To other pagan adults, concerning teens coming to our faith:
Hi if you said you liked my blog to pagan teens
! I am very flattered, thank you. I really don't think I have said anything too extraordinary, I just think I was willing to say what most of us serious adult pagans have been thinking for a while.
I feel teens as they are forming their identity need adults to help show them how to be ethical, responsible, and conscious of their actions. As pagan adults, we need to act as mediators to a degree, standing behind parents rights, and challenging kids to consider multiple views. I truly believe that pagans (especially authors) often "coddle" kids and act to some degree like they cant handle the truth. Teens are in the perfect position, to be challenged by others based on what they profess.
I have actually had my blog up, and I have YET to receive the angry teen responses I expected. I have no apologies to kids who get their feelings hurt based on what I have said... It is the truth, and if someone feels they are ready to *possibly* implode their family structure, they better be ready for the truth.
I know of a few authors who tell kids "print out this pamphlet"... i say "what the heck?". Kids should be challenged to KNOW what they claim to believe enough to carry on a conversation about it with the people who love them. They don't need an "easy way out" they NEED character building, value establishing, real-life based, tough love.
I think too many people are too willing to tell christian/jewish/muslim/buddhist/etc parents to just "let your kids be whatever they want to be" despite what parents THINK. Do I want pagan acceptance? Of course! But, we wont ever get it if adult pagans are undermining parents' rights. Salvation is a uncomfortable subject to argue. To pagans, it is often the mechanism of persecution... but to a christian parent it is the ultimate gift they can give their child. Should we be allowed to form our own beliefs and identity... YES! However, christian parents also deserve the right and opportunity to do what they can to raise their children the best way they know how!
The other major concern by parents, is that thier children are being preyed on by a cult. We have seen in our history the very real dangers of influential cults. Mass suicide-murders are not so distant in the past that we have forgotten them. They are devastating reminders that we should be wary of the sway others hold over us. The value system of eclectic wicca today would be difficult to turn into a cult... but not all occult and witchcraft systems are benevolent. Indeed, witchcraft did have spells in the past that were created for the means of creating direct harm. As much as we deny the darker aspects of our history, we cannot erase them.
All seekers joining any religion or group should be wary. The unfortunate fact is that there are villians in this world. They belong to every ethnicity, country, orientation, gender, age, locality, and religion- even pagan ones. *Most* of us would never harm an other person... but there are bad people out there. When parents see thier kids "joining up" to something foreign to them, red flags go up! Our stereotypes work against pagans, but also the outspoken minority of our more extreme practitioners. When pagans go to prison- whether they were "true pagans" or not- people notice!
Even if we aren't literally dangerous, parents don't usually don't want their kids to be "freaks" or "outcasts" either. Of you check out a lot of pagan message boards and websites, you'll see our fair share of those. We are accepting, but it sometimes works against us. People make outrageous claims that they are various mystical creatures/ can teleport literally/ can fly/ etc. What parent wants their kids to be part of a group the seemingly cant tell the difference between 'dungeons & dragons' and real life? Add to that the large amount of "goth and emo kids" (guilty) that turn to wicca, and the "hippies" we don't seem as put together as some other groups.
I don't think we- adult pagans, all should drop everything and change. Being "normal" is over-rated... However parents are being GOOD parents when they care about who is influencing kids. Sure, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover... but we all do. People often dress and look a certain way because of the impression it makes on others. When we look scary, we'll make others less likely to want to approach us. When we look and act happy, simple, and approachable, others will react the same. Regardless of what we WANT, our culture has a current social norm, and we expect people to fall somewhere near normal. Would you be uncomfortable if your doctor wore a clown suit to work? I bet so!
In my opinion... pagans should fight for acceptance... the right to believe as we wish! We should also do our part in making the "face" of our faith a more respectable, intelligent, and benevolent one. In an ideal world, pagans would be seen as philanthropists, teachers, free-thinkers, and ethical and responsible contributing members of society. I don't think that there will ever be a day where everyone will agree on a common belief system... but perhaps we can all agree to disagree. I dream of a day when i can raise my daughter openly pagan, without others' fearing for her "spiritual safety". I feel the only way this will happen is through social change, and through trust. Her friends' parents will need to trust that OUR spirituality isn't a threat to theirs. When you read books for teens about wicca that encourage kids to sneak around, and bash Christianity and other faiths, or say "we know better than them"- we are acting as a THREAT to those parents' rights. I would hate any christian book that told my daughter that paganism is evil, devil worship, ignorance and the like. They write them out of misguided fear, but we may be even worse, because we write them out of vengeance. Pagan authors need to be the "bigger person".
I don't apologize for my faith and I never will. I wont give up my practice, my beliefs or anything else for anyone. I sincerely hope that every one of those teens finds a faith they are as passionate about and committed to as i am mine... My faith is built on reflection, experience, and practice. I didn't get to where I am on the easy road, it is the challenges that force us to grow that make us who we are. If I had my hand in helping one child or teen on that path, i am happy!