Guest Editorial: Pagans and the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 6, 2013 — 99 Comments

[The following is a guest editorial from David Dashifen Kees. David Dashifen Kees has been working with members of other religious and philosophical communities through both interfaith dialog and activism for almost ten years and considers interfaith work to be a calling.  He’s the technical director for the Pagan Newswire Collective, a blogger at paganactivist.com, and he is on the executive committee for the International Pagan Coming Out Day.  You can find his burgeoning blog at http://technowitch.org.]

David Dashifen Kees

David Dashifen Kees

In May 2012, a guest post here introduced me to the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (note: the website for the FRD is currently undergoing a redesign and reorganization at the time of this writing).  I was intrigued.  As an employee at a major American public university, I’ve worked with many student interfaith leaders, some of whom have gone on to work with the Interfaith Youth Core.  But, as a staff person, I was unable to partake fully in some of their activities.  One way that I was able to get involved was as a Pagan representative to various panel discussions and similar events at the university and to assist the Pagan student’s association in similar capacities.

Thus, it was with some excitement that I began to investigate the FRD.  Here was an organization dedicated to the very activities that I found so fulfilling over the last decade and whose work was focused on facilitating them between its various chapters.  I’ve been working with other Pagans as well as with John Morehead, the custodian of the FRD’s Evangelical chapter and an author of the above-linked guest post, to investigate the feasibility of a Pagan chapter.

I’ve found that not only is it feasible, but that I’m ready to make it happen.  Perhaps just as importantly, the FRD is excited to have us.

It is an ideal organization for us to be involved with.  It recognizes that a person’s deeply held beliefs are not likely to change.  Further, these differences, when not understood, are what lead to resentment between different religious and non-religious communities rather than understanding.  Thus, the foundation uses dialog–or as they term it, “honest contestation”–as a way to foster that understanding.

An image from the FRD web site.

An image from the FRD web site.

This is something that I personally find very attractive about the FRD:  it is not necessarily seeking common ground but, instead, works toward the understanding of difference.  Common ground exists, to be sure, but it’s fairly bland and relatively easily found.  Most ethical systems, religious or otherwise, frown on murder, for example.  But a discussion on why murder is wrong is not very interesting specifically because we’re already standing on that ground–that’s why it’s common in the first place!

Instead, the FRD wants to find the points of contention and talk about those.  And, through its dialogs, it seeks to foster an understanding of these differences to create an environment of “peaceful co-resistance.”

I’m not going to convert to a form of Evangelical Christianity anytime in my foreseeable future.  But, I have no interest in being ignorant neither of it nor of the practices and motivations of Evangelical Christians.  Thus, if I were in dialog with one, I would seek a place of peaceful co-resistance with him or her.  Peaceful because we’re seeking to learn and understand–conflict doesn’t assist either of those goals–and co-resistive because neither they nor I are likely to be converted on the basis of a single conversation, if at all.  We would both be sharing our personal stories while, on some level, resisting those of others.   It’s a term that further emphasizes the realism inherent in the FRD’s process, methodology, and mission.

I will admit that the confrontational language of phrases like “honest contestation” and “peaceful co-resistance” are discordant to my usual philosophies; I tend to be a live-and-let-live sort of guy.  But I’m reminded of a lecture given by two atheists at the Illinois Conference on Interfaith Collaboration in 2012 (in the spirit of full disclosure, it should be mentioned that I helped organize that event).  In it, they discussed the value of debate within interfaith efforts and came to the conclusion that, explored effectively–with civility, honesty, and tact–the disagreements between our faiths and philosophies can be as important, if not more important, than our agreements.  Further, that advocating for our passionately held beliefs while embodying civility, honesty, and tact can more effectively educate others about our differences and help build respect and trust between individuals in a way that a more casual search for common ground does not.  Build enough bridges between individuals, and soon an entire culture of understanding may be born.

In the end, whether we call it dialog, debate, or contestation, it all comes down to trust.  There are many of us who have difficulty trusting those who have an evangelical mission with our deeply held beliefs.  We worry that there may be a hidden agenda driving their interest in our faith and philosophies.  To some extent, I share this fear but I categorically reject it as a foundation for decision making.  Fear is to be overcome, not coddled, and we cannot know the truth of the intentions of others without first being willing to meet with them and see what may come of such a meeting.

I have said on my site that I am a Pagan evangelist.  I think, to some extent, that we all advocate for our truths.  Granted, zealous advocacy can become negative if it turns into a forced alteration of another’s lifestyle. But, we all have things in our lives for which we feel great passion, and it is part of the human condition to hope that, when sharing our passions with others, that they may come to share them.  Whether this takes the form of meeting another baseball fan and hoping they prefer the same team, endlessly debating the merits of this or that character in a popular movie or novel, or sharing the truth of the world and how it operates according to our own philosophies, evangelism is not, by itself, a purely negative thing.

We have to begin to trust one another enough to take the first step toward understanding.  My experiences with Christians, Evangelical or otherwise, have been largely positive.  It was with Evangelical Christians that I helped organize the first Illinois Conference on Interfaith Collaboration.  Some of those same Christians are preparing for the second of those conferences.  It was with Evangelical Christians that I attended a ceremony of solidarity at Boston’s Trinity Church in the wake of the August 2012 shooting at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin.  And it is the Evangelical Chapter of the FRD that has, on a number of occasions, reached out to Pagans like Mike Stygal, Gus diZerega, our own Jason Pitzl-Waters, and myself hoping that we will take then next step.

This is not to imply that the FRD is simply an Evangelical organization.  There are sixteen chapters listed on the FRD website including ones for Judaism, Buddhism, Hindu, Mormon, Humanist, Muslim representatives, just to name a few.  It is my intention that the Pagan chapter, currently listed as TBA on the site, will soon begin to share details of our faith practices and theological thinking as much as the other chapters share theirs.

Over the past weeks and months, I’ve begun to reach out to people who have shown interest in forming the Pagan chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.  I’ve spoken to bloggers like Teo Bishop and Kris Bradley, individuals who lead in their communities like Shauna Aura Knight, and even some Pagan interfaith leaders like Macha NightMare.  Some larger Pagan organizations, like Circle Sanctuary and the Covenant of the Goddess, have also shown interest in moving ahead with this sort of work.  But, these are just the people and groups with whom I have a personal connection one way or another.  To more accurately represent our Pagan community and all the diversity that exists within it, I need to cast a wider net.

