Saturday, December 02, 2006

Happy Holidays? Pagan Evangelism


A JPBC member showed me this flyer that was sent home this week with students from a local elementary school in Albemarle County, Virginia.
Two observations:
First, note the zeal of pagans to "take back" Christmas.
Second, the fact that the school board allowed this notice to be sent home points out the difficulty of allowing religious expression in public schools (probably part of the reason this notice was sent) in a pluralistic society. If the school allows the Baptist or Methodist church to send home a note to its students about Vacation Bible School, it also has to allow the Unitarian Church to send home a note about its "Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule." Conservative Christians who want to "put prayer back in school" had better realize that it might not always be a Christian who is leading the prayers. This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).
JTR

56 comments:

Brian Hamrick said...

There is always something fishy about a "__________________ memorial church." Ok, nearly always.

Cathy said...

I see I am not the only one who blogged about this. Through research this weekend I found out that the school board voted to allow religious groups access to the Friday folders. From what I have heard from others, this NatureSpirit group is considered to be a ministry of TJ Memorial Church. It is that which has made them a religious organization.

Taith said...

Jerry Falwell and the Liberty Counsel fought to have a church's Vacation Bible School flyers included.

It is very simple, Freedom of Religion, means freedom of all religions.

If you don't want religions that you disagree with in public school, there should be none in school, because I have the right to disagree with your religion, just as you have the right to disagree with mine.

steward said...

Pastor Riddle,

You wrote in part that:

"This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools)."

In that spirit, Roman Catholicism has always encouraged that children be educated in Catholic schools; the Catholic High School which I attended was renowned enough both for religion and scholarship that one of the local Baptist ministers sent his children there. (Non-Catholics had the option not to take Religion classes, but given the average Protestant's knowledge of the Bible vs. the average Catholic's knowledge, all the Protestants attending my high school took it - it was an easy "A" for them. ;> )

But the expansion of religious schooling may be fraught with the same difficulties that you see with the NatureSpirit flyer. For example, some years back, the Christian evangelical community in California was strongly backing a "school voucher" program - only to abruptly pull its support when a Pagan group announced that it would be looking into founding a school.

What it really comes down to, sir, is this: we Americans are privileged to have a society allowing a diversity of religions. The responsibility that goes with that privilege is the realization that what applies to one religion generally applies to all religions. If Christians wish to do something in the public sphere (such as schools) which is believed to be a good thing for Christians, they must always keep in mind that what they do would also be allowed for Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists, and even NeoPagans. If the Christian community wishes to have a law passed allowing the Christian community to do something previously barred... the Christian community must also go through the thought process of whether or not it is desirable to unbar the way to Buddhists or Jews or Muslims or any other religion. before proceeding to spend time on political action.

I personally think that the new school policy is not a good policy, but it was not the NeoPagans that pushed for it. NeoPagans generally do not adhere to anything like the Christian "Great Commission". But if the Christian community believes that it can further its work in the Great Commission by having such a law, it must keep in mind that other religions are likely to start speaking up more than they normally do.

Orac said...

Irony of ironies.

You do realize, of course, that Jerry Falwell and the Liberty Counsel are responsible for pagans being able to insert these messages into school notices. Given that background, it's rather amusing to see conservative Christians now complain and use this as an excuse to recommend home schooling over public schools. Indeed, your complaint is rather odd when you already note that if one religion is allowed in all have to be allowed in.

But who pushed to allow one religion in? It wasn't the Unitarians. Rather, it was Christians who opened the door to this by siccing the Liberty Counsel on the school district when it first refused to allow a notice for a vacation bible school into the same distribution system. If they had just left well enough alone, then having pagans assault you with beliefs that you don't like wouldn't have been a problem. The home and church are the proper domains for religious education, not public schools.

Separation of church and state is good for all religions. If Christians don't want to see religious beliefs that you find offensive showing up in public schools, then they shouldn't push for accommodations for or teaching of Christian beliefs there. Imagine yourself as a Muslim or a Jew seeing that vacation bible study notice in your child's school notices. I bet you can, now that you've had a taste of what minority religions have to put up with vis a vis Christianity all the time. The NeoPagans may have done this intentionally to make a point, but it's a valid point that needed to be made.

As Ed Brayton put it: "Guess what, guys? Christians aren't the only ones who get to take advantage of the privileges you demand. Welcome to reality."

Pastor Jeff said...

Friends,

Three thoughts:

First, let’s suppose I was a Christian who lived in India. If I sent my child to the public school there, shouldn’t I expect that there might be some Hindu influence in the schools?—in fact, many of the holidays would be centered on Hindu customs, etc. Would it be my “right” to demand that no one in the school be allowed to celebrate these things, because I do not? Couldn’t I just explain to my child, “Most of the folk here are Hindus, even though we are not. Respect and learn from what they are doing without participating.”

Yes, I realize the pagans were making a point, but here’s my question: What percentage of the local population is neo-pagan? Even in Charlottesville, look around at the number of Christian churches in comparison to Wiccan conventicles. Why couldn’t the person who got the VBS flyer and complained to her school just have said, “I’m going to respect the deeply held religious beliefs of my neighbors and toss the VBS flyer in the trash can”? My guess is that the folks most offended by the VBS flyer were not committed members of a religious minority but secular, non-religious Americans. Why did NatureSpirit take it upon himself/herself to force the schools to distribute this flyer? Was the pagan “yule” event created merely for the purpose of antagonizing Christians? Is their “showing those Christians a thing or two” really a step forward for religious liberty? In my view, this whole flyer episode does not illustrate the intolerance of Christians but of some enlightened pagans.

Second, let’s suppose a local person in the Aryan Nation decides he wants to send home a flyer offering an opportunity for children to come to an event at his “church” to learn about White Supremacist rituals and traditions. I would hope that the school would not allow such a flyer to go home. Why? Because we would have a general agreement (I hope!) that such a thing would be wrong. Here is the rub. We cannot treat all “religions” as equal. Are those who argue for religious freedom and equal treatment of religions ready to stand up for the White Supremacists when they want to send their flyer home? Why then are some outraged when Christians express their reservations, drawn from convicted consciences, about paganism?

Third, my main point in my initial blog was not directed to either the school board or the pagans. My point was aimed at my fellow Christians. If we are going to have public schools in a pluralistic society, then we (evangelicals) should not expect those schools to prop up our faith. By the way, Steward, I am not in favor of vouchers either. If Caesar gives us money there are always strings attached. If Christians are going to follow their convictions that believing parents have a duty to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, then this means we must do so in a context where we can express our beliefs without state limitations, namely in private schools and in home education. Sadly, I do not think this exodus will be a boon for public education where the influence of caring Christian teachers, students, and parents have had an enormous influence for good through the years.

