Archives For Drew Dyck

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Just  a few quick news notes for you on this Saturday morning.

Canadian Polygamy/Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). That trial will hear opening arguments on Monday, and the Vancouver Sun gives a run-down of case’s history, the players on each side, and what the arguments will be.

George Macintosh — the amicus appointed to argue in favour of polygamy — will come out with guns blazing: The anti-polygamy law, which was enacted in 1890 and revised in 1954, was “aimed at defending a Christian view of proper family life and was employed in the state’s cultural colonization of aboriginal peoples.” His opening statement, filed in advance, says Section 293 “is based on an assumption that polygamy is a practice uniformly associated with harm; essentially, that it is ‘barbarous’. The law is based entirely on presumed, stereotypical characteristics, is not responsive to the actual characteristics of the particular polygamous relationships, and has the effect of demeaning the dignity of practitioners of polygamy.”

While the case will give a large part if its focus to polygamy, Canadian polyamorists also have a stake in this ruling, and many polyamorous families have filed affidavits in support of changing the Criminal Code.

She says the polygamy law “places us in a moral dilemma as parents who have raised children to be law-abiding citizens.” It has meant their children have had difficult conversations with their friends and friends’ parents about their family triad. Their children “love and respect us as parents and know that our relationship is supportive and loving, but we have trouble explaining why our breaking that law is fine but such things as underage drinking and recreational drug use have never been tolerated in or around our home.” Duff is a pagan and her Wiccan priest has declined to perform “polyamorous handfastings.” (A handfasting is a ceremony in which participants are symbolically joined by having their hands bound together with a ribbon.)

Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. Pagan clergy in Canada who have the right to legally marry couples, while generally supportive of polyamory, will not perform polyamorous handfastings lest they risk breaking the law. We’ll keep you posted as this case progresses.

Christians Leaving the Fold: Christianity Today features an article by editor Drew Dyck, author of “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith. . .and How to Bring Them Back”. In it, Dyck explores the growing number of “nones”, those who claim no religious affiliation, and whether these “leavers” are gone for good. He also mentions that many are leaving Christianity for “alternative spiritualities.”

A sizable minority of leavers have adopted alternative spiritualities. A popular choice is Wicca. Morninghawk Apollo (who renamed himself as is common in Wiccan practice) discussed his rejection of Christianity with candor. “Ultimately why I left is that the Christian God demands that you submit to his will. In Wicca, it’s just the other way around. Your will is paramount. We believe in gods and goddesses, but the deities we choose to serve are based on our wills.” That Morninghawk had a Christian past was hardly unique among his friends. “It is rare to meet a new Wiccan who wasn’t raised in the church,” he told me.

In the CT article, as he did in a previous article I mentioned on this blog, Dyck, like many of his contemporaries, feels the problem lies with being “exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith.” While I don’t agree with the superficial/authentic line of reasoning for the problem/solution of Christian leavers, I do give Dyck credit for his willingness to engage with my criticisms in the comments of this blog. If Christianity in the West solves the “leavers” problem, the answer will no doubt lay more with the ideas of clear-headed thinkers like Dyck instead of the political anti-Pagan string-pullers like David Barton (or at least, one would hope that’s the case).

Pagan Hunters: In a final note, I’d like point out an editorial at PNC-Minnesota by Nels Linde that explores hunting from a Pagan perspective, and interviews three Pagan hunters in the process.

“For most Pagan hunters,  hunting is a deeply personal,  individual,  and often solitary experience.  Common to all the Pagan hunters I talked to was the idea of sharing this bounty of the woods with others.  Whether with family, friends,or community, the tribal nature of sharing the fruits of the hunt is deeply embedded in the human psyche.  All felt their experiences while hunting were not coincidences, or solely the result of their skill as hunters.  Some spiritual presence was felt.  They felt the animals in some way ‘gave’ themselves to them, in offering, and for their family’s sustenance. None practiced the often used technique of large hunter groups ‘driving’ deer from the woods at full run to standing shooters. Pagan hunters feel the chances of wounding a magnificent animal using this method was too risky and disrespectful.  They feel they are rewarded for honoring the sacred nature of the deer hunt with full freezers.”

