Kenny Klein, pagan author, musician and priest, was recently arrested for possessing child pornography, a charge he apparently confessed to. Some argue that a collector of such material is not a child molester himself, which is about as logical as saying that a vegetarian can eat meat as long as he doesn’t kill any animal himself. It seems some people fail to grasp the fact that in order to produce child pornography you have to molest children in the first place, making consumption part of the crime. And there’s more: there are also those who argue that everyone makes mistakes and people shouldn’t be severely criticised or punished for them. I can understand that argument if you’re a warden trying to empty a prison complex to turn it into a luxury resort, but otherwise… no! If you make a mistake – a serious mistake! – you’ll suffer a penalty. We can discuss the severity and usefulness of a given punishment, but the fact that everyone makes mistakes does not excuse you from your own and especially not in the case of sexual crimes to which one is a direct or indirect contributor. What this tells me, however, is that some people in the pagan community are more worried about bad PR than with keeping their house clean and that they prefer to defend their own no matter what instead of facing the problems. And in this particular type of problems, they should be better than that. Honestly!
Do you know why the Catholic Church turned a blind eye to sexual abuse within its walls? Because the Vatican has a problem with sex. It’s a sin waiting to happen, a potential highway to hell that should therefore be regulated, restricted and kept to the bare minimum necessary for human procreation. No pleasure, no fun, no beauty. Just put the baby in your properly married wife and that’s it. It’s as colourful as saying that food is solely a matter of nutrients, proteins and carbs, so eat your food pills or Matrix-like porridge and forget about presentation, seasoning, flavour and texture. It’s pure function with no pleasure and the Catholic Church is there to make sure you have none. The Vatican fashions itself as a righteous pussy-sower and cock-blocker, so you can imagine its horror when it was faced with reports of sexual misconduct and crimes. It shatters the self-projected image of the Church, so they did what any dogmatic institution that has a problem with sex would do: sweep it under the rug.
But pagans? You guys are supposed to be at ease with sex! You talk on and on about the union between the God and the Goddess, sometimes explicitly and sometimes metaphorically. You have openly phallic symbols, a festival with a strong sexual background and a tradition of ritual nakedness, even a reverence for the body. Sex should not be a taboo in the pagan world! You should be able to discuss it with the same at ease that restaurant-goers talk about food. And yet when confronted with criminal problems of a sexual nature, you faced it with the same horror and defensiveness as the Catholic Church. Really, pagans? Should I ask if you actually believe in the things you say you believe in? Or are you just putting up a show every time you talk about divine union and the sexual symbolism of Beltane, like teenagers trying to shock their parents?
Now I know it’s not easy to stand up against your own when one of you makes a serious mistake or commits a crime. What will people say of you? What kind of community will you be if you don’t defend your own in times of crisis? But what you should be asking yourselves is what kind of community will you be if, for the sake of PR and absolute loyalty, you let yourselves rot from within. Because pretending problems don’t exist and using shitty technicalities like saying that consumers of child pornography are not actual child molesters themselves won’t get you out of the shit hole: it’s only going to sink you deeper in it. If you want true, healthy loyalty, you will respect those of you who are innocent and victims first and foremost. And you will do that out of loyalty to them, so that those of you who are clean will not be stained by the crimes of the wrong-doers among you. Because if you are unable to dissociate yourselves from criminals, you will be associating yourselves with them. And if, all things considered, you still feel that there are important reasons why you should be grateful to the accused, despite his wrong doings, you will support him as he goes through the punishment for his crimes instead of pretending things didn’t happen or making up foolish excuses as you go along.
Is this a witch hunt? No, pagans, it is constant vigilance, which is a constant need in any group of people. Why? Because there are wrong-doers everywhere. No religion, no community is immune to evil and mistakes. And if you think otherwise and that pagans are somehow purer than the rest, then you are fooling yourselves and going down the same road early Christians did. There will be bad people among you, just as there will be among us polytheists. And the more you grow as a community, the greater the chances that there will be problems and mistakes. The fact that everyone errs should not be an excuse to do nothing and forgive everything: it is the very reason why you should remain vigilant and act when things go wrong! Because they will go wrong at some point and when that time comes you need to act decisively. It’s a matter of trust and trust comes from two things: the knowledge that the people in charge are less prone to make mistakes (also called experience and integrity) and knowing that when mistakes happen, those people will face them head on, honestly and swiftly. You cannot ask humans to be flawless, but you can ask them to be responsible and honest enough to quickly correct whatever goes wrong. If you sweep it under the rug, if you use shitty excuses and downplay things, then you are fooling yourselves and others. And it will come back to bite you. You think mistakes make you look bad? How do you think it will look when people find out you’ve been ignoring problems? If you cannot be trusted to admit your own flaws and do the right thing, how can you be trusted at all? How can others trust you with their work, their money, their children knowing that if things go wrong you will deny it, downplay it and do nothing?
So stop making excuses for Kenny Klein! He committed a crime and he admitted it, which already puts him ahead of pagans who are trying to go around the subject in every way they can and no matter how silly they look. Walk away from him, attend to the needs and loyalty of those among you who are blameless. Make sure next time you act as soon as possible and root out wrong-doers without hesitation. Your leaders and communities will not be good because they are inherently so or because you have good PR: they will be good because they are kept in check and problems will be dealt with as soon as possible.
One last note before I take off my jester’s hat: I may be talking about pagans, but what I said also applies to us polytheists. We must remain vigilant, brothers and sisters. We must be honest with ourselves and others.
Hat off! I’m done!