Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Competence vs. sincerity

A couple of days ago, Phaedra Bonewits, wife of the late Isaac Bonewits, tweeted a quote by her late husband:

"Sincerity does not equal competence."

The simple quote was picked up by Alison Leigh Lily and soon the entire pagan blogosphere offered their two cents on a single question; would you rather have clergy that is sincere or competent?

This is a difficult issue. The sad thing is, that you usually get one or the other. Very rarely does a priest or priestess inhabit both qualities in an equally high amount. As I am talking about this, I feel the need to offer my own definitions of the terms, in regards to this issue, just to avoid confusion.

Sincerity is the desire to perform a rite or ritual to the best of the priest or priestess' ability.
Competence is the actual ability to hold ritual and takes into account knowledge, experience and ability.

Sincerity is a heart thing, competence a thing of the mind.

For those who know me, or those who read this blog regularly, you probably know I value the heart over the mind, although I think education is incredibly important. But--and there always is a but--that is only in a Neo-Wiccan or Eclectic setting. If I'm going to a Neo-Wiccan or Eclectic ritual, I prefer to have a priest and/or priestess who is/are sincere instead of competent (if I must choose between the two). If someone is emotionally involved with the ritual, it's always a joy to watch them set up the ritual and I will forgive the things I would do differently, even if that means sitting through things like the (incorrect) invoking of Watchtowers and the mutilation of the names of the Gods and Goddesses.

If I'm going to a Hellenistic (or any other Recon) ritual, I will not be forgiving of the little things. For these types of rituals, I much, much prefer someone competent, even if he or she is just going through the motions. This is because Recon Traditions are Recon; they a) reconstruct an ancient ritual and b) perform this ritual in honor of the Gods; for Their pleasure, not ours. You can be as sincere as you like but unlike in Neo-Wicca or Eclecticism; you can get things wrong in Reconstruction Traditions. If you're doing things wrong in Recon ritual, you should not be hosting public ritual. Period.

Honestly, we need both in Paganism; sincerity as well as competence. We need competent people to build up organizations, to organize our financial situation, to perform rituals for large groups--especially for non-Pagans--and to educate the sincere. We also need sincere people; we need their energy, their passion for the Craft. We need them to poke the bear and get things done, get tongues wagging. We need them to bring in to lightness the competent folks sometimes seem to be without.

In the end, we need to foster both qualities in our community and members. Sincerity is definitely not the same as competence, but both have their pro's and con's. Both are valuable. The lesson here is to not lose your sincerity but to foster your competence. If you want to add to the Pagan community, that is probably the best way to go.

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