Tag Archives: Proselytizing

Sunday Morning Ultimatums..,

“You live, you die. There are 2 destinations. There is no 3rd choice. Believe in Jesus before it’s too late.”

An old friend of mine from high school posted this yesterday morning.

He followed it up with a bible verse, but I didn’t bother to read any further. I lost my taste for Sunday morning ultimatums a long time ago.

And usually, I just let these things drift by, unnoticed and unremarked upon. My social media feed is chock full of Jesus, and it all just becomes so much white noise after a while.

For the most part, these posts and comments are of the “god is love” variety. “God shaped me, Jesus is my reason, God guides my every step…,” And I might occasionally smile to myself and wonder how the poor fellow ever gets anything important done when he’s so busy playing ‘seeing-eye dog’ to a population of folks who are too bloody insecure to get up and walk on their own.

But once in a while you get one of these “believe in him or you’re going to burn” comments, which so perfectly illustrate the lie behind all those other love filled exhortations.

Because, my friends, if you feel like the best you can do is to frighten folks into believing, I have to assume that either you are desperately trying to shore up your own lack of faith, or you’ve noticed that donations are down and that new private jet isn’t going to just buy itself.

The world we live in is not so black and white as they would have us believe. And neither, I am sure, is the next.

We live, we die, we live again, and I’ve little doubt that there are a multitude of realms in between, where we might wander for a spell, before we make our way back.

So save your threats, my Christian friends, because if you have to resort to these kinds of tactics, you’ve already lost the argument.

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Filed under Culture, Proselytizing, Religion

A Friend in Deed

I heard you this time.

I didn’t before.

I couldn’t.

I’d closed my ears to all those who came before you.

But, now…, yes, now I understand how very wrong, how foolish I truly was.

The truth, as you must surely realize, is that I was angry.  I feel like I had been betrayed so many times before, by people who I believed to be my friends.  As I grew to know them, my natural caution fell away.  I offered them my confidence and they turned on me, one by one, exploiting that trust in an attempt to undermine my beliefs.

It seemed as if they just wanted me for their church and their god.

Wasn’t I good enough for them the way I was?

Why couldn’t they just accept me for who I was and for what I believed?

For the longest time now, I’ve felt like the failure was with them.

And so I was angry, and so I was wrong.

The failure was mine.

I know now, that I didn’t understand what friendship really meant.

Because when you truly care for someone, and when you see them engaging in self destructive behaviors, there comes a point when you either walk away, or try to guide them to a better, safer path.  Until now, I’ve always seen it as intrusive ‘proselytizing’, when in reality it is far more of an ‘intervention’.  Still intrusive – yes, but done in love, for the greater good.

I don’t doubt that you’d have done the same thing if you’d seen me drinking myself into an early grave, or wandering blindly off some curb and into traffic.

I should thank you for being such a good friend!

You waited and you watched, undoubtedly hoping that I would find my own way away from the all-consuming fires of hell.  And all this time, as I spoke and wrote about discovering the gods of my ancestors, about the spiritual connection I have felt with the world around us, and about my personal growth as a human being, all you could hear were desperate cries for help.  It must have been painful to listen for so long, and still remain silent.

Finally, you could, in good conscience, tolerate it no longer.  You spoke out because you couldn’t stand the thought of my suffering in an eternity of torment.  You spoke out in the true spirit of friendship.

And for the first time your words touched me, and I understood how very wrong I have been, how unfair.

What I have always seen as an intrusive act, was actually selfless.

Your disregard for my personal boundaries, pure heroism.

The lack of respect you hold for my intelligence, heartwarming.

How could I ever have been so foolish?

In your eyes, you see me as only a true friend could: broken, insufficient, and damned.

Friends don’t mince words, tell me what you really think!

But there’s still time.

If I give up the beliefs and experiences of a lifetime, if I reject all that I know in my heart to be true, and if I purge my faith and replace it with your own, we can be better than friends.

We can be “Brothers in Christ” — and oh what a family that must be!

No.

I heard you this time, and I understand now that the failure is mine.

