Sunday, August 13, 2006

Christians reaching out to Pagans

Sacred Tribes Journal is an online magazine of "Christian missions to New Religious Movements." Whether those movements asked for missionaries is, of course, a whole 'nother question.

The "Paganism issue" is online, and the editorial introduction says that Pagans themselves should read part 2 first, while would-be missionaries should read part 1. All the articles can be downloaded in PDF format.

That direction is apparently to keep us from being taken aback by material in part 1, such as this from Lisa Woolcott's "Wiccans and Jesus: Making the Message Meaningful."

The great thing about sharing Jesus with someone on a Wiccan-based journey is where interest is shown in dialoguing about the spiritual practices and teachings of Christ. There are some popular writings by pagans and witches that indicate Jesus is a figure of both intrigue and respect, like the pagan authors Fiona Horne, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, and Anatha Wolfkeepe.

Oddly (to me, at any rate) Woolcott seems to treat popular authors like Horne (I don't know the others, but like Horne, they may be Australian) and insider-scholars like Dennis Carpenter of Circle with equal weight.

But, Ms. Woolcott, what's the use? You want to convince me that Jesus is different from other Middle Eastern savior gods because only he "died for sin." Maybe so--but to me that is a history-of-religions question, not something that affects my life.

Another way to share the gospel is by exploring the symbolism in the “Great Rite”.

But since you completely dodge the erotic aspect of the rite, what I called "embodied nature religion" in Her Hidden Children, you are so far away as to make dialog impossible. If I wanted dialog in the first place, that is. What is the point of even talking about religion with people who are convinced that you are what you are only so that you may be lead to their One True Way? There is plenty of cosmic mystery to go around, enough for all of us and more.

Here's a thought: they could go as missionaries to one of the religions newer than Christianity. You know, the one whose militant followers like to blow up stuff. After all, Christianity has the more powerful goddess.

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Blogger Inanna said...

What seems strange, from the bits you've quoted, is how Woolcott makes it sound like we're the unwashed natives who've never heard of Christ. Most of us have come from a Christian background and explicitly rejected it. What are the missionaries going to tell us that we don't already know?

8:57 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Inanna, that is a very good question.

In my case, I walked out the church door at about age 15-16. I was not mad at anyone for "hypocrisy." The priests and monks whom I met were mostly men trying their best to fill their roles. No one molested me or anything like that. It is just that Christianity stopped making sense. I could no longer assent to the clauses in the Nicene Creed, so what was I doing there?

Contemporary Pagans who do not share our former religious background might not be so well innoculated, I suppose. :-)

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chas, it sounds like you and I have a similar Christian experience, except I left and 14 and then again at 34, after trying to go back; but my reasons for finally leaving were exactly the same.

To the point, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy are the authors of The Jesus Mysteries: was the 'original' Jesus a pagan god? and other works of post-Holy Blood, Holy Grail Christian revisionism.

Thanks for the link to the journal - it looks like it will be entertaining at the least!


10:28 PM  
Blogger Rubicon said...

is it just me or does it always seem that when fundie Christians try to have dialogue with modern pagans it's comparable to a grade 8 science student trying to teach quantum theory to univerity students? The fundies think they know what they're talking about but really everyone else is just being polite and humouring them?

11:02 AM  
Blogger The Pagan Temple said...

There will never be a true dialoque between pagans and Christians-especially fundamentalists. Their entire "dialoque" is based on the notion that they have been "called by God" to spread the gospel. They might listen politely, but they never really listen. They have a set of talking points and ready made responses to everything you say.

Besides, they don't really care about pagans. It's all self-centered, as they feel that their place in heaven is based on how many converts they make. The more sucessful, the higher their status.

This is exactly why fundamentalists teach literal interpretations of the Bible. If you can convince your followers that the Bible is the literal word of God (as oppossed to being symbolic, mythological,or allegorical) then how can any other religion have any truth.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besides, they don't really care about pagans.

Not true of all; I'm related to fundies by marriage, and while they are certainly not too far up the sensitivity scale in this area :), they are genuinely good people who are sincerely concerned about trying to save others from going to hell.

I won't deny that there *are* evangelicals like you're talking about, but to tar them all with the same broad brush is just doing to them exactly what so many of them do to us.


6:38 AM  
Blogger Deborah said...

In addition, their assumption is normally that they can get us "back to Christ."

Which reveals their inherent chauvanism, as some of us were never with Christ in the first place. If I return to the religion of my childhood, it will not be Christianity.

1:25 PM  
Blogger John W. Morehead said...

I deeply appreciate the comments posted here by Pagans, and I am very sensitive to the negative feeligns created by bad experiences with and perceptions of Christianity, past and present. We who follow the path of Jesus have much to lament over in our failures.

However, I do believe that there are some disciples of Jesus who are different and who are interested in Pagans as human beings and not merely as means to an end of proselytizing. In this context genuine, two-way dialogue with listening and speaking is indeed possible. Some of us are working toward this end in that we believe it is important for our spiritual communities to talk to each other and not merely about each other.

To that end, while I cannot reveal specifics as the contracts are being worked out, I and like-minded Christian colleagues and Pagan contributors are working together to produce a genuine Pagan-Christian dialogue book that will involve two principal contributors alternating in their dialogue on key topics, followed by Pagan and Christian commentators who will interact with their dialogue. In addition, a Pagan and Christian will write the introduction for their faith communities. This project promises to break new ground and we hope it represents a good faith effort on the part of all contributors, and perhaps the start of new interactions between our groups.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Jon Trott said...

As an evangelical who didn't vote for Bush, does have a woman pastor (two, actually), and thinks you pagans have a lot of very good things to say on things from the environment to sex, let me add this: It is okay to view us with suspicion. We've earned that, after all.

But I would hope we can have good coversations in days and years to come. And regarding our evangelistic zeal, understand this: We are, at best, lovers ourselves. And we have found a Love so large we cannot remain silent about it. The trick is to, while telling others about this amazing discovery, not to posture as "we're so vitally intrested in what you have to say about spirituality" while all the time merely waiting to lay the gospel on them! If you can endure our excessive romanticism about Christ, perhaps we can learn from your romanticism regarding nature, the body, and all embodied things springing from creation.

Most sincerely,
Jon Trott
former editor, Cornerstone magazine
co-author "Selling Satan: Mike Warnke and the Evangelical Media"
ranter and raver:

3:12 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

John Morehead,

You write, "I am very sensitive to the negative feeligns created by bad experiences with and perceptions of Christianity."

If you read my comment closely, you would have seen that I had no "bad experiences" in the Church. In fact, I had quite a few good ones.

But Xity stopped making sense as an explanation of the cosmos. That is why I walked out and entered my own years of searching.

John Trott,

I read your book on Mike Warnke when I was writing Her Hidden Children. Had the "Anti-Witches" chapter been included, I would have cited it, but my outside readers felt that that chapter, alas, did not fit with the rest of the book.

Generally, in bars and such, when people want to share their "large Love" with me, I tell them that I don't swing that way.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Jon Trott said...

"I tell them that I don't swing that way."


Understood. Do you tell your personal story in "Her Hidden Children"? If so, I'd be interested in reading it. (I would be interested anyway, but that would be one more reason! *Grin*)


3:21 PM  

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