And that’s where you come in.

The next step is going to be forming a core set of individuals–both individuals who simply represent themselves and those who can speak for larger groups–that will form the nucleus of the FRD Pagan chapter.  From within that group, a custodian will be chosen.  “Custodian” is their term; I suspect that this person will come to see the title not as a granting of authority, but rather as the freedom to receive more email and contact about the chapter than anyone else within it!

But that group will not be the entire chapter.  We’ll also be seeking members of specific Pagan and non-Pagan traditions that can work together to share with others what makes us unique so that the other members of the FRD might not mistake Wiccan for Pagan and Pagan for Heathen.  In fact, I’d like to see the chapter organize some conversations between members from different traditions so that we can come to understand each other more fully.

If you’re interested in seeing this process through to completion, whether you want to be a part of the core of the group or just want to be in-the-loop about our progress, please fill out this Google form.  This is a job for us all, not just me, and I hope that you will come along for the ride.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy is run by and for professional Christian missionaries. In case anyone was wondering.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

      In the interests of accuracy, this statement is inaccurate. See the listing of Board and Advisory members for the organization.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        The Board of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy is made up of

        1. Charles Randall Paul, who described his decision to go into the Missionary/”Religious Diplomacy” business in this post at the Mormon Scholars Testify website: http://mormonscholarstestify.org/358/c-randall-paul . Therein he states: “In midlife, I realized that the Heavenly Father I believed in needed a better public relations agent.”

        2. John Morehead, career missionary specializing in anti-cult work.

        3. Terry C. Muck, Dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary.

        4. Daniel C. Peterson, who is basically an professional Mormon Internet Troll, at least according to the folks at MormonCurtain.Org, a website dedicated to “ex-Mormon news, stories, and recovery”: http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_danielcpeterson_section1.html

        (For more details and links see: What They Mean By Religious Diplomacy.)

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          I’m not simply trying to be obtuse here, but are you surprised that people who have a deeply held belief in evangelism and Christianity have said things that indicate their intent to evangelise?

          I have spent many weeks working with Mormons, just to pick out one of the options listed above, and at the end of those weeks I had a better and more complete understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints than I had going in. I also feel like the missionaries I worked with had a better understanding of Paganism, insofar as I can share my experience of it with them, than they had before hand.

          In the end, though, we ended playing a little Shadowrun together and parted ways. It might not be world-changing, but it was a start.

        • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

          Yes, at present the Board is comprised of two Mormons and two Evangelicals, but it is inaccurate to describe FRD as “run by and for professional Christian missionaries.” This continued willingness to do so, and thus unfortunately misrepresent FRD with its good faith efforts at transparency in religious diplomacy, is another indicator of your approach at Pagan apologetic boundary maintenance which parallels Evangelical “counter-cult” efforts rightly objected to by many Pagans. I understand that this is your orientation, and that it will likely continue despite facts and arguments to the contrary, but my hope is that other Pagans might consider an alternative. I argued for this in my guest essay at Sermons From the Mounds, and perhaps at least a few Pagans will consider the way of diplomacy rather than perpetuating Pagan-Christian hostility and confrontation.

          • Peter Dybing

            Please stop attempting to frame the conversation as “Pagan-Christian.” Pagans work with lots of mainstream Christians in interfaith efforts, these individuals respect our beliefs and do not evangelize. The discussion here is Pagans and a small sub culture within Christianity, and should we engage that sub culture given the risks of evangelism being engaged towards our co religionists.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Peter, do you see evangelism as equivalent to a lack of respect? This might be where I begin to misunderstand your, and others, points of view.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I would describe it as a form of disrespect.

            I do not believe that you can have meaningful interfaith dialogue when one party is trying to convert the other.

            I also believe that you can’t ask another religion to give up a central tenet without it losing all pretence to integrity.

            Essentially, there is an impasse.

          • Kenneth

            I can’t answer for Peter, but yes, I think that’s a big part of what sticks in many of our craws when someone proposes to enter “dialogue” with an agenda. It’s a bit like old line British colonialists coming to an Indian or Aborigine and saying “we still think you’re savages, but we accept that we’re not likely to fix you, and so we’d like to enter a dialogue and partnership of mutual understanding with you.”

            Whether you or I grant that John Moorehead or any individual evangelical personally means well, this is the dynamic we’re dealing with. Their dealings with us over many decades and their words of late sum to a confusing mixture. “We still think you’re spiritually broken or lost people, but we’re going to dial that rhetoric way back, and we’d love to engage you as equals.”

            I don’t think you need to be a surly obstructionist to harbor some concerns about this dynamic. The Peter Dybing I know by reputation is not a rabble rouser or partisan. He always struck me as a “less drama, more elbow work” sort of leader. It may be that his generation has too much historical baggage with Christians to see a golden opportunity for new beginnings.

            On the other hand, maybe our idealism blinds us to hard truths and a bigger picture Peter and others discovered the hard way. Historically oppressed minorities often lost more at the peace tables than they ever did in fighting. We would do well to consider his reticence.

            As I said before, I’ll talk a bit with anyone like Moorehead who comes with open hands. Whether the exercise is worthwhile on a large formal scale remains to be answered. Just do some good sense due diligence strategic thinking.

            What is the goal of negotiation? What are the possible benefits and risks? Where is the line between an evangelical holding authentic beliefs in their truth and how that will manifest itself as an agenda in talks? Do they consider it a dialogue among equals, and does their posture in word and deed support that in the format of talks and the organizational structure of the foundation?

            Apart from this, I see purely practical and conceptual concerns with engaging Christians in a friendly battle of apologetics. They have a radically different understanding of the practice than most pagans. It’s central to their faith to be able to say “Here’s why you should believe in the authority of this book, and if you accept x,y, and z, then it’s clear you should believe and practice as we do.”

            Not that pagans can’t benefit from doing theology, but I can’t tell Mr. Moorehead “here’s what Wicca believes and why.” I can only talk about how I was called to my path and how it informs me to live. I don’t claim it is the only or ultimate model of truth for all mankind. He will always have the advantage of me if we argue apologetics because I don’t train for or aspire to that game. Religious diplomacy might be akin to inviting improvizational jazz players to a mathematics competition. It might give both sides a new appreciation for the other, but likely won’t advance the state of either art greatly.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            You bring up a series of excellent points. I will have to talk with John further with respect to them. Thank you.

