The author of this blog would expect that many of his readers are aware that in the Queens area of New York City, there is a Heathen candidate for public office. Dan Halloran, a respected member of the Theodism variant of Heathenry/Asatru/Norse Paganism, is a Republican candidate for City Council in NYC. He recently got himself into some trouble with the media, with his chances for political victory, and his relations with fellow Pagans because of some newspaper stories about his Theodish affiliation.
The author had a mixed reaction to hearing about Halloran's candidacy. Though it is exciting that someone with a Pagan identity would run for such a position, Theodism is not the author's favorite flavor of Norse Paganism, as it is heavily involved with the idea of tribal identity that this writer has expressed discomfort with in the past. Furthermore, the Republican party in the USA is a political movement that the author finds extremely disagreeable, to put it mildly. For a liberal-progressive Pagan, there is not much to like about a right-wing political party that has often stood for racism and opposition to environmental protection efforts, to name just two items on what could be a very long list. So the author was struck with a dilemma: to cheer or to jeer at this Republican Heathen's run for office?
Certainly, Halloran's effort was groundbreaking, but the author would have much preferred that the first Norse Pagan to run for public office in the USA be a liberal Democratic candidate. That, however, is just a matter of personal taste, and it was mitigated by reading on various Asatru/Heathen forums about what a fine man and long-term supporter of Asatru and Theodism Halloran has been.
Something soon happened that caused the author to feel a rush of compassion for Halloran. Having been "outed" in a local newspaper about his involvement in Theodism, Halloran defended himself with an essay in which he spoke in very generic terms about being raised a Catholic and having belief in God. The author read this as a necessary political response, with a bit of understandable camouflage of religious identity, as the smartest possible way to deal with the political damage sure to follow from being associated with a religion that most Americans are likely to think badly of, out of ignorance, fear and the typical American distrust of non-Christian religiosity.
Then the author saw reactions from other Norse Pagans and Heathens on a variety of Heathen-related sites, and was quite shocked. Quite a few lashed out at Halloran in a brutal manner and condemned him for not making a more forthright public defense of his Heathenry. Several expressed pride in how they had been in tight spots themselves with job interviews and the like, and had openly proclaimed their Paganism despite the consequences. The author found this kind of reaction quite ironic, as it seemed as if what these critics really wanted was for Halloran to sacrifice his political aspirations and become a "martyr" for Heathenry, despite martyrdom being a rather Christian concept! The author feels that some expression of disappointment over Halloran's statements might have been fair game, but that this went over the line.
Worse, it suggested a very shortsighted and self-destructive view of how Heathens and Pagans should function in American society. There are few professions or lines of work where a person in America can really get away with being openly Pagan without paying some kind of cost in terms of lost respect, increased animosity, and decreased prospects for personal advancement, if not a quick loss of employment altogether. The insistence on Pagans or Heathens or Theodsmen proudly displaying their religious affiliation in very public ways even when in high-profile positions would, the author believes, probably confine Pagans to very low-level and marginal occupations. The author does not think that any Pagan should be forced to proclaim his or her religious identity when this might mean an end to their professional aspirations or a one-way road to public humiliation or persecution.
America is just not that tolerant, not yet. Let's be compassionate to those who need to cloak and conceal their Pagan identity at this point in time. After all, Odin, Thor and Loki all shifted shapes, lied and traveled in disguise when this was necessary to achieve their aims.
The author would be very curious to hear from readers in other countries about any similar or parallel situations of Pagans in politics in other lands.