Monday, October 26, 2009
A Compelling Letter from a Pagan
The following email was sent to me by a Canadian guy named Mark who lives in London. Mark is a Pagan, and migrated to that faith after growing up with friends from a evangelical Christian background. I asked Mark if I could post this letter on my blog and share with my friends. He was happy to have it posted, but wanted to make sure that we understood that he did not have an anti-Christian bias.
In his words, he said " I think that Christianity is a beautiful religion for those who choose to follow it, and I would like to see the real followers of Christianity growth and prosper. Unfortunately, Christianity is starting (particularly in the USA) to be seen more and more like Islam; a religion that represents those people who want to retain an "ideal society" that doesn't really seem likely to ever exist again."
I believe that it is important for us to hear the voice of the objective outside observer of our faith who is responding to the the societal interactions we have with with our culture.
This letter will be significantly different from Carmen's silly, exaggerated, and religiously militaristic Witch's Invitation.
Please note: You may not agree with everything Mark says. But does that really matter? He does have something to say to you, that we do need to learn. May you hear his words of gentle, and peaceful concern for our "beautiful religion" as he calls it.
Mark - thanks for your kind, and gracious words. I am deeply appreciative for them and hope to meet you face to face in London someday soon.
Post begins here ----
Dear Pastor Phil,
Hello my name is Mark and I live in London, England. I recently read about your church in Salem, and the hassle that you've had from church groups and your own church peers, because of your contact with neo-Paganism, and I felt I had to write and say what a courageous thing it is that you're doing.
I've recently converted to Paganism (which is actually a lot less "looked down upon" in the UK since the modern neo-Pagan and witch movement basically started here) after a long, LONG search for meaning in my spiritual views.
When I grew up in small town Canada, most of my friends were born again Christians. They were all from different denominations and each one found the other denominations to be "weird" in one way or another, and certainly they didn't practice "pure Christianity" in the way that their denomination taught it. They all spent time trying to get me to join one of their prayer groups and convert, and when I didn't I found out they were holding "secret" prayer meetings together to discuss how to get me to "find Jesus," and these just ended up making me feel alienated from my friends (if all of your friends when you were 15 were holding secret strategy meetings about how to deal with you, how would you have felt?)
I hold nothing against Christianity however I didn't feel that a lot of the teachings of modern Christian churches represented my world view well. When I was 13 my best friend came out of the closet which was fine by me but, not so with my Christian friends; my girlfriend when I was 14 was a witch; many of the Christian parents of my friends were Conservatives (the Canadian equivalent of Republicans), and I didn't believe religion and politics made good friends and Conservative beliefs towards the poor didn't seem very Christian.
Anyway, after a long and eventful story I found myself living in the UK and studying comparative religion (whilst not a Christian, I have always had a desire to learn about the weird and mystical thing that people see as "belief"). It was here that I also developed a 6 year struggle with alcohol that nearly cost me everything that I had built up over the years: my home, job, reputation, friends, etc.
When I got sober, I found myself feeling more and more alone in the world (alcoholics have a tendency to surround themselves with other alcoholics so that no one will challenge their drinking habits and these people tend not to want to be friends with you once you sober up). So I committed myself to seeking out the things that I loved in life before I started drinking. That led me to a focus on nature and the splendor of the natural world. This focus led rather naturally (no pun intended) to Paganism when I discovered that it probably most closely represented my own views of the world.
Personally I shy away from saying that I'm a Witch because it is a term that implies certain beliefs in goddess/god polytheism that I am not certain that I believe in, favouring instead to worship nature in its natural glory and seeing myself as a part of a divine macrocosm of life on this planet/in this universe, but I've met many, many witches and druids, Kaballists and wizards, cunning men and women, and most, if not all, of them have been wonderfully understanding and accepting of other people and their beliefs. I think that more Christians ought to take a leaf out of your book and mine, and practice a bit more of this understanding towards pagans of all denominations (and of all other religions for that matter).
The single most off-putting thing about Christianity for me was the lack of acceptance of others (or the "acceptance with intent to convert" that makes them seem as though they aren't really your friends at all; friends shouldn't have agendas towards you). When I saw your blog and read a bit about your beliefs I felt that I should send you this e-mail and say thank you for your attempts to see that anyone's beliefs can be a beautiful and peaceful thing. I think that if there were more pastors in the world like you, the world might be a happier place. Heck, if the Christian churches that I had grown up around had been more understanding and accepting of my gay/witch friends or my early atheism when I was younger, I may have even been convinced to convert.
Please, please keep up your good work and keep being friends with the neo-pagan community. Maybe if we can start with simple friendship, we might be able to convince the world that the old Christian teaching and Wiccan Rede philosophy to "harm none" is really the best way for the world to be.