Monday, September 29, 2008

Peter Berger, Pentecostals and Neener, Neener, Neener...

I've been giving some lite (yes, spelled like a diet product) credence to the faith movement, and its mother - the massive Pentecostal movement for some time. Of course I am one, or was one, or am a post-pente kinda guy, or something like that. But, more specifically I have suggested to friends that the sociological benefits of the movement, and the sense of social concern are deeper within these movements than we realize.

So now I want to say in fine deep, proud words of theological self-justification, "Neener, neener, neener I told you so."

Peter Berger's sociological thumbs-up to the benefits of the Pentecostal movement, and even a note of reproof for those who look down upon them as "dupes and victims" are something I have been saying for awhile.

So, I've only blogged about it a couple times, but I've just got to say, "Neener, neener, neener...." So, here I am considering the power of the Pentecostal movement among the poor well over a year ago on my other Blog, and more recently on a post about social activism.

Maybe Peter can help get Emergents and Pentecostals to seriously talk. But, quite frankly, it's about more than talk when one deals with a highly experiential movement like Pentecostalism.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Response to Pagan Pride

I thought it would be nice to post a response to the Pagan Pride event. The letter below came by e-mail the day after I taught at Pagan Pride Day. As evidenced by the quality of writing, George Popham is an articulate man, and he was both funny, and challenging with his thoughts during the discussion times. He is finishing his doctoral work in religious anthropology. (I think that was the category of study - something religio-brainy like that.) So, here's George's thoughts:

Pastor Phil,

I just wanted to thank you again for the kind and thoughtful discussion you moderated at pagan pride yesterday. I was so impressed that you managed to neither soft pedal or market away the true differences of belief involved or make those differences excessively confrontational. Usually interfaith dialog between any of the, let's say, 'Abrahamic' faiths and other religions is either so diplomatic that it is dishonest about the true nature of their basic differences, or so focused on the differences that they appear as you aptly put it 'mean and judgmental' Somehow you managed to find a middle course between these extremes and I have seldom seen this done with such grace.

But but you also avoided two other mistakes (I believe) Christians commonly make in witnessing their faith. 1. You did not speak as if we non-christians had never heard this message before and 2. You did not speak to us non-christians as if we were in need of rescue. I know you likely believe we *are* in need of rescue, but that you were respectful enough to not explicitly condescend shows a good heartedness and sensitivity I am not used to encountering among evangelicals. This is important because this attitude conveys that you are aware that many non-christians are just as comfortable and assured of their beliefs as you are, and just as contented in their lives and full of spiritual hope as well. That is, we are as committed to our stuff as you are to yours. Too many Christians fail to recognize this and this tends to shut down discussion right from the start.

The sort of discussion we had yesterday is also encouraging in so far as the discourse between Christians and non-christians has become increasingly and dangerously polarized, toxic and political. That you have drawn such fire for even speaking with neo-pagans is yet another perplexing proof of it. It just seems so un-Christ-like to condemn you for ministering to neo-pagans, after all, that is exactly what Christ would have done. If there is to be any peace at all and if the political fiber of our Country and Constitution is to hold together we need to continually remind each other that whatever we may believe we are NOT enemies.

Christian Day was speaking with my wife after the discussion yesterday and told her how kind, generous and basically samaritan-like you and your people have been in the Salem community. And in this respect I think we have at least one common belief: argument and discussion is worthwhile and even fun, but it is far more important to persuade by one's example of loving kindness.

The whole thing made Debbie and I feel great. We've been talking about it quite a lot. We will likely never share your congregation's religious beliefs, but we hope you will consider us allies all the same.


George Popham and Debbie Fields Popham


George's words were encouraging, and of course I can think of them as allies in a common cause. What do you think?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Christian Presenter at Pagan Pride?!

Yesterday was the Pagan Pride event in North Andover, MA. I had been invited to give a workshop at the event. Matt the Pirate, and his wife Mary the Goth Theologian, John the Master Dream Interpreter (though he denies it), and The Prof. Carlos Z. joined me for the event.