Thanks to all for the conversation!

JTR

Paleotn said...

“Most of the folk here are Hindus, even though we are not. Respect and learn from what they are doing without participating.”

Seems to me, Pastor Riddle, that your hypothetical works both ways, don't you think? Though I am not a Wiccan myself and pretty much lump their beliefs into the same category as your own, I really don't see much from you, your church or the SBC that could be categorized as "Respect and learn from what they are doing without participating". Respect is not about numbers, Pastor Riddle.

"Yes, I realize the pagans were making a point, but here’s my question: What percentage of the local population is neo-pagan?"

So who can or cannot publicly express their particular brand of faith depends upon sheer numbers of followers? I guess I must have missed that part of the First Amendment.

“I’m going to respect the deeply held religious beliefs of my neighbors and toss the VBS flyer in the trash can”

And why can't the response of yourself and your followers be the same? After spending the first 30 years of my life as a born again, Southern Baptist, I just don't see the respect you speak of reciprocated.

"Why did NatureSpirit take it upon himself/herself to force the schools to distribute this flyer? Was the pagan “yule” event created merely for the purpose of antagonizing Christians?"

How do you know it was merely for antagonization of your particular brand of Christianity? Maybe they did it in the same spirit as the VBC flyers. I wonder, do you perceive the existence of most worldviews, other than your own, as merely for the antagonization of evangelical Christians? Yes, I know the “demonic forces” bit and the “theology of devils” etc. etc. But, if one believes such things ( I do not) cannot the same be said about the Hindus in your first analogy? Would a born again Christian respect and learn from the practices of Hindus in India if one thought such practices were precipitated by Satan?

"Second, let’s suppose a local person in the Aryan Nation decides he wants to send home a flyer offering an opportunity for children to come to an event at his “church” to learn about White Supremacist rituals and traditions....We cannot treat all “religions” as equal."

I was waiting the logical fallacy of the straw man to raise its ugly head. As though on que, there it is. Surely, you are not saying that Wiccans are essentially the same as white supremacists. Though I do not know any Wiccans personally, I have never heard of them advocating racism or hate of any kind. From what I've seen and read, they are far more inclusive and loving than the Baptists of my youth, much less the Aryan Nation. In essence, a terrible analogy, Pastor Riddle.

"Why then are some outraged when Christians express their reservations, drawn from convicted consciences, about paganism?"

I for one have known Christians that express their reservations, drawn from convicted consciences, about Methodists, much less paganism. Or, let’s try some branches of Christianity far removed from traditional Southern Baptist doctrine. How about the Eastern Orthodox Church or maybe LDS? The roots of those theologies, while Christian in many ways, differs distinctly from the Southern Baptist view of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Are those religions not to be treated as equal to the Southern Baptists simply because you have theological reservations?

The fact of the matter is NO religious based flyers should be distributed through state run public schools for many of the reasons you put forth. Thus, I give you Jefferson and his brilliance in the idea of separation of church and state. It is the only way in which religious freedom can truly flourish for Southern Baptists, Wiccans or whomever. With respect to the group who started this whole mess by threatening the school district into allowing VBS flyers, I give you the old saying "Be careful what one wishes for, because one might just get it".

Anonymous said...

First, let’s suppose I was a Christian who lived in India.

This is not India sir. This is the United States of America, and here we have the freedom from caste or government-mandated religious indoctrination. Comparing our government to that of a third world nation just won't stand.

Anonymous said...

This whole controversy is silly. I can't believe that you would have an issue with other groups distributing event information. It is trivial to note that it is not for you and disregard the notice. It did not harm you, and it provided an opportunity to show your children that other faiths exist in the community and to possibly explain the differences between them an yours.

I also have to take issue with the straw man of the Ayrian Nations. This suggests that students are old enough to attend such an event on their own, or that there is racist content on the message itself. (Which is silly as it should/would not be allowed..e.g. A school would not allow a blatantly discriminatory note to be sent regardless of the group sending it.) No one would deny that these group exists and if/when they exist around you, it becomes an opportunity to show the harm that they have caused others as well as the harm they have done to Christianity (as these groups propose that they are Christian as well.)

I also do not understand your desire for an Exodus from public schools. You surely do not think the Math teacher is harming you children? The English teacher maybe? Possibly the Biology teacher during perhaps one lesson a year? Perhaps then the Mormons have it correct in buying land and building seminaries next to schools which allow students a period during the day to leave school and attend this outside religion class. Perhaps joining with other churches to for the necessary funding for this? Why does faith need to be propped up when studying Math? Why not simply take the time during the day to put it in its proper place.

I take this view, not because I am Mormon, but from growing up in a highly Mormon area. The idea you suggested of discouraging views that are not the majority in the community would have suppressed and would still suppress all non-mormons in these areas.
It appears as though you may be eventually suggesting that we all live in our own little communities with no interaction, because that is what this view ultimately leads to. There would be no funding/support for public schools in areas with a super-majority of one-faith as they would all attend the faith sponsored private school. The remainder would need to be home schooled or people would need to leave the area for where their faith has a private school. Is this slippery slope argument really unlikely? Do we really want to test such an idea, or might it be preferable to use the public schools for what they can do, and deal with the few issues of a piece of paper that is easily tossed in the trash when we do get it?

Christopher W. Chase said...

What percentage of the local population is neo-pagan? Even in Charlottesville, look around at the number of Christian churches in comparison to Wiccan conventicles.

This isn't India. Its the United States of America. The most religiously diverse nation in the world. And thankfully, numbers don't matter for fundamental rights here. The entire point of civil liberties is to preserve the marketplace of ideas while preventing a tyranny of the majority. Its a good thing numbers don't matter too, since slaves in the U.S. used to be counted as only 3/5 of a person.

Why did NatureSpirit take it upon himself/herself to force the schools to distribute this flyer? Was the pagan “yule” event created merely for the purpose of antagonizing Christians?

Arrogance. Pagans have celebrated Yule ever since their religions were formed in the early 20th C. Why do you think Pagans in your community care about antagonizing Christians at all? Do you have any actual evidence?

In my view, this whole flyer episode does not illustrate the intolerance of Christians but of some enlightened pagans.

So when Christians distribute flyers, that's OK, but when Pagans want to do the exact same thing, you're the victim of religious intolerance? That makes no logical sense. By that logic, those who wanted to distribute the Christian flyer in the first place are equally intolerant of those they missionized towards. This 'victim mentality' is killing the evangelical Christian community, especially when misapplying words like "force" in public discourse.

Anonymous said...

