Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From Halloran to the Havamal

The Political Pagan blogmeister returns to the blog this week quite amazed at the vociferous response to last week's posting "In Defense of Dan Halloran." While he appreciates the commitment to moral integrity on the part of those who disagreed with the author about excusing Mr. Halloran for trimming around the topic of his religious identity in a newspaper interview for the sake of a political campaign, the author remains convinced of the validity and practicality of his original point of view.

The author continues to believe that Pagans who operate in the public sphere should not be forced to sacrifice their chances for professional and personal fulfillment on the altar of public self-disclosure. The author wants to see more and more Pagans achieve great success in many professions and occupations, win the respect of their fellow citizens, and THEN "come out" with their Pagan identity at a time and place of their choosing if they judge that this will be a positive contribution to the overall cause of Paganism as well as their personal well-being. The author believes that in the long run, this approach will provide a solid foundation for the Pagans of the future to build upon. Premature self-disclosure in a hostile environment might only lead to self-destruction and public persecution.

Having struggled to build a career in the murky waters of higher education, the author is speaking from experience, and hopes that readers can respect that even if they disagree. Let those who are in a position to shout from the rooftops do so; not everyone is in such a situation. Some need to keep their religion private and out of public view, and they should not be looked down upon.

The ancient Norse text "Havamal" teaches the need to be careful and circumspect in potentially hostile situations, and not talk overmuch, because one never knows where enemies may be lurking. Until the day when Paganism is widely accepted in American or other societies, a bit of caution and restraint may be the path of greatest wisdom.

Of course, the person who loudly and proudly proclaims and defends his identity and dares anyone to oppose him, who is willing to fight to the death outnumbered by his enemies and eventually dies in a blaze of glory shouting "ODIN!!!" might make a better hero for a Hollywood action movie or Playstation video game, but to the author, this is just juvenile warrior-hero fantasy: great stuff for angry thirteen year-olds, but not real life and not real Paganism.


Lyon said...

There is something, I think, about our culture that urges people to believe that they have to have and accomplish everything right now and if you're not "up in power's face screaming", you're not really living genuinely. There is some drive, some need for conflict and challenge, for rushing the walls. And they never see the hot oil being heaved over the side to come tumbling down on their heads. Which is why a lot of fervent, vibrant movements fizzle and people burn out. And the quiet person who worms their way into the heart of the system and works from within to create change gets missed and devalued. Even though theirs is most likely the longest lasting and effective method of change.

Of course there's also the factor of a person having to do what they have to do to keep bread on the table and survive, and sometimes that means making compromises, as distasteful as that can be sometimes, it's reality. Having been in academia myself, I can identify with the political need for discretion. But that doesn't render your beliefs and efforts ineffective, it just means you're more likely to be standing tomorrow to continue doing the work you are drawn to do.

Instead of lying at the foot of some castle wall covered in hot oil.

Benjamin son of Steven said...

This just further demonstrates the absolute moral bankruptcy that comes from any text subject to interpretation. You can use the Havamal, like other books in the Eddas (or examples in the Sagas) to justify any amount of bad behavior.

The simple truth, which you seem to be unable to acknoweldge, is that Halloran acted immorally according to any reasonable and decent standard of morality. We have established that his article is deceptive, it gives the impression that he is Roman Catholic when, in fact, he is not.

Just because you think the Havamal says something doesn't mean that this something is morally right. I'd almost be willing to say that anything from the Eddas and Sagas, being the sort of texts that they are (i.e. not treatises on morality or philosophical tracts on ethics) should never be used in such a manner as to justify someone's behavior.

He is not "showing caution and restraint", he is flat out being actively deceptive. He's not lying. In no sense does he say anything untrue, but he crafts his words in such a way as to deceive people. That is not the same thing as what you say he is doing, which would be keeping his mouth shut, or saying that his faith is none of anyone's business.

No one was asking Dan to go in there screaming Odin. I was happy with the response his party gave, which I posted in your article. Basically, they asked for the opponent to apologize for the attack on Halloran's faith. They didn't have to say what that faith was, and they didn't have to "out" Dan anymore than he already was. Dan had to go one step further and try to be Mr. Clever-Trousers with his snappy response.

