I have been thinking lately about the rather tortured relationship between paganism and Christianity. I think it is correct to say that this relationship will always remain (on the whole) difficult, with misunderstandings on both sides. Living in Colorado Springs, in the past decade or so I have seen a rise in Christian fundamentalism in many different areas. However, I must say that while I have seen a large amount of bigotry (regarding specifically homosexuality) from Christians, I have also seen a corresponding rise in anti-Christian bigotry among pagans.
Others have written about this, but let me just say this; eventually you must define your own spirituality. That is to say that I have met some pagans that are more anti-Christian than they are pro-pagan. We are all drawn to paganism for different reasons, and some are drawn by a real need to escape Christianity. Hopefully, however, you move beyond that someday and really start to go deeper.
I have been proselytized to many times here in the Springs. Instead of taking it as an insult, however, I look on it as an opportunity. I know that the Christian opposite me has doubts about their own faith, places where they think they fail or sin. So instead of discussing me I get them to talk about themselves. “Why did you become a Christian?” “Do you consider yourself to have strong faith?” “Where do you fail as a Christian?” “Did you have a conversion experience?” et cetera.
I am simply amazed at how much the other person is willing to tell me, and what I learn when I hear about other peoples spiritual path in life. Ultimately we can be of enormous benefit to each other if we can get past the initial judgment phase. This is *not* to say that we will have genuine, and often passionate, disagreements and confrontations. I do believe, however that we can mitigate these conflicts if we give each other the benefit of the doubt, and understand that the “benefit of the doubt” may be coming mostly from us! 😉
As an example, I have a small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses who visit me every once in a while. I recognize that it is part of their ticket to an eternal future to proselytize, even if they are totally unsuccessful. Do they deserve to get treated poorly because they are following their path (it takes courage to knock on so many doors btw)? Nope. Can I make paganism a little less frightening by talking to them kindly but with conviction? Yep. Do many pagans owe many Supreme Court decisions on religious liberty to the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Damn right they do. So I try to make time to represent the pagan community not with rude gestures and slammed doors, but with hospitality (an ancient Celtic practice) and pleasant conversation. Fellowship, what a concept!