Pastor,

I was going to post something a lot longer, but I said screw it, because it wasn't worth my time to refute you point for point.

So, I decided on this:

If you really need that much justification why it was right for a vacation Bible school flier to go into the FF, and that much of a justification to disparage the yule holiday event, I think the ideas that founded this country of ours have been completely lost on you.

Regards,

The Innkeeper

Josephine said...

"Why couldn’t the person who got the VBS flyer and complained to her school just have said, 'I’m going to respect the deeply held religious beliefs of my neighbors and toss the VBS flyer in the trash can'?"

I don't know; why can't you and Cathy do the same for the Pagan flyers? I'm not seeing a whole lot of respect for their deeply held religious beliefs. Of course, I don't see the “showing those Christians a thing or two” attitude you claim the Pagans have, either. It's a fairly innocuous invitation to learn more about their faith. Pagans have been celebrating Yule for centuries; it's not as though they invented the holiday to spite you. In fact, Xians moved Jesus's birthday from springtime to December to spite the Pagans, no?

Attisworks said...

We cannot treat all “religions” as equal. Are those who argue for religious freedom and equal treatment of religions ready to stand up for the White Supremacists when they want to send their flyer home?

That's the thing about freedom of speech. It protects the speech we want to hear as well as the speech we DON'T want to hear. The laws that allow Klansmen to march down Main Street are the same laws that allow Christians to proselytize on street corners. Don't like the setup? Move to Iran.

Oh, and I think it's really awesome how you try to compare Paganism to White Supremacism up there. Kinda like how you guys like to compare gay sex to pedophilia and bestiality. Hilarious. You should do stand-up.

Jazo said...

is intolerance a christian value now? your hypocrisy is not suprising given your faith in fairy tales... you have become your own worst enemy.

Rogue71371 said...

JTR,

In response to your comment that Pagans "created Yule to antagonize Christians...

I think you need to do a little research on the beginnings of Paganisn, and Christianity. I think you will be VERY surprised when you find that Paganism, and the celebration of Yule were around well before Christianity.

henry said...

This is why we have separation of church & state in this country. If the everyone would accept this separation, and just live with it, think of how much time and money would be freed up in just our court system.

I seem to be one of the few Christians who actually follows John 13:34 - to LOVE everyone, regardless of whether or not they agree with my religous viewpoints.

I suggest you quit your petty squabbles about Islam/Paganism/Hinduism/etc., and learn to just LOVE.

Anonymous said...

I am not particularly fond of the modern version of Christmas. Once a holiday of deep religious significance, it has become overly commercialized and lost its original meaning in the process.
I guess people could say that I am a little old-fashioned in this sense, a fundamentalist of sorts. In that respect I would have to agree, as I would like to see us put Paganism back in the December 25th holiday.
Most Christians ignorantly state that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” without the slightest clue about the origins of the holiday or the pagan rituals they inadvertently participate in during the “Christian” Christmas celebration. From the Christmas tree to the mistletoe, everything about Christmas has significance when viewed from the pagan perspective, including Jesus himself.
The origins of the modern Christmas traditions lie in Roman paganism and the celebration of Saturnalia, which occurred a little after mid-December. During Saturnalia Romans were given over to wild merry-making, gift giving, etc in what would today be likened to Mardi Gras. This was the state of affairs regarding Christmas for centuries, in spite of the theocratic Middle Ages, until the modern Christmas was synthesized from various Euro-pagan traditions in the Victorian Era into what we know it as today.
Most influential to the Christmas holiday was not Jesus, but the celebration of the birth of the Persian sun god, Mithra. Hundreds of years before the supposed birth of Jesus, the worship of Mithra was brought to the Mediterranean following Alexander's conquests.
Christians might find it interesting that Mithra was considered the Son of God and born of a virgin. Mithra had twelve disciples (one for each of the signs of the zodiac), had a last supper with them, and died to redeem humankind. Mithraists were Trinitarians, believed Mithra was co-equal with God, kept Sunday as their day of worship (what other day would they worship a SUN god on?), and believed that Mithra would come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.
Having read that I will give you one guess as to what day Mithra's birth was celebrated on. December 25th. “Why December 25th?” you might ask. Roman pagans noted that the sunlight began to increase after December 22nd, when they believed the sun god had died, but after three days he was believed to have risen from the dead. Does that sound familiar?
It was not a difficult switch then for Roman authorities to substitute Christ for Mithra at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE in addition to capitalizing on anti-Jewish sentiment and changing the traditional Saturday Sabbath to Sunday.
In addition to these roots, Christians carry on the pagan rituals to this day. The Christmas tree is such an ancient pagan custom that Jeremiah 10:3-4 mentions it saying, “they cut a tree out of the forest. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.”
Lastly, Jesus himself might in fact be a pagan concoction. The first clue is that the Old Testament does not mention Jesus even once, suggesting he was a gentile invention. The second is that Mithraists were already practicing Trinitarianism before Christians. Another lies in the fact that pagan gods preferred virgins to mother their god-human offspring. The last being that Christianity is largely based on a misinterpretation of the Septuagint in that the Hebrew word for “young woman” was translated into the Greek word for “virgin”, giving those who spoke Greek - the language in which the New Testament was written - ample fuel to propagate a religion based on traditions that pagans were already familiar with.
Please do not get me wrong, I still love Christmas, but let us be honest with ourselves. It is a pagan holiday, celebrated today in much the same way our pagan ancestors celebrated it. In the spirit of pagan inclusiveness, I doubt any would object to Christians celebrating the birth of their god-man on December 25th, but let us keep one thing firmly in mind: Mithra is the reason for the season.

Pastor Jeff said...

Kind readers,

A few replies to the comments:

1. paleotn,

I am sorry for your poor past experiences with Southern Baptists. I have had a few of my own bad experiences with some. The fact that you have had bad experiences with some SBs, however, does not discount the validity of issues raised by them.

It might surprise you to find that I agree with you that the best thing would likely be for the public schools not to send home any more religious flyers. My church, for example, has not and will not do that. Some Christians, like Jerry Falwell, believe that evangelicals should stay in the public system and influence it for good. Again, this is not my position. I believe Christian parents have liberty of conscience in pursuing education for their children. The public route, however, becomes less appealing every day.

I do not think the Aryan Nation example is a bad analogy. The point is not to focus on the Aryan Nation, per se, a point missed by many of my gentle readers. Call it whatever you like. It is the group that does not represent what you believe or represents ideas odious to you, and you do not want them to influence your child.

