Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The following letter was sent with a touch of concern. It was sent by e-mail after the writer read the article "Beyond the Pall", which was published in Relevant Magazine. The concerns listed in the article are not uncommon for people who are reading about someone who is actively making friends with the Neo-Pagan community, and sharing the love of Christ. I asked if I could respond to the e-mail openly on my blog, and he said yes. The writer will remain anonymous, because I offered to post it that way, and it was accepted on those terms.
The questioning e-mail will be in italics, and my response in plain text.
hi pastor phil,
my name is P... and i just finished reading your article on relevant magazine's website. i also looked at some of the stuff you wrote on your blog, but not much.
first, to begin, i just want to let you know that i am not writing this email out of judgement or contempt or anything, and i really really hope that i don't appear that way. really, i just want to share my thoughts and hear yours, nothing more.
i've just been really confused by what you wrote about. i understand your point, about how self-seeking pastors and corrupt leaders of super duper churches are not men of God (I also read what you wrote about redefining "heresy," and i would agree to an extent.) I'm just a bit confused cause the article does seem to lean another way also... that the practicing Satanist, was, well, respected by God.
Again, I do not want to be on the offensive or anything, I just want to understand your view better (not to make judgements, but just for my own understanding). I completely agree with you about your criticism of the really selfish and corrupt church leaders who everybody naively admires, yet, the article also offers praise to the Satanist.
This is what I have been struggling with in my personal search for truth. And this has been very troubling for me: the overwhelming message of love of Jesus vs. the nature of God. I mean, yes, Jesus said lots of things about loving people nomatter what, yet, he was also surprisingly ascerbic when dealing with the devil and evil. I mean, the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and I'm just very confused as to how a "selfish" God would honor a man who practiced voodoo and followed Satan.
The point of the article was not to say that one person was respected by God, and another disrespected, but rather to show the strange contrast from our human perspective. A dark individual who was respected by other people for the help he offered them was contrasted with a supposedly good man who has a growing evil reputation for hurting those around him. I simply ended the article with a question asking what God, Who sees into the heart, might see which we do not.
The same man who died was far more complex than could be described by the short story. I had known him for many years. We sat up late at night and discussed Heaven and Hell, we saw The Passion together, his story of being abused by Christian churches was outlined by a letter in this post. I have heard him describe himself as someone who loved Jesus, and disliked Christianity.
I understand the concern you have about God respecting, or honoring someone who lives in disobedience to Him, but I suppose I might look at the issue from a different angle than you are seeing it. I do not think that God respects one person over any other person, for the simple fact that all of us are messed-up, broken individuals.
Now I am not quite sure what you mean by a "selfish God," but it seems to me that the God I serve would give His Son for those who had rejected Him. It also seems that He loves that person as much as He loves anyone else. I would expect that He would want me to do the same. This would be the fulfillment of the command at the end of Matthew 5, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you...."
I see the anger of Jesus focused on hypocritical religious leaders. Do you think perhaps that He might feel the same way today? I tend to think so, and the reason I believe this is because our lack of compassion and understanding gives creedance to people's biases against Christianity. They see Jesus as loving toward the sinner, the sick, and the broken; and angry toward the hypocrites who thought that they could define righteousness by their own terms. I sometimes wonder if perhaps the non-Christian world understands the anger of God better than the Christian world does. They are mad at hypocrites, and accepting of sinners. Whereas we often are mad at sinners, and accepting of hypocrites.
By the way, it may be of interest for you to know that LeVeyan Satanism is most often a form of atheistic hedonism, and Satan is viewed as a personification of self, or the natural forces of the universe, and not as a literal being to be worshiped.
I mean, paul and other new testament writers also say a lot about Satan and pagans and they are definitely not supportive. I don't think I'm sayiing that you were "supportive" of Satanists, but it seems as if you are saying that the Satanist priest was a better man than the selfish pastor. Like, yes, the pastor is hypocritical and everything, but again, I just don't see how God would tolerate honoring a Satanist. The Old Testament is all about how God hates evil and the drastic measures that he goes to. There are many really serious passages in the New Testament about those that reject Christ and follow Satan. I just feel like, in a sense, you are saying that it's ok.
The New Testament writers did say a lot about Pagans. In fact, all the Gentile world was Pagan. Paul became "as a Jew" when with the Jews, and "as without the law" when he was with those who were without the law (i.e. Pagans). What the New Testament has to say about Pagans is found in Paul's advice on eating meat offered to idols, and the celebrating of holydays. Otherwise, it was a fact of life that Christians were sitting down with good old fashioned Pagans at meals, and even during Pagan celebrations, because that was the way of life in the Roman Empire.
or maybe there is a really fine line between showing unconditional love to whomever seeks it and actually approving of an alternate world view?
Now this I think highlights the difference in how we think. I do not believe that there is a fine line between showing unconditional love, and approving of an alternate worldview. I must love unconditionally, and I must desire truth fully. It is not either/or. When I love unconditionally, I do not assume that every moment requires that I rebuke someone for their sin. I do not think that loving unconditionally allows me to disrespect anyone, and for heaven's sake not after they have died! The post written by another Christian friend of my Witch friend who died, outlines the unbelievable abuse which many Pagans have received at the hands of the church. I will not be another abuser, but I choose to be an outreached hand of love to a group of people who are often feared, and miosunderstood by the church.
What many people do not realize is that while they sit on the sidelines critiquing my relationships with the Pagan community, I have shared the love of Jesus, and the beliefs of Christendom thousands of times to a people group which most Christians will never do anything more than rebuke - and that's only if they are exceptionally bold.
thanks in advance for your response, i've sent way too many emails that have not been responded too.
You're welcome. I am hoping that there will be a growing number of people who overcome their fear of those in the occult, and just learn to treat them with the same respect which we give to every other person.
gwyn dy fyd,