I am able to take a little time and write this because I completed my taxes months ago.
I really wanted to get away from posting about Neo-Paganism. Yes, I live in Salem, and Witches, Wiccans, Pagans, and the like are the common fare of local experience. Yes, this is home to such groups as The Witchcraft League for Public Awareness, and yes, I do specifically have understanding about the goings-on in the Pagan community because of friendships I have developed over the years, but nonetheless one wishes to write about something else once in a while, but alas recent events have conspired to make this SynchroBlog on the subject of social justice, and the topic of Neo-Paganism blend into one.
On Saturday, April 12th Jerrie Hildebrand and Salem's No Place for Hate Committee organized a panel discussion featuring Jerrie (a Salem Witch and social activist), Salem State professor Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello, and Margot Adler: the host of NPR's "Justice Talking" and a famed Pagan author.
The focus of the public discussion was to highlight Wiccan/Pagan lifestyle and beliefs in order to break misguided public perceptions, and help bring healing and understanding to the community.
So, here is why I need to write about this in my SynchroBlog on Social Activism and Christian Mission - Our church supplied the sound system, and I ran the sound for the event.
An article in Salem News from Monday the 14th highlights this event.
The newspaper seemed to underestimate the crowd from my evaluation. It seemed that there were closer to 100 in the room, which seats about 220, and the Pagan population appeared to be a little more than half the group when hands were raised.
Margot and Jerrie gave a brief history of Neo-Paganism in the US, and in Salem specifically. After about an hour, questions were asked, and the Salem State professor monitored the questions.
Here are some of the statements, and questions which stood out to me during the evening:
Jerrie: "We are single, married, monogamous, with multiple partners, gay, heterosexual, and from every walk of life." That did define the room itself, and the Pagan community as I have come to know it over the years.
Margot: "People are not comfortable talking about religion. After 35 years I can count on two hands the number of people who have asked me to coffee in order to sit down and talk about what I believe." I later asked her if I could come down to new York City sometime and meet her over coffee (I did not mention I hate coffee), to talk about Paganism with her.
The newspaper article outlines some of the questions asked, and points of discussion, and covers the basics of the meeting. My point for writing this is something different altogether: What is the place of the church in creating peaceful discussion with other religious groups?
Reading the comments to the Salem News article one finds what appear to be rather mean spirited comments from Christians. I responded with an apology for the behavior of the those from my tribe who are supposed to be "peacemakers."
Is there a place for social activism to include Christians getting involved in anti-hate campaigns against religious groups with which we theologically disagree on fundamental points of doctrine and truth?
I say yes, and have received not a small portion of condemnation for it.
What do you say?