Radical inclusivity is and must be radical. — Bishop Yvette Flunder
As I come to the end of this project, I realize that most of my posts were speaking primarily to the pagan community. Besides the fact that I’m writing a book about radical inclusion geared toward the pagan community, paganism, in the “big umbrella” sense, is coming into its own as a class of religious practice. We may still be a community on the margins, but we are now looking around and realizing that we have many layers and margins within the community as a whole. There’s a great deal of intersectionality with People of Color, LGBTQIA, class, politics, traditions, and many other aspects of difference. As pagans, we know about intent, and if we create a space with the intent of being inclusive in the broadest way possible, we make our spaces a safer place for people to be themselves. This is a new skill we are learning, and like all change, we’re having the inevitable growing pains.
Radical inclusion requires the intention to be inclusive of all people regardless of race, color, ancestry, age, gender, sexual or affectional orientation, body size, or any other difference. Radical inclusivity also demands that we not only reach out to the margins of our traditions, but to the whole of the greater human community with a clear message of welcome. This necessitates clarity because just saying “all are welcome” doesn’t necessarily equate to inclusion in the minds of most people. This is true for people already included in the community and those seeing it from the outside. The general assumption in a given community could be that “all are welcome as long as they are like us.” Or “all are welcome except homeless people because they smell bad.” Or “all women are welcome except transgender women.” This is the most difficult aspect of radical inclusion to learn and practice because it demands that we recognize the diversity of humanity within our own ranks as well as within our hearts and minds. Our common marginality doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all “together” on every issue, which we have seen over and over again. There is a false assumption, particularly with the newest converts to Paganism, that the entire community is some sort of monolith where everyone thinks alike. It can be devastating to realize that a group that you thought was doing good may actually be promoting the very same discrimination that you were trying to get away from.
The clarity of the welcome also needs to be continuously examined and re-evaluated. Even if the community is based on a specific philosophy, cause, or religion, it still needs to be aware of the margins within it. What many leaders seem to forget, particularly progressive pagan leaders, is that even in the most communicative and open of groups, not everyone is going to feel comfortable publicly talking about their vulnerabilities, needs, or asking for change — even people who have been members of the community for decades.
I’ve come to believe, in all my studies, ministry, and discussions with others, that while social justice is the work of making sure that ourselves, others, and those in power are not being shitty to people, radical inclusion is the ‘housework’ required to make sure we accept each other as human beings. There are many people, particularly in the greater pagan community, that assume that inclusion means that we all have to like each other, or that we have to please everyone in our practices and rituals, or keep our mouths shut and not challenge elders, leaders, and other members. This is far from the truth. Radical inclusion is a theology, a philosophy, and a way of life that recognizes the fundamental humanity of The Other. It recognizes that humans have joys, sorrows, excitement, pride, and all of the other ups and downs of existence. It recognizes that we’re not always going to agree or even like each other. It is the hope of redemption when everyone else has said “no” and the light of hope in the dark.
Radical inclusion does not automatically mean that everyone has to believe the same, like each other, or not have boundaries and rules. It does mean that we have to acknowledge ourselves and others as human beings in all their humanity, the good and the bad. That in itself is a radical act because most of the time we can’t acknowledge The Other as human.
May we all find the grace to see each other in our human-ness and welcome each other home.
I’d like to thank ohimemiko on tumblr who came up with with the Month of Written Devotion for the inspiration. I’d also like to thank the Circle of Cerridwen for the feedback and support. And most of all, I’d like to thank my wife Sarah for all the love, support, and reality checks during this project. I love you. :)
And, finally, I’d like to thank all of you for going on this journey with me. It wasn’t a very easy journey, but I hope you all have learned a lot. I know I have.