Alas, All Barrels Have Their Bad Apples
Author: Ginger Strivelli
It is sad but true; all barrels have their bad apples hidden within.
The Pagan community is not immune to ignorant and/or immoral idiots who call themselves one of us, and then go on to be the worse kind of bad example, spewing bad PR and worse damage in the wake of their stupid if not outright evil behavior.
The problem is, most people do not judge all Muslims by the “bad example” of Osama Bin Laden, or all Christians by the bad example of David Koresh, nor all New Agers by the bad example of the Heaven’s Gate cult. Nonetheless, it seems painfully clear that too often too many people still judge all Pagans and Witches and Wiccans and Druids and other Earth Religionists by the crimes of our few bad apples. Admittedly we’ve had some real rotten-to-the-core ones…and will sadly continue to in the future, most likely. We are open and accepting and loving people and we tend to embrace everyone, even those we shouldn’t. In our inclusive accepting ways we sadly include and accept those who we should not to start with. However, once those bad apples have been pointed out to us, we should stop including and accepting them! That seems simple, but often it is not so clear to Pagan leaders, clergy and communities when faced with a situation where one within their circle surprisingly turns out to be a bad apple.
How can we as a community distance ourselves from these types of bad examples? It is a question we ask each other often. A question we are forced to address way too often when such situations arise where someone within our local Pagan Circles turns out to be an idiot, mentally ill, or actually evil. Woefully, we tend to have some people who call themselves “Pagan” who fit all three categories. Perplexingly, some of our fellow Pagans will balk at denouncing these people…they will urge us to be “understanding” or “forgiving” or “tolerant.” The fact is some things, some people, some behaviors and some crimes are just wrong and not understandable, forgivable, or tolerable. That is a hard lesson: For some of us who have fought long and hard for tolerance and acceptance to realize that everything is not tolerable and acceptable! Some things are just wrong. There is still a line between right and wrong. Just because you are trying to be progressive and open-minded and tolerant doesn’t mean you can just not draw that line between right and wrong…you must draw it somewhere. Even if you draw that line at a different place than the (in your view) narrow-minded greater community, you still must draw the line somewhere!
We in the Pagan community try so hard to be open-minded, we often get so open-minded our brains start to fall out. It is a hard lesson for us to face that we can’t and shouldn’t blindly accept everything and anything, just because we preach acceptance and tolerance of our faith.
An ancient and honorable faith like Witchcraft, Paganism, Druidism, Shamanism, or modern variations thereof, like Wiccans and such, should naturally be accepted; a religion is not intolerable. However, some things, some behaviors, some people are intolerable, and we should stop preaching acceptance when we are faced with such stupidity and/or evilness. Those things do not deserve acceptance. People who practice such behaviors should not be “accepted” or “understood.” They should not be excused with the wand of “tolerance.” They should be exposed, exiled, and executed in some extreme cases with the Athame of Lady Justice and Lady Karma instead. We real Pagans should not feel obligated to explain or excuse or expunge such behaviors and crimes. We should stand up and loudly and proudly be intolerant in such cases!
The Pagan community’s bad apples range from just the misguided and stupid bruised-apple types to those who are evil mutations of nature and are rotten-to-the-core types… and none of them should be protected or covered up for by the legitimate Pagan community, just because they call themselves one of “us.” That does not make them one of us; it does not make them representative of our religion or our community. However if we stand behind these bad apple bad examples, and “accept” them and embrace them and forgive them, then we should not be surprised when our whole community gets judged by their bad example. What is the greater community to think if we ourselves allow and foster such fools and monsters amongst us? Naturally they will think us all as ignorant and immoral as our fosterlings.
The phrase goes, “One bad apple spoils the barrel;” that is why a good farmer doesn’t let any bad apples stay in any barrel. We as Pagan clergy and leaders need to listen to the wisdom of that farmer. We need to kick such bad apples out of our barrels as soon as we know they are bad. That doesn’t make us “intolerant” or not “accepting;” that makes us a religious group with a code of honor and morals that we hold ourselves to. It is shocking that many of our Pagan clergy and Pagan group leaders hesitate to show this bit of wise leadership. In their defense, often they are trying to be all-accepting and all-inclusive, for they fear being seen as un-PC. Or perhaps they have just become so open-minded their brains are falling out.
Pagans need to encourage their leaders to set limits on what is acceptable and tolerable and what is not. We need to start drawing that line between right and wrong somewhere, instead of just arguing that everyone else has it drawn too conservatively so we are going to erase it altogether. The line is there for a good reason, so when people go over it, we know to stop associating with them and to punish them or see that the greater community punishes them before they cause any more harm to others around them.
We preach, “And ye harm none.” But perhaps we should add, “And ye let no one else do harm either.”