Persecution vs. Maltreatment
I’ve seen many pagans pish-posh youngsters who share stories of maltreatment from non-pagans. It seems it’s generally because said youngster has used the taboo P-word: persecution.
It’s almost as if the invocation of the P-word somehow invalidates the youngster’s experiences altogether: They just have a persecution complex. They’re just being dramatic. They simply need to shut up and quit whining.
Honestly, I’m appalled by this attitude. Obviously we shouldn’t be slinging around the P-word like birthday confetti, but it doesn’t change the fact that the person has been unfairly treated.
It occurred to me that in some instances, we may not have a persecution complex so much as a vocabulary failure. I can’t really recall any pagan literature or sources that offer any guides or help on what terms to couch various experiences in.
First, let’s go over just what persecution is. Persecution is defined by Dictionary.com as a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs.
Now, let’s examine some potential problems, and what they actually are:
- If someone has gotten into trouble for wearing a pentacle at a school where Christian students are allowed to wear crosses, that student has faced discrimination.
- If someone repeatedly tells a pagan that xe needs to Accept Jesus Or Else on a regular basis, that pagan is being harassed.
- If someone makes a snide remark about sacrificing animals, declares that a pagan religion isn’t a “real religion,” or dismisses xir faith as a “phase,” that’s a microaggression.
- If someone destroys or damages a Yule display out of malice, that’s an act of vandalism.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are some things that are NOT MALTREATMENT OF ANY KIND:
- Being asked what evidence you have to support your beliefs, or how you know they’re true.
- Being criticized for cultural appropriation.
- Being called out on misleading or just plain wrong information.
- Someone letting you know that they aren’t interested in your beliefs.
- Getting into trouble for violating safety codes and/or doing something that could seriously damage an area.
So in essence, don’t use the P-word lightly (because it probably isn’t, and there’s probably another word that describes what happened more accurately), and don’t summarily dismiss someone’s story because xe used the P-word.