I hope to develop a team of Christians who can hang out at such events, and actually be good examples - instead of silly, judgmental, and icky. "Icky" is a theological term, you know.

We want to do things like Dream Interpretation, training in Neo-Pagan/Christian relationships, and simple friendship development to show that we can all live in this world together without fighting like cats. Of course, Neo-Pagans and the kind of Christians who like hanging out with me have something in common - we are like cats, herding us remains an impossibility.

Now the day previous I visited one of the stores of a Salem Witch who was one of the presenters at the festival as well. Teri said to me in passing, "Did Carole tell you about the one rule of the workshops? They need to be performed skyclad." Teri did not flinch a bit when saying this. Neither did I.

"That's cool." I replied.

So, the day of the event 5 of us drove out to North Andover from Salem at 7:30 in the morning. We arrived at the event early, and did so purposely. We put our hands to the work of setting up. Our plan was to make ourselves indispensable, which is really just another way of saying that we were going to be servants. We set up tents, we set up the Children's area, moved picnic benches, set up signs, and Matt the Pirate helped the blacksmith haul anvils and organize the smithy's area.

Once the vendors were set up, and the people began to arrive, we milled around. I greeted old friends from Salem, and made a few new friends. Matt the Pirate hung out with the Blacksmith; John, Mary, and Carlos got to know the festival, which is a mid-sized Pagan festival with live music, about 20-25 crafters, an early evening ritual, and a dozen workshops from morning to mid-afternoon.

My workshop was from 12:15 to 1:15. We ate pumpernickel bread and cheese, passed out flyers for the workshop, and joined the drum circle during the time between finishing set up, and the workshop.

The description of the workshop was this:

The Circle and The Cross Talk:  Re-visioning Pagan/Christian Relationships

Looking back to the Caesars, and to the Burning Times misconceptions and urban myths have had deadly results for both Pagans and Christians.  In our own times, though mild in comparison, Pagans have been on the receiving end of the religious persecution.  Some have chosen to remain in the broom closet, and others have faced the struggle head on - sometimes to bitter disappointment with family, friends, and work associates.  This workshop is designed as a deeper look into the worldview differences between Christian and Neo-Pagan thought with a focus upon deconstructing, and re-visioning some of the beliefs which cause the greatest pain.  Come learn to navigate this battlefield of philosophical tension. Topics of frustration to be covered include judgment, conversion, spiritual dissonance, and sexuality.

At 12:05 we made our way to the workshop location. The previous workshop on Greek deities was ending, and we waited for the group to gather. About 20 people arrived, and after the welcome I introduced myself and the rest of the gang.

Strangely, no one was skyclad. Teri had lied to me, and Bev my wife was happier for it.

I gave my credentials for teaching the workshop - I call it Pagan street Cred - I've been excommunicated from a denomination for making friends with Pagans. That's pretty darn good Street Cred.

The workshop looked something like this:

I taught for between 7 and 10 minutes on 4 different subjects, and between each subject I had the class break up into three groups. John the Dream Master led one group, Matt the Pirate led the second group, and Mary the Goth Theologian and The Prof. Carlos Z. led the third group.

My goal was to teach about those four basic Christian doctrines listed above, and what caused these particular doctrines to be divisive points between Christians and Pagans. My particular focus was to highlight imbalances in the approaches and theology of many Christians, which caused their behavior and attitudes to be negative and hurtful.

I taught first about Hell and Judgment, and shared the fact that this doctrine ought to be a great equalizing doctrine in evangelical circles, because the belief is that all people are destined for Hell or deserving of it. Instead many Christians are proud of some unique heavenly status they think they have, and instead of finding commonality with struggling humanity they become judgmental.

Then the three groups discussed the point and how they felt about Hell and Judgment. There was laughing, and there was serious dialogue, and there was a mixed combination of joy to be talking about these things openly in a mixed religious group, and concern about the treatment many of the Pagans had received from Christians they knew and loved.

Then we discussed Conversion. I told them I was going to be giving them the inside scoop. Something many Christians did not realize, or if they did they somehow lost sight of it in the midst of their zeal. The point was this: No human can convert you. Conversion only occurs as an interaction between deity and a human.

