Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Me, In a Bad Mood

Jason Pitzl-Waters, at the Wild Hunt links to this interesting post by a Christian telling other Christians "how to talk to Pagans." It's not as creepy as the recent book on the same subject, but, well-intentioned as I am sure that its author is, it's still insulting and creepy. (The odious John Morehead in comments only makes it that much worse.) In the end, this entire post is all about "othering" Pagans under the guise of "no, really, try to treat them as if they were humans; they're so dumb, they'll really appreciate it!"

First, though, and I mean this, kudos for getting the capitalization mostly correct. It's more than most do.

As several people note in the comments to the post, the unspoken "elephant in the room" in any Christian discussion about "how to talk to Pagans" is that the advice isn't given to help you to have, say, a nice chat about the weather or your local neighborhood zoning issue, nor is it given to help you to convey to the Pagan in your workplace when you need to get their report. Oddly, most people wouldn't need a guide to help them talk to Pagans about those topics; believe it or not, we're pretty easy to talk to about zoning issues and when reports are due. (See also, e.g., your kids, my garden, the weather, today's traffic, where to go for lunch, taxes, whether to go into detail on a subtopic in our legal memo, who's going to play bad cop on the conference call, and the funny thing that happened to me this weekend. Difficult as you may find it to believe, I had conversations today on all of those topics with Christians who're unaware that I'm a Pagan and who have no need for a special guide to figure out how to talk to me. OK, they did have to e-nun-ci-ate very clearly, because, you know, it's difficult for Pagans to keep up with modern English.) No, this kind of advice is all about the need of most Christians to at least lay the groundwork (aka "begin to 'dialogue'" or "develop a 'relationship'") to convert the Pagan to the "one true religion," aka, whatever brand of Christianity said Christian practices. It gives the whole thing that skin-crawling, what-is-this-huckster-trying-to-sell-me vibe that makes most of us feel exploited and in need of a shower. Look, I've been a Pentecostal Catholic. I know you're desperate to convert me. (Points! I got points! Now Jebuz will surely let me into heaven; I've contributed to his Ponzi scheme!) Playing How to Win Friends and Influence People, by acting as if, "Oh, hell, no, who me?, No I just want to talk to you, [Insert Pagan's first name]; I'm not trying to convert you! [Smile and use Pagan's first name again]" insults my intelligence, which, in spite of what you appear to believe, is actually my one strong suit.

Second, thanks for the slide show. No, really. Maybe I can put together a bunch of random slides showing stereotypes of Christians to illustrate the post I'm not going to write called: How to Talk to Christians for Fun and Profit. I spent today in a business suit, Hermes scarf, and Ferragamo shoes, and, oddly, none of those show up in your illustrative slide show of modern Pagans. Maybe you can put together a slide show of Hispanics in low-riders? Irish Catholics drinking too much? Christians handling snakes and denying their children needed medical care?

I can't get over the notion that, in a different context, this same post could be called "How to Talk to Black People" or "How to Get a Women's Libber to Date You." So we get gems such as:
Pagans are people, just like us, and they appreciate a personable approach.
Thanks. No, really, thanks. Nice of you to let me into the Human Club. Bite me. And, it's "just as we are," not "just like us."

[B]e mindful that 80% of communication is nonverbal and the average Pagan is far more sensitive and attuned to symbolic communications than the average Evangelical.

And black people all like basketball and they're a lot more sensitive to rhythm than you are, so be sure to snap your fingers and groove while you chat them up. Women are much more in tune with emotions, so be sure to use "feeling" words when you talk to them. Jews love money, so if you're talking to them, be sure to mention that you got your suit wholesale. I guess that you have to have been on the receiving end of some of these "dialogue" tactics to understand how truly insulting they are. Hispanics? More excitable. Chinese? Inscrutable. And every single old white man must want to discuss golf, right? Look, I'm as Pagan as they come and I LIVE in my left brain. I'm literally learning disabled when it comes to "right brain" skills (see e.g., nonverbal communication). What I understand is what I can read in a well-written legal brief. Sorry to fail to live up to your stereotype of me. See why I think you only want to sell me shit? See why you piss me off?

Do … focus on Jesus.

