A crime was committed against my family. I do not know what was stolen, by who, or when those things are lost to time…
My descent is Western European. There is no one, that we can tell, of any other geographical area. That means we were not always Christian. It is impossible since we didn’t spring from the ground in the 7th century AD. That means, like all others with the same roots, we had a different culture and set of oral traditions as well as a different faith. Those were stolen and we can not prove what was taken.
Anyway…that the theft occurred is a given. That one of my ancestors did it to another can also be taken as fact. What is also true, for me, is that my Christianity is my faith. Being Christian does not change that I do wonder and when I do that I can not decide which is worse, the theft or not knowing what was stolen. You see, the cultures that are gone left no written record. We have no genealogies going to those times. History was written by the victors, not the oppressed. Religion was used as a political tool to enforce temporal power.
I don’t know why my friends that are Pagan became that. What motivation other than a vague, “Christianity didn’t fit”. Perhaps someday one or a few will tell me if I ask. I wonder, sometimes if it is a longing for what was lost or anger at what was done.
So, how do we right a wrong when we do not know the crime or the victims or the perpetrators?
We, Christians, have to try to set aside out fears. I know it is not easy. It wasn’t/isn’t for me so, I acknowledge them and see the person and not the practices that cause discomfort.
We should accept that there was a loss and realize that, though we don’t own the guilt, Christianity does. We need to get off our high horse with the innate moral superiority we think we have because we believe we have the ONLY path that is true and right. Paganism is our parent. They had faith before us and no matter what we want to believe, just because we have a book and all they have is an oral tradition, we are not somehow innately superior, we’re just newer. The pre-literate cultures did architecture, astronomical observation, and metal work that still amaze us. Just because they left no writings and were over-written by us doesn’t remove their validity.
We can make a place that is safe for them to come to us. We, if we know someone that is a Pagan and odds are we know at least one, don’t mock their faith. We give the respect we so stridently demand. Even if we can not see past our sense of Salvation, we do not condemn out of hand. We ask questions seeking to understand. We don’t call it “hocus pocus”, foolish, “just a phase”, “you’re serious?!?”, or anything else unless we feel the same about Christianity and are willing to accept the same in return.
We can examine our own hearts and faith. We find our own strength and depth of faith to realize that our fears are unfounded. That the threats to our beliefs come from our own doubts. We look inward to find ourselves and do not identify a threat that does not exist. Pagans are not trying to “convert” us even while we are trying to change them so, we set aside that double standard.
If we are lucky enough to be trusted when someone does come to us with their faith, we respect that. We realize how many reasons we have given them to fear us and we count ourselves lucky that we have shown that we are worth the part of themselves that they are offering.
There’s a part of this, too, that Pagans get to do. You get to educate us. You get to teach us not to fear. You let us know you first as individuals and then if, and ONLY if, it is physically safe, let us know that you are Pagan. There will be risks to that. You risk us not understanding and mocking you or us being driven away. You will be sometimes wrong about one of us and it will be an intolerant Christian that refuses to see past our misconceptions. I am sorry, we are a fearful and xenophobic sort of people no matter what we say, we want everyone to be like us. Seriously, Aj risked pushing me away, read the middle bit of this post to see how it worked out, Which One is Pagan. Those set backs WILL happen. You will be mistaken about one of us. You will think that one of us might be open-minded because of a view on one topic like LBGT rights or women’s rights and equate that with being open to Paganism…and you’ll be wrong. We Christians can be randomly dogmatic, sorry. I know it isn’t going to be easy. There are thousands of years of codified oppression, prejudice, and violence to overcome. You have your own baggage caused by our actions. I’m asking for you to forgive us for something that is unconscionable and I can’t blame you if you don’t but, until we both set aside our fears, y’all are outnumbered and disorganized. Our fears will win if we are allowed to keep them.
Let’s be realistic, this is going to be a series of tiny victories. Things will change one person at a time. This is not something like Marriage Equality where the SCOTUS can codify it and states can rule that discrimination is illegal. It is going to be one person educating one other person and hoping the lesson takes. Christian Churches will always be against you, they HAVE to be, by their standards, you are the embodiment of sin. They will draw no distinction and understand no difference between Paganism and Devil Worship. That battle is lost. What wins you will have will come from finding people, individuals, like me that were willing to see a person and make a change to themselves and views because of that person. Two thousand years of dogma and teaching and fear will not be undone overnight…Saying “be patient” would be useless and unfair but, it is the truth, you don’t have any other choice. You can not force fears to change. You can show that your concepts are not against ours but, different. You can try to educate us about the faces of your gods and goddesses and teach that they are not the Devil. You can gently tell us how the Christian concepts of sin and hell do not apply but, personal responsibility and morality do. You can show us that we have nothing to fear by educating us and letting us know that you’re our neighbors and friends. Yeah, tiny victories…
…and there will be setbacks. Some idiot will do some stupid violent act. It will make the news and the story will read “Pagan Commits (fill in the blank) Crime” and you will be blamed. Someone will get fed up with arrogant Christians and spout off. That will make the news, too with Christians saying, “see, I TOLD you there was a War on Christianity”. It isn’t fair or right but, there will b confirmation to Christians, some of us, every time something like that happens…and you will have to start trying to teach us again…
A crime was committed. The loss was immeasurable. Now, we have to try and undo it…