And again, since you seem to like restating your case with different useless support, I'll restate my main criticism: You would not be defending this guy if it were any other minority religion, like Mormonism or the Church of Scientology. The only reason I can see that you are defending a blatantly immoral (and in my personal view, unlucky) action is due to Halloran's Paganism.

Being Pagan does not excuse you from the constraints of moral behavior. And being in a position of power should make those constraints even tighter.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Sometimes that Dogpile comes looking for you, and not the other way around. When I think of civil rights heros in the Women's movement, especially accidental ones, they don't strike me as angry 13 yr olds.

You can be that quiet person that worms their way in, to change the system by it's own rules. Do not assume however, that others in that system, won't figure it out at some point and come out guns a blazen!

As for morally bankrupt leadership. I have two minds about that. One is that all people are a mix of good and not so good traits. They all have histories and learning curves dotted with mistakes, and the like. And it seems that some people are crucified {and I use that term specifically} for their personal history. Often blown out of proportion, ruined, even if there is no viable replacement of skill and ability available to take their place.

And then on the other hand I have seen people slick as snot, oily as a fish skin, get in and say all the right words, but rarely do anything to benefits their people or constituents, while lining their own pockets, and padding their own career. I have watched them throw their compatriots under the train.

To me this bespeaks a level of dysfunctionality in Western Society at large. Sometimes its magnefied in the Pagan Community because its so small still. But its really nothing you don't see everywhere else.

Lyon is right in that they think they have to accomplish everything NOW! Or Have it all NOW! There is no patience, no understanding as to the process, no tactical or strategic planning, or even the setting of goals. Its just a free for all orgy of anger and righteous indignation. That will only get one so far.

But then so will lying or fudging the truth in order to worm one's way in.

There is a balance that needs to be struck, and it seems to me that there is precious little understanding of what Balance means in general--under any circumstances, or moderation, or responsibility, or leadership.

miakoda said...

While I have some sympathy for the author's viewpoint on this topic in general, I do respectfully disagree when it comes to elected political officials. Not because I feel they should be shouting their religion from the rooftops, but because to hide it from public view makes the candidate appear either dishonest or ashamed of his/her religion. That seems detrimental to both the candidate's own career and the reputation of his religion. I certainly have no problem with Halloran reassuring his constituents that he was raised Catholic, and therefore can, in some ways, identify with their concerns, but to let it seem that he still is one seems, well ... wrong. We have enough misdirection and omission-for-convenience in politics as it is; it would be very difficult for me to vote for someone who has approached the situation the way Halloran has.

I also work in academia, and at a high-profile Catholic institution, to boot. This makes for a very delicate balancing act sometimes, especially since the religious culture is fairly pervasive in our office. It's quite literally taken for granted at the highest level that we're all Catholic, or at the very least, some form of Christian.

After much consideration, I made a choice early on not to hide my religion. It's part of who I am, and it does affect how I approach particular people and situations; therefore, I certainly feel that I have an obligation to represent my beliefs well. In an environment like this, that means both remaining honest and true to my religion, while living my faith as a simple matter of fact: This is who I am; if you would like to discuss the matter, we can. Otherwise, let us get on with our jobs.

I wish the best to everyone who has to struggle with this decision.

Anonymous said...

I choose to hide my religion in the workplace. Not because I'm ashamed or scared of loosing my job, but just because the people I work with wouldn't know a Saxon from a Saracen. As far as they are concerned Europe has been Christian since the time of the caveman. Trying to explain Heathenry to them in ways they would understand would be casting pearls before swine. I figured it out on my own so what's stopping them?

I hate the way Heathens are expected to explain their religion. If someone says they're a Christian no one asks them for a history of Christianity with a detailed theology. I'd just tell them I was a Heathen and then introduce them to google.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Hat's off to you Miakoda--sounds like you sometimes work in the proverbial lion's den {to use Christian phrasing}. It is a struggle for most people. Even those who might be in the dominant religious demographic.

