In the most recent issue of PanGaia Magazine (#45) the question of Pagans proselytizing was raised.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. had this to say:
"Why on Earth should Pagans proselytize? Let the Witnesses who have experience do it. If you want other religions to leave us alone, we should return the favor. Let us all live in peace together."
Well Barbara, my response to that is simple. If people think that Christianity is the only option, and believe the things they are told, our society will only continue to crumble under our feet and the Earth will have no option but to swallow the entire human race whole.
Think I'm being dramatic? Consider the idea of "Original Sin" or the "All People Are Sinners in the Eyes of God" model.
If you tell a child they are evil enough times they will begin to believe it and may even begin to use it as an excuse for their actions. When they behave badly or hurt another person the response might be "What did you expect? I am inherently evil after all." Or maybe the pious person will see the "inherent evil" in another person and use that as an excuse to punish or destroy them. (Re: Original sin, Way of the Master, Tim LaHaye.)
And that's just one issue. Throw in the concepts of:
- justified war in the name of god
- women being submissive to their men
- people being better than all other living creatures
- people being seperate from divinity
- people lording over nature
All of these ideas have a way of infesting the human psyche on a damaging level and thus contributing poorly to our society as a whole.
proselytize: to attempt to convert another person to your beliefs.
Okay, so we've established that proselytizing is the practice of trying to convert another to your way of thinking. Evangelical Christians do this through way of curb-side sermons and preaching about hellfire and brimstone. Is that the way Pagans would handle it? I think we need to realize that when Pagans do something they do it the Pagan way not the Christian way.
I understand that there are a lot of people out there who are concerned that Paganism is going to go the way of more mainstream beliefs - insomuch in the way that Paganism may begin to contain corruption and power struggles based on greed. That's a scary prospect, but again, we do things the Pagan way - a different way, and I dare say a better way. Our ways are based on ancient beliefs from a time of peace; a time before war was commonplace and a time when all things were realized as one.
Just because we form a church (and call it a church) does not mean that it will be a place where people feel they have to go out of fear of damnation. No one will stand on the pulpit every Sunday and tell you how evil you are. That is not the Pagan way. We must begin to re-imagine a new way of organization, of sharing what we have learned with others freely without fear.
So, if Pagans shared their beliefs with other people it wouldn't have to be hard-core evangelical proselytizing. It could simply be a sharing of beliefs - an advertising of faith without shame.
Before too many hairs stand up on the backs of reader's necks, let me specify that I do not feel there should be roving gangs of Pagans setting up shop on street corners, holding sandwich signs, and preaching about the End Times. When I say advertising I mean sharing events, classes, temples/churches on community bulletin boards, fliers, websites, etc.
Did the Buddha proselytize when he shared the intuitive lessons he had learned to those who chose to sit and listen to him? Do you even equate the concept of evangelism to Buddhism? I don't think so. So, why would Pagans - whom are intrinsically mystical like Buddhists - be any different?
Do you honestly believe Pagans would come anywhere near Christians in this area? Instead of "All sinners will burn in the fire pits of Hell" what would we yell? "Your Karma will suck if you're mean?" Seriously. There is no comparison. We're talking apples and oranges here folks.
I believe being able to share our knowledge without crossing the threshold of the "scary" brand of proselytizing is a step on the road to finding solutions to the questions of organization and standards for legal Pagan clergy. What do you think?
Labels: Modern Paganism