"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pagan Apologia

Those of you who live in Minnesota have surely already heard about Jonathan "The Impaler" Sharkey, who claims to be a vampire, founded the Vampyre, Witches and Pagans Party, and is running for governor up here in Canada's baja peninsula. No doubt you've seen him on TV, talking about drinking blood and promising to publicly impale terrorists if elected. Perhaps you even heard about how his partner, a school bus driver and practicing Wiccan, was "relieved of her duties" by the school district when her religion was revealed.

And now, just to make things interesting, he's been arrested.

41-year-old Jonathon Sharkey, who goes by the nickname 'Jonathan the Impaler' was arrested Monday night on two felony counts from Indiana.

The leader of the Vampyre, Witches and Pagans party was charged with stalking and invasion of privacy, against his former girlfriend in Indiana.

Sharkey told a Minneapolis television he did nothing wrong because he never signed the papers. 'I never signed the order of probation to begin, never agreeing to it. If the contract was not signed its null and void,' Sharkey said.

Sharkey's partner Julie Carpenter went to visit him in jail Tuesday. She says he's fighting extradition to Indiana and he's fighting to keep his campaign going.

Sharkey announced he was running for Governor of Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. His campaign includes positions on education and taxes, but he drew attention by suggesting that criminals be impaled and by describing himself as a blood-drinking vampire.

Sharkey told reporters, 'Just because I bite somebody it doesn't make them a vampire. It doesn't make them evil, and they're not gonna be, hhhheeeeecccchhhh, all over the place. I mean let's be real here.'

Sharkey is being held on $100,000 bond for escape charges. No bail has been set for the stalking and invasion charges.

Well, we already knew this guy was weird. Now it seems he may also be dangerous. It certainly wouldn't be the first time someone who wasn't playing with a full deck of cards ran for public office.

The thing that bugs me here is this guy is giving pagans a bad name. There are already a lot of people out there who think we're all a bit cracked--witness Ms. Carpenter's recent reassignment, keeping in mind that she didn't do anything wrong. If everyone dating a weirdo were to be removed from their jobs, the unemployment rate in this country would skyrocket. She was punished for admitting to being a pagan. In many people's minds, "pagan" = "dangerous".

So, in the spirit of Imbolc, the pagan festival of light and renewal which just happens to be today, I'd like to shed a little light on who we really are.

I'm not going to try to sell you some b.s. that Jonathan Sharkey isn't a pagan. He is...in much the same way that Fred Phelps is a Christian. (And if you don't know who Fred Phelps is, take some Pepcid and Google him. I'm not going to stain my blog with further discussion of that wretched excuse for a human being.)

We're a really inclusive bunch. Heck, we dont' even require baptism or an equivalent initiation ritual. If you say you're a pagan, that's pretty much good enough. (Some organized pagan groups have their own requirements, of course.) We don't all believe the same things--no religion can honestly make that claim.

Here's a fact that may shock some of you--if you live in the Twin Cities metro, there's a really good chance you already know a pagan. The Twin Cities are positively teeming with us. Minnesota pagans are quiet, discreet, and startlingly numerous. The problem with discretion, of course, is that non-pagans often only hear about the less discreet among us. But let me say this--for every New-Age devotee loudly proclaiming that crystal power has transformed their life, there are a dozen monotheists who believe that prayer alone will cure their cancer. Faith is a funny thing, and no faith is immune to over-enthusiasm.

But the vast majority of us--those startling numbers I told you about--live like everyone else. Most of the pagans I know have jobs in administration or technology. We are professionals in positions of responsibility. We pay our rent/mortgage and our taxes, we vote, we agonize over our spreading waistlines, we do yard work on the weekends, we watch CSI. And we live our faith, or fail to, like any other fallible human beings.

Doubtless the thought of pagans raising children strikes fear into many a heart. And doubtless some of those people wouldn't believe me when I say that the pagan parents I know are raising healthy, beautiful children and teaching them to greet the world with love and wonder. I've never understood why anyone would consider gentle, intelligent, gainfully employed people to be unfit parents simply because of their religion and/or sexual orientation, and I expect I never shall.

We are not all liberals. Most of us are, it's true, for the same reason the majority of homosexuals are politically progressive: the left of the political spectrum is the side that is not in favor of denying us homes, jobs and civil rights. We're talking about self-preservation here, folks. But there are conservative pagans, as there are Log Cabin Republicans. I don't pretend to understand, but that's beside the point.

We are not all or even mostly vegetarians, though I'm sure the percentage of vegetarians versus meat eaters is much higher than in the general population. My friends tend to be quite carnivorous, especially during grilling season. Pagans with live coals and tongs--watch out, America!

Let's see, what other myths can I lay to rest? Oh, yes--we don't all worship in the nude. It's much less common than you'd think, actually. Enough said.

Satanists and pagans are not the same thing. Many pagans don't consider Satanists to be pagans at all--it's just too monotheistic. Most of us don't even believe in Satan.

Pagans do not sacrifice living beings. Anyone claiming to be pagan who does so has entirely missed the point. Our one big rule is "Harm None". Think about that. The trick, of course, is figuring out for yourself exactly what that means. We wrestle with that thorny question every day, like many people wrestle with the true meaning of "love thy neighbor as thyself".

Speaking of loving thy neighbor: we don't hate Christians. Well, most of us don't. Many of us think Jesus was a pretty cool dude, actually. He had some great stuff to say, like the bit about judging not. That's a tough one, too, isn't it?

Blessed be, everybody.

6 rejoinders:

Fourth pew, center sounded off...

1) As much as I feel this country has gone lawsuit-happy: I trust Ms. Carpenter is suing?
2) Claiming to be anything doesn't make you whatever-it-is. If it were, I'd be claiming to be rich.

Third Base Line sounded off...

I believe Ms. Carpenter and the Minnesota branch of the ACLU are presently getting to know each other. Whether there's going to be a lawsuit or not will probably depend on her employer's reaction to a formal request for re-instatement.

Anonymous sounded off...

1) Certianly not all christian denominations require baptism or an initiation. Don't conflate all Christian denominations and I won't conflate all pagans.

2)If he's a vampire, (and boy does it ever piss me off that it's being spelled "vampyre" I don't care if that is the right way to say it) then he's officially a damned soul not a pagan, but a demon.

Third Base Line sounded off...

Anonymous,

I never said all Christian denominations require baptism. I only mentioned baptism as an example of a religious initiation ritual.

And I guess it depends on your definition of vampire, doesn't it? But perhaps I wasn't clear--he claims to be a vampire, in the sense that he drinks blood. I don't know if he considers it a religious ritual or not. He also, separately, claims to be a Wiccan. So, he says he is both a vampire *and* a pagan.

Hope that clears things up.

--TBL

Roscoe sounded off...

At least stalking is a very vampire-like thing to do. As far as I'm concerned, it's not surprising that he's done a little stalking now and then. Probably while in the form of an evil mist.

frightwig sounded off...

Why would it piss anyone off if the word is sometimes spelled "vampyre"? A quick web search reveals that "vampire" is closer to the original German "vampir," but the alternate spelling goes back to at least 1819, when John William Polidori wrote "The Vampyre," a gothic novel credited as the first story to depict a vampire as the aristocratic figure now familiar to anyone who has heard of Dracula.

So what's the problem?