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Building or Burning Bridges?

Author: The Redneck Pagan
Posted: January 20th. 2013
Times Viewed: 3,212

I recently was cruising on Facebook (Ok, let's face it; I was wasting time and avoiding housework) when I came across a post from another pagan that caught my attention:

“I know quite a few Christians who are intelligent, kind, and true to their belief in God/Jesus. I'm able to have fairly good conversations with these people; they are articulate and present their arguments, don't force opinions, and in general actually listen to you when you tell them about your beliefs. Knowing all this, I feel as though I need to send out "I'm sorry you're thought to be stupid because there are stupid people who also believe the same things you do" cards...”

I mean, I don't even know. I need to stop reading comments. It's almost become a mantra: "I know lots of intelligent Christians.” “Not all Christians are like this." *sigh*”

Currently the Catholic Church sponsors thousands of schools around the world, schools in countries that have allowed people with no other opportunities in life to become something and to build a future for themselves. Catholic missions worldwide also offer hospitals; many of these hospitals provide medical services to the most impoverished people in the world. Many of the Church's nuns train as nurses in order to work at these hospitals to heal. Many of these hospitals are located in war torn countries where supplies and safety is scarce.

A prime example is the mission of Mother Theresa. One cannot help but stop and marvel at her and her nuns’ compassion and strength of will to carry on in a place the rest of the world forgot. Thousands of these people work in the places that the “civilized” world has forgotten. Members of the church often do volunteer work in their communities. My own cousin recently visited a mission on Hastings Street in Vancouver (for those who are unaware this area of Vancouver is full of drug dealers and users, prostitutes, mentally ill, homeless and others that most people consider unsavory) . Several churches in the area have come together to provide soup kitchens, social services, overnight shelters and clothing for the people there. My grandmother knits scarves, mitts, hats and sweaters for people who cannot afford warm clothing.

The Catholic Church is not the only Christian group that runs soup kitchens, schools and hospitals. I only use them as the example right now because they are the most well known. Worldwide, thousands of people donate time, resources and money to help their fellow humans. And the followers are not the only ones. Countless Priests, Ministers, Padres and Reverends offer free services to their communities. Often they do grief counseling, couples counseling, trauma counseling and spiritual counseling for their members, healing broken hearts and broken relationships. Many of them are severely under paid by industry standards for the work they do for their followers.

Now many people would argue against me -- citing the terrors of the “Burning Times” (another rant I might touch upon on a later post) and other inquisitions -- that missions around the world are there to convert people. Well, I have to be honest. This is one area where I disagree with the missions; however I understand that they believe they are helping. For the most part, we are long past the days of “Convert or die”. People have a choice to convert to the faith of the missionaries or not. As for the past, it is the past; I cannot blame the current practitioners for the mistakes of their predecessors. I can only learn from those mistakes and find a way to move forwards.

So going back to the original post. Yes that person was correct: not all Christians are like the one she quoted. What struck me was the condescending manner in which she made her statement. I wondered why on earth even bother to bring it up?

I put this up because I wanted to note that there is a predominate tendency in many pagan circles to bash members of the Christian faith. I never hear other pagans bash the Muslims, the Jewish, the Buddhists, the Hindu, or any other faith! However Christians in our circles get a bad rap, one I do not think they deserve. They are blamed for the past, called narrow minded, and everybody has a horror story about the bad Christians in their lives and the most predominant “I know not all Christians are bad, but...” story.

And yes, I have had some bad experiences myself, but what is the point of bringing it up? I dealt with the situation as it arose. It was that individual I had a problem with. I do not see it as a flaw in his religion as much as I see it as a flaw in his character. To make a sweeping statement of “Not all Christians are like that but you would not believe what this jerk did” is not productive and will not help anybody. I believe that acting and speaking in this manner is only going to create tension and animosity between us and members of other faiths, rather than building bridges and mutual respect and understanding. I know most people would jump down someone's throat if a Christian said, “I know not all Pagans are like this but this one psycho I met...”

By bringing up the topic of religion first, rather than the actions of the individual, it comes across to me as an attack upon that faith group in general first, and then upon the character of the person secondly. It's like saying that the religion is the fault, not the person.

I would like to challenge Pagans to think about the way they approach situations like this and the way that they talk about people from other faith groups. Are we really practicing the tolerance and understanding we want from others? Or are we just looking to create conflict and burn bridges?

Yours Humbly

The Redneck Pagan


The Redneck Pagan

Location: Lacombe County, Alberta


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