2. Anonymous (first), et al,

The child in India is an analogy. I know India is not the US. Of course. The analogy is related to what you do if your child is in a culture where your views are in the minority. I might have used the analogy of a Jewish child is Roman Catholic Vienna, Austria; a Muslim child in Baptist Montgomery, Alabama; or a Baptist child in Mormon Salt Lake City, Utah.

The point is that we should not wipe out all religious expression or demand equal time for all religions in the public square, merely because all do not agree. It seems there is such a thing as "the tyrnanny of the minority." December 25 is a national holiday, not because of the dominant influence of paganism but of traditional Christianity in America.

No one is suggesting that non-Christians be co-erced into participating in Christian activities. By the way, how do we think our nation arrived at this position where there is freedom of religious expression? It came through the influence of Christians in the nation's founding.

3. Attisworks,

As above, the Aryan Nation analogy was not meant to imply that Pagans are racists. The point concerns what one does with groups you do not support that desire to present their views via the public schools.

In this sense there has always been some control on speech for the common good.

4. rogue 71371,

You misunderstand my point. I did not suggest that pagans originally created the Yule to antagonize Christians, but that NatureSpirit may have created this local "Yule" event to antagonize the Jerry Falwell forces who required the public school system to allow religious materials to go home.

Thanks for the conversation fellow citizens,

JTR

Pastor Jeff said...

Sorry, I missed the last few comments. A few more points:

1. Henry, if you saw a man about to drive down a road with the bridge out to his certain death, would not the loving thing to do be to stop him?

Being loving does not necessarily mean offering blanket affirmation. I hope, however, I have spoken the truth with a loving spirit (see Ephesians 4:15).

2. Regarding Mithras,

The points where I agree: Yes, many conservative Christians are abandoning Christmas to the pagans, and this might be the most wise move.

The points where I disagree: Your points about Mithras are largely off base historically and theologically. What is your source?

No legitimate historian or theologian I know of argues that the concept of the Trinity predates Christianity. Why is Jesus not in the OT? Because the historical Jesus of Nazareth was not born until after the last Old Testament book was written. The Virgin Birth from a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14? No. The Hebrews is almah (young unmarried woman, assumed to be a virgin in Jewish context); the Greek of the LXX and Matthew is parthenos (virgin). Was Jesus a real historical figure? Check out extra-biblical references to him in places like the letters of Letters of Pliny.

In addition, your comments on the Council of Nicea and Mithras/Jesus are off base and in the historical accuracy category of the "Da Vinci Code."

As for analogies between Jesus and Mithras, in general, this falls into the history of religions' fallacy (al la Joseph Campbell and his views on mythology) that gives overfocus to similarities in religious narrative and not to differences. Read any account of Mithras and compare that with the canonical gospels and you'll see the differences writ large. The story of Jesus is rooted in history, not mythology.

Peace, JTR

Mike said...

The point which others have made here already should stand: the ability of any group which has that legal status as an organized church to send these materials home through the public schools should enable any other church to do likewise. Whether that church is Baptist, pagan, Jewish, or something else nor what the size of the demographic served by that church should not be central to their right to use a mechanism used by other churches. I see nothing wrong with what this "pagan" chuch has done in the least.

The example of India is not a fair one: India has long been a nation where a variety of faiths have practiced and also, India is not exactly founded on the same legal basis as these United States. If a pagan group has the non-profit status of a church, they are a church, period. If a church in your jurisdiction has the right to send things home to parents via the public schools, then all bona fide churches in the same jurisdiction hold that same right.

The example of India is also interesting because Christians, including Baptists, have long been known for their missionary work. However, when the least action comes up where another faith is trying to share some of its views, it is Christians who most readily come down hard on them. If you consider your faith to be the vast majority for your region, you can rest assured that one or two pieces of paper probably won't sway your young from it, either

JS said...

"By the way, how do we think our nation arrived at this position where there is freedom of religious expression? It came through the influence of Christians in the nation's founding."

That shounds an awful lot like you're telling the non-Cristians we should be grateful for the bone you threw us. In fact, it has always been my understanding, from my US History studies, that the establishment clause of the 1st amendment was influenced most by the Deistic members of the Continental Congress. Men like Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson, among others. Okay, it's debatable as to whether Jefferson was really a Deist, but he did coin the term "separation of church and state."

So where are the Deists today? They're still around, to a lesser degree, but a lot of their ideas evolved into what we now know as the Unitarian movement. Hey, what a coincedence. That flyer was sent out by a Unitarian church.

Anonymous said...

1st: I see no mention in the flyer of taking back Christmas. Please point it out?

2nd: "This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools)."

Is that a promise or a threat? Please let it be a promise
Please let it be a promise
*fingers crossed*

Ninja said...

I don't see how the Pagans advertising an event that they are putting on is equivalent to them attacking Christianity. From the flyer, which is now posted online, they mention:

"What else are people celebrating in December? Why do we celebrate the way we do?"

I don't see anything there that indicates that they wish to do away with Christianity - merely indicate to those who are interested that other people believe different things. The horror!

And again, as many people point out, why are you bringing up India? In the first place, if you are trying to point out that other countries have majoritarian religious intolerance, that hardly puts your version of Christianity in a good light. In the second place, as a vastly religiously diverse country, India is actually fairly tolerant of different beliefs, so you lose there as well.

Frankly, the fact that this concern for religious proselytization in schools only came up because some Christians were upset that Pagans were using the SAME MECHANISMS as they, reflects negatively on the beliefs and character of those Christians. I don't know why it's so hard for you to accept that other people differ.

Ninja said...

First, different religions and beliefs are not equivalent to driving your car off a cliff. I find that extremely insulting.

Second, White Supremacy is not a religion; it is pure hate speech. It is one thing to distribute something that says, "I believe x, and x means I will get my Ultimate Reward" and another to say "I believe x, and x means I must get rid of your entire dirty race." In any case, all the white supremacists I've ever heard of were CHRISTIAN, so you lose points there also.

Third, we do agree on one thing: public schools should probably not be the place to proselytize any religion, but I don't know why you insist on blaming the Pagans for doing the EXACT SAME THING as the Christians, yet that makes the Pagans "intolerant."

Robin Edgar said...

I don't think that pagans are trying to "take back" Christmas. They do however have every right to celebrate pagan solstice rituals and even to educate others about their pagan religious beliefs and practices. Surely you understand that pagans were celebrating solstice rituals thousands of years before Jesus entered the world as a historical figure and that it is Christians who decided to align their celebration of the birth of Jesus with pagan winter solstice celebrations. The historical Jesus was probably born in the spring rather than late December.

It does indeed seem that Jerry Falwell is responsible for the fact that religious groups can now distribute announcements of their activities to school children.

Polyhazard said...

