Exploring Pagans and their relationship with that earthiest of earth symbols, money.
Financial support in the Pagan community
There has been some wonderful online discourse about the role of institutions in modern Paganism. There are those who believe the price -- of leaving behind our counterculture roots -- would be too high. Others believe that this is the only path to a mature religious movement, and still others propose solutions that include both. I believe it's important to include the idea of financial institutions in this dialogue.
I'm not necessarily talking about banks and credit unions, although nothing is off the table. While Pagans are frequently loving, giving people, our community lacks any institutional ways to support one another financially. A credit union would certainly fit part of that bill, but not every problem can be solved with a loan. Each of us face challenges and opportunities that could look very different with a bit more money: wardrobe for a new job, affordable day care, credit counseling, even basic money management skills. These challenges are quite effectively addressed by some religious communities. Should they be in ours?
"There's a certain amount of self-reliance expected by Pagans," I was told by Melanie Swaim, a Heathen who accumulated a large helping of medical debt that she's trying to pay off. "I had to go to another religion to get help with my finances."
In the USA, we are about as comfortable teaching our children about money as we are talking to them about sex. The Pagan self-reliance that Ms Swaim is talking about dovetails nicely with our cultural discomfort talking about money problems. To admit that one is struggling, after all, is to admit that one is weak, or so it often feels.
But another value that I see commonly held by Pagans, no matter what their beliefs, is one of hospitality. Wiccans welcome those who enter in perfect love and perfect trust. Hellenists are mindful of xenia, the proper relationship between host and guest. Hospitality is a noble virtue in Heathenry. Isn't hospitality served by finding ways to support neighbors and strangers alike in our community?
Of course, like any idea of a common institution in the diversity of Paganism, it's tricky to find ways to honor the commonalities without dismissing that diversity. But surely we could build a peer-to-peer community lending system, or couch financial coaching in the language of our experience, or maybe even encourage Pagan investment clubs to help us learn about the stock market? And maybe down the line, we could actually have a Pagan Federal Credit Union.
Institutions need funding. Funding requires us to improve our financial skills and vocabulary. This is one of the big growing pains to come.
Please login first in order for you to submit comments