Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Pagans!

Now aside from the slightly inflamatory title this is not a hate piece, but rather a short opinion piece regarding my views on the subject. You see in a recent browsing of the internet I came upon a few pagan sites, as well as discussions in which Christians quite ruthlessly bashed pagans for being 'devil worshipers' and 'idolitors' which I found extremely disapointing. So here I intend to set the record straight on 1) my own view of paganism 2) why the 'Christians' here were acting unacceptable and 3) what Christians should do in these kind of situations.

Now to begin Neopaganism (or contemporary paganism) is in essence a recreation of old pre-Christian religious traditions by modern groups. This is really an umbrella term as it can describe anything from Wiccanism, Adonism, or Radical Faeries. These are diverse movements that can encompass almost any form of pre-Christian belief, generally trying to capture the old timey feel of the pagan religion from before the time of Christianity in pre-modern Europe. So pinning down the movement for any one defining feature is difficult at best, and like trying to give a cat a bath at worst. Though they do share some elements such as polytheism, animism, and pantheism. So one could end up in a group which believed that Zues was the king of the gods and his brother Thor wished to stoke our warrior spirits to gain energy for the gods or something like that. Mind you most groups do have a definate theology and a series of complex and traditional rituals. This means that unlike some would like to think these groups are very well organized and have a fully functioning system and a solid set of beliefs. The set ideas will inevitably vary wildly from group to group though so one should not be surprised if they go to one Wiccan group that has one set of ideas about morality then to another which has entirely different ones.

With that I begin to offer my own view on the subject. Being originally a country boy from a very small conservative community I admittedly have had little to do with any large pagan groups nor have I seen much in the way of practicing paganism. Though growing up I did meet many teenagers who were *ahem* 'practicing pagans' which meant anything from belief in animal spirits to asking Thor for guidance, as well as one kid who believed he was a vampire. Now this was interesting (though in some cases hilarious since it was evident these kids had no idea what they were talking about), but really had nothing to offer on the subject. Now I have met some true practicing pagans and they really are quite nice people and very agreeable to be around. Can't really say anything bad about them, nor did they seem to bear me any ill will for being a Christian, nor did I really bear them any ill will for being pagans. On my own I am generally disinterested in the subject and mostly regard it as interesting and beyond looking into it out of curiosity have never felt that there is much interesting in the movement outside of sociological study and historical trends.

The 'ressurected' forms of long dead polytheistic religions dreamed up by the spiritualists of the early 20th century does have a fascinating significance as a social movement though. The spiritualists themselves were men disenchanted with the normal religious values of the time and  thought that a greater 'spirit world' was out there. The movement was extremely large in the aftermath of WW1 and gained great following well into the 30's and 40's of the last century. Though it largely ceased to fascinate the public thanks to many members of the movement being exposed as petty con artists (those of the crystal ball variety, remember that) many actually went on to write about interactions with Hectate, Odin, and what have you. This did gain some popularity and as evident by this article has survived as a fringe movement to today. It is one of the very interesting, if overlooked, effects of the Great War in that Western Culture was so shocked by its barbarity and furiosity that so many different religious and political movements evolved from those crazy times. I think that it was one of the more interesting (and far less bloody) items to pop up.

Now I think anyone who has read anything by Micheal Z Williamson or S.M. Stirling will no doubt have had some fictional Wiccans  shoved in front of them, I think that as literary characters they are perfectly wonderful and offer some variety. Though some of their 'values' (considering that each of the above authors likes to focus on the sexually loose idea of Wiccans for some reason) are jarring to me personally, they are quite fun.

But I digress and continue to the reason for this post. I stumbled across an online discussion where members of certain evangelical Christian sects were quite happily insulting the beliefs of some Neopagans for a contrived reason (having to do with military religious rites) and saying such lovely things as 'suffer not a witch to live' or 'devil worshipers burn in hell' and other such intellectually vacant remarks. While the 'suffer not a witch to live' is a direct Biblical quote it misses the point that 'witch' in that context is basically one of thise crystal ball hoaxers who tricks people out of money or attempts to curse someone with magic. Hence why a 'curse' earned a death sentence in the Old Testament. Applying this to modern pagan groups is, well, erroneous at best, and completely ignorant at worst.

Now the Christians here were saying that military service members who were worshiping pagans should not be allowed to use the military chapel as they weren't really religious apparently. Now I personally am indifferent to what a pagan group does or where they worship (unless it's in my basement) and feel that the argument is absurd here. A military chapel is available to all service members regardless of belief. Though the majority may be Christian this does not mean they get a monopoly on the use of a government installation, which is what a military chapel is. The name calling and insulting were completely uncalled for and patently ridiculous. There was no reason for those actions. As Christians they were 100% in the wrong. Christ never suggested we go out and harrass those of other beliefs. He suggested that we love our neighbors regardless of creed or belief and instead focus on spreading the Word. In this case words were exchanged and they were absolutely the wrong ones. I don't care if these people are Wiccans, atheists or practicing Satanists, they deserve the use of that chapel as it was not a private facility and was set up so members of all faiths could have time to worship. This is not exclusively the right of Christians in the military.

Mind you, this issue was going on in the US so as  Canadian I am a 100% outside observer. I have respect for military veterans and servicemen and seeing members of the military insulted and looked down on for simply not having the right religious ideas is something which makes my blood boil. They are serving their nation and being insulted and belittled just because they are not among the majority is ridiculous! We as Christians are supposed to be tolerant of one another and accept each other despite our faults and disagreements! Not go on some petty vendetta because you feel that they are 'devil worshipers'. The actions of these so called 'Christians' here left me disgusted and appaled.

Here is what a Christian should do in this sort of situation. Firstly realise that a) this is a government run facility and that the country is not a theocracy where one religion has a monopoly so you can't say that the 'devil worshipers' are not allowed to use the chapel, b) BE TOLERANT, Christ did no go around belittling those who did not believe or held different ideas to him. In fact those He did belittle were the religious authorities of the time and those who had seen miracles yet still did not believe c) we as Christians have to love our neighbors regardless of who they may be. Yes I said have to, in fact it is what the Lord commands us to do. Sermon on the Mount anyone? If we don't act tolerant, loving and caring towards those who believe differently how are we to emulate Christ or show people the way? Christ didn't make converts by attacking people, He made them by caring for them. d) when interacting with pagans or those of other faiths be polite, repectfully disagree with their views, discuss your own, and of course wish them well! It is what you should hope for after all.

I encourage Christians out there to remember this! If you wish to spread the Word remember why you are spreading it! John 3:16 people, that's why.

1 comment:

  1. Arin was a pagan, and she was cool. I also know a wiccan girl but I don't think she really is too involved in it... especially since she's also involved in the Christian church as well. It seems like a contradiction to me, but I'm not her I guess. :P