Aug 022010

VoPP!When Jason first invited me to write for Pagan+Politics, he asked me to cover news and topics that might be relevant to Pagans who are pacifists, but also news about pacifists in the Pagan community.

The first request was easy. What news isn’t relevant to the present-day Pagan with a persistent predilection for peacemaking? So much of what gets reported today is rife with violence, war and conflict born of obstinacy and ignorance. Even for someone like me, much more comfortable waxing philosophical-poetic than reporting in journalistic-style on national and world events, it was easy to find a plethora of topics to write on.

But news about Pagan pacifists? That request seemed a bit more daunting. One mark of the effective peacemaker, like any artist, is how effortless and natural he can make the work appear, and the dull story of peace-at-work rarely makes the news except in extraordinary circumstances. Plus, I had no “in”s with pacifistic leaders and activists in the Pagan community, and no networking ties that would help me keep track of their various goings-on. Sure, I was a peacemaking Pagan, but my pacifism, like my Paganism, has often been “solitary” and creatively subterfuged to look like, well, everyday kindness and rational living. Of course, I could set up a few Google news alerts to help me out and keep me informed. But Pagans are still only a small minority almost everywhere in the world, and pacifists likewise are for the most part considered a “fringe” political force. I don’t need to draw you a Venn diagram of exactly how big of an overlap two minority groups make in the eyes of the daily news cycle.

And that’s when my whole “active engagement in creative peacemaking” thing kicked into high gear. As a pacifist, you don’t just sit around waiting for war and violence to happen so that you can take to the streets with your cleverly-put signs and sourpuss faces. You get moving, you get active, you get creative and joyful, and you make peace out of whatever you happen to have on hand. So I began to think, “You know, if I can’t find a lot of ‘Pagan pacifist news’ going on out there… why don’t I make some?”

And ‘lo, the Voices of Pagan Pacifism project was born!

From this seed-thought of being a news-maker grew the full-fledged idea of hosting a website to showcase and archive voices from the incredibly broad and diverse Pagan community. Now absolutely anyone walking a Pagan path and engaging in peacemaking work can make the news and have their stories heard. Harold the Heathen, Danielle the Druid, Wesley the Witch — move over, Joe the Plumber, you’ve got some company.

The VoPP project seeks to highlight the voices of ordinary peacemakers in the Pagan community, while also providing resources, well-researched articles, suggestions for peace-centered ritual and practice, and a helpful directory of individual and group contact information for Pagan pacifists from all over the world. The premiere issue of VoPP, launched on Lughnasadh 2010, has already gone international, with essays from Pagans living in both the U.S. and the UK. And there’s more to come! Each month’s issue will feature an interview (check out the Interview Application page, and the next voice on VoPP could be you!), along with a variety of articles on nonviolence, history, ecology, media, and social justice. The VoPP collection of solitary and group rituals, spells and meditative practices will continue to expand, as will its network of movers and shakers in the world of practical peacemaking and activism in the secular and Pagan world communities.

But most of all, my personal hope is that the Voices of Pagan Pacifism project will help Pagans and non-Pagans, pacifists and non-pacifists alike to extend the on-going discussion about peacemaking, justice and creative civic engagement as a vital aspect of the spiritual life. I hope that the presence of VoPP and similar resources help to change the conversation around words like “peace” and “pacifism” in the same way our conversations about “feminism” and “environmentalism” have changed so greatly in the last few decades. I hope for a time when even conservatives, cynics and pragmatists can call themselves pacifists as well as feminists and environmentalists. And I hope that Voices of Pagan Pacifism can help inspire and celebrate that change.