Pastor Jeff,

I was reading what you have written about this story and I want to ask you about something/ You said:

"I do not think the Aryan Nation example is a bad analogy. The point is not to focus on the Aryan Nation, per se, a point missed by many of my gentle readers. Call it whatever you like. It is the group that does not represent what you believe or represents ideas odious to you, and you do not want them to influence your child.

You also said:

“Most of the folk here are Hindus, even though we are not. Respect and learn from what they are doing without participating.”

So, which is it, Pastor?

In America, should we able able to know that our kids aren't being prostelatized to through by religous groups with values we disagree with via their public school backpacks?

or

should we use it as a teaching opportunity to exaplain that "Some of the folk here are Insert Other Relgion Here, even though we are not. Respect and learn from what they are doing without participating?"

Burn said...

this post was blogged at Burnstyle.net

Anonymous said...

The school will also be distributing flyers about how god is really E.T. It is just as likely that god is divine as he is Extraterrestrial. We are therefore encouraging all elementary students to attend a special showing of ET and welcoming them to our Church events that describe how god is really alien. Everyone is encouraged to know the TRUTH!!!

Doppelganger said...

If the school allows the Baptist or Methodist church to send home a note to its students about Vacation Bible School, it also has to allow the Unitarian Church to send home a note about its "Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule." Conservative Christians who want to "put prayer back in school" had better realize that it might not always be a Christian who is leading the prayers



Awwww.....

Poor babies...

Not so fun when you don't have a monopoly, is it?

Hecate said...

No legitimate historian or theologian I know of argues that the concept of the Trinity predates Christianity

Maiden, Mother, Crone.

Anonymous said...

Mr Riddle -

What you are arguing for is known as "tyranny of the majority" and as several others have noted, this is the United States of America, not some other country. Our forefathers were quite preoccupied with precisely these issues and questions, and came down very clearly on the side of the Individual against the Majority - that is the basis for the Bill of Rights. They also dealt with the problem of a formal state religion - the Anglican Church - and you Baptists, in those days quite the religious minority, fought long and hard for keeping all majority religious influences out of state sponsored venues.

Certainly, if I am a member of a minority religion, I can reasonably expect that I will find the private displays and expressions of the majority faith will outnumber the expressions of my own faith. That means I can reasonably expect to see plenty of Nativity scenes in the front yards of various private homes as I drive down the road - certainly more of them than I do of Pagan wreaths (or whatever they use), and I can expect to find plenty more consumer options provided by private business to members of the majority faith - but those are not public endorsements - they are not on public land or in a public institution.

Heck, being an atheist myself, I find that all expressions of faith outnumber no expression of faith. I do find it funny that the Christmas Tree - quite the Pagan symbol - probably does far outnumber Christian symbols in most homes in December.

You are quite right though: if Christians don't want to be exposed to others, then they are certainly free to segregate themselves in private spaces - schools and otherwise. Just don't expect any of the public treasury to support your private endeavors. I'm a proud graduate of a private religiously-affiliated school, and it didn't do any permanent damage to my ability to reason.

Instead of continuing to nourish this false "Christian Persecution" complex, I'd suggest that concerned christians take some time to really educate themselves about the early Christian church, and the real (non hagiographic) history of religion in our nation. The much decried wall of separation has been very good for Baptists, and the various 20th century Evangelical movements - you ought to be thankful lest we should all still be compelled to be Episcopals.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Jeff,

If I may make a suggestion.

I think you should talk to the father of the boys who asked for the policy to be changed. Perhaps he now realizes that giving religions equal access to our children was ill considered. If so, then the two of you should ask to speak to the minster at Thomas Jefferson Memorial. My guess is that the Unitarians would be more than happy to agree with you - they tend to be big proponents of Church State seperation since back when John Adams attened a Unitarian church in the 19th century - they are just not going to cede ground without some fight, and this perhaps made the point more effectively than the ACLU could have. The three of you could go to the school board and ask that the orignal policy be reinstated.

I don't think your point about Aryan Nation was farfetched - there are a lot of racist organizations fuctioning as religions out there - some of them, unfortunately, Christian. Christians are not alone in using religion as a cover for racism, however. (But I've never heard of a racist Neo-Pagan or Unitarian sect).

And I'd be really careful about the majority rules stuff - most Americans are Christians - but with seventy five denominations of Baptists alone it may be hard for anyone to get a clear majority in any community. And communities change over time. It would be a shame for someone whose community has always been largest Baptist and had their kids in a "Baptist District" to wake up one morning to discover that the Unification Church (which consider themselves Christian) or Scientologists had bought thousands of acres for a community in the district. I'd hate to live in a country where I had to pick up and move because someone with money and power was going to be able to gain spiritual access to my kids. You can't count on ALWAYS being the majority - its the bad reason to protect the rights of the minority (the good reason is because you recognize it is the right thing to do), but if you aren't motivated by right, perhaps you are motivated by self interest.

Anonymous said...

The point is that we should not wipe out all religious expression or demand equal time for all religions in the public square, merely because all do not agree. It seems there is such a thing as "the tyrnanny of the minority." December 25 is a national holiday, not because of the dominant influence of paganism but of traditional Christianity in America.

See, but that IS the point entirely. You do have to allow equal time for all religions in the public forum, no matter how odious they are to you (or anyone else), so long as they are recognized as religions. That's the way our country works. You don't get more time because you're popular, and you don't get to make the others shut up because they're less popular than you.

How many people of a particular religious persuasion does it take in a town before they get to have time in a public forum? 15? 20? If there was only a few Christians in a town and many pagans, would you tell the Christians that they have no right to have equal time in a public forum?

Yes, Christmas is a national holiday. It probably shouldn't be, but there have been times in the past where the majority was able to force their beliefs on others. It does go against the principles that our country was founded on.

I celebrate Christmas, but that doesn't mean everyone should have to.

Peri_P_Laneta said...

"By the way, how do we think our nation arrived at this position where there is freedom of religious expression? It came through the influence of Christians in the nation's founding."

Sorry, but this statement is contradicted by historical fact. Deists such as Jefferson, Madison, Washington, et al., saw so much violence and intolerance engendered by the various Christian sects in Europe that they realized that a secular nation was the only form in which this country could endure.

Read the first of the Ten Commandments. Does that seem to you to provoke warm feelings of religious tolerance?

Anonymous said...

This is amusing because it follows the usual rabid-christian model of attempting to influence public schools, and having it backfire.

1. Some over-zealous group wants to get into public schools, so it starts to petition to get in, and tries to get rules passed to allow it to.