Right. Because, first, most Pagans have never heard of him and are just dying to have even more Jesus stuffed down their throats. Kali fuck, you can't live in this society for 5 minutes without having Jebuz, Jebuz, Jebuz rammed down your gullet, so for sure a great way to have a conversation with most Pagans is to focus on Jesus. (When talking to the mark, er, um, customer, keep referring to the product.) Look, while the number of "cradle Pagans" is growing, the majority of Pagans living in America today were raised in Christian families. Like many of us, I, for one, got more Jesus growing up than I got fluoride, physical education, exposure to classical music, or history of the Americas before Columbus. I've forgotten more about Jesus than most Christians ever learn. I know Jesus; I had, for years, an intimate relationship with Jesus, and I left him. "Focusing" on him is as respectful to me as it would be for you to focus every conversation with me on my ex. I don't feel a need to spend my conversations with every Christian "focusing" on Hecate or Columbia. My relationship with those Goddesses is personal and I can't think of a single reason why you'd care. Accord me the same respect. I realize that leaves you with no reason to talk to me, since apparently the only reason for you to talk to me, even though I am "people, just like you," is to convert me to Jesus. That's ok. Keep on moving.

Not only should you not expect Pagans to take the bible as authoritative as you do, you should not expect them to take any scripture as authoritative as you do.

Sigh. You know, this isn't a bad point, if you accept the premise that the Christian's only real goal is to convert the Pagan. Telling me that I have to accept Jesus as my personal savior because your holy book says that I have to do that to get into your heaven is pretty silly, given that I don't accept your holy book. But, Kali Fuck: "take the bible as authoritative as you do"? Again, I live in my left brain. If you can't write English (hint: Buy an "ly" or revise the sentence), you're not going to have a very good conversation with me. And my Book of Shadows sure doesn't look anything like the Book of Common Prayer (one of the great products of the English language, BTW) or a Catholic missal. But keep on misconstruing.

Finally, there's:
Don't … be afraid to challenge, as long as you’re respectful
Through many years of experience I’ve found Pagans aren’t beyond being challenged, provided the challenge is respectful, and preferably within the context of relationship. . . . With such a history of bad blood between Pagans and Christians[,] I can’t promise you won’t have a bad experience, that you won’t ever experience rejection, even following these tips. But I can say that most the time, if you approach Pagans with the right attitude, you’ll find them quite open to conversation about things of the Spirit.

Yes, it's true. There are a few of us who won't melt if you challenge us. Weird, huh? And if you just approach those Negroes in a nice way, you can talk to them about almost anything. Well, OK, speak slowly, cuz they do, and be sure to say how articulate that Dr. King was. Be nice, and don't use the "N-Word," cuz even the ones who aren't too techy will go off on that, for some odd reason. But you can challenge some of them, for sure, if you do it nicely. And even those women's libbers can be calmed down and appeased to the point where you can often get their phone number; can't promise that some aren't so bitter that they won't reject you, but, hey, just use "feeling words," and keep trying! If you keep your sentences short and just speak loudly, even your Hispanic gardener can understand what you're saying.

I'm not even going to discuss the "Don't dump on women, gays, and the environment." Patriarchy; soaking in it; all I'm saying.

Here's an idea. Stop approaching every human being on the planet as a "customer" and see how that changes you. Spend some time talking to your Jesus about that. Meanwhile, you can ask me about the Nats' latest game without a guide book.

Picture found here.


Thalia said...

I'm right there with you in that bad mood. I swear sometimes I think I went straight from maiden to crone cause I've just got no patience for this kind of crap anymore.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is "in a bad mood" so much as "a completely reasonable reaction to swimming every day of my life in Christian-poisoned waters." Woops, did I say that out loud?

Thalia said...


I went over to the original post and I'd just like to point out that there are apparently two Thalias out there, because I didn't leave a comment. Considering my response is pretty much, 'You know, if the only reason you're talking to me is to lay the groundwork to prosthelytize to me then you can fuck off so hard,' I didn't feel it would have been real productive to have left one.

Vermillion said...

