The question is drawn from the Greenhaven Tradition; the YaaD course is not published on the Greenhaven Tradition website, but is made available on a person-to-person basis. Material that is not so closely held is available at http://greenhaventradition.weebly.com/
Class 11, Paper 2 (after class discussion): How would you deal with a public confrontation about your religion? List five things you can do to defuse a tense situation if someone reacts badly to the idea that you are Pagan.
Assignment submitted August 1, 2012
Writing Assignment: YaaD Class 11 - Discretion
For what it’s worth, in however long it is – three years? – I’ve been wearing a pentacle, I’ve only had one negative interaction. Everyone else has been neutral or positive.
Scenario 1: Dealing with a stranger in a public setting (hypothetical)
My first step would be to say something like, “I’m sorry, no offense was intended,” and walk away.
If the person followed me, my second step would be to try to ignore them and continue to walk away. Ideally, I’d aim for a group of friends, or, failing that, an occupied building.
If the person continued following me or started yelling, my third step would be to say something like, “Please leave me alone or I will call (security, the police),” and, yet again, try to walk away.
If the person still followed me, my fourth step would be to get to a location that felt safe and then follow through on the promise to call security or the police.
If the person attempted to assault me physically, I would stop being interested in defusing the situation and would defend myself to the best of my ability. And then, regardless of who “won” the altercation, I’d call security or the police assuming no one else had done so.
Scenario 2: Dealing with indirect threats (e.g., vandalism; threatening calls, letters, or email) (hypothetical)
I don’t have any Pagan symbols on my car or house, so if either was vandalized, I wouldn’t attribute it to my religion, but rather to random asshattery. However, if there appeared to be a pattern, or if the initial vandalism specifically called out religion either in words or in symbols, I’d involve security and/or the police and ask for their assistance and recommendations.
If I received a single threatening communication, again, I’d probably chalk it up to random idiocy. Again, though, if the problem recurred or if the initial communication clearly called out religion and made specific threats (e.g., “I know what you drive, I know where you work”), I’d involve the police.
Scenario 3: Dealing with an acquaintance whose opinion is of no importance to me but who I did not wish to utterly alienate (actual event)
My first step was to suggest that life would probably be simpler if we just dropped the subject and agreed not to discuss it.
My second step was to give some basic general information about my beliefs, and to do my best to emphasize the portions of our religions that are similar.
My third through fifty-fifth steps were to continue repeating variations of, “I understand you believe that I’m going to hell, but that’s not part of my belief system,” “I appreciate your concern for my soul, but I’m comfortable with my choices,” and “Really, there’s nothing else to talk about; I’m not going to change your mind and you’re not going to change mine, so let’s drop the subject.”
Scenario 4: Dealing with someone whose opinion is of value to me (hypothetical)
My first step would be to say something like, “I’m sorry to have upset you. Would you like to talk about it? Maybe go sit down over coffee or something?” I would then offer some basic general information and offer to answer questions.
My second step would be to try to find out what in particular the person is upset about, and reassure them: I haven’t joined a cult, my feelings about them haven’t changed, I’m not going to try to convert them or start proselytizing, I’m not going to shave my head and beg for money in airports, whatever.
My third step might be to ask something like, “Other than ‘not being Pagan,’ what could I do to make this easier for you?” and see if we could come to some kind of agreement. For example, I might agree to tuck my pentacle into my shirt when I’m with them, or agree not to talk about what I’m doing for Halloween.
I guess my fourth step might be to ask if we couldn’t agree to disagree, and just not talk about it.
I’m not sure where I’d go from there; I guess if we couldn’t come to some kind of agreement, I’d have to – with regret – let the friendship drift away.