2. They realise that this would be unconstitutional, and probably against the law - so they modify their stance to be more broad, so that they can say they're for "religeous freedom" or something instead of pushing a specific agenda. we all know that their actual goal, though, is their one specific religeon, and the agenda is just a cover. This is obvious from the sponsors of the petition/law/bill.

3. The rule or law is accepted in this new broad format

4. OTHER religeons start taking advantage of this new law to spread their message to your children and there is suddenly outrage. The over-zealous ones are upset that others would use the freedoms the law grants, since its real purpose was to support one particular religeon, even though that was not stated.

5. Go to step 1

This is incredibly amusing to me, and it will continue to backfire until the heavily religeous stop trying to tamper with the public school system.

JPF said...

Pastor Jeff: about your Christians in India analogy...

While the majority of individuals in our nation are Christians, this nation wasn't founded upon Christianity, but upon the Enlightenment, which included an explicit rejection of the idea that certain religions should be given special consideration by the government.

This is the nation you are living in. It is a secular one, and has been since day one. Much like your hypothetical Christian in India, you are a stranger in a strange land (you just have a rather large expat community here with you.)

So, given our national custom of separation of church and state, what right do you feel you have to demand that your religion be given special treatment? Shouldn't you instead be explaining to your child that this is the way things are done in America, even if it is against your beliefs? That he should respect and learn of our ways?

Anonymous said...

Wow! A religion wanting to take back it's own holiday. *gasp* Say it ain't so.

Anonymous said...

The singular mistake you continue to make is that the founding law of this country was based on Christian principles, bound by Christian law, and answerable to the Christian God -- and this is entirely wrong. The Founders instituted freedom of religion not in the least to ensure freedom from religion, and to ensure that the bloody internecine warfare of the 16th and 17th century did not repeat itself in the New World.

We cannot treat all “religions” as equal. ... Why then are some outraged when Christians express their reservations, drawn from convicted consciences, about paganism?

Yes, we can treat all religions as equal. In fact, under the Constitution, we must. The point you seem to be missing is that free exercise, and free speech, do not apply only to Christians. Why are Christians outraged when others express their reservations, drawn from the convictions of their consciences, about Christianity? Why are Christians outraged when others express, affirm, and exercise their right to not be Christian?

RBH said...

Pastor Jeff wrote

First, let’s suppose I was a Christian who lived in India. If I sent my child to the public school there, shouldn’t I expect that there might be some Hindu influence in the schools?

But you do not live in India, where Hindus and Muslims have been killing each other over religious issues for years, often encouraged by politicians and state governments. You live in the United States, whose Constitution guarantees that the state cannot promote sectarian religious positions, and we therefore have (so far) mostly avoided the sectarian bloodshed that inevitably occurs when the state in a pluralistic society takes a sectarian religious position.

Pastor Jeff wrote

Yes, I realize the pagans were making a point, but here’s my question: What percentage of the local population is neo-pagan?

It makes not one tiny bit of difference. That clause of the Constitution is there to protect minorities from majoritarian oppression. Once again, the state cannot differentially support sectarian religious positions, regardless of how many hold those positions.

Pastor Jeff wrote

If we are going to have public schools in a pluralistic society, then we (evangelicals) should not expect those schools to prop up our faith.

That's precisely the point of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: No sectarian religious advocacy on the state's dime and time.

I think Pastor Jeff needs to think through his position more carefully. As a number of commenters have pointed out, it is internally inconsistent and muddled.

patrick said...

Reverend, I get your point of getting out of public schooling, but want to disagree with you about the American tradion of Christmas. Alabama recognized Christmas in 1836 but it was not recognized by all states until 1893. In boston up until 1870 if you missed work on Dec 25 you were fired, and that was probably because the Catholics were the first Christian religion to use Dec 25 as their day for christmas. The puritans and the Virginia settlers also did not celebrate Christmas and in England the Puritans persecuted anyone who did celebrate Christmas. So in the years of the New World America that you speak most of the years to this point have not had a tradition of Christmas. By the way I have been to a unitarian celebration and the unitarians have been some of the most patriotic people, and peaceful people who I have had the priveledge to meet.

dogscratcher said...

Pastor Jeff:

"Would it be my “right” to demand that no one in the school be allowed to celebrate these things, because I do not?"

If you were in a country that separated church and state, as we do here, the answer would of course be Yes! If you were in a theocratic country such as Iran, No.

"We cannot treat all “religions” as equal."

Why?

Personally, I agree with you that the analogy of the "White Supremicist" flyer is apt. But I don't draw the same conclusion. I think the school would have to include their flyer as well. Falwell has in fact put the school in the unenviable position of having to support anything that qualifies as "religion." Because that is what our constitution guarantees.

Dave said...

Echoing peri_p_laneta, it's important to point out that the religious toleration and protection of free expression we enjoy in the US simply cannot be attributed to Christianity.

The Englishmen responsible were quite radical, and their position was not popular among the Christians of the day. Cambridge Platonists like Whichcote and Cudworth, John Locke and the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (both of them closet Arians), other radical Whigs, these are the people behind religious toleration. They may have been Christians, but they were often very unorthodox Christians (Unitarians, Arians, Socinians, ...). And it's thanks to their influence and Enlightenment intellectual trends (rife with deists, not known for being Christian-friendly) that Madison (who probably denied the Trinity) and Jefferson (who definitely denied the Trinity, not to mention most other central Christian doctrines) were willing to go so far as to extend religious toleration to atheists and Catholics.

To say Christianity was behind this is a pretty wild distortion.

Pastor Jeff said...

Kind readers,

A few more reflections to stoke the discussion:

1. On the roots of religious toleration in America:

It is interesting to note how many of those who have posted seem to take it for granted that America’s foundation of religious freedom is chiefly due to the Enlightenment. From reading a few of these, one might assume that 18th century America was primarily populated by free-thinking Deists and enlightened Bohemians, rather than Anglicans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics. By the way, Unitarians were not around at the founding of our nation. They did not arise in America until the 19th century, out of compromised Congregationalists who abandoned their orthodox creed. The modern Unitarian-Universalist denomination did not form until 1961.

Were some founders (like Jefferson) influenced by the Enlightenment? Of course. And we are thankful to God for his common grace working through them. But should we not also consider the impact of the spread of the Reformation and Biblical Christianity in America? The Great Awakening had as much, if not more, influence on our nation’s founding, as the import of European humanism. Jonathan Edwards’ ideas had as much influence on our founding as Ben Franklin’s.

If we want to see a revolution based purely on the Enlightenment (liberty, equality, fraternity), we should look to the debacle of the bloody French Revolution, rather than the American War for Independence from Britain.

My guess is that many people have this view, because they went to public schools where it was taught as (secular) gospel.

