When the news people come around, who always finds the cameraman’s attention? The person least suited to be an accurate representation of the group he or she is speaking for. You see it in a disaster area; it’s always some uneducated ninny. It’s getting better, but often when some news group decides to look into New Age paganism, they find the MOST obnoxiously stereotypical pagan to interview (whitelighters and all).
That said, I think it’s far too easy to fall into the same trap with your own judgments.
Christians are judgmental. They base their entire moral structure on ancient (and often interpreted-as-needed) scriptures, then proceed to force it down everyone else’s throats as The Way to Be. They take no personal responsibility for any of their actions; either the Devil made them do it, or they confess and ask for forgiveness to make all well again. They are often hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another.
Generalizations S-U-C-K. Quit nodding. You’re about to feel bad for agreeing with any of that.
Christians are as varied in belief and practice as pagans are, if you take even a moment to look and even ask. This is where it helps to not just consider that conversation you had with the man who said you were going to hell because he saw your pentacle necklace; I’d like you to think of the non-confrontational examples of Christians you’ve met. If you don’t have any, find some! Many of them try to follow some pretty awesome teachings: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, turn the other cheek, thou shalt not kill, love thy brother (actually, I happen to love the quote “love is gently, love is kind” from the Bible). Christianity is actually a beautiful religion, in many MANY ways. Most Christians aren’t religious enough to feel a need to even discuss their religion with others, unless the topic is brought up; they don’t often preach at anyone. Society teaches us (unfortunately) that someone else is always to blame; this isn’t a failing of Christian teachings, but a failing of the society as a whole. And hypocrisy is EVERYWHERE, even in pagan circles. *gasp*
I’ve watched pagans be judgmental. Not just of Christians, but of each other! They have their path, tradition, or branch of paganism, and anyone who dares approach it without invitation is scoffed at. For example, some traditional Wiccans (i.e. those in branches of the path that trace themselves back to its start with Gerald Gardner) will slap a pagan silly for even thinking of themselves and the word “Wiccan” in the same sentence. Or a Druid might snear at a circle that’s calling deities from their base culture.
It’s sad. Many pagans are willing to accept personal responsibility for their magickal actions, but their mundane lives stand as a separate entity. Harming none only applies to hexes, not to treating your neighbors with kindness while their dogs keep shitting in your yard. We are sometimes hypocrites, too.
This whole thought-train came from watching my circle discuss ethics. Our tradition embraces “Equal Truths, Equal Magicks”, that there is validity in EVERY path, not just the ones we like. And yet I watched us, new and old alike, talk about how Christian morality is inferior compared to pagan ethics. I listened to a discussion of morality and ethics (neither of which necessarily belonging to ANY spirituality) fall apart into a chorus of comments on the failures of Christianity and the intelligence of pagans for taking responsibility for their actions.
I’d like to say that maybe we should all take responsbility for failing our own tradition’s guidelines. I take personal responsibility for not speaking up, even as I sat there and listened and disagreed.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: there is beauty and simplicity in following a structure of moral behavior, just as there is a striking freedom and joy in following a path of personal ethics. No one path is good for everyone, and that applies to understanding right/wrong decisions as well. We aren’t all built to handle the pressure of being held accountable for every thought, word, and deed; some would break under the strain. Some of us are wired to a natural tendency to refuse to follow a rule without an explanation as to why it is so. Others are born with a need for security and structure, for rules and regulations to help guide the way. Neither is better. Remember that.