If you wanna stay in Jayellespace...
- Back home
- You Might Be A Hip-Hop Heathen!
- A Letter to Dr. Robert A. Morey
- Jayelle's Diversions
- Jayelle's Interfaith Discussion Forum and the VodouNet BBS
- SAGA Youth--my Bisexual youth BBS
The Pagan Kids in the Hall
A note: This was originally meant to appear in the Orlando Sentinel.
It didn't. That isn't stopping me from publishing this piece
anyway--that's one of the joys of webmistressing! Charley Reese is a
very reactionary columnist in the Sentinel. I wrote this piece
on April 11, 1998.
Ironically enough, the assignment was to write and present a paper about
"misunderstood groups." L, a sixteen-year-old acquaintance of
mine, elected to write about her religion. It has sustained her through a
turbulent year. Now that her life has calmed down, she is studying and
living her adopted religion in earnest.
Her religion happens to be Vodoun, better-known as "voodoo." In
fifteen minutes, she managed to walk her class through basic theology and
explain Vodoun's origins in the Haitian slave trade. She explained that
zombification is not an integral part of Vodoun practice, that "voodoo
dolls" can be applied for positive as well as negative uses, and that
Vodoun practitioners must vow to do now harm unless directly threatened.
She ended by stating simply that Vodoun has been a very positive path for
Her painstakingly researched, lovingly presented effort was rewarded with a
"C" grade (now upgraded to a "B") and three forced trips
to the guidance counselor. Her family helped her to resolve the problem
amicably, and L gave her teachers and school staff books, Websites, and
phone numbers for responsible adult Vodoun practitioners. Weeks after this
incident, she's still upset. "They didn't take me or my religion
seriously," she complained. "They're so full of themselves--they
don't think I care about finding my correct spiritual path, they think I
just want to shock authority figures. Well, they aren't laughing me back to
For those of us who are religious minorities or care about
religious-minority youth, it has been a disturbing past few weeks. In
Teague Middle School--which was, the last time I checked, taxpayer-funded
and public--religious-minority students were forced to listen to their
fellow students perform a presentation that informed them, "The world
needs Jesus." Mat Staver of the Liberty Council, which claims to
support religious freedom, is representing two Christian teenagers who are
offended at the idea that their play might have been offensive. Two
agnostic boys were removed from the Boy Scouts of America after a court in
California supported the Scouts' right to exclude and hurt young boys based
on their religious beliefs. I was cheered to read an essay in this space
supporting the boys. I was appalled to read a later "My Word" and
several letters that proclaimed this court decision a victory. When grown
Christian men believe that picking on young boys is a victory for their
values, I am even prouder to be a Pagan.
On March 26, Ricki Lake did a show entitled "Help! My teen is obsessed
with witchcraft!" Producer Jeni Birgel had assured members of the
Pagan community that the show would not demean our religions. Put most
bluntly, she lied. The treatment on that show was typical Ricki
Lake--sensationalistic, poking fun at all of the guests, focusing on
black-clad teenagers interested in negative magick, and staged for
confrontations to occur. It would have been amusing if positive, serious
Pagans of all ages were given our due on a more frequent basis. (By the
way, several Wiccan teenagers recently left messages in the Rave section of
this very newspaper.)
All religious minorities must "prove themselves" in this
Christianized secular society. However, Pagans have some unique problems.
We worship "too many" deities. Our spiritual ideas are widely
considered evil, jokes, or both. Therefore, open practitioners are not taken
seriously by schools or the media, and a vicious cycle continues. Those of
us who have the nerve to be open must cut through a thicket of folklore and
sensationalism in order to share even a little of our truth.
I worry when bodies of our government get embroiled in arguments about
whether to open their sessions with a prayer. Ernest Istook, a Republican
representative, is attempting to inflict the Religious Freedom Amendment on
us. We already have one--the First--but Istook's amendment would allow for
sectarian prayer in public school classrooms. Of course, according to
Charley Reese, I am a "bigot" for even suggesting that government
resources--really, *our* resources--shouldn't be used to proselytize any
particular religion to a captive audience.
Understand, please, that I am *non*-Christian, not *anti*-Christian. I
believe that in public, including on government time and property, one has
the right to wear a cross, invite friends to church, pray silently, and meet
in Christian groups. When I was in high school, I was an evangelical
Christian and did all of the above. However, these rights aren't exclusively
for Christians, or even monotheists. These rights extend to Witches, Vodoun
practitioners, Santeria practitioners, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists,
agnostics, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, and groups whose existence we don't
know about. These rights even extend to our youngest citizens, the ones who
can't vote yet.
I write this because I love Christians. They are my family and my
foundation, yet certain extremists are making me angry. These are the people
who misuse poor, battered Brother Jesus to justify their own prejudices and
propel themselves to power. I know this is not what real Christianity is all
about. However, I grew up among loving, considerate Christians. Many
religious minorities didn't.
I write this because the appealing, half-formed faces of the youth I've
expressed concern about will soon harden into the faces of adults. Their
minds will harden, too. Will those Christians who consider discrimination
against children a sacrament and a victory, who wish to harness peer pressure
for the Lord, turn them into Christians? Perhaps. I feel that instead, the harsh,
unloving tactics favored by too many Christians will more likely turn our
children bitter. This concerns me, as non-Christians represent twenty-five
percent (and growing) of America's population. I fear that the cycle of
prejudice will not be broken within my lifetime.
I write this with love for my religious-minority siblings. Most religions
have some form of "karma", to use the Hindu word. In
Christianity, it is "you reap what you sow"; in Witchcraft, the
belief is that everything we do comes back to us three times. I urge all of
us to consider what we will be getting back.
In the Assemblies of God church, I was frequently told that we could be our
own best or worst ministry. Our words and actions told non-believers, more
graphically than any tract, what Christianity was all about. I left
partially because the words and actions I witnessed towards the end sent
quite a frightening message. This, however, I keep to heart.
I ask myself, my brothers, and my sisters to become our own best ministry. I
ask my Christian siblings to consider their next move wisely, especially
those in the media and government. After all, religious minorities have
ballots and wallets, too. Most importantly, I ask everyone reading this to
overlook past experience, extremists, and legends, and listen to what others
have to say for themselves.