2. On the India analogy:

Once again, friends, it is an analogy and has nothing to do with India, per se. OK, it is about living in Virginia, where at least nominal Christianity is the norm. Why cannot those who are not (even nominal) Christians be tolerant of those who are by allowing VBS flyers to go home or Christmas programs to be presented? Again, the root issue is the lack of tolerance by non-Christians.

3. On the Aryan Nation analogy:

Again, friends, it is an analogy. Some folk seem to be saying, “You’re being ridiculous, those folk will never try to send home flyers!” Others seem willing to let any group send home flyers if they claim to be a ‘legitimate’ religion.

Again, I would contend you cannot treat all religions alike (nor is this is the point of the first amendment). Should our society give equal treatment to a religion that teaches child sacrifice or pedophilia or racism? If you think “religions” that might advocate such either do not now exist or never will, you are fooling yourself. Is this the kind of “freedom” our pagan friends are seeking?

4. On civility:

It has also interested to me how many of the posts use ad hominem (abusive) arguments. So, some have told me that I should go live in Iran (I thought it was the 60s radical who detested the “America, love it or leave it” mentality?) and my faith is based in “fairy tales.” I thought we Christians were the ones who were supposed to be mean-spirited and intolerant.

5. On the current Christian exodus from public schools:

I am thankful for these posts, because I believe that God is likely to use them to illustrate the real level of hostility, among some, that exists against those who hold to traditional Christian beliefs. My guess is that many Christians who will read the posts will find good reason to confirm or initiate their decision to take responsibility for their child’s education out of the hands of the state and into their own hands.

JTR

Dave said...

Quick point regarding the India example: if your claim is that culturally dominant religions should have special legal privileges, then I suspect everyone here will just deny that claim. Examples like that won't help make your case.

Two points of fact:

1. Public schools absolutely do not teach people that the Founders were most strongly influenced by the intellectual trends of the Enlightenment. This is so insane I honestly can't believe it. If you ever set foot inside a public school, you'll see they teach kids nothing one way or the other about this stuff. Nothing. Maybe in magnet schools or very very rich schools. But in the vast bulk of public schools, you will be lucky to see the name "John Locke", much less learn about Shaftesbury and Hutcheson and Diderot and Voltaire, or even Beccaria and Montesqieu and Hume (people who very directly influenced the founders). Kids learn nothing about the Enlightenment and virtually nothing about the political and social theorists who influenced the Founders.

So, to think that public schools push some Enlightenment-biased picture of the Founders is a paranoid conspiracy theory with no basis in fact. Kids are more likely to watch movies and do pointless handouts than learn anything about intellectual history.

2. Unitarianism (as a family of positions on the nature of the Godhead) certainly existed prior to the church of that name. I don't know enough about early Christian doctrine to adduce names from 2000 years ago (though I certainly round up a lot of heresies with unorthodox views of the Godhead), but I can certainly point to Michael Servetus, Faustus Socinus, the Polish Brethren, John Biddle, Isaac Newton, Samuel Clarke, Joseph Priestley, and many others whose views were Unitarian. The Founders were certainly familiar with the English side of this trend, since many of them were themselves scornful of the Trinity as an absurd doctrine.

"Unitarians were not around at the founding of our nation." John Adams?????

Now, return to the question at hand. It is not "What influenced the Founders?" It's "What's responsible for religious toleration in the US?" And I'll eat my hat if the answer "Christianity is responsible for religious toleration in the US" is anything but a half-truth at best and a lie at worst.

I fully grant that early America was super-religious and super-Christian. Now, if you want to show that religious toleration comes from Christianity, from the hyper-Calvinists and Anglicans and Methodists, then go ahead. I'll admit William Penn as a religious defender of toleration, but you can't exactly chalk up the radical social doctrines of Quakers to Christianity. I'll stand by my claim of religious toleration coming from highly unorthodox Christians and Christianity-denying Enlightenment figures.

Dave said...

I'd also like to point out that laying the French Revolution at the feet of the Enlightenment is ignoring a whole side of the Enlightenment, the cautious side featuring Hume, Smith, and Burke. And in any case, as representatives of the Enlightenment, the Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution are just as worthy (if not as striking) as the French Revolution.

ronnie said...

you people have farrrrr too much time on your hands

Dee said...

It is my understanding from the news sources that the way this particular law or ordinance or whatever it is applies to official non-profit organizations only.

Does the Aryan Nation hold official non-profit status?

But I'm with all sides just throwing out whatever flyers they get that do not interest them.

Why make a such a federal case, so to speak, out of every little thing?

Let's all just live and let live.

Stop all the fussing and fighting and increase the peace.

Anne Johnson said...

I'm a Pagan, and if they institute prayer in public schools I will gladly tell any interested student about my faith.

What prevents me from doing so now is a little provision in our U.S. Constitution called the Establishment Clause. Perhaps the Founding Fathers feared a Pagan takeover of a Christian nation.

And by the way, if you want to remove your children from public school, no one is stopping you. Don't forget to pay your taxes, though, so that all children are educated properly, no matter what faith they profess (or none at all).

NatureSpirit said...

Pastor Riddle and Cathy,

Veronica and I as organizers of the event in question would like to thank you for participating in this conversation. We may have very different opinions and faiths, but I believe the conversation is a valuable one for Charlottesville to have. We support your right to express your viewpoints, and we are glad that you've been willing to do so.

Veronica and I decided not to comment on the Blogs covering the event until the event was over. I also hope that other members of the wider pagan communty who responded to your blogs were polite and respectful of your beliefs, even when they chose to disagree. If not, then I appologize for them.

We live in an extraordinarily diverse and beautiful town, which I am proud of, and hopefully so are you. We both care deeply about the schools and our children, and this conversation was too important for it not to be shared. Thank you for participating in that conversation and posting it on your blogs.

We look forward to continuing this conversation when the county holds their next meeting to review this policy.

Have a Merry Christmas,

Lonnie and Veronica
NatureSpirit

Bill Poore said...

Jeff,
You hit a raw nerve on this one.Hostile responders appear to be in a state of "controlled panic."
Bill Poore

C. Lewis said...

By all means, do abandon the public school system to only those tolerant of the beliefs or lack thereof of others. :)

It would make school time much less stressful for everyone all around. The students would no longer need to be concerned about what the followers of some fictional deity think of their beliefs or behavior. Teachers wouldn't need to worry about what strange things a "christian" might do to appease his or her imaginary friend, "Jesus". Besides which, closed minds are infamously difficult to educate.