Totally agree, I think the worst part is the whole lack of mentioning RESPECTING THE FAITH. Also there's that lingering assumption that Pagans would want to dialogue in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your post here & I've had some experience with this as well. It's disconcerting, bad manners and quite insensitive to proselytize. I don't even consider proselytizing a moral act, or a good thing to do, it's usually 100% of the time a corrosive thing to do to someone. The USA was founded by religious extremists though, so it's not a surprise to me, but yes I'm quite tired of it. The more open & talkative Pagans are, the better in my opinion.

Stormysu aka S Ersinghaus said...

Alas, the ignorant, we WILL always have with us. But you just as you are do send light out into the darkness, even when mightily pissed! Peace Stormysu

ThinlyVeiled said...

Well said, as always, Hecate.

left rev., proud cheesehead said...

I love you. Really. I would like to print this out for the Monday lunch bunch to read. They're all women in their 70s (expect for my husband) and I think they would appreciate it, once they let go of their pearls.

Anonymous said...

you can fuck off so hard

I don't know Pagan from well, anything really but this made me crack up. I do know not to piss them off.

Danny Guam

Kayleigh said...


Also, the picture is priceless.

Makarios said...

Most of what I could say, I have already said in a comment in your linked blog post from earlier this year, so I won't chew my cabbage twice.

People like Stone, and posts like his, make things that much harder for Christians who want to enter into genuine dialogue with Pagans, with no ulterior motve or hidden agenda. The suspicion that often greets us is understandable, and it can be difficult to get past.

In my comment on your earlier post, I alluded to Prof. Leonard Swidler's "Dialogue Decalogue." I would suggest to Mr. Stone that he read it carefully and examine his conscience.

escort torino said...

I don't understand... you are pro or against what he did?

Ravan Asteris said...

This, so much. Especially the snark about "focus on Jesus". Look, I had a chat with the guy about His followers, and even He is embarrassed by how pushy they are. But this condescending asshole still wants to "open dialogue" to convert.

I loathe religion salesmen, I don't care how "good" or pure the product that they are pitching.

Also, why in the mother fuck do these idiots assume that anyone living in the US has not had enough Jebus shoved in their face to choke a horse? Public prayers, crosses, damned scripture quoting billboards, for fucks sake! We know who the guy is, we aren't interested in buying your goddamn brand of bullshit.

But thanks for responding to the privileged asshole.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

The scary part is that Matt Stone is a bumbling fool compared to the people who really know how to pull this off. The fine art of ingratiating yourself with the Heathens as a strategy for ridding the earth of Heathens goes back at least to the earliest Jesuit missions to Asia.

shrimplate said...


Marya said...

The bigoted assumptions underlying God-talk never change, do they? There's always a dominant discourse and it is always about converting the heathen or keeping woman out of ministry or feeling pity for wrong-living homosexuals or refusing to listen to pro-choice arguments. The same-old same-old paternalism and prejudice.

patti wigington said...


One of the biggest issues I have with this whole thing is that the entire focus of the piece is not on cultivating relationships with other people (such as those Pagans so desperately in need of hearing The Word), but all about the relationship with God. The people don't matter a whit, and thus, their needs and opinions are of no value.

Stone's article takes on the tone of dealing with stubborn kindergartners, rather than Actual Sentient Beings who are deserving of respect and friendship.

Teacats said...

CREEPY ... simply way too creepy ...

I just wish that the xians would spend their time and efforts helping the poor and seniors in their own communities. I thought that those kinds of actions would please their kind of god.

And leave us alone.

patti wigington said...

By the way, I thought your comment about "How to talk to Black People" was spot on, and I've quoted you in a blog post of my own:

Crystal Dawn said...

Proselytizing is a social disease. They got it, we don't want it!

inspiraven said...

Wonderful response. I left a comment on Matt Stone's post as well, and found your site there.

Though I sense a genuine openness from Mr. Stone, it makes the over-all tone that much sadder.

I posted "I think that those persons who "amaze" you in the first paragraph, need more basic training in respectful human interaction before they go on to interact with the frightening "other".

In retrospect, it was not explanatory enough, but thankfully your post was. Right On!

Breath Deep and Live True

Teacats said...

S.J. Tucker -- "Go Away Godboy"

Play it Loud!


jan at Rosemary Cottage

Teacats said...

Heretic Heart -- Catherine Madsen

Anonymous said...

Just focusing on Jesus seems so... dishonest.

Even if you're not focusing on the negatives, it seems like an empty approach.

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