While ‘I’ might try to intervene if I believed you were in immediate physical danger, I guess I don’t care enough to intercede on behalf of your soul.  Oh sure, I may try to “lead by example”, and I’m certainly willing to explain my beliefs to those who show an interest, but when have I ever taken you aside to explain how very wrong you are in your notions?  Have I ever shown you the proper disrespect?  Have I disparaged your life choices as only a true friend would?

In your need, I have failed you.  I am a poor friend, in deed.

Forgive me.

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

 

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Filed under Culture, Interfaith, Modern Life, Proselytizing, Religion, Spiritual Journey

You can’t please everyone.

Sometimes, it takes only a single, unexpected encounter, to lift one out of a funk, or even to let us know that we were in a funk to begin with.

It is easy, sometimes, to get lost in the fog of passing time.  We are creatures of both habit and monotony, shaping the world around us into one that is both comforting and often wearisome in its lack of variety.  We shuffle from work to home to bed and back again, and if, like mine, your workplace does not come with easily defined ‘weekends’, we may find that we have no clear frame of reference for ‘when’ we are, or what ‘progress’ we are making through the world.

So there I was, just zoning my way through another day, when out of the blue, a colleague of mine pulled me aside to ask what I assumed to be another work related question.

“So, I was reading your blog…,”

And suddenly I found myself in an open and friendly conversation with a devout Christian about the concept of prayer in polytheism.  It took a moment for my brain to shift into gear and for me to realize that he was approaching the topic with what I could only describe as a kind of excited curiosity.

“When I pray,” he continued, “it’s to one god, and it’s written out pretty clearly what he expects from me.  But I was thinking, that for you as a polytheist, there are so many options, and it blew my mind!  I mean, how can you possibly know who you should pray to?  And how do you keep from ticking off one god while pleasing another?”

“Well,” I laughed, “the first thing you learn as a polytheist is that you can’t please everyone!”

His momentary enthusiasm for the topic awakened my own, and I tried, in the few precious minutes we had, to faithfully answer interest with information.  I explained, in brief, how our relationships with the gods may range from simple ‘belief’ (simple acceptance in the existence of a deity, without expectations on either side beyond the basic respect afforded such a being), all the way to ‘dedication’ or ‘patronage’ (implying far more intimate and devotional interactions).  The specifics of prayer (to whom and for what) are, of course, dependent upon both which gods we actually have relationships with, and what their specific spheres of influence are believed to be.

Very Many Gods

What I did not get to say, because there just wasn’t time, is that we do not typically need to worry about pissing off some random god, any more than we do the great uncle who only shows up for the occasional family reunion.  It’s the ones we have deeper relationships with that we try to be mindful of, not out of fear, but because we value those relationships above any other.

In any case, it was a great conversation, and it totally made my day.

I got an extra charge out of that encounter, not because I’d won over a convert (I didn’t), but because my writing had touched someone in a way that opened their mind to other possibilities.  While my friend may not believe in my gods any more today than he did prior to reading my words, he has insights into my beliefs, my character, and my understanding of the world we share, that he did not have before.

I call that progress, and ‘funk’ be damned, it puts a spring in my step!

And yet, I am reminded once again, that you can’t please everyone.

I was accused, not long ago, of proselytizing.

Rather, it was suggested that the things which I have been calling for in this blog, things such as greater visibility and infrastructure for the polytheist/pagan community and individual polytheists being upfront about who they are and what they believe, amount to a form of proselytizing.  Advertising our presence and attempting to forge positions of leadership within the ever changing religious landscape, I have been told, are tantamount to the often intrusive attempts of certain monotheist sects to convert the masses.

Are they?

My goal, and the goal of this blog (although I did not quite understand this in the beginning) has always been to open minds, not to change them.

But is there a difference, or am I just splitting hairs?

Lincoln on Friends

Knowledge, I have always believed, is a gift to be welcomed and shared.  Am I wrong to hope that sharing who and what we are, will lead to better understanding and communication between disparate groups?  Is it wrong to let people know that they have options beyond those with which they may be more familiar?

Or is that goal, as some would have it, coercive in nature?