          • Ursyl

            Two Mormons and two Evangelicals, but it’s inaccurate to say the organization is run by professional Christian missionaries?

            Mormons are required to serve as missionaries, and Evangelicals have a major focus on proselytizing.

            What I see above is like to saying it’s inaccurate to say the sky is blue because it’s the color of a robin’s egg.

            I can see some value to this concept, being a long-time discussion board debater, but as long as the board that governs an organization is made up of only one faith or faith family, it’s not interfaith on any meaningful level that I can recognize.

          • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

            Yes, it is inaccurate to say FRD is run by professional Christian missionaries. If you will allow us the process of self-definition and self-identity, while traditional Christians and Mormons do believe in sharing their faith, this does not equate with being full time professional missionaries. This is not only an inaccurate description of us and the FRD board, but also problematic in dismissing the work of an entire organization because of the religious commitments of its leaders. Imagine if Evangelicals dismissed a Pagan interfaith organization merely because it was led by Pagans and our distaste for Pagan practices and ideas. As the descriptive material at FRD’s two websites indicate (including http://www.fidweb.org) through its descriptive statement of purposes and various chapters in a diverse religious traditions, it is not a Christian organization. The organization’s board will also diversify its board members to include additional religious traditions in the near future. By any fair analysis, the original statement by Apuleius Platonicus was inaccurate, and biased by his fear of Christians.

          • Northern_Light_27

            You have no idea what’s inside Apuleius’ psyche, so please stop speaking for him. Second, if you plan to diversify your board in the future, that does indeed indicate that it is not, now, diverse. Right now, it is what it is. It’s fine to state your intentions for it to change, but right now it’s a Christian-helmed organization.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “Imagine if Evangelicals dismissed a Pagan interfaith organization merely
            because it was led by Pagans and our distaste for Pagan practices and
            ideas.”
            Then you’d be echoing Catholics?

            “…the original statement by Apuleius Platonicus was inaccurate, and biased by his fear of Christians.”
            Somehow, I don’t think he has a fear of Christians. A dislike of Christianity, perhaps, but I wouldn’t say fear.

          • Northern_Light_27

            I’m still waiting for your reply to my objection to the way you characterize the opposition you’ve received on this blog, from the last time this discussion came up. I imagine I’ll be kept waiting again this time as well, because I don’t think you can knock it down with the “boundary maintenance” strawman you keep using here. (And if you do, that will be telling in itself, I think.)

      • Guest

        I’m not simply trying to be obtuse here, but are you surprised that people who have a deeply held belief in evangelism and Christianity have said things that indicate their intent to evangelise?

        I have spent many weeks working with Mormons, just to pick out one of the options listed above, and at the end of those weeks I had a better and more complete understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints than I had going in. I also feel like the missionaries I worked with had a better understanding of Paganism, insofar as I can share my experience of it with them, than they had before hand.

        In the end, though, we ended playing a little Shadowrun together and parted ways. It might not be world-changing, but it was a start.

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          Weird …. this looks like a glitched-copy of my words above.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Same thing happened to one of my replies.

  • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

    Thank you, Jason, for posting this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1193650425 Cynthia Almy Savage

    Hmmm…there is nothing about my experience with evangelicals that leads me to believe they respect nonevangelicals. I would propose that any perceived effort on their part to “support” an interfaith “dialogue” is, to them, a proselytizing “outreach” program. I attended an evangelical university for 4 years. They no more respected my, at the time, mainline protestant upbringing than they would respect a pagan’s. These people are busily “praying for your soul”. Once you have rejected all their efforts to convert, expect their interest in you to fade away.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

      By way of counterpoint for balance, I would suggest a reading of Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue, which I edited and spearheaded, the recent podcast between Pagans and Christians at New Wine, New Wineskins, the interview with me at the Alternative Religions Educational Network, and the testimony of Pagans like Jason Pitzl-Waters, Mike Stygal, Gus diZerega, Selena Fox, Heather Greene, not to mention David above, be assessed before such conclusions are reached.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

        I lived 18 years of my life in an Evangelical household. Been there done that, Mr. Morehead. No thanks. Pagans are distrustful of Evangelicals for a reason, not just because we’re mean and hateful. We know what you’re up to and we’re not buying.

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      My experience with members of the Evangelical community has been, admittedly, mixed. Those with whom I’ve engaged outside in my general day-to-day life have often acted as you describe, @facebook-1193650425:disqus, but those with whom I’ve worked in interfaith settings have understood that there is a time and place for them to engage in evangelism. In my experience, the dialog table isn’t that place.

  • Peter Dybing

    We as a community have great interfaith involvement already. “Religious Diplomacy” is code for we are unable to subscribe to the interfaith ethic of not evangelizing those we come into contact with. If evangelicals wish to participate, let the come to the well established interfaith table. If we as a community set a place at the table of dialogue for ‘Religious diplomacy” we effectually invite them to postalize among the Pagans they come into contact with. This effort is nothing more than a request to let the wolf in sheeps clothing enter the barnyard. Sorry, but BAD IDEA. There are lots of great Christian organizations doing effective interfaith work, lets go forward with those connections with trusted partners and invite the evangelicals to join Interfaith worldwide with out postalizing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

      Evangelicals are already at the interfaith table. It might be helpful to consider religious diplomacy in contrast with interfaith: http://www.patheos.com/Evangelical/Interfaith-and-Religious-Difference-John-Morehead-02-08-2012.html

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      Thank you for your words, Peter. I respect them, but unfortunately, I disagree.

      Evangelism is a deeply held and important practice of the Christian faith. To not respect that, even if we neither agree with it nor wish it convert to Christianity, is hypocritical, in my opinion, when we expect others to accept and respect our practices. Expecting a faith community to ignore their deeply held truths should not, in my opinion, be a precursor to speaking with them.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Dashifen, you and Peter are both respected members of our community, and I attend closely to what each of you says. In this instance I must tilt toward Peter. My deeply held truth that Nature is sacred does not compel me to change someone else’s beliefs. It impels me to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, but if I met with success it would involve influencing others’ behavior, not their beliefs.

        Evangelism by its very nature aims at changing the beliefs of others. This imho is a difference in kind, not just an example of variety.

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          I understand. Thank you for your words.

