Friday, January 28, 2011

Framing: How It's Done

I've complained before that Pagans tend to underuse and misuse YouTube. Go to YouTube and search, for example, "Wicca," and you get a lot of slide shows with pictures taken from the web and some music (often peppered with a number of misspellings), or a self-made video by a teenager discussing what Wicca means to hir. There's nothing wrong with either of those (well, except for the misspellings), but the medium itself provides the opportunity for some much more valuable sharing of information, both within the Pagan community and with the world at large.

A group of local, DC Pagans have made a YouTube that does, IMHO, a really good job of showing how YouTube can be used: in this case to explain Paganism to the world at large. Kudos to the people involved for getting the framing mostly right. You'll notice, for example, that the Pagans in the video discuss in positive tones what Paganism means, how they practice it, and how it relates to other religions. They talk about the seasons, service to others, mysticism, relationship to other religions, etc. They never (thank the Goddess!) get defensive and state that Pagans don't worship the Christian Satan or sacrifice babies, etc.

If I can offer two small suggestions, and these are things that I think come with practice: when you're talking to a camera, look into the camera. Practice really can make perfect; this is a learned skill. And please use "religious communities" or "religion," instead of "faith communities." "Faith" is a central tenant of the three large Abrahamic religions. Most Pagans view ours as a religion based upon experience (ie, I worship Hecate and include her in my religious practice because I have direct experience of her, not because I take her existence on faith) and none of our Goddesses/Gods requires faith from followers. Discussing all religions as "faith communities" frames religions as being more or less valid to the extent they involve faith, which only helps the three large Abrahamic religions, not ours.

However, those are, as noted, small suggestions. In general, I think these DC Pagans are showing how YouTube can be a great medium for teaching others about our religion.

Hat tip to Capital Witch.


Makarios said...
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Makarios said...

The term faith, used in the context of religious studies (as opposed to Christian theology), is not synonymous with belief (as in ". . .not because I take her existence on faith.") Rather, it refers to our response to our experience of immanent Divinity.

Two writers whom I sometimes cite in this regard are Phyllis Curott and Paul Knitter (Wiccan and Roman Catholic, respectively).

Prof. Knitter: "[Faith] is the intuitive contact with, the grasping and being grasped by, the ultimate; it generally takes shape in an act of trust by which we feel ourselves to be part of a larger reality, whether this reality is felt to be personal or impersonal. The act of faith has been described in many different ways; all such descriptions are, necessarily, poetic. . . ."

And Ms Curott (writing about magic, but it fits the context nevertheless): "It is the life-altering experience of connecting to the divinity that dwells within yourself and in the world. It is all of the extraordinary events and manifestations that flow from your union with a real and present divinity."

Our response to our experience of immanent Divinity may, but not must, include the forumlation of a belief system, but such systems are products of the faith experience and not coterminous with it.

Hecate said...


That's an interesting take on it and I appreciate the references. I still stand by my suggestion. To almost everyone (at least in America) "faith" has a particular meaning, as in accepting, on faith, that Jesus is God's son. When we say "faith communities" it implies a community bound together by their faith in some deity. Given that "religion" or "religious community" works just as well and avoids the implication that only religions based upon faith are valid, I think it's better framing to use "religion" or "religious community," at least outside the context of religious studies.

Makarios said...

One of the problems with living in a society in which a single religion has been dominant for so long is that its vocabulary tends to dominate discourse. For example, when I hear the term "religious community," I think of Hutterites, Amish, Benedictines, Cistercians, the Kingdom Church of Asphodel, the Maetreum of Cybele, an ashram, or a lamasery. What these groups have in common is the fact of living in community by intention.

I understand what you're saying, though, and I can see that "religious community," for some purposes, does better than "faith community." That language problem is a vexed one, however. I'll apply my mind to other possibilties. "Religious tradition" comes to mind, although that still seems a bit off the mark; as does "socio-religious group."

Hecate said...


I like "religious tradition," but I also think that 90% of the time, "religion" works. Whatever else Paganism is, it is a religion. Very grateful for your input and thoughts on this.