Well, you can’t please everyone.

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Filed under About this Blog, Interfaith, Modern Life, Prayer, Proselytizing, Religion, The Gods

Maybe I need a bigger sign.

The sign was there on the front door when I moved into the house.

NO SOLICITING

Since purchasing my home I have put a lot of work into improving upon many of the dreadful design choices made by the previous owners.  I have ripped up most of the awful carpeting they put down.  I’ve painted, re-wired, reinforced and trimmed wherever  I could in an effort to make the place more my own.

Yet, I’ve left the sign.  I like it right where it is.

Measuring about a eight inches long, the sign sits at the lower edge of eye level above the door knob.  It is aligned with the right side of the door just below the spot where a visitor of average height would be most likely to knock.  Sporting gold letters on a black background, it’s pretty hard to miss.

Knock-Knock-Knock!

I guess it’s true what they say: “No one reads anymore.”

Every few days, someone ignores the sign.

“Can I mow your lawn?” — No.
“We’d like to install a new security system.” — No.
“Would you like to buy some magazines to support my mission trip?No!

They traipse up to my porch, ignore the sign and try to sell me goods and services which I am perfectly capable of procuring on my own.  Typically, I allow them to get maybe three sentences into their pitch before I send them on their way.  I freely admit that I am sometimes a tad brusque in my dismissal.

The truth is that I would prefer to be more welcoming toward strangers.  In fact, one of the tenets of my spiritual path is hospitality toward visitors.

Celtic tradition suggests that a visitor, who arrives in good faith, should be welcomed into the home and provided with food, drink and possibly, even a place to sleep for the night.  While sheltering under the protection and hospitality of the host, the guest is expected to provide entertainment (usually in the form of music or storytelling) and must observe the rules and observances of the house.

It is my opinion however, that anyone standing on my porch trying to sell me something, has not shown good faith and has already broken a very clearly posted rule.

“I’m not interested, thank you very much, now go away!”

And I can certainly turn the RUDE up several notches if pressed, but it seldom comes to that.  Most people manage to take the hint.

And then there are the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Their timing is uncanny.  If you isolated the one Saturday morning in any given month when I was rushing to get ready for work or in the middle of some time sensitive project, that is the morning you would find them standing on my porch.  I sometimes speculate about the infernal, time sucking clockwork that guides their visits to my home.

The morning quiet is broken by the sound of knuckles, gently but insistently rapping the glass directly above the NO SOLICITING sign.

I peek out the door and there they stand.

Always two there are.  No more, no less.  A Master and an apprentice.”
—Yoda

In this case the “master” is always a rather jovial old fellow in a suit, while the identity of the “apprentice” seems to rotate on a schedule that I haven’t quite worked out yet.  Sometimes it’s a freckle-faced little girl.  The following month it may be an older woman or a young African-American gentlemen.

The visit typically goes like this:

The older fellow will greet me by name and enquire after my health or some other perfunctory bit of small-talk.  On cue he will be given a copy of The Watchtower by his “apprentice” which he then hands off to me while providing a brief synopsis of its contents and assuring me I’ll find it interesting.

I take the booklet, assuring him that I’ll look it over, and then, wishing him well, I duck back into the house and get on with my frantic morning.

Later that evening, while looking through The Watchtower and trying to decide which is worse: the hopelessly outdated design and illustration style or the poorly supported theological arguments, I will tell myself that “enough is well and truly enough.”

It’s high time I told the Jehovah’s Witnesses exactly what I think of their mission to save my soul: “While I enjoy a good theological debate my time is precious to me and I’ve always found proselytizing to be a deeply offensive practice.  Save the tracts for someone less likely to bequeath them to the recycling bin and move along.  My soul already has plenty of gods looking out for it and I’ve no interest in adding your deity to the mix.  I am not interested in what you are selling, now go away!”

That’s what I should say.

Maybe next month, if I have time to do more than nod and smile while trying to ease myself back through the door, I’ll do just that.  Sometimes you just have to be rude.

If only they weren’t so damned nice.

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Filed under Modern Life, Proselytizing, Religion, Traditions