Friday, May 18, 2012

Evangelical Pagans?

As I've mentioned before, I grew up Mormon.  My ancestors followed Joseph Smith from New York to Illinois to Salt Lake City before many of them decided that it wasn't a faith for them.  Still, I was dutifully baptized at age 8, like a good girl.  I did it more because it was expected of me, and I tried t reconcile my conscience to dogma, but it was never comfortable or complete. By 13, I'd abandoned the L.D.S. church completely, due to several uncomfortable truths: they demonized my mother for not being a practicing Mormon, they had strange ideas about scientific principles I could see for myself, and my role in life was to go to B.Y.U. to get my MRS and MOM and birth a new generation of good Mormon kids.  My afterlife would be determined by the character of my husband, I was discouraged from studying science and other cultures, and I was expected to try to change people to my way of thinking.

By the time I was in college, I had a severe dislike for missionaries of any affiliation.  I'll even admit to being mean to them when they would show up at my house (my step-dad encouraged this, and was creatively frightening would they wouldn't just go away).  From time to time, especially now that I have children, they show up at the door armed with my baptismal certificate and their own intentions. I usually tell them I'm not interested, but I have, on a couple of occasions threatened them with legal action, especially since most apartment complexes have No Trespassing and No Solicitation signs clearly posted.  I had also learned a great deal about forced conversions among indigenous groups all over the world. Missionary work, in my eyes, is a predatory practice. It typically involves vulnerable individuals and uneven power positions, in my experience, and the benefits are frequently one sided.

Lately, I've seen a few Pagan blogs talking about recruiting, proselytizing, and Evangelical Paganism. This offends me on many levels.  One, it has been one of the great things about being Pagan for me; while there are many Pagans who will happily take part in a structured form of Paganism that includes bureaucracy and politics, it's not required. Plenty of information is available for those who do not wish to be hemmed in by the roles of leader and follower.  Second, Paganism, for me, has been about finding, honouring and accepting that I am part of the Divine and that I can communicate with the Divine.  Ritual is about symbols and intention and memory, not about doing anything the right or wrong way. My conscience is my guide.  What I feel about wrong and right are what matter. I can write about my views, but ultimately, I want each of you who read my words to take what lessons you want from them and apply the to your own life, in your own way. Third,  I think that active and organized efforts by a segment to go out into the world and make conversions will ultimately lead to a loss for all of us.  It puts us at odds with other faiths, it makes us conquistadors, and it muffles the role of the individual in living a spiritual life.

I have no problem teaching about Paganism, about spirituality (my closest friends are all Catholics from other parts of the world, and their views about spirituality and the use of prayer/magic are very, very similar to mine), and about finding your own path.  A good mentor/teacher can help you find your voice, choose a path, embrace your own power, and get you through those rough moments when you feel that nothing makes sense.  A good teacher will never force you to learn anything by rote, and they will always encourage you to ask questions.  I have, at various points in life, spent time discussing Paganism with people who don't know much.  I've shared resources, given opinions, and pointed out options that had been recognized, but I have never told anyone what to believe. I don't even do it with my children.  I refuse to take part in any attempt to convert somebody to Paganism. If they want a hand to hold as they explore, I'll be there. If they want my opinions on what some author wrote, I'll give it, along with my reasons. If they follow a different path than I walk, I'll wish them well, but I won't encourage any form of evangelical paganism, no matter how much I wish the world was more Pagan.


The following definition comes from TheFreeDictionary.com. It's important to note that I am using definition number 6 here.  I'm not interested in Evangelical Christianity.  e·van·gel·i·cal  (vn-jl-kl, vn-) also e·van·gel·ic (-jlk)adj.1. Of, relating to, or in accordance with the Christian gospel, especially one of the four gospel books of the New Testament.2. Evangelical Of, relating to, or being a Protestant church that founds its teaching on the gospel.3. Evangelical Of, relating to, or being a Christian church believing in the sole authority and inerrancy of the Bible, in salvation only through regeneration, and in a spiritually transformed personal life.4. Evangelicala. Of or relating to the Lutheran churches in Germany and Switzerland.b. Of or relating to all Protestant churches in Germany.5. Of or relating to the group in the Church of England that stresses personal conversion and salvation by faith.6. Characterized by ardent or crusading enthusiasm; zealous: an evangelical liberal.n.

This is the link to the most recent article about evangelical paganism I read.  I looked for the others, but I can't remember where I saw them, it's been months.

5 comments:

  1. Evangelical Paganism is not a good idea, yeesh. Coming from a position of defensiveness, anger, combativeness, and control is never a good place to live from.

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    1. "defensiveness, anger, combativeness, and control is never a good place to live from." is a succinct way to sum it up! Thanks.

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  2. I am with you on this one. One of the things that attracted me the most to paganism was that no one was trying to recruit me. No one cared what I believed or didn't. It was up to ME to find the information and believe what I wanted. I am actually working on a blog post about that right now. Took a quick break to pop by a few blogs I've missed while I was down.

    I grew up with a mother that was part of a cult. It was a family thing. She always said I was the "chosen" one that would bring everyone to God. OOOPS! Then again she may have been kinda right. My whole business is about helping people connect to deity! You tell me which one you want to connect with and I help you do that. Hahaha. I hope all has been well. I've missed your blog but I am back now and hope to be more regular!

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    1. Glad you're up and running again, Sandi. We've missed you. Thanks!

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  3. Considering my thoughts on beliefs and religion almost completely center around the indiviuals connection to the Divine no matter what the faith. The idea that Paganism with all its free-spiritedness would want to dominate others thoughts and beliefs is in short..retarded. I hope that we never become a Faith that forces are selves down everyone elses throat..or I may have to run away and become hermit.

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