I have decided to participate in International Pagan Values Blogging and Podcasting Month
The first thing it seems sensible to do is answer the question, "Why is it important, as pagans, to talk about our values?"
The obvious and easy answer is that our culture is deeply divided on matters of faith, and what's commonly considered 'the other side' has claimed the moral high ground as its own. There is no good reason to cede that higher ground and every reason to establish ourselves as a presence on it. Fundamentalists use the expectation that they are the 'good' people to demand credibility and respect in discussions of faith and morality, claiming a higher moral authority because their faith derives from a 'one true god'. If we don't step into the debate and meet them on equal terms, we run the risk of being unable to maintain our right to participate meaningfully in the discussion.
But that's a fear-based response, an 'us vs. them' response. It suggests that values are a battleground, a war to be fought, something one side or the other can 'win'. An antagonistic structure for faith-based interaction means there has to be a loser, and as long as that is the case, the only way to resolve religious differences would be for one side to somehow end the other. That's not a dynamic I'm comfortable contemplating, and not just because I'm on the disenfranchised, outnumbered side. No one wins a holy war.
Why, then, talk about pagan values and ethics? Why insist that we have a place in shaping the common moral sense?
There's a responsibility in it, as well as the right to speak. If we believe that ethical and moral behaviour can make a better world, and we choose to refrain from participating, then we're avoiding our duty. We have chosen our paths because we believe they're right, and we seek guidance from our faith to be better people. If we don't talk about what 'being better people' means to one another and to those outside our communities, how can we really say we're walking that path fully?
In the pagan community, there's a strong reluctance to talk about right and wrong. We shrink from judgment, from making concrete values statements, because we're carrying old baggage about being judged ourselves. It weakens us as a community, leaves us open to sexual predators, to unscrupulous behaviour, to abuse and manipulation. It makes us feel we are not empowered to confront people who we see mistreating others, and it diminishes our credibility in the larger community when we don't speak out against unethical or harmful behaviours. Just as a sex scandal tarnishes a priest or a church, lapses of character and decency taint our community.
The world can be a better place than it is, and I have a part in making that. We all have a part in making that, each of us who has found some way to walk the path of joy and love, and in sharing the what we believe to be right and good, we can create a world where more than one worldview can thrive. By learning to speak the language of values in positive terms instead of judgmental ones, by talking openly about what we believe is right, we can establish a common ground with others willing to do the same.
And when we talk about what is right, we also speak against what we believe is wrong, but we have a better chance to avoid harsh judgment and condemnation, and we can build positive ethical frameworks that aren't based on shame and fear.
But first, we have to admit not only that we shouldn't be shut out of the conversation of values, but that we have something new, useful, and beautiful to add to that conversation, that we will enrich it by our participation.
I love you all.