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          I thought on these words for a few hours and deleted my other response (which wasn’t really one anyway). I agree with you that evangelism is aimed at changing the beliefs of others.

          I, too, am aimed at that goal.

          I hope to meet with people who may hold mistaken beliefs and/or negative expectations about who we are and what we do and change those beliefs.

          Obviously, my goal doesn’t include convincing others to become Pagan, though I would never dissuade someone from doing so if they find it as beautiful as I do, and I am uncomfortable with conversion efforts in general. But, I’m also uncomfortable with the Buddhist philosophy of attachment and suffering, for example. Just because I’m made uncomfortable by the deeply held truths of others doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try and understand those truths more fully and try to help them understand mine.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I wasn’t referring to beliefs subject to change by facts. (Being the kind of Pagan you are shows them their ideas about Pagans are mistaken.) I mean the kind of beliefs not subject to evidentiary proof, at least in the usual sense.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Can you elaborate on what you mean by beliefs not subject to evidentiary proof?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Belief that the Jerusalem ministry of Jesus was more or less as described in the Gospels is, in principle, subject to evidentiary proof, though we are unlikely ever to secure such evidence. Belief that Jesus is my sole available savior is not subject to evidentiary proof, and efforts to demonstrate it are basically citations of prophets and the like whose authority is likewise not subject to evidentiary proof.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Understood. Thank you.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        The idea of “spreading” one religion at the expense of wiping out all other religions is not something that Pagans can ever afford to “respect. It is a pathological aberration that is really only found in two religions: Christianity and Islam (Judaism, on the other hand, has been content with being the “true” religion but without ever setting their sights on wiping out all the “false” religions.) In addition to being a pathological aberration, this idea is also Evil, with a capital “E”.

        When describing the religious violence that resulted as a direct consequence of the “triumph” of Christianity, the historian Ramsay MacMullen said, “Such
        awful things to happen! To account for them, awful passions must be
        imputed. If these were in the service of some cause, then the cause
        itself must be considered, in itself bloody.”[Voting About God, p. 58]

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          Your words trouble me. I struggle with my own views with respect to the zero-sum game that Evangelical Christians and others sometimes describe when speaking about their goals vis-à-vis their missionary efforts. Indeed, that’s one of the things I would like to speak with them about as I find my understanding of their motivations and of their goals to be lacking.

          Thank you for the reference to MacMullen. I’ve looked at his publications and a number of them interest me.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            I think that your comment clarifies where we differ, Dashifen. I have come to the conclusion (and I am hardly the first), that as far as the Christian religion goes, intolerance is a feature, not a bug. So in the first place I think that my view of the Christian religion is more negative than yours. I am sure that we both share an abhorrence for intolerance, but you are not convinced that Christianity, as Christianity, is inherently intolerant, whereas I am.

            And there is another difference as well, I think. I personally know a large number of individual Christians (including very conservative ones), and I know that as individuals they are just like anyone else, and that it would be completely wrong to judge them solely, or even primarily, on the basis of their religion. But I make a very sharp distinction between individual “rank and file” Christians, on the one hand, and professional missionaries, on the other hand. I do not extend to them the same benefit of the doubt, because they have consciously chosen to commit themselves to the Great Commission, which is very much a “zero sum game”.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Thank you. I do think we differ as you describe. I fear that you may be correct, to be honest, with respect to the intolerance of Christianity. But, I hope that it is otherwise. I also hope that through my efforts to speak with them, and other faith and philosophical communities, our concerns would no longer be necessary.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I think that is the difference between Christians and Christianity, a lot of the time.

            It is, after all, quite possible to judge the religion without judging the adherents.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            “It is, after all, quite possible to judge the religion without judging the adherents.”

            In fact I think this is absolutely necessary. Individuals must be treated as individuals. But groups should be treated as groups.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            We agree quite a bit.

          • Genexs

            You may be interested that MacMullen lists 25k dead in the two centuries following Nicea, as far as Christian on Christian violence is concerned. But as the wise sages of Monty Python said, “Why should we go on about who killed who? These are happy times!” In other words, with understanding comes guilt. But as many of us have left our Christain guilt behind, I don’t understand why we should want it back?

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            What do you mean by wanting Christian guilt back? I’m not really advocating that anyone feel guilty for any reason whatsoever.

          • Genexs

            Lets see…Whenever one feels they need to be in a position where they have to to explain themselves, they are in a position of weakness. Recently, we were subjected to the sad concept of “Pagan Fundamentalism”. Now, Pagan Evangelicals! I mean this in the best way, but is that really what you mean? What next, “Faith Based Paganism”? “Born Again Paganism”? “Wiccan Crusaders?” Heh, granted, that ‘born again’ stuff actually originated in the Pagan tradition–so that’s our fault, I guess. I think what bothers me the most is that the victors want outreach, to us of all people! Exactly what about Christianity do I need to understand? I thought I had a pretty good understanding of it. Like many here, I had it beaten into me. However, there were some forms of early Christianity that advocated an accommodation with Paganism, a sort of ‘can’t we all get along’ attitude. But the early Church Fathers did a pretty good job consigning those early writings to the flames. So, are some Christians wanting to revive that form of their religion? If so, I think that would be great.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I thought ‘faith based Paganism’ was already about. Hel, that’s probably the best way I could describe Paganism – as a collection of (pretty unrelated) faiths.

          • Genexs

            I like the word ‘religions’ more than ‘faiths’, when we describe WIITWD. When you express too much faith in something, you just might find yourself accused of suffering from ‘cognitive dissonance’! Heh! But what I was really driving at were the faith-based social services, which are now mostly over the top vehicles for proselytizing.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Faith is belief without empirical evidence, really (at least in the theological context, anyway).

            Hard to profess belief in Pagan gods without having faith. (Even if the belief is in psychological archetypes.)

          • Genexs

            It may be hard for you but not for me. I do not believe my religion is faith based. It is my understanding that it is the Abrahamic religions that are more faith-based. My religion is based on philosophy and is cool with findings of science. (In my opinion, religions that are too faith based require hard belief in such things as the earth being 6 thousand years old, and fossils being a sign of the Devil.) However, because of this, I welcome your different opinion. I don’t have to make a special safe space, safe from Absolutist intolerance, where we can discuss this. In other words, I don’t think you are going to Hell, just because you believe differently. Every time I read or am exposed to a different Pagan path, I find myself enriched, not challenged.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “I do not believe my religion is faith based.”
            At the risk of getting overly personal, what *do* you believe.