It’s a fascinating look at how modern Paganism resacralizes activities in our lives, and how their experiences go far beyond simply hunting for sport or meat. The whole thing is well worth reading.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Paganism is growing. That isn’t my mere opinion, it is backed up with statistical data from places like the Pew Forum and ARIS. More often than not, when mainstream newspapers and news outlets write about us, they mention how we’re growing, or how we’re moving into the mainstream. The growth of modern Pagan faiths, and other religious minorities, has also seen a growth in “nones”, those who profess to not hold any religious identity. This circumstance has led to a series of books by younger Christians who are trying to understand, and reverse, this trend. The latest entry in this genre is “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith. . .and How to Bring Them Back” by Christianity Today editor Drew Dyck. In an interview with the Birmingham News, Dyck explains where all these young Christians are going.

“No two “leavers” are exactly the same, but some patterns did emerge. Postmodern leavers reject Christianity because of its exclusive truth claims and moral absolutes. For them, Christian faith is just too narrow. “Recoilers” leave because they were hurt in the church. They suffered some form of abuse at the hands of someone they saw as a spiritual authority. God was guilty by association. “Modernists” completely reject supernatural claims. God is a delusion. Any truth beyond science is dismissed as superstition. “Neo-pagans” refers to those who left for earth-based religions such as Wicca. Not all actually cast spells or participate in pagan rituals, but they deny a transcendent God, and see earth as the locus of true spirituality. “Spiritual Rebels” flee the faith to indulge in behavior that conflicted with their faith. They also value autonomy and don’t want anyone — especially a superintending deity — telling them what to do. “Drifters” do not suffer intellectual crises or consciously leave the faith; they simply drift away. Over time God becomes less and less important until one day he’s no longer part of their lives.”

Which is fine as far as these things go, many younger Christians are indeed turning to some forms of modern Pagan religion. What I usually have trouble with is their analysis of what Christians should do about it.

“Many young people have been exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculates them against authentic faith. To stem the tide of young people leaving, I believe churches need to get shift the emphasis away from an entertainment model and back to religious education and spiritual growth.”

It all comes down to teaching and role-modeling the elusive real fundamental Christianity to young people. Dyck’s book, and books like “UnChristian”, “Generation Hex”, “Wicca’s Charm”, and many, many, more, all call for a return to an elusive central core of faith that is pure enough to withstand the rigors of engaging the wider secular/non-Christian world. Christians love these books, because it not only addresses a problem that worries them, but tells them that the solution is to become more Christian as a way to solve the problem. But that solution is one built on faith, not on any real-world tested mode of engagement. Further, to classify “neopaganism” as merely a category of backslider instead of whole movement of individual faiths with theologies and beliefs of their own is setting up Christian parents and leaders for failure. First, it will not equip them to engage with those who have actually embraced a Pagan faith, and secondly, it will alienate those who have simply become interested in environmentalism, or simple ideas of immanence within a Christian context. Becoming more Christ-like (or fervent) won’t necessarily impress either category of “neopagan”.

If there’s a “secret” to stopping the move away from Christianity in the West, a trend that worries everyone from evangelicals to the Pope in Rome, it may be that Christians think you can change nothing about the faith, while putting a new spin on things to win people back. But younger people see that the faith they grew up in, and its moral failure to change on important issues, makes it an inviable option for existing in a tolerant and secular society. Modern Paganism, because it has had to engage on a decades-long project of reconstruction and re-envisioning since its emergence, has been able to absorb modern approaches to politics and society without having to deal with the “culture-war” issues in the same fashion. Further, polytheism can handle schisms, disagreements, and differences of opinion, in a far more fluid and healthy fashion than most of the top-down monotheisms can. So long as these authors address the “problem” of young people leaving the faith in this current fashion, modern Pagans will have little to worry about concerning its own growth.