If my imaginary friend, We'll call him "Thor" is as real to me as your imaginary friend, "Jesus", and if my imaginary friend has been worshipped as long as yours has and by as many people, and if the government says that my belief in him is as much a religion as your belief in "Jesus" is, then my religion is just as valid as yours, and there's not a darned thing that you can do about it.

Except of course to console yourself, as "christians" always do, by talking to your imaginary friend and reading what some other people wrote about him a thousand years ago and convincing yourself that your imaginary friend is the really truly right imaginary friend to believe in.

Whether you're alone in your room or in a building full of people who share your belief, when you pray the only ones who hear you are yourselves. Who cares if a pagan wants to pray to a different deity? It only matters in the mythology of Christianity, an out dated compendium of stories, myths, legends and hear say.

If anyone is so mentally confused that they believe that mythology is factually true, they have no place in the public school system. Except perhaps in Special Ed.

Happy Yule! Merry Solstice! Happy Winter! Who cares, let's exchange presents, light up the lights and have fun already. The Gods you personally think are involved shouldn't matter, and we'll never have peace on Earth as long as they do. ;)

~ C.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Jeff,

You ask why those who are not Christian cannot be tolerant of those who are by allowing the VBS flyers to go home or Christmas programs to be presented. It seems to me that the non-Christians were very tolerant of such things. The flyers did go home, and without fuss. It wasn’t until NatureSpirit tried to avail himself of the same mechanism to promote a similar program that all the fuss began, and it was begun by the Christians.

The public forum in the United States must remain neutral. It is not the job of the government or the public school system to tell our children what religious beliefs they should hold. Therefore, it must be an all or nothing situation. If it is permissible for one religion to promote themselves, it must be permissible for all. Yes, all. I understand your concern for the well being of the children receiving the flyers (as in the Aryan nation example), but in this case it is the duty of the parents to explain to the children what the beliefs of the group are and why they feel the children should not emulate those particular beliefs.

If the point of the first amendment is not that all religions should be treated equally, what is the point? Your argument regarding this matter is illogical. Nobody in these postings has suggested tolerance for pedophilia or human (or even animal) sacrifice, nor would religions that believed in such rituals be allowed to actually practice them, as they are against the law. They would be forced to sublimate the ritual by using, say, bread and wine, in substitution for eating flesh and drinking blood.

I see that some have been less than kind in their responses to you. With all due respect, though, your examples are not exactly complimentary toward the Pagan religion. You have used the Aryan nation analogy, pedophilia, and child sacrifice as reasons the Pagan community should not enjoy equal protection under the law. What I hear when you say this is, “Any religion that focuses on Christ as their Savior is good. If you do not, you are just as bad as racists and as evil as those who would kill children.”

It is not our job to judge other religions. You have the right to believe as you wish, as do I. I respect your choice of religion, and this respect should go both ways. If you do not choose to respect people of other religions because of the first amendment, then do so because of your own teachings. Christ said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. He did not say, “Love thy neighbor as thyself, as long as they think and believe exactly as you do.”

Kelley said...

What makes you think pagans want Christmas for ourselves?

What makes you think we ever wanted Christmas for ourselves? Christmas is Christian. Surely you know your history, in which case you also know that Christmas was a completely separate holiday superimposed over the already existing Pagan sacred celebrations of Yule, Solstice, and Saturnalia, only to name a few. We still celebrate those sacred times. Because you injected your own holiday into the mix timed with the express intent to usurp the others doesn't mean those other holidays no longer exist or are invalid, or that we don't have the right to celebrate them freely alongside yours. Celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Kwanza, Hanukkah and all the festivities of the season. Yours is not the only one. It's just one of the more recent.

If you're going to make a broad statement about someone else's life perspective, educate yourself about that belief system first, and about the history of your own. Christmas is not and never has been a Pagan holiday. Yet we can allow you to celebrate yours without it interfering with our ability to celebrate ours. As the core of your belief system expresses tolerance, so may you practice the same.

Robin Edgar said...

"I don't think your point about Aryan Nation was farfetched - there are a lot of racist organizations fuctioning as religions out there - some of them, unfortunately, Christian. Christians are not alone in using religion as a cover for racism, however. (But I've never heard of a racist Neo-Pagan or Unitarian sect)."

Well, believe it or not. . . German anti-fascist and anti-racist groups are alleging that the German Unitarian "religious community" was subverted by Nazi ideologues following WWII. They claim that some of these alleged Unitarian racist Nazi ideologues were former SS officers who were convicted of war crimes and served time for them. Run a Google search on Deutsche Unitarier Religionsgemeinschaft and Bund Deutscher Unitarier, Religionsgemeinschaft plus Nazis for more information about these persistent allegations. Most of the web pages devoted to this embarrassment of the Unitarian religious community are written in German however. Here is a cached page in English that may get you started in more ways than one. . .

abraxas said...

I look forward to the day when some white (or black) supremecist flyer gets sent home. Then i can sit with my kids and explain exactly WHY it's rubbish. They'll do the throwing away themselves next time.
Your fear is palpable sir pastor. Both for the imagined zeal and your suggestions for all christians to pull out of society.
Christmas YULE was and is a pagan event. Chistians took it from them, and have been destroying any trace of the truth for centuries.
Why can you not accept any challenges to your status quo? I find THAT disturbing.
Rather encourage debate, freedom implies choice, you cannot offer hobsons choice as freedom? Or truth for that matter.

Diva Blue said...

I'm a confirmed Catholic. I lived in India as a kid. I started practicing paganism about 15 years ago, and teach the tenants of both these paths to my kids--I've been a parent for over 20 years. While I may not be as pure a christian or pagan as some of you, do I feel somewhat qualified to address all of you.

It's easy, folks. Just be polite. If you don't like a flyer that comes home (and that applies to most of the flyers my kids bring home), don't get in a tizzy because someone else's religion touched your kid's math homework, act like the grown up you're supposed to be and toss it. Or talk about it with your kid. Either way, you'll be teaching your beliefs to your child.

Overseas we were taught to be respectful of other belief systems and learn as much as we could. No one was suggesting we convert, and evangelizing was generally frowned upon. Learning about someone else's religion was considered a wonderful way to understand another culture. Ask any 3rd Culture Kid and I bet you find they had a similar experience.

Separation of church and state are necessary in order for a society such as ours to function. I don't have a problem with anyone's religious symbology--I think it's cool. But I discourage my kids from wearing the symbols of our religion in school. Am I afraid something bad will happen if my kid's seen with a pentacle? Nope. I'm afraid a discussion on comparative religion will disrupt math class, which shows no respect for the teacher whose job it is to introduce my child to the mysteries of long division. Simple politeness, see? Why is that such a difficult concept?