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Pagans, Heathens, and "Charity"

"Where are your charities?" the older, more established religions ask. "Where are your soup kitchens, clothing drives, and food banks?"

The answer is simple, and yet complex. Most pagans and/or heathens are not rich. So when they give, they tend to give to secular charities that meet a real need in their local community, they form ad-hoc charities without all of the legal foofoo, or they tend to simply help out their own friends when they need it. One of my favorite organizayion to give to is Second Harvest, because it secular and provides stuff, not just abusable money, and I can dump food in whenever I'm flush at my local grocery store. These all tend to be unseen giving, because there is seldom any record or tax deduction taken. Who is gonna track when you pitch in to buy gas or groceries for a member of your group? Sheesh.

Then there's the fact that many pagans and heathens see "charity" as a Judeo-Christian concept, and shy away. They also often crawl into their own little world, and do not see others as being helpful to them, so why should they help others. Furthermore, when pagans do give, I've noticed that they tend to be very low key about it. Those that aren't are seen as some sort of tin-cup rattling egotists - "look at what I did".

For many of us, "charity" begins at home, and is respectful of the pride of those who are on the squeezed end of life. Many of us have been there, and know that it can be damn humiliating to actually need help. The last thing we want to do is go to some faceless bureaucracy or religion pusher for aid. So when we're flush, instead of an annual donation to "Pagan Charities, Inc." with all of the nice tax writeoffs, we slip a friend in need a fiver, give them the excess cans of stuff we got when we found a good sale, hire them to move the lawn or walk the dog, or even just invite them over for a dinner. We help each other move, we visit our own in the hospital, and we net pagans help those who are shut-in get connected to the internet so they can have social interaction without trying to go out when it is problematic.

In some ways, it isn't really even "charity", it's just part of being a friend, or part of a community. We don't keep score, for the gods sake. If someone wants to keep track, we say "Pay it forward".

Yes, maybe we could do "more", but some of that is the state of pagan and heathen community dynamics (specifically rivalries and contempt) than a lack of will to help others.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 14th, 2005 02:54 am (UTC)
And our form of charity is less prone to abuses like skimming the take. I've made rent payments for friends, done all of what you talk about (Second Harvest is one of my favorite charities--it's real and tangible and everyone needs food). I also have donated volunteer time to a lot of service groups, over the years. And most of this is nothing you can hang a tax donation onto, which seems to be the motivating agent for a lot of folks. Mine is the feeling that any of this could happen to me, and I want to put back into the system.

I also give to selected Native American charities (and some communities directly) because I know how far a $20 bill or a package of toilet paper can go out on the Rez. It's like a third world country, out there.
Jan. 14th, 2005 09:23 am (UTC)
There's also the point that a lot of these organised christian charities are all about asserting the donators moral superority. It's an ego trip...
I've helped out at some of these places, and frankly even if I was at my lowest ebb I wouldn't want charity from some of these people.

Anyway, many of us pagans just don't do that, probably because we've been on the sharp end of it before, so as you point out, we just don't make a fuss about 'our' charity and we tend to avoid organised ones.
Jan. 23rd, 2005 01:07 am (UTC)
In other words, Pagans do what judeo-christians are supposed to do but don't. Even christians tend to avoid the faith based charities. Those groups tend to make the recipient feel somehow inferior for being in need. Their members give the scriptures lip service but don't live them or understand what anonymous giving is really all about.

It is far more important to give a person a leg up than it is to give them a hand out with put down strings attached. BTW, that is why all of our gifts to organized charities or individuals are always anonymous. That is the way it is supposed to be done and also to give and then forget the gift.

Your Grandfather would be very proud of your stance on this matter. It was his too. It also makes sharing fun as a gift freely given expects no return and so begets much more happiness than that gift which must be "accounted for" or recorded.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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