          • Genexs

            The Wiccan Rede, that practice is more important than faith or belief, one should keep the Sabbats, it’s a good idea to adopt some form of deviation, one should respect and honor one’s ancestors, and it’s a good idea to recycle and be kind to animals. To be more specific, I’m drawn to the Deities of the Greco Roman world (that seems good to me, my heritage from there has been confirmed by genetic study of my Y chromosome, yet I’m excited at to what X is surly going to show). I consider myself a follower of Isis, although I have not had any official initiation, I also am a follower of Hecate (for which I have received initiation in a Coven in upstate NY). But as far as the Gods and Goddesses go, I feel it’s more like finding what the best eye glasses are for you. There is no ultimate truth, what’s best for you is what what brings your life into the best focus. Your set of glasses may not work for me, but that is ok. For that matter, whether any deities exist or not does not make much difference to me. Sheesh, I sure as hell worship these deities, but I’m not so stupid to believe in them. Heh! Now, where’s my magic 8 ball?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Funny, I have things the other way round.

            I find that practice is nothing without belief and I believe without worship.

            I believe in the gods in much the same way that I believe in plants and animals. They exist. I may not always be aware of them, but there are there.

            I identify as Pagan only because I believe in the existence of Pagan gods.

          • Genexs

            “Funny, I have things the other way around”.

            Great! That’s perfect, then.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            For my part,I have a very limited understanding of Christianity mostly from a historical, scholarly point of view and through my marriage to a Catholic. I have little experience working with or speaking with Evangelicals. Further, the religion of my childhood was Judaism so I have no personal experience as a Christian to relate to.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      And the truth is that it is not really even in code, at least not if you bother to read past the headlines. Charles Randall Paul, the founder of the FRD has always been very up front about his rejection of the whole paradigm of “dialogue”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

        I have known Randy Paul for several years, I have read most of his writings on religious diplomacy, including his doctoral dissertation, and this is inaccurate. He does not reject dialogue. He takes issue with certain forms of it and opts for religious diplomacy as better than interfaith work (as my essay in Patheos indicated by way of contrast). But to say he rejects a paradigm of dialogue is not correct. I don’t mind disagreeing, but I must ask you to stop playing loose with the facts, sir.

  • Genexs

    “I’m not going to convert to a form of Evangelical Christianity anytime in my foreseeable future”

    How about in our forseeable future?

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      I can’t speak to that your future. However, I can, and do, hope that regardless of one’s personal religious choices, that the outcomes thereof make them happy, healthy individuals.

      • Genexs

        If only my magic 8 ball would say things like that!

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          My 8 ball died. A cat knocked it off the counter and all the fluid leaked out. Now I have no idea what I’m going to do next!

          • Genexs

            Never mess with Bast. That character Halloran messed with the Gods, look what happened.

  • Kenneth

    What’s the long game for a project like this? It’s an interesting exercise to sit down with someone and go over the “here’s what I believe and why”, but then what? What’s the five-year plan for a group of people after they achieve informed disagreement? With the regular kind of interfaith, timid in scope though it may be, that common ground has staying power. There will always be projects in one’s community that the interfaith group can address.

    Not to imply that we couldn’t learn a thing or ten from “honest contestation”, but I don’t think pagans are completely ignorant of evangelical theology. Essentially all of today’s pagans grew up either evangelical or Catholic, with a smattering of Jews and some second generation folks.

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      But how many of us have the chance to sit down with Sikh, Hindu, or Buddhist community members? Have you had a heartfelt conversation about the nuances between Shia and Sunni Islam with Muslims? I have not. The FRD may give us the chance to do so.

      That said, there’s nothing that says a chapter can’t form and then later dissolve. If we find that our efforts are not being met with respect, civility, and tact we can always walk away from this table and seek out other organizations and venues. But if, as I hope, we find that we have the opportunity to sit with members of other faith and philosophical communities and speak with them about what we hold to be true and how that interacts and conflicts with their truths, it may be that five years is not enough time.

      • Crystal Blanton

        I think what is troubling with the assumptions here is that these dialogs are not already happening. CoG has an interfaith blog. There are people flying all around the country having these dialogs for us. (here and internationally). I am often conflicted with the need to recreate the wheel instead of working within what is already happening.

        http://covenantinterfaith.blogspot.com/

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          I’m perfectly aware that these conversations are already happening and I fully expect them to continue to do so. It may be that I will be able to become a part of them one day, but at the moment, I’m hoping to help facilitate more of them.

          I, for one, do not have the network or capability to break into the world of plural conversations beyond the limited scope that I have done so regionally in the USA. Because I lack a membership in organizations like CoG, ADF, Circle Sanctuary, etc and because I’m not interested in falsifying myself to such an organization simply in order to be involved in their interfaith efforts, I’m sort of left to reinvent the wheel.

          Plus, this wheel is different. As Peter and others have indicated religious diplomacy isn’t the same as interfaith. I’ve worked with organizations seeking common ground and common action like the Interfaith Youth Corps, for example. And while I’ve had wonderful and meaningful experience with that organization and others in the interfaith arena, I find that I don’t learn very much about a person’s religion as much as I learn that people of their religion have similar goals with respect to activism and service as I do.

          The methodologies of the FRD focus on the points of contention. While it wasn’t an official FRD event, I would point you to the conversation that Jason, John Morehead, and others had a few weeks ago. In it, Jason and Mike, the other Pagan in on the chat, were able to share their reasons for opposing evanglicalism and in support of a plural, secular society while John was able to share his support for what he called, and preferred, a multi-faith space (if I remember his term correctly).

          In my experience, interfaith events aren’t always constructed to offer that sort of opportunity. Sometimes it arises alongside the otherwise scheduled seminars and workshops. The FRD, I feel, may give us the opportunity to sit down, not just with Evangelicals, but with members of a variety of other faith communities for the purposes of education and understanding about them with respect to their faiths and what we find odd, different, strange, uncomfortable, and beautiful about them.

          • Franklin Evans

            David, first and foremost I want to express my admiration for your efforts.

