I was asked today if PaganCentric was going to report on the arrest of New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, or if, it was suggested, we might “look the other way” because he’s Pagan. Actually, I wasn’t going to write anything about Dan Halloran initially. It had nothing to do with him being Pagan. It had everything to do with the fact that where the crimes which Mr. Halloran are accused of are concerned, this is not a religious issue or a Pagan issue. When Christian politicians are arrested for wrong-doing, a dialog does not automatically spring up about their Christianity. Well, okay, sometimes it does, but only when those politicians are Bible-thumping ideologues who believe The Bible should be the law of the land. Otherwise, who really cares? A crook is a crook. You do the crime, you do the time.
The thing that changed my mind in regard to writing about Dan Halloran was reading some of the things that are being written about him today. His story is getting more press than the arrest of New York state Senator Malcolm Smith, who was the focal point of the investigation and FBI sting. Of course, Halloran, being a Pagan, makes for better headlines. Let’s face it. That probably explains a lot.
In various stories today, Dan Halloran is being referred to as “everyone’s favorite elected pagan”, “America’s top heathen” and as “the neo-pagan guy”. These things seem more important to the mainstream media than his political party affiliation, Libertarian leanings and Conservatism.
If Pagans look at Dan Halloran dispassionately, as I’ve often begged for them to do, there isn’t much in his beliefs that anyone I know personally can relate to. Halloran was the “First Atheling,” or prince, of his own Theodish tribe, called New Normandy. He had “thralls” who swore their allegiance to him. He didn’t just spend weekends reconstructing the religious activities of the pre-Christian Norse and Germanic gods – he led his flock, about 100 people at its height, in their polytheistic celebration of the gods. They’d gather for “blot” (sacrifice and feast), “sumble” (“boast and toast of the gods”), and play games that, to the outside eye, looked like something from Dungeons & Dragons or a Renaissance fair. So when I look at Dan Halloran, I don’t recognize a Pagan (though I’ve always respected his right to believe whatever he wishes), and I don’t feel any special need to defend him, much defend my own Pagan beliefs by extension. That’s like expecting a Christian to defend his or her beliefs because a Gnostic was arrested for conspiracy charges.
But, of course, most folks aren’t going to draw those kinds of distinctions. So… yes, I’m writing about Dan Halloran. But not because he calls himself Pagan. And certainly not to defend him. I’m writing about Dan Halloran because he’s another asshole who’s making my life as a non-Christian harder, by delivering unto my proverbial enemies that much-sought-after “Aha!” moment. One has to wonder how long it’ll be before Pat Robertson is using the Halloran arrest as a talking point in discussing how Pagans and Paganism are destroying the United States. You all know it’s coming.
The frustrating thing for me is that Pagans will have to expend so much energy in the coming days trying to explain how a Theodish tribe is different from a Wiccan coven as is different from Shamanism, and Thelema, etc., etc. I certainly mean no offense those who follow Theodish beliefs, but from all accounts of Dan Halloran that I’ve heard, he’s largely some guy who took a Theodish idea and ran with it for his own amusement. His beliefs certainly dissipated once he took political office. The web site for his tribe, New Normandy, is long gone. So… why are we even talking about his religious beliefs?
Dan Halloran isn’t worth the time it took to write this. I only hope that in the coming days the media will talk more about the four other politicians who were arrested along with Dan Halloran. When you begin to look at who those individuals are, you quickly realize that Dan Halloran was a small fry with an exaggerated sense of self-importance. We would do well to remember him as that, and move beyond the hand-wringing over the religious beliefs he claimed to hold in the past.