The people who struggle with it, are somewhat reassuring. Its the ones who don't at all, who make me nervous. Then I wonder how much of an examined life they might or might not lead. To me, an examined life is a quality of leadership.

B.A. said...


I have no problem with pagans remaining in the broom-closet. My initiator did so her entire life, because she was a doctor. It would have hurt her career if she had been known to be a Witch.

However, I'm sure that if she had been directly asked if she was pagan, she would have either assented or at most evaded answering. Her sense of honor would not allow her to deceive someone.

My objection was, and remains, that Halloran's article was intentionally deceptive. I object to deception by public officials--and that extends to candidates for public office. While living in Illinois most of my life has somewhat caused me to expect it, it hasn't made me approve of it.

I agree with Benjamin that it would have been perfectly acceptable for Halloran to either say nothing or to say that it's nobody's business. What is unacceptable is willful deception of the people whom he is asking to elect him to office.

Hecate said...

I love you, but, honest, lose the third-person voice. It makes your writing not only almost-unreadable, but also, well, laughable.

Maelstrom said...

Hecate, you have to realize, the author always was a Bob Dole fan. For younger readers, Dole was a Republican Senator who ran against Clinton in the 1996 Presidential Election, and was infamous for referring to himself as "Bob Dole" rather than as "I" or "me." Perhaps the Blog author will refer to himself as Maelstrom instead, if that would be less annoying.

Anonymous said...

Maelstrom, did you like Bob Dole because he was a Kansas Republican or because he fought with the 10th Mountain Division?

I do wonder if some of the voices attacking Halloran's "dishonesty" are not coming from (a) college students and/or (b) persons still living in their parents' homes.

The bigger world can be a complex place.

Maelstrom said...

I liked Bob Dole for his sense of humor, above all, and also for being a member of that now nearly extinct species of "moderate Republicans" who were once able to collaborate with Democrats on legislation before the rise of the hard-right, Newt Gingrich style GOP. Dole worked with George McGovern on Food Stamps legislation, for example. I did not vote for Dole, but I liked and still like him. His military record does not influence me one way or another. I see no evidence that military types make better political leaders than people without military experience.

Benjamin son of Steven said...

On a blog, Anonymous is just another word for coward.

I work my ass off every day to pay my rent and bills and keep my belly somewhat full just like everyone else. I've been doing that for the past 4 years since I've been out of college. Unlike many of my friends, I have never moved back home. Even in times like this, when no one knows if this week is going to be their last paycheck.

Your snide cynicism disgusts me. And it does absolutely nothing to refute my argument that what Halloran did was dishonest and immoral as a result of its dishonesty.

Maelstrom said...

Benjamin, your last comment is borderline unacceptable, in that it is verging on an unthinking attack on those with different points. You are a young guy, and you should realize that some of those who disagree with you here have been out in the world a good deal longer than you, and you might want to listen and learn from them, rather than attack everyone who fails to meet your moral standards. People often have very good reasons to remain anonymous, which often have to do with paying the rent and keeping the lights on. Further comments of a similar nature and tenor from you will not be published.

Benjamin son of Steven said...


I apologize for the outburst, but really? That comment was insulting. It basically claims that those who disagree with your main point need to grow up and live in the real world.

I stated that I, in fact, do live in the real world. And I think that it is both cynical (because it paints the "real world" as a cruel place where you have to compromise on your ideals every day, which is not always the case) and it was snide (in that it marginalizes those who actually want to hold politicians to a high moral standard as those who need to "grow up").

And add snide to cynical, and it does disgust me a bit. Doesn't it disgust you too?

Besides, if there was an argument in Anonymous' post, it was a Ad Hominem abusive fallacy. Who I am has no bearing on whether or not Halloran was dishonest or being immoral as a result of that dishonesty.

So again, Maelstrom, I'm sorry for the angry tenor of my previous response. I'll manage my feelings a better next time.

nacken3 said...

