By now, everyone who cares to know has heard the Good News. For the first time the Pentacle has been endorsed by the Veteran's Administration for use on military headstones.
This is, of course, an important milestone for the modern Pagan community.
It does have me thinking, though. Do we really want mainstream acceptance? I'm not sure we do.
Do we want to be recognized as having, without question, the same rights as any other religion, yes. Do we want to be able to gather and worship without fear of interference or reprisal, absolutely. Do we want ours to be understood as a legitimate system of faith with its own traditions, icons and philosophies, you bet your ass we do. But, do we want to be accepted in the minds of others as just another stripe in the fabric of America, no different than anyone else save for our profession of faith? I'm not so sure.
Even as we work to be recognized as having the same rights and privileges as mainstream monotheists, we must remember that we aren't. We shouldn't want to be. Too much of our identity is bound up in the fact that we are outside the mainstream, that we believe fundamentally different things than the vast majority of our fellow Americans. Our tolerance for diversity, our desire and activism for social justice, our suspicion of authority, our respect for privacy and our understanding of civil liberty are all supported and defined by our position as a family of minority faiths.
Our very community is, in no small measure, the result of our position outside the American mainstream. Any two Children of Abraham, whether Xian, Muslim or Jew are much more similar in terms of belief than any two Pagans of divergent paths. We greet and welcome each other as family, despite radical differences of theology while, in their meager differences, the monotheists jostle for supremacy, laying waste to swaths of the world in the doing of it. They cultivate the venom that only religious strife can, while we, Wiccan, Asatru, Kemetic, Druid, and a myriad of others, gather, celebrate and worship together. This will cease to be the case if we come to exist in large numbers or become a fully integrated part of mainstream America because it it our position as a vast ideological and theological minority that forces us to bind together, concentrating on our similarities rather than our differences. It is this very minority status that galvanizes the Pagan community as we understand it.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn't celebrate this victory for military Pagans and their families. Nor am I saying that we should not continue to fight for absolute equality under the law. I am saying that we must, as a community, understand and appreciate our position on the periphery of American culture as it is this defining factor in our collective identity that lends us many of our greatest strengths.