Friday, December 08, 2006

Wicca: trendy, phony, and Constitutionally protected

If I were not teaching rhetoric, I would not have found Michael Medved's column on Sgt. Patrick Stewart's pentacle memorial while looking for a good political column for my students to analyze.

After insulting the religion--"it’s a trendy, phony potpourri of druidical, primitive and New Age elements that’s more a pagan cult than an organized faith"--Medved grudgingly admits that "the Constitution leaves no room for the government to discriminate against its adherents."

Uh, OK, thanks, I guess. And we are a Pagan cult, in fact, if you want to be technical about it.

Meanwhile, his fellow columnist Dennis Praeger, who has been bent out of shape over a Muslim Congressman wanting to take his oath of office on the Koran, responds to his critics and adds,

I am a Jew (a non-denominational religious Jew, for the record), and I would vote for any Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, atheist, Jew, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Wiccan, Confucian, Taoist or combination thereof whose social values I share.

A couple of nights ago I guest-lectured via telephone to Jeffrey Kaplan's class in new religious movements at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

I said that I thought that Paganism--Wicca in particular--was becoming the new designated Other on the American religious scene--and these columnists bear me out. Get used to "What about Wicca?"

However, I expect that it will be a long time before the first Wiccan elected to the House of Representatives has to worry about on which book to swear an oath. For the record, no holy book is required anyway.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well "Wicca" is but a subset of a broader Neo-Pagan religious movement. Personally I would try to avoid any use of the 'C' word as much as possible considering its pejorative connotations.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For various reasons, the word "Wicca" upsets people less and despite its dubious beginnings and definitions, is more easily understood by outsiders. How on earth do we begin to educate folks about many flavors of Paganism? People want do be able to understand the religion in 30 seconds or less. Will we have to settle for folks asking, "What about Wicca?" and not anything else?

8:19 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...


The "c" word--that is why I put "technical" in there. It just means anything that you do intensely and is etymologically related to "cultivate." No one gets upset about "the cult of Jeep," for example.


It is equally amusing when various reconstructionist paths use Wicca as "the other too," defining themselves in opposition to it in order to show how their way is superior. :-)

8:35 AM  
Anonymous sari0009 said...

Until people better understand what egalitarian common ground entails and demands, we'll see pegging ("the other") and arguing over which system of belief is better, with occasional lip service to "core" values.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anne Hill said...

One of my favorite lines from a Reclaiming teacher, Sharon Jackson, in response to a first-time camper's timid question at Witchcamp:

"It IS a cult. Get out while you can!"

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ten years ago, that article wouldn't have been published. AND the good Sargent wouln't have been able to put a pentagram on his tombstone. One foot in front of the other, slowly but surely; our religion will become more "acceptable" to the "organized religious majority(ORM)". Remember Bush is still in office...

5:19 PM  

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