Monday, September 9, 2013

The AFA's Goal #4 - Growing Asatru

In the AFA Mission statement, there are five goals listed. While the AFA as a whole does a pretty good job on #1, #2, and #5, and #3 is at least on the plate, goal #4 seems to be something a lot of folks are just not enthusiastic about:
Vastly increasing the number of people who follow Asatru. We have not even begun to tap our potential for growth!
This, plainly stated, means we need to actually and actively convert people to Asatru. Not just "wait for those the Gods lead to us", and not just chat up people we see who are wearing a Thor's hammer. But actually going out and demonstrating to people and/or convincing people that Asatru is a better faith for them than the one they currently practice.

I know a lot of people who come from a Christian background are (understandably) skittish about proselytizing. The sort of "believe in Christ or be damned in Hell for all eternity" sort of effort is, while effective, not ultimately in keeping with the fundamentally optimistic and positive nature of Asatru and Heathenry.

There are, however, other ways to perform the sort of outreach that is essential if we're going to see the sort of dramatic growth that we need if we're to truly become a "viable... alternative" as we see in goal #3. As long as we have a dozen people in each state, we're doomed to be the fringe of the fringe.

With numbers come resources. Imagine if there weren't a couple dozen Asatruar in your state, but a couple dozen active kindreds, each with twenty, or thirty, or a hundred members. Events happening not just every weekend, but all throughout the week, if you're inclined. People paying dues and making donations to buy land and build temples. Libraries being established. Clergy being trained, ordained, and respected in the broader community as clergy. Schools, and scouting groups, and summer camps, with enough Heathen kids to make them really viable, and not just something done in someone's garage for a few weekends during the summer. Non-Asatruar actually knowing what a hammer means, and knowing that the person wearing it can be trusted to keep his word, and values family, and even though he may practice a different religion, it's not something incomprehensible and weird. Radio and television programs to support the ever-growing Folk. All those things and a hundred things besides.

All that takes resources, and resources takes numbers.

So how to grow Asatru? How do we get those numbers? Is it even possible to get people to move to Asatru from their current faith without "fire and brimstone"? I think so. But let's not call it proselytizing. It's outreach. It's inviting people to come home to the faith of their ancestors.

Outreach takes many forms. Setting a good example, which is usually what people point to as the be-all and end-all of their efforts, is only one tiny part of effective outreach. You can be the most morally upright person in the world, but it does no one any good if nobody knows you're Asatru. Whenever you're faced with an opportunity, point out that fact. You may be uncomfortable with doing so, but never let anyone just assume you're a Christian. Because that's the default assumption, and you know it. You don't have to be obnoxious about it, or even in-your-face about it. But when the conversation touches on something with a religious component, don't just let the "Christian assumption" pass by unremarked. You can "hide your hammer" in more ways than one. Don't do it. Be public.

Form a kindred, and make it active. Even if it's just you and your family, get out there and put something together. This is a vital foundational step. If you don't have a place where a new person can go, and something that you can invite them to participate in, anything else is going to be wasted. You're not doing outreach to get someone's email address. You're doing outreach to get someone to choose the faith of their ancestors over the faith they're practicing today. At the very least, you need to have some sort of group that you can hang a shingle out in front of, and you have got to, got to, got to have some event coming up that you can invite them to. Even if it's just a regular New Moon offering to the land wights, a Thursday Lore Study, or a Friday night pub moot. A public place is best if you can manage it; people might feel a little awkward coming to your house. Always have something coming up that you can invite someone to. Be active.

One caution: if you are a kindred of just you and your family for now, don't hide it. The worst thing you can do is imply you have several people, and then it turns out you were pumping yourself up. People will understand if you're just starting out. Be honest.

Have literature available, and don't be shy about distributing it. I'm currently putting together some trifold flyers and other literature specifically aimed at outreach. Not everyone is a reader, and not everyone who is a reader is going to be moved by what you hand them. But we need to have a whole series of flyers, posters, door hangers, bookmarks, cards, and other literature available to support outreach efforts. That's something that can be done by both individuals and the AFA as an organization. Make sure it has contact information, too. If you can't get someone's phone number or email address, at the very least have a way that they can get hold of you if they have questions. Figure out ways to get it in peoples' hands (hey, if it didn't work, the Christians and the Baha'i's wouldn't do it). Get a table at a Viking Metal concert or a local Scandinavian cultural festival. Maybe it'll take handing out a hundred flyers to get one interested member. But that one member is worth the effort. Nobody said this is easy. Be proactive.

And whether we're talking about Asatru one-on-one or writing literature, we need to be constantly positive. Talk about the benefits of Asatru, the good stuff. We need to emphasize the positive side; family, the sense of belonging in a society that is increasingly driving people apart, a return to our roots, etc. You'll know what will be most effective in your community and with any given individual. But don't pound on how stupid Christianity is, or how decadent society is, or whatever. Keep it unerringly positive. Let whomever you're talking to make the connections and comparisons. You, and Asatru as a whole, will come out looking a hundred percent better. Be positive.

That's just a start, of course. There are literally whole books (hundreds of them, in fact) talking about religious outreach. If you really want to help Asatru, and the AFA, grow, you need to embrace goal #4. Not just trust to the Gods to bring people who happen to stumble on some mention somewhere, but go out and find them and bring them home.

It's not an easy thing. For many of us, it's not a comfortable thing. But it is a necessary thing.

1 comment:

  1. It would be great to have talking points and how to say/support/defend them. Yes, I think these efforts can treated as an eternsl political campaign with Asatru as a rising party and Christianity as an incumbent.