Then our Christian group leaders had to rotate clockwise to change groups. For some reason they couldn't quite figure out clockwise initially - evidence that they are not Pagans and don't normally work in circles. Good thing I did not ask them to rotate deosil. Once they figured it out, the discussion on conversion appeared to be more personal, and filled with stories of pressure Pagans received from Christians.

Thirdly, I taught about Spiritual Dissonance, which is my redefinition of the subject Spiritual Warfare. When I mentioned Spiritual Warfare the group groaned, and understood the ramifications of the term. So we talked about the devil scares of the 1980's through people like Mike Warnke, and Bob Larson. Then we looked for a more balanced view of the subject from a Christian perspective. My hope was to arm Pagans with sound views of Christianity in order to help them counteract bizarre unloving behavior from wacky Christians.

The group rotated deosil once again, and began to discuss this subject. Of course the problem of evil arose in the groups, and this became a point of discussion.

Last of all we talked about the hottest subject of all - sex. I had the group shout a victory shout because we were going to talk about sex, and they did so raucously. I pointed out that the practice of heterosexual, monogamous, wait till marriage sexuality was actually a ritual lifestyle being lived out by Christians who believe that the Church is a Bride to the Son of God, and that our full realization of this union will occur in the second coming. Now we are engaged as it were to Him. Most Christians don't understand that this ritual lifestyle is a choice of beautiful ritual, and not a harsh law. Because they do not understand this they sound harsh when they discuss this issue.

Once again the Christians turned deosil in the circle, and arrived back in the original group they had led. Then they talked sex with Pagans. This was a hot and wild subject. One group was very serious, another group was light but philosophical, and the third was a bawdy group from Salem (I should have known!) in which The Poor Prof. Carlos Z. was being hit on by my friend a gay Pagan and Mary the Goth Theologian was trying to keep a straight face.

The group ended after this, and we all had a good time. I met someone from the COG who was excited about the workshop, and thought it would be good have in a COG setting as well. That would be pretty cool actually, and I would love to do that someday perhaps.

I talked with a number of new friends, and they all appreciated the open discussion combined with the attempts to bring peace between the worlds.

Later that day I talked with Teri. She had mentioned the skyclad joke, and the fact that when she mentioned it to Carole, Carole asked, "What did he do?" Teri replied to Carole, "He worked me, and simply said, 'That's cool.'" Yep, I did work her. I'm not easily surprised, and I've been to enough public Pagan events to know this was not going to be a skyclad event.

Well, it still seems strange to me, but I was able to talk about Hell, Conversion, Spiritual Warfare, and Biblical Sexuality at a Pagan Festival and people loved it. All I can ask myself is, "What the heck have Christians been doing wrong for so long that this has not been able to happen?" Then again I have to remind myself that I have been excommunicated from a middle of the road Pentecostal denomination for doing such things. So, I guess I already know the answer to that question.

Pics to come soon. Although I forgot to get the camera out for the workshop. Sheesh, I always do that.

This post is part of the interfaith synchroblog on interfaith dialogue.

List of participants

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Speaking at Pagan Pride this Weekend

This coming Sunday, September 21st I will be teaching a workshop at the Pagan Pride event at The Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, MA (sorry, that's Massachusetts, USA for other state/country people).

Subject:  The Circle and Cross Talk:  Re-visioning Pagan/Christian Relationships
Location:  Harold Parker State Forest, North Andover, MA
Time:  12:15 - 1:15

Here is a link to the event
Here is the link to the Workshop descriptions  (you will find mine toward the bottom of the list)  
Here is the link to directions to the location

and here is the description without going to the link:

The Circle and The Cross Talk: Re-visioning Pagan/Christian Relationships, Pastor Phil Wyman

       Looking back to the Caesars and to the Burning Times, misconceptions and urban myths have had deadly results for both Pagans and Christians. In our own times, though mild in comparison, Pagans have been on the receiving end of the religious persecution. Some have chosen to remain in the broom closet, and others have faced the struggle head-on, sometimes to bitter disappointment with family, friends and work associates. This workshop is designed as a deeper look into the worldview differences between Christian and Neo-Pagan thought, with a focus upon deconstructing and re-visioning some of the beliefs which cause the greatest pain. Come learn to navigate this battlefield of philosophical tension. Topics of frustration to be covered include judgment, conversion, spiritual dissonance and sexuality.