In Canada we have a couple of Pagans who are Members of Parliament (federal or provincial). They haven't denied their affiliations, but do keep it low key. The USA is a much less secular country though. I'd say that he wasn't being dishonest or ashamed of his beliefs. He admitted that he was a pagan when asked. He just didn't advertise it. Personally I would find it distasteful to have a politician proclaim his or her religious affiliation as if it were a selling point.


Maelstrom said...

I am very glad to have a Canadian voice in this conversation. Please, Nacken and others in Canada, feel free to opine from a Canadian point of view on this blog.

Maelstrom said...

Thanks, Benjamin, for apologizing. It is easy to get overheated on the internet. Let's all try to maintain a civil tone, even, especially when we disagree most strongly.

B.A. said...

Dan Halloran, in a letter to Jason Pitzl at the Wild Hunt (, offered the following clarifying statement.

“I honor my Ancestors and cling to my Hiberno-Norse Culture’s Worldview. I revere my God (Tiw)- and henotheistically I may add- a fact NEVER HIDDEN from ANYONE who has had a theological discussion with me ANYTIME in the last 10 years- and I respect the Gods of the North and Wights of Middenyard. I have been part of the Heathen community in New York for 20 years and particularly Theodish for over 12 years. I have served the Troth for over 18 years in a variety of religious and secular ways. Whatever necessary political discussions take place – I have never hidden my religion- it’s on my facebook, in courts – judges and counsels in the Courts I practice are aware, I’ve been the corporate counsel for a variety of pagan groups- and have lectured and discussed theology all over the US. I disclosed my religious affiliations to the Queens County GOP prior to running. My license plate on both my car and truck are Tiw Tru and Tyr Tru respectively.”

B.A. said...

an anonymous reader wrote:
"I do wonder if some of the voices attacking Halloran's "dishonesty" are not coming from (a) college students and/or (b) persons still living in their parents' homes. The bigger world can be a complex place."

I cannot speak for everyone here. I am 43, and I haven't lived with my parents since 1984. What's more, I've worked in various retail and service jobs. I am now a state employee. I am the child of two attorneys, so issues of ethics have been ordinary conversation as long as I can remember. I think I grok the bigger world.

And I don't trust politicians who are deceptive. Why should I? If I *know* someone has deceived his constituency in the past, it's a reasonable assumption that he may do so again.

It really is that simple.

Anonymous said...

Turns out the pot may be calling the kettle Black. I am a Flushing native and quiet pagan and I heard through the grape vine that when Congressman Ackerman was asked what Kevin "Dukun" Kim practiced he laughed and declined to answer. a neighbor explained to me that Kevin is an adopted named and that Kevin Dukum Kim - Halloran's Democratic opponent is named after his paternal grandfather a pwerful Dukun. A native belief system indigenous to Java it has spread all the way to Korea where Kevin Dukun Kim was born. Superficially an Islamic faith it has a very strong and ancient belief in animism, ancestor worship, animal sacrifice and shamanism. The Dukun are respected and feared figures even in the most orthodox areas. Some Dukuns are feared for being very powerful practitioners of dark magicks.
A dukun is consulted when a person perceives they have an issue that has a supernatural or paranormal association. If a dukun is not known to the individual, their family or friends, word of mouth often creates a situation where the dukun will appear as if summoned, most especially in the case of possessions. Many highly prominent and highly educated Asians, even those with Western doctorate and masters levels degrees still employ dukun or soothsayers. Dukun are known to have curative powers. They may use incantations, herbal medicine, animal parts, inanimate objects, spiritual communication or guidance, prayers, offerings, the keris or any combination to effect their curatives. Dukun are believed to be able to communicate directly with malevolent and benevolent spirits. A Dukun practice involves drawing a half circle of food offerings, including opium and incense and weapons in the form of nails, class and needles. The dukun then chants a spell and actually asks spirits to embed the items in the victim’s stomach. So the difference between Halloran and Kim is that Halloran did not hide his faith. Either way thought people in this North Eastern Queens neighborhood are going to elect a pagan.

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