Friday, September 16, 2011

Sex, Drugs and ... Well, Drugs, Anyway: Still More on that Certain Interview

The conversation about that not-ready-for-Patheos interview has continued on the comments section of Sannion's blog.  Cara Schulz, whose husband (an attorney) originally recommended against posting the interview, said:
Unless YOU have ever had to pay an attorney to fight the feds to get your site back on the internet, it’s pretty easy to just say “Oh well, Patheos, just suck it up and print whatever and let your attorney handle it.” This is still a start up company, I’m sure money is tight. Would the site get tagged for the interview? Probably not. But probably, when you are talking about shit-tons of money in legal bills, is not something to jump into. And well..the feds have been pretty trigger happy in the past year shutting down sites for some truely bullshit reasons.
As I said earlier, I am sympathetic to those who are afraid of becoming casualties in the War on Drugs. But I would also remind Mr. Schulz, Esq. of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.  Unless Patheos was offering online gambling,  bomb-making instructions and "hit lists" or pirated movies and software, they are almost certainly covered by the clause which states "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

This leads me to wonder if concerns about "legal issues" were a convenient fig leaf for the real problem.  In a recent posting Star Foster discussed what she saw as some of the obstacles to Paganism "going mainstream"
You would think it would be enough to be Pagan and to promote Paganism. It’s not. Paganism carries a wave of causes along with it , as if it crawled out of the sea dragging a net full of strange fish. Many of these causes are considered so broadly worthy and integral to Pagan values that they are practically inseparable, such as GLBTQI issues, environmentalism and equal religious rights.
Yet to be Pagan is to be expected to be pro-kink, pro-nudism, pro-legalization-of-marijuana, pro-sex-worker-rights, pro-homeschooling, pro-polyamory, pro-homeopathy, pro-choice, and a bunch of other things. It’s a lot of banners to fly. If you were to try to carry a physical banner for all of theses causes you’d be crushed and smothered by the weight.
There’s nothing wrong with these causes, but they aren’t our religion and they can’t form the litmus test of our religion. You can be a teetotaling conservative who dresses modestly, advocates celibacy until hetero-marriage and eats off Styrofoam plates and still be Pagan if you seek a relationship with the Gods, ancestors and/or land spirits.
Being Pagan is hard enough, and a lifetime of work, without being expected to fight for and espouse every alternative lifestyle option. Not supporting causes that are not part of their lifestyle, particularly when they are illegal, doesn’t make someone less Pagan. For Paganism to be mainstream, it really can’t be carrying an army of banners around everywhere it goes. The Pagan banner is heavy enough.
It appears that Star wants very much for Paganism to be a "mainstream" religion.  To that end, she would like to de-emphasize some of the more controversial lifestyle choices that have become popular within the Pagan subculture.   I can definitely sympathize with her desire to be taken seriously by the greater community.  I would even agree that these choices should not form a "litmus test" for who is or is not Pagan.  But I would follow up with a question: who exactly is using this "litmus test?"

I've never heard anyone claim that support for marijuana legalization, sex worker rights, or legal abortion was a prerequisite for identifying as Pagan.  I've heard a few horny predatory Pagan guys try to convince Pagan women that kink and polyamory was a prerequisite - more precisely, kinky polyamory with said H.P.P.G. - but that is far more widely mocked and scorned than accepted in any Pagan community I've encountered.  If there's a litmus test being used here, it appears to be one which seeks to separate the "acceptable" Pagans - the ones who won't ruffle too many feathers at a Hadassah meeting or Presbyterian bake sale - from the fringe elements.

This isn't entirely inappropriate, given that Patheos strives to be an Interfaith site and to encourage dialogue between various faith communities.  But I wonder if we aren't selling those Hadassah members and Presbyterian elders short.  The very fact that they have sought out an interfaith website proves that they're willing to learn about other religious traditions rather than dismiss them out of hand.    It also suggests they're open to exploring challenging topics, even if they might respectfully disagree with some of the conclusions presented.  (And they might not be that quick to disagree, as can be seen by a quick look at the members of Religious Leaders for a More Just and Compassionate Drug Policy).

If we are only to discuss legally sanctioned activities, we're going to shut down discussion on Frs. Daniel and Phillip Berrigan and their long history of anti-war protests. We'll need to change the subject whenever someone brings up Starhawk's non-violent direct actions at Diablo Canyon and other nuclear sites.  These spiritual leaders have all been driven by their faith to speak truth to power, despite the consequences.  In their honor, and in memory of all those whose lives have been destroyed by the lies and injustices of our "War on Drugs," I close with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail:"
[W]e who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.