Future of Paganism
Paganism and the Role of Interfaith Dialogue
By Gus diZerega
Pagan religions are increasingly entering the mainstream of America's spiritually engaged public - if I can differentiate them from the political right wrapping its message in religious garb. It is no longer rare to meet people with Wiccan friends or who know we encompass a wide variety of spiritual practices united by a family resemblance. Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans" is known country-wide. Television shows depict Witches simplistically, but very importantly, not as evil. Wiccan soldiers can now have the pentacle on their tombstones and places of worship.
As our numbers are quite small, and may always be, this change in public perception has been remarkable. I think efforts by many Pagans to engage wholeheartedly in Interfaith dialogue has played a vital role here. It is in Interfaith that people with strong spiritual commitments meet and work with others of similar commitment from different faith communities. This effort, ranging from local interfaith councils to the Parliament of World Religions and the United Religions Initiative have enabled the truth about many paths to reach out far faster and better than would have been the case otherwise.
In the process we forge personal relationships cutting across hostile stereotypes and often gaining a new appreciation of other paths while gaining a deeper commitment to our own. For example, was in meeting with a Evangelical pastor in Kansas that my book Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience was born. That book, and my effort to be fair but also address the hard questions, led me to be invited to participate with Philip Johnson in the first effort for a Christian/Pagan dialogue: Beyond the Burning Times.
Pagan involvement in interfaith dialogue has deep roots. Covenant of the Goddess has been engaged in interfaith work for thirty-five years. Pagan Don Frew began dialogues with Christian Brooks Alexander twenty-five years ago, leading an honest and deeply committed Evangelical to present accurate information to the wider Christian community while becoming widely respected for his honesty and integrity among many in the Pagan community.
Other Christians are active participants as well. Michael Cooper is preparing an e-book on Druidism. In Utah John Morehead, who conceived Beyond the Burning Times, has been engaged in dialogues with Eagles Kindred and Utah Pagans. And my co-author Philip Johnson wrote a chapter in Fiona Horn's Pop! Goes the Witch.