing their displeasure at the actions of that vocal minority, calling them out on their lack of Christ-like attitudes and actions - these people are potential allies to us. They may not like our religious path, nor understand how we could walk it, but they support our right to do so and accept us for ourselves regardless.

These people are resisting the fundie (not to be confused with Fundamentalist) cry for conversion. Gentle and accepting, they see witnessing as a way to live, not something to be done to one's neighbour. We have much in common with them - they too believe forcing conversion upon another is wrong and harmful.

I loathe the public idea of witches - pointy, wart-laden noses, stringy hair, knockknees, and cackling laughter. But is the Pagan stereotype of a Christian any better? Are we buying into this culture of fear and propaganda?

While I do not tolerate Christian fundies in my space, I am coming to see that I have tolerated their Pagan cousins. It's that goose and gander again. The simple insertion of "Christian" into that phrase makes me as bad as them.

Why on earth are you working with a theocracy which sees you as a prime target in need of their god's slavation?...We will never achieve anything positive for Paganism by interfaithing with Christians!

This is not to say that I disagree with some of what our friends at PAN are attempting to do. There is a danger in lying down with the lamb of God. And there are many Christians who will never cease to try and evangelacise. But I refuse to tar all of them, just as I refuse to be tarred alongside the Fluffy Wiccan and crazed Black Witch. I believe there is a middle ground that we all, Pagan and Christian, Moslem and Jew, Hinduist and Buddhist, and everyone else, need to find. One of respect and mutual learning. It will never happen while we hold out our swords, attacking in case we need to defend ourselves.

Culturally understood, an antithesis is the watershed that divides two exact opposites. The issue of conflict is not particular, but universal - the two sides of an antithesis oppose each other at every point. You could use the military image of a never-ending front line. There is an eternal war raging between the adversaries, one which is total and unconditional. There is no quarter for the vanquished. Battle imagery, in fact, is crucial to any worldview, for it is in this metaphor that we find our antithesis - the very foundation of our world and life-view. Unless we adopt this metaphor of a true holy war into our worldview, any lasting victory will never be attained. We bring the message of peace; however, the Promised Land can only be entered after the spiritual Canaanites have been driven out.
So we come armed with the holy Word and mysteries of God to do battle.
~ New Christendom Journal

Of course, with ideologies such as the above, we should never put aside our swords entirely. I may have a peace knot about my blade, but I never stop training. I have simply shifted my perspective from the Western "attack first" to the Eastern "react with equal force". I'd put my money on a martial artist over a boxer any day!

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