I am honored to be openly accepted, and allowed to offer my limited scope of wisdom in this event, which celebrates a spirituality different than my own, yet among a group of people I have come to love so deeply.  If you are planning on being at Pagan Pride, I would love to have you join me for the workshop in Area 2 - in the woods at The Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, MA.

There are some of you who have expressed interest in coming to the event, and commuting together.  I will be arriving at the event at 8am, and doing some set up work with the organizers.  If you would like to join me, let me know.  I will need to leave Salem by 7:20am.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Maturity Really What I Want?

If maturity looks like the Protestant work ethic, or making sensible decisions I am not sure that I want it - at least not all the time. If maturity looks like caring about the bottom line, or making sure that I take care of myself first I am not sure that I want it - certainly not all the time. If maturity looks less like uninhibited freedom, and more like a fundamentalist version of self-control I am not sure that I want it.

One of my heroes of the faith, Harald Bredesen who died a little less than two years ago showed me a way to maturity, which was free from the trappings of getting old without getting graceful. Child-likeness was his greatest attribute, and he had stood before kings, Presidents, and famously rich people with his messages of grace and God's power.

Spiritual maturity may have some portion of the elements listed above, but it certainly does not look like the list of those characteristics which often seem to be the definition of maturity in our culture. I find myself wondering then what attributes I can add to my life to discover maturity, and which ones I can deem non-essential to real spiritual maturity.

One thing I do know: it is not what I think it is, and it is not what others sometimes wish to impose upon me.

What might you add to the list of important ingredients of spiritual maturity?

Here is the list of fellow synchroBloggers on the subject of Spiritual Maturity:

Phil Wyman asks Is Maturity Really What I Want?
Lainie Petersen at Headspace with "Watching Daddy Die"
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with "what's inside the bunny?"
John Smulo at
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with "Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories"
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse with "the future is ours to see: crumbling like a mountain"
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom is Still Complaining
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with "Maturity and Education"
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent
Bethany Stedman at Coffee Klatch with Moving Towards True Being: The Long Process of Maturity
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with "Old Enough to Follow Christ?"
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with "Intentional Relationships for Maturity"
Jonathan Brink at with "I Won't Sin"
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with "Growing Up"
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with "Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning"
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind's Eye with "Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience"
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with "What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity"
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with "post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa"
Steve Hayes at Khanya with "Adult Content"
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with "The Foundation For Ministry and Leading"
Sound and Silence considers Inclusion and Maturity
Lew A at The Pursuit talks about Maturity and Preaching
Kai Schraml tells us about Mature Virtue

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My six favorite words in this election: "...and you will know their names..."

I am listening to John McCain at the Republican National Convention. Darn he can speak. I am almost ready to give him another point on the basis of the quote above. In what is a pretty rippin' speech by McCain, he mentioned that he would veto pork barrel spending bills coming across his desk as President, and concerning the politicians who try load the pork on the bill he said, "and you will know their names."

Now that rocks! If a President does that, I will seriously be impressed by the power of the leadership.

Now the speech is keeping it's momentum, as McCain talks about cutting taxes, but does not have quite the impact as those six little words, which are my favorite so far in this election.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Next SynchroBlog - Sept 17th - on Maturity

The next posting for our SynchroBlog event will be September 17th, and the subject is Maturity.

September 17th SynchroBlog - Discussing Maturity in the Light of our

Interested? You can find out more about SynchroBlogs, and how to become part of this innovative group of Christian SynchroBloggers here.

As the Politics Continue

Sarah Palin's unmarried 17 year old daughter is having a baby. Barrack Obama even says that the issue is "off limits," and a private family matter.

What do you think about either of these points?