Paganism in the Media: Progress in Small Rays of Light

Courtesy of C.Frank Starmer

In the weeks before Christmas, life always seems to explode in all directions both positive and negative. As a result, being in media relations, the weeks become increasingly stressful and very busy.

But, sometimes through the chaos and darkness, a glimmer of light finds its way to offer hope. Perhaps it’s a mirror to the Winter Solstice experience. Or perhaps it’s just my nature to always look towards the positive. Either way, I grab at any and all these positive rays of light. They signal change. Because change comes slowly, we must mark or even celebrate the smallest of indicators and hang on to them with all our might.

Two Recent Examples

Case #1:  The Burning Times

On December 20, 2012, a Missouri man, claiming to practice witchcraft, threatened to burn a church and shoot a pastor. He reportedly told a preacher that he was planning “to fill the seas with the blood of all Christians.” (Read original report) I cannot attest to this man’s spirituality or religious beliefs. However, I will say that his actions are in clear violation of the Wiccan Rede “An’ ye harm none, do what ye will.”  While it is true that many Pagans do speak out against evangelical preachers, I personally have never met a Pagan who would actively commit such a violent act, even as threat.

That aside, as part of my media research, I always skim the article’s comments. I’m looking for reader reaction in order to gauge the toxicity level of the story. In this case, most of the comments were irrelevant and inconsequential to my work. But I did find this one:

I do wonder what kind of a witch this guy was. He can’t have been a wiccan as they tend to be generally peaceful and go by the general rule of “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” Satanic witch maybe, of the Anton Lavey kind?

On which news site did I find this comment? The Christian News.net. Really!? Here’s a reader who can differentiate between the different forms of witchcraft and their practice. I don’t care who this writer was or why he posted the comment. I don’t even mind that he didn’t capitalize “Wiccan.”  As a PR professional, all I see is forward progress in the dissemination of information about the various forms Paganism and/or witchcraft.

Case #2: 12-12-12

On December 12, a Texas man was arrested for carving a pentagram into his son’s back. He allegedly performed this act to mark the “holy day” 12-12-12. Based upon the reports, the man did not claim to be practicing any form of Paganism. It appears that he may have been misinterpreting aspects of the Old Testament or some other Judeo-Christian teachings. I am unclear on that point. (Read the original story)

So was the media. As I scanned the “airwaves” for any and all connections being made to Paganism, there were none. Media outlets did not use any keywords associated with any Pagan religions. In fact, they didn’t even associate the act to Satanism. This alone was a positive note. But it gets better when you read CNN’s version of the story. The authors wrote:

The pentagram has had links with many of the world’s religions and cults through the ages, including Christianity, Judaism and Paganism. It has also been used in certain forms by magicians and Satanists.

In an attempt to discover the meaning behind the man’s claim of a “holy day,” the CNN blog authors briefly discussed the pentagram itself.   Accurately and without bias, they ascribed its use to “many of the world’s religions and cults.” Additionally, the authors gave Paganism equal footing to Christianity and Judaism by using nondescript language with no emphasis on one over the other. Interestingly enough, the authors separated Paganism from Satanism, making no value judgement of either.

CNN

These may be very small points but every positive step is notable. Mainstream media discourse and pop culture are major indicators of social change. We must watch carefully, celebrating the gains and trying very hard not to get bogged down by set backs.

 

(Sunrise Photo courtesy of C. Frank Starmer)