            The general case is one with which I have both familiarity and some frustration. We’ve spent the last 15 years or so, with two different organizations, trying to provide a loose structure within which local Pagans and Heathens can identify and have internal conversations. The first attempt self-destructed (rather spectacularly, given the few anecdotes people were willing to share) and the second one died a slow and quiet death after the first burst of energy from those of us who stepped up to do the work. We found few to none willing to step up as the next “generation”.

            Organizations like CoG, ADF and Circle Sanctuary continue doing the difficult work. I honor and envy their continuity. If interfaith dialogue is to become part of our culture — and I believe it must if we are to thrive — some permanent solution must be found that establishes an over-arching structure from which we can confidently send emissaries to whom we can delegate the authority to speak for all of us. Until that happens, I believe we will continue to be marginalized in general and find ourselves wasting (sorry, not willing to moderate my cynicism) the efforts of those already making that commitment of time and energy.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Thank you for your words. I agree with them — especially that we as a religious community have a lot of intrafaith efforts, i.e. within our faith community. Perhaps even more than we do outside it! Are you advocating that we need to reduce our involvement with other faith and philosophical communities until such a time as we feel that work has begun to bear fruit?

          • Franklin Evans

            I can answer quickly only because I’ve agonized over this for many years, starting before I became a public Pagan and tried to “fight the good fight.”
            The dynamic difference is that we, the hitherto negatively defined “not Christian, Moslem or Jew” believers have not had the true challenge of adversity. The Jews have their Pesach, Hanukah, Purim and similar stories. The Moslems did a bang up job of creating their own adversities. Early Christians were subjected to the same violence and violent propaganda we still cite from their rise to and arrival at hegemony in Western Civilization. I (at least) find it ironic that modern earth-based religions in the West enjoy their existence on the aftermath of some of the most egregrious religion-based violence in human history. Shoah was but the latest and worst of it, and we do ourselves and the countless victims a disservice if our vision focuses there and stops.
            We are just numerous enough to provide fodder for those who continue to use us as scapegoats. We are becoming numerous enough to acquire political leverage, that first step towards having real political power. What we don’t have is an internally defined and agreed-upon identity as a group, at the same level as the Big Three. We have the same internal behaviors — internecine fighting, tension amongst sects, inability to find consensus (sometimes) on core principles — as they do, but without a structure and mechanism to even band together against clear attacks aimed at all of us.
            I am an advocate for spiritual sanity… which I hope others here can accept as a constructive usage, if only because it took me about 20 years to find that sanity on my personal path. We are no longer a loose conglomeration of seekers. Our generational progress has seen several elders of note and influence, in numbers well above our proportions in the general population. It is time to make the next effort and create a true community of the whole.
            That said, especially after disclosing my own failed attempts, I don’t have an answer for what to do next. Is it more of the same until something sticks? Is there a clever person out there who can find a viable alternative (that not being me, at least so far)? All I know is what you’ve been doing on a grander scale than my own efforts. Unless something else comes along, I believe we are all well served by supporting your efforts. Shrug.
            A very long post, sorry, but I have a final comment that I hope gets some notice: It looks like I am calling for us to establish an institutionalized religion. I must concede that as accurate. I do so knowing full well the dangers of such a development both to us and our neighbors. What I have for now is a provisional conclusion that it is worth the risks.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Again, I agree with you 100%. Thanks for stopping back to respond.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Would you describe talk between Wiccans and Heathens as intrafaith or interfaith?

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Intra. I see Heathens, Wiccans, Hellenes, Quadishuma, Khemetics, Witches, Eclectics, Druids, etc. as traditions within Paganism and will continue to advocate that others do so as well. That said, I don’t think the conversation regarding this is within the scope of these comments.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            We obviously have some fundamentally different stances.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            “We obviously have some fundamentally different stances.”

            These differences are precisely the kinds of things that Pagans and Heathens need to find more constructive ways to discuss among ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether we call it “interfaith” or “intrafaith”, IMHO, but what is important is that we find ways to treat each other as allies, and also that we come to better understand each other.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I agree with most of what you say. I do find the distinction between intrafaith and interfaith very important, however.

            The Pagan umbrella contains many different faiths and, until this very basic fact is reflected in the attitudes of those seeking to represent ‘Paganism’ as a whole, I am unsure how there can be any progress with wider interfaith.

          • Franklin Evans

            It works both ways, and I hold both sides accountable: those who need convincing that “Pagan” covers more ground than they conceive or wish; those who at some abstract level validly come under the label who need convincing that the common ground defined by the label is a valuable place to meet, to converse and to find common interests and actions.

            I get very frustrated sometimes, and indeed I am thrilled to be a one of two non-Heathens organizing our Pagan Pride Day this year, because in past years when Heathens stepped up to volunteer they were not given as much attention as I thought they deserved… that being as much as anyone else. If there were a reasonable (both in usage and in meaning) term that covers everyone, I’d switch to it in a heartbeat. The best I can do is freely exchange between Pagan and Heathen in speech and writing, just as I do in using the gendered pronouns. It’s not much, but it is something.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “emissaries to whom we can delegate the authority to speak for all of us”
            I think you’ve disclosed a major sticking point.

          • Franklin Evans

            I’ve lived the reality of it, albeit locally. “Major” is putting it mildly, from where I sit. :(

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Kenneth, a community may find itself ripped down the middle by some unforeseen event like the opening of an abortion clinic or a request to City Council for a gay partnership registry (real examples from one Ohio suburb). Such an event is likely to divide people of faith. It enormously helps the conversation if people on both sides have already met under calmer circumstances. They see one another as human. They can say, “I don’t agree with that party but I know and respect where they are coming from.”

      • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

        There was a lot of evidence in American Grace by Putnam and Campbell that showed an increase in understanding between communities, faith-based or otherwise, when members of them were humanized; i.e. when they actually met people in different communities, they found their negative assumptions about the others were reduced. The same is true for one’s views on homosexuality.

        Contact with people who hold competing or conflicting ideas doesn’t always result in agreement, but I don’t think that’s the highest good that can come from dialog anyway.

