Update: Christian-Pagan Dialogue and Pessimism

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My recent post on skepticism and pessimism regarding Pagan-Christian dialogue has spurred some thoughtful responses from Pagan and Christian bloggers. First, Erynn Rowan Laurie (author of “Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom”) says that a certain amount of skepticism is only natural in exchanges between Christians and Pagans.

“…an underlying theme of much specifically Christian-Pagan dialogue is a general Christian desire to spread the faith. I know a lot of Christians and they’re good folks and they don’t give me any trouble about being Pagan nor do they try to convert me. But the fact remains that motives in Christian interfaith dialogue often tend to boil down to learning about other faiths so that arguments can be prepared for use in attempts at conversion … Given this attitude, I think it’s only natural and right that Pagans should approach such dialogue with a certain amount of skepticism and even cynicism. I am by no means saying that we should not have these discussions. I do think they’re vitally necessary in reducing inter-religious tensions and fostering understandings between communities. Yet I believe we need to go into these discussions with our eyes open, understanding that there are some very likely ulterior motives in many who would engage with us.”

Meanwhile John Morehead, editor of the book “Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue”, weighs in with his own thoughts on the issue and disagrees with the notion that Christians don’t “get” modern Paganism.

“I respectfully disagree with the sentiments expressed by Chas Clifton in his comments on Strange Onion Peeling. There are Christians who are making a good effort at understanding Paganism, including the aspects he specifically mentions. Therefore, we do “get it,” even though we have a long way to go in our understanding. And we are not attempting to understand just enough of Paganism to combine it with a nicer approach in order to convert people. Yes, we feel an obligation to be obedient to Jesus’ command to “make disciples,” and in so doing share the pathway of Jesus when it is appropriate and desired, but we do not view people as mere objects for evangelism. There is a far broader agenda at work here. To assume otherwise perpetuates the stereotypes we desperately need to move beyond.”

Morehead has suggested holding a “public Pagan-Christian dialogue at an educational institution in the near future” in order to discuss some of these issues and ideally move beyond some of the inherent skepticism found in these dialogues. I think such a move could be a good step forward, depending on the participants involved. For more conversation on this issue, check out the comments section of my original post, and the comments on the Strange Onion Peelings blog.