Monday, August 1, 2011

Where is the Pagan Voice in the National News Media?


Over the last few weeks a clip of Evangelical Pastor John Hagee has been making the rounds on the internet and the Pagan blogosphere. I'm not really going to talk much about Hagee; he's a loud mouthed blowhard, a hypocrite, homophobic, and borderline insane.
I try to avoid spending time writing about idiots, and Hagee clearly is one. He also doesn't represent the majority of Christians, or even a sizable minority. He did say something interesting during his rant/sermon above, and it's worth commenting on, just because it's so absolutely wrong. Hagee said: "America right now has its fist in the face of God and in the name of pluralism we are honoring Paganism coast to coast in this nation."

I don't give a shit about the "fist in the face of God" comment. I get that with monotheists, it's not all that incendiary. The part of the statement that shocks me is the idea that America is somehow "honoring Paganism coast to coast." Today is Lughnassa/Lammas*; one of the four most important holidays on the Pagan calendar, and outside of Pagandom I don't see anyone mentioning it. Lammas is a big deal, many of us actually refer to it as one of the greater sabbats, but that doesn't seem to matter to anyone outside of our little world.

If Hagee is right, and America is truly "honoring Paganism coast to coast" you think we'd show up for more than just the random "quirky Pagan" story and the obligatory Samhain write up. Not even the liberal media seems to care that much about us, it's like we live on this little island, and people only visit us once or twice a year. I'm a pretty avid Huffingtonpost reader, but not even that bastion of liberal internet journalism feels as if we are worthy to be written about. And you know what? It totally pisses me off.

The HuffPost Religion page has a banner at the top breaking religion down into five and a half groups: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Spirit. Before you get excited "Spirit" is not about Paganism, it's about "Healthy Living." Your best bet for news that might be considered Pagan is at HuffPost's/AOL outlet "Weird News." Nice. (Can I write fuck you here? My blood is boiling.)

Why is my blood boiling over this? Mostly because there's no great disparity in numbers between Pagans, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims in the United States. All four of those GREAT religions average** between one and two million adherents. Why don't we have our own subsection on HuffPost? Despite what Hagee might think, writing about Paganism is still not "PC," even in liberal circles. We are the bastard step child of American religion. Want to prove you are tolerant? Write about Islam. Want to write a snarky article? Druids are the go to.

I decided to count the articles up on the front page of HuffPost's Religion Section today, and the breakdown was as follows:

Judeo-Christian***: 19 (These were almost all written about from a Christian perspective, and two focused specifically on Catholicism. That doesn't bother me, Christianity is the largest religion in the United States, it should have more articles dedicated to it.)

Isalm: 6 As today is the first day of Ramadan I'm not surprised by this number, but it's still awfully high. One one hand, news outlets do a great service when reporting about Islam in an accurate manner. The idea that Muslim terrorists are representative of the religion really needs to be dispelled, but Pagans are equal to or exceed the American Muslim population. Six to zero is a big problem.

Judaism: 3 Considering the immense contributions made to American Society by the Jewish Community, I'm not surprised by this number. I was surprised that there were six opinion pieces written specifically for a Jewish audience on HuffPost's Religion front page. Christianity only had eight, and Islam two. That was extremely disproportionate, and is probably a reflection of HuffPost's New York City bias.

Buddhism: 3 Buddhism is that one non-Western, rather alien religion that doesn't seem to scare people or invite sarcasm. If you are a religion writer or rounding up links for a website Buddhism is always a "safe" choice to prove you believe in religious diversity.

Hinduism: 1 Just for window dressing I presume.

The only article on HuffPost's Religion front page that I thought might have a link to Paganism was about animal sacrifice (I was really grasping at straws, but Santeria is a part of the tribe, mostly), and that was written by a rabbi. So no dice as they say in Vegas.

It seems like an over reaction to accuse the national news media of "religious bigotry" when it comes to Paganism, but it's not all that off the mark. Even in liberal circles it's not seen as "mainstream" or worthy of much comment. If there were only 100,000 Pagans out there I'd be OK with this, but as we continue to grow, and in large numbers I might add, it's getting ridiculous. I'm not ready to begin leading some large protest movement, but it's getting to the point where we really have to begin questioning the media about why we are being ignored and/or marginalized.

Is it the fear of proving Pastor Hagee right? Is it because of some monotheistic news bias? I don't know, but I would like some answers, or at least our own section on HuffPost. If one of our four holiest days of the year isn't worthy of a brief article, what is?


*Or tomorrow, whatever works for you.

**It's hard to get accurate numbers for "minority" or "fringe" religions, and this particular survey lumps Pagans in with a few other faiths. However, I'm willing to bet there are at least one million Pagans in the United States, possibly even double that number.

***One of my friends who teaches religion at Iowa State University hates the Judeo-Christian tag, I can't say I blame him, it's a pretty flawed term. In this case I use it to refer to the God found in the Old and New Testaments. When one refers to "God" in our society that's the figure they generally have in mind.




3 comments:

  1. hmm. Honestly, it doesn't really make my blood boil that we're not in the media. I guess my feeling is that we will eventually hit a tipping point, and suddenly we will find that we are represented. I think those other religions have large followings elsewhere in the world, and while there are pagans worldwide, I don't think there are as many as there are buddhists or muslims, which may form part of their bias.

    I think the most important thing to do as pagans is to get out there and do quality public ritual, engage with the local community, and get ourselves more in the public eye on a local level and let the big conglomerates figure it out later.

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  2. Huffington Post has several editions, and the one I was looking at yesterday was the "US Edition." Yeah, of course there are more Muslims worldwide, but if your paper/internet news depository is allegedly dedicated to one nation, it should represent the religious views of that nation. There's just something still "taboo" about Modern Paganism, that keeps it from being written and talked about as a valid faith. You'd think our "liberal news media" would be more open about it, but they aren't, with a few exceptions.

    You know I'm not in favor of giant pentacle hubcap wearing Pagans, but a few articles here and there on our actual beliefs, and not just "quirky people" would be really helpful.

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