  • Mike

    Goodness! Lots of negativity! The thing is that this kind of negativity is something we’ve experienced in terms of dialogue with Evangelical Christians… past and present. What is different about FRD is that there is a willingness for open dialogue, acceptance of and sadness about the unpleasant experience many Pagans have had in connection with evnagelicals and a genuine desire to try to do something about that. Some of the coments here identify senior representatives of FRD as missionaries…. I wonder if it had occurred to the naysayers that missionariesz could always direct their mission at their own community… to try to re-educate their own community? I see a whole lot of re-educating needed for Evangelicals AND for Pagans if we are to break down these walls of hostility. Perhaps some of the naysayers don’t feel able to test the waters on that at the moment…. perhaps their experiences have left them with unhealed wounds. That’s fine and perfectly understandable. But by improving dialogue between Pagans and Evangelicals, it is possible that future Pagans may be less likely to have to experience that wounding…. that Evangelicals might have learned a different method of approach and attitude. If there are Pagans and Evangelicals willing to explore that possible future, perhaps those who are still hurting could watch (albeit apprehensively) from the wings.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

      Thank you for these thoughts, Mike. I think this represents a request for a fair hearing and experimentation with a process on behalf of the Pagan community.

    • Michael Merely

      I grew up in the pentecostal church. I am sorry but the the tiger does not change its stripes and these outreaches are doomed to failure. No matter how those outside evangelical circles approach the thoughts and plans in the back of their minds is always how will they bring you back to god and to turn away from your satanic rebellion from the truth.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

      I don’t think you really understand. I’m a country girl, so I’ll give you a country analogy. As a kid I grabbed the electric fence enclosing the pasture next to where I played. It only hurt for a second and left no lasting wound but I did learn eventually to look out for and stay away from the damned fence. I grew up in an Evangelical household. Eventually I learned to stay away from Evangelicals. It’s not about having “unhealed wounds”, it’s about gaining sense and a head for self-preservation.

  • Malaz

    On topic: Basically, what we have here is a Pagan who has gotten involved with Evangelical Christians and is asking the rest of us to do the same…because we’ve all had such excellent experiences with that before. David, (can I call you David?) as several ppl have mentioned (in not so many words), this sounds as though it has a level of sanity akin to Jews working with Nazis…in the hope that they’ll eventually see the error in their world view. Sorry…I can’t find a single reason to support this effort.

    OT (or is it?) Witches are being beaten and tortured in Nepal:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22056198

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      I have never had an experience with Evangelical Christians akin to the genocide experience by the Jews. As a Jew myself, I find your comparison hyperbolic and unnecessary. I’m sorry that you won’t be able to assist with the effort.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    It is an interesting concept.

    I have to ask, though, will there be further chapters for Wiccans, Heathens and any others who feel that a single ‘Pagan’ chapter is not adequately representative of themselves?

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      That would be up to them. My goal is to create a plural chapter including members of those communities to share their views as it’s inevitable that we would be asked questions regarding their views. That said, if others wish to engage the FRD or any other interfaith efforts separately from my efforts, I would welcome their voice to the chorus.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I only asked because you stated:

        “We’ll also be seeking members of specific Pagan and non-Pagan traditions
        that can work together to share with others what makes us unique so
        that the other members of the FRD might not mistake Wiccan for Pagan and
        Pagan for Heathen. In fact, I’d like to see the chapter organize some
        conversations between members from different traditions so that we can
        come to understand each other more fully.”

        I feel that the only way the various (divergent) ‘Pagan’ paths can gain the level of understanding needed is for them to be viewed distinct from one another.

        Keeping them together would make far less sense as having a single chapter for all of the Abrahamic religions. At least the Abrahamics share scrioture and a certain level of theology…

        • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

          I disagree. I feel that the community is best served standing together, hence my views stated above but I think that is a conversation that is best had at another time. I’d be happy to have it, though.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t see one community. I see lots of different communities that a few people are trying to keep tied together.

            Really, Ásatrú, Hellenismos, Kemtism and Wicca (as examples) have less in common with each other than Christianity, Islam and Judaism do.

            It makes little to no sense to have a single representative organisation for all of Pagandom when the various Abrahamic denominations get distinct ones.

            You can have solidarity without unity.

  • Charles Cosimano

    As a total outsider, one who identifies as neither Pagan nor Christian, but has had lots of dealings with both, I would question what is the point of the dialogue, not that the dialogue should occur. During the height of the Cold War, when the extermination of capitalism was a tenet of the Soviet Union, the US and the Soviets still sat at the same table, even though both sides would cheerfully have blown each to atoms given the right reason. But that was a dialogue between equals who had a serious reason for talking, namely not blowing each other to atoms. Pagans do not have much to offer yet they expect much. Nor do Pagans have the power to seriously threaten the Evangelicals.

    The other aspect is that neither speak with a single voice. The Pagans may get a sort of non-evangelization agreement from the folks they meet with only for other Evangelicals to proclaim that the people who made the agreement are possessed by demons. I can see where it would be pretty easy to get them to agree that it is probably not a good thing to support people in other parts of the world who kill children as witches, but their actual power to stop that support is pretty limited. But that is something you can get an agreement on in principal, which is a beginning.

    The important thing to remember is that the Pagans are going to be like mice trying to get an elephant not to step on them. Remember, you are dealing with something that is still extremely powerful, extremely wealthy, and right now feels seriously endangered.

    • Robert Mathiesen

      Actually, I think Pagans do have some power seriously to threaten the Evangelical world view, most notably, through careful, thoroughly up-to-date *high-level* research into the foundations and fundamentals of Protestant Christian theology, and then by deploying the results of that research into a two-pronged anti-Christian polemic, one prong aimed at the scholarly world, the other at the layperson in the pews. And this polemic should not be nice and polite; rather, it should pull no punches.

      Every new decade of scholarly research into the text and canon of the Christian Bible makes it ever clearer just how much has to be “swept under the rug” in order to claim that there is a single oldest text of the Bible for which one might hope to claim doctrinal inerrancy. If one considers all of Ancient and Medieval Christendom, from Iceland to Ethiopia, from North Africa to Muscovy and even China, there is no single uniform answer to even so simple a question as “Which books belong in the Bible (or the New Testament) and which do not?” Nor is the text of any single book in any variant form of the Christian Bible, except perhaps the very shortest of them, free of at least a few theologically significant variants with relatively early attestation.

      And finally, a rather strong case, though not a conclusive one, can be made that Jesus himself offered to his most trusted disciples, and them only, esoteric teaching to be passed down only to the select few. If this is in fact true, then what can be shown beyond any doubt is that this esoteric teaching was not effectively passed down across twenty centuries, and that it has long been wholly lost, lost beyond any hope whatever of recovery.

