Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mr. Wiccan Frowny-Pants

By the time he was a junior in college, an old friend of mine had slept with almost every girl he knew, in an astounding variety of ways. "What about this?" we'd ask, pointing to a spine-atomizing tableau in the Illustrated Kama Sutra. "Three times with a Yugoslavian exchange student," he'd reply. "And once with my roommate's sister."

Late one night, after a keg party, he got plastered and had sex with another man. When questioned as to why he, an avowed and devout heterosexual, would suddenly decide to cross the lavender line, he said simply, "I was bored and got curious." Then he'd shrug and go back to his beer or his current girlfriend, whichever was in his hand at the time.

I bring this up because I'm going through the same thing: just substitiute "sex" for "subscribe," "girl" with "Pagan listserv," and "another man" with "Fundamentalist Christian."

To sum up, I joined a Fundamentalist Christian listserv. But not, like, a bad one.

This particular list is devoted to people who were once deeply involved in the occult, but then found Jesus. They're not proselytizing or anything, nor are they actively trying to "save" anyone: it's just a group of people who've had similar experiences, and would like to share them with one another.

I'm kind of bizzaro-them, since I turned in my hymnal for a copy of The Secret Power of Witchcraft when I was twelve. But the key elements are all there, regardless of order, so I get to play, too. Realistically, I have no business being on this list, but they keep posting the most fascinating news articles. If it wasn't for them, I'd have never known that in New York, welfare recipients are learning how to read Tarot cards and being put to work as telephone psychics.

Since it's an online forum, there's a troll lurking about. Specifically, a neoWiccan activist-type who's doing his best to be persecuted by the rest of the list members. He's oblivious to the fact that he joined their list in order to tell them how their beliefs are wrong: they exist, and as such, he's oppressed.

But the thing is... they're so nice to him. If he rails against Christianity for annihilating Pagans throughout history (and for the record, Christians did that, not Christianity), they politely ask if he could tell them more about his own beliefs, and when he sends in a dissertation about modern Paganism, they thank him for the opportunity to get to know him better. He continues to post, basically in opposition to anything anyone else says ("Well, I'm against it!"), but there's a distinct feeling of everyone else just smiling and nodding, then carrying on with the discussion.

I've grown accustomed to this level of NeoPagan rhetoric (Pagan A: "Fucking Xians!" Pagan B: "Um, why?" Pagan A: "Just because, okay?") so for the most part I planned to ignore him. Up until one of the moderators announced that her grandfather died, and he commented, "I doubt you'd welcome my prayers, and my faith requires that I respect your wishes in that regard. I hope you can accept my condolances [sic] and my hopes for your well being."

Okay, no. No no NO. You do not use someone else's personal tragedy as a platform for your own religious agenda. You just don't. Well, unless you're Fred Phelps, but that's different. If you're Pagan, you don't. Seriously. Knock it off. I'm making a rule.

I have not yet had the opportunity to confront this guy, but I feel it coming on. It's going to be broughten, my friends, so practice ducking and covering as I prepare my rebuttals.

Incidentally, I went ahead and posted an introduction, mainly to determine what kind of reaction I could expect from the other members. My intro included the following passage:

"I am a Witch, although a fairly agreeable one. I'm not overly concerned with outside perceptions of my convictions and practices, but I'm pretty much unconditional when it comes to respecting other people's religions. I sincerely believe that individuals should work to find the spiritual home, family and community that's right for them--as such, the mission of this list is one I can easily endorse."

At this time, no one's responded, not even the neoWiccan activist-type. Whether they're all thinking "Huh. Another one." or "Oh God, not another one!" has yet to be revealed.

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