by Rev. Philipp Kessler
December 10, 2012
In the United States, we just wrapped up a long and often tedious election season. President Barack Obama won a second term in the Oval Office and many lawmakers, local, state and national, have begun a new phase in their political careers. With November’s election over we no longer have to watch campaign ads on television, receive junk mail in our inboxes and snail mail or be bombarded with the memes over Facebook and other social media. That doesn’t mean it is over for another two to four years. Quite the opposite! There is always plenty of politics going around.
Every U.S. citizen of voting age has the right and the responsibility to take part in the political process. As members of minority religions, Pagans have an even greater responsibility to be involved. Many of us in the Pagan community feel a calling towards many political areas:
- Marriage Equality
- Women’s Rights
- Ethnic and Racial Equality
- Gender Equality
- LGBT Issues
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO additive foods)
The list could go on and on. The question is, how do we, as Pagans, get involved in politics and to what extent should we be involved?
There are two answers to that question. The first, and the most simple, is to get out there and get involved. If you feel passionately about something it is your right and responsibility to do something to promote it, enhance it, change it, make it happen. The second answer is much more complicated.
A small number of Pagans have taken the very brave step of getting directly involved in politics by running for political office. Of that small number, few of them have publicly spoken of their religious beliefs from the outset, but most of them have had no choice but to address the topic during their campaign or during their term of office. Rita Moran and Edward Lachowicz (both from Maine) being examples of those who have been “outed” either during their campaigns or their terms. Not everyone can be a Dan Halloran (NYC Councilman) and use both his political party (Tea Party Republican) and his religious beliefs (Theod) to bolster his campaign and win an election. Few still can directly use their spirituality to help determine how they run their term of office, Lonnie Murray (Virginia) being the only example that I could find with a quick Google search. Then you have the double whammy of Jessica Orsini, a transgender Pagan who not only won Alderwoman in Ward III of Centralia, MO, but was re-elected to her office twice. There are other examples.
If you take a look at the examples listed above, you will see that many Pagans who run for political office are either forced out of the broom closet or have to deal with negative commentary on their religious and spiritual beliefs. These hurdles are something Pagans who want to run for office have to contend with and hopefully overcome. Cautionary tales though they may be, there are plenty of reasons why we as Pagans should get involved in politics on as many levels as we can.
The Keystone XL Pipeline and other environmental concerns, marriage equality and anti-bully measures, separation of church and state, and so on and so forth. All worthy causes. Are they worthy enough for YOU to get involved in politics? Maybe not, but they are for someone out there, hopefully several someones.
You may be wondering at what I am getting at with this article. Put simply, it is a call for Pagans to take an active role in politics. More in depth, it is a call for Pagans to step up and be represented in politics.
In November’s election we saw several firsts. Many of them important firsts. Mazie Hirono became the first Buddhist elected to the Senate and Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives. Both are from the state of Hawaii. By some definitions, these two women are Pagans. Though they may not define themselves as such, that is how many in the mainstream and in the Pagan community see them. Be that as it may, their elections to office, as members of the United States Congress, shows that the American people are ready to embrace people of diverse religions to represent them in Washington. Hirono and Gabbard join the ranks of “smaller” politicians like Halloran, Murray, Moran, Orsini and others who have broken the glass ceiling when it comes to religious and spiritual diversity in American politics. It was not that long ago that non-Christians were breaking that same ceiling. It is not that far off in our future that we may see a Wiccan, a Druid, or an Asatruar taking the oath of office to represent their state or even the country in Washington D.C.
Who that first Pagan in D.C. might be is anyone’s guess right now. The question is, what are we as members of the various Pagan religions in the United States are willing to do to make that happen.
In future articles I will be addressing the topics of running for local, state and national office; the hurdles that we as Pagans may have to jump to be recognized as a legitimate candidates; and how the right wingnuts will do their best to prevent Pagans from gaining those offices. I will also write about the actions of our elected officials, regardless of their religio-spiritual leanings and how those actions may affect as Pagans.
Until next time, Pax Religio!