      And one can go on from this, arguing that the subsequent course of history showed Jesus himself to be wrong about certain key things that he taught, and so forth.

      Of course, to do this requires Pagans who are adept in the highest levels of credentialed academic scholarship about religions that are not their own, and who wish to bring “not peace, but a sword” to the theological round table. There are hardly any Pagans of this sort, but they could arise within a generation; and it would only take one or two of them to build the arguments, and a handful of good writers to popularize them. Certainly there are a number of Christians who show this level of scholarship about Paganism.

      But all this means a lifetime of crushingly hard intellectual work, and a very solid mastery of close to a dozen dead languages. Any Pagan who undertakes the task will not have time for very many festivals in his or her life . . .

      Is the task worth doing? Definitely yes.

      Are there going to be many Pagans willing to dedicate their lives to high-level academic scholarship of a religion that is not theirs? No, definitely not many.

      Could there be a few? Yes, of course.

      *Will* there be a few? We may hope . . .

      But if this hope is to be realized, a few of us must act when we are young to bring this project to fruition when we are old.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I had considered studying theology at university. This kind of thing does interest me. Unfortunately, there are other, greater interests in my life. (such as literal swords.)

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        I like the idea of developing an intellectually rigorous critique of Christianity from a Pagan point of view. However, I am personally not that drawn to a focus on whatever the original teachings of Jesus may or may not have been, except when it comes to one very specific issue: whatever else he may have been up to Jesus never broke from working within traditional Judaism. That is to say, he himself and all of his followers were observant Jews. Even the proselytizing impulse of Jesus’ followers after his death was completely compatible with Jewish practices at the time, seeing as how the Pharisees and other sects were heavily involved in proselytizing, and the fact that even the word “proselyte” was originally a Greek word for a Hellene who converted to Judaism.

        But I am far more interested in the broader issue of the inherently intolerant nature of monotheistic theology, as well as the (closely related, in my opinion) issue of the fundamental incoherence of monotheistic theology in general and Christian theology in particular, with special attention to the doctrines of 1. trinitarianism, 2. creatio ex nihilo, 3. original sin, and 4. the Incarnation.

        But the fact is that when it comes to developing an intellectually rigorous critique of Christianity, there is just so much material to work with that the greatest difficulty, quite possibly, is deciding where to start!

      • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

        For what it’s worth, I will be attending seminary in the future. I haven’t decided which one, but eventually I hope to be better prepared to discuss these topics following rigorous, formal training in them. My partner’s medical residency is our first priority at the moment, though, but once she’s completed that, some of the constraints on my time may be lifted. That said, I’m not sure I’m fully comfortable with the aggressive tactics you describe, but to each their own :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1815206322 Line Merrette
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542692508 Peter Dybing

    We engage with lots of great Christians in interfaith context. This is NOT a Christian/Pagan issue. It is about engaging a sub set of Christians. These people are a threat to our community. I almost always prefer to support the positive rather than oppose that with which I disagree, This is an exception. Please expect me to engage in activism opposing so called “religious diplomacy”.

  • Guest

    As I see it, In the short term diplomacy with evangelicals may result in better one-on-one relationships between the participants. In the medium term it may facilitate more civility between groups, but in the the long term when It becomes obvious that the conversation has gone as far as it will go and we won’t convert, what happens then? We are being asked to put our reservations aside and trust the evangelicals in order to achieve some very worthy goals, but how long will it last? Is it worth trusting those who have treated us badly before. What the evangelicals are asking of us is the equivalent of going back to the boyfriend who beats us, because he said sorry, gave us flowers and promised never to do it again. Sometimes trust is lost and no amount of reassurance will bring it back. Too-little-too-late. These boots are walking.

  • Northern_Light_27

    This sounds interesting, but I have a question (which ties into my still unanswered objections to Mr. Morehead’s essay on Paganism): How do you handle the issue of privilege within the group? I feel that Mr. Morehead consistently seems to treat his Evangelical Christianity and Paganism as equals, when in reality right now we’re not even remotely that. I couldn’t engage in diplomacy or dialogue with Evangelicals *without* what’s going on societally and politically, at the behest of Evangelicals, being explicitly on the table as a subject of discussion; otherwise I think it’s disingenuous, pretending at an equality that doesn’t exist and the absence of which affects some Pagans more than others (i.e. Pagans who aren’t white, aren’t male, aren’t straight, aren’t cis, aren’t middle+-class, and aren’t able-bodied– something I don’t think I’ve seen addressed at all in any of the discussion here).

    I think dialogue with Christians in general, and Evangelicals especially, is fine– if and only if the elephant in the living room that Christian privilege happens to be is addressed openly and frankly. Unfortunately, your partner in this process seems to talk all around this issue and not want to tackle it head-on, and yes, this leaves me more than a little dubious at the whole organization. And yes, I do think their unwillingness to put aside their evangelism for the sake of the interfaith dialogue is a sign of disrespect. I don’t know if I’d feel as strongly in that direction if Evangelical Christianity was in the same societal position as Paganism, but as it isn’t, I find it a disturbing sign that they only want to engage in this diplomacy from a height, from a position of privilege and a “one-up” posture. It’s not like the Great Commission is a thing that isn’t still radically affecting people’s lives around the world, for the worse. An Evangelical I’d want for a partner in this dialogue is one who acknowledges these facts, and who sees the cultural genocide going on and their tradition’s role in it, sees the continuing and quite radical attempt to disempower women, strip people of color of voting rights, and is willing to set at the very least their desire to convert as a sign of goodwill in the face of these realities and the corresponding worry they strike in the people with whom they dialogue. Mr. Morehead is getting downvotes here, and will likely continue to get downvotes here, because he doesn’t seem willing to do any of those things. So I applaud your good intentions here and your desire to get other Pagans to participate, and under other circumstances I might join in, but not with this group.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      “I do think their unwillingness to put aside their evangelism for the sake of the interfaith dialogue is a sign of disrespect.”
      Whilst I do agree, do you not think that asking them to give up one of their central tenets and religious obligations is also disrespectful?

      I see this as an impasse, and can’t think of a reasonable way around it.

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      Thank you for sharing your concerns. With respect to privilege, I don’t think there is a way to deal with other than head on. And, frankly, I also don’t think there’s a way to deal with it without engaging those with privilege so, hopefully, we’ll be able to have some good conversations about it.