Pagan Intrafaith: A Patheos Pagan Panel

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This year at PantheaCon, I was pleased to moderate a panel on “Pagan Intrafaith,” discussing how interfaith models might benefit the Pagan community if applied internally. If you’d like to listen to the audio, proceed! Or, scroll down to see the list of presenters and the text of my opening remarks.


Pagan Intrafaith
Patheos Pagan Writers
Panel Presentation, PantheaCon 2013
February 15, 2013 – San Jose, California 

Pagan Intrafaith panel, Feb. 2013. Photo by Jason Pitzl-Waters.

Moderator: Christine Hoff Kraemer
Participants: Eric Scott, Sarah Twichell, Crystal Blanton, Jason Mankey, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Steven Abell


Introduction

Thank you all for coming to this panel on Pagan Intrafaith. I’m Christine Kraemer, managing editor of the Patheos Pagan channel, and I’m excited that I’ve been able to gather some of our most thoughtful writers for this discussion.

Before we begin, I’d like to address the question of what “intrafaith” work might be for Pagans. Many of you are familiar with the concept of interfaith work, which involves dialogue between different religious traditions. Interfaith work assumes the following:

First, that diversity is actively desirable. Interfaith work isn’t about tolerating each other, it’s about interacting with and learning from each other for mutual benefit.

Second, that when we are ignorant of other faiths, the assumptions and stereotyped thinking lead to unnecessary conflict. Interfaith work is thought to be a necessary part of peacebuilding and coalition building.

Third, that interfaith work is NOT about assimilation or abandoning our own religious commitments. Ideally, encountering other faiths should help us understand and commit more deeply to our own religions.

And finally, that the core of interfaith work is based on genuine dialogue, which consists of both speaking and listening, agreeing and disagreeing. The purpose is not for everyone in dialogue to resolve their differences, but rather to act on an ongoing commitment to understand those differences.

Interfaith dialogue makes it much more possible for diverse groups to work together on issues they care about. For instance, the Hindu American Foundation has sent representatives to PantheaCon for the past two years: they’re interested in lobbying for minority religious rights, and so are many Pagans. While there are some important differences between Paganism and Hinduism, and some issues on which we will probably never agree, minority religious rights are one area in which we can stand together and protect each other.

This panel proposes that the same kind of work could be done WITHIN Paganism. Paganism is an extremely diverse movement, more of an umbrella for a collection of loosely related religions than a single religion. It seems the more we try to pin down what “Paganism” is, the more tension we create in our communities as people worry about where the lines of inclusion and exclusion will be drawn.

Many of our communities also experience tension around accidental exclusion. So far, many of our groups don’t do a good job about setting newcomers’ expectations around what they’re about. It’s possible for a Pagan to show up at a public Pagan circle expecting a Goddess- and nature-oriented ritual, only to be entirely thrown when the ritual focuses on urban-oriented gods. Paganism has very different threads, and it’s hard to find our commonalities if we don’t have a vocabulary to talk about – and APPRECIATE – our differences.

I’m in favor of a “big tent” definition of Paganism that is inclusive and welcoming – but if Paganism is going to survive as a diverse movement, we need to improve communication between different traditions and paths. I know that meeting Pagans with radically different beliefs and practices has helped me a great deal in developing my own, and I want my community to continue to be a place where that kind of inter-tradition communication can happen.

 


One additional note: one participant raised the question of how “diversity” is defined versus “pluralism,” and I’m not sure we ever gave a completely clear definition. Here are mine:

Diversity is the fact of having variety, such as a group containing people of many different religious paths or ethnic backgrounds.

Pluralism is a social state where groups of different ethnic origins, religions, cultures/subcultures, etc. maintain their separate identities. A weak pluralism is one where diversity is tolerated. A strong pluralism is one where diversity is celebrated and positive relationships between groups are cultivated.

Both “diversity” and “pluralism” have come to have connotations of deliberately nurturing a pluralistic social state, but I think that connotation may be relatively new, beginning in the twentieth century. Would love to hear from anyone who knows for sure.

 

[Many thanks to those who participated in the discussion, including Peter Dybing, Jason Pitzl-Waters, Teo Bishop, and Glenn Turner -- and apologies to those participants whose names I did not know.]

 

About Christine Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer is Managing Editor of the Pagan Channel at Patheos.com. Christine holds a PhD in Religious and Theological Studies from Boston University. She has published widely on literature, popular culture, and Paganism and is the author of Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies (Patheos Press, 2012) as well as Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective (Routledge, 2013). Christine is also an instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary, where she served for two years as chair of the Theology and Religious History department.

  • http://dashifen.com David Dashifen Kees

    Thank you so much for sharing the recording with us! This was a fascinating conversation and I regret that I wasn’t able to be there in person.

    • http://inhumandecency.org/christine Christine Kraemer

      Thanks for listening!

  • Cat

    For the most part and based upon Christianity, Judaism and Islam…anything that is not of that faith is considered Pagan. One thing we can learn from the past is that from the Native American tribes that not only kept fighting against one another, but also against the Europeans which is (in my opinion) the only reason the Europeans won. As for Pagans (whichever branch you may be from), I think we really need to learn that no matter what we may disagree on, we all can agree that many hate us because they are ignorant of what it is we stand for or they fear us because of their ignorance. That ignorance, we must remember, primarily comes from the movies and how we are portrayed. They see the dark sides (since that is what makes the films sell) and that is what they base their knowledge on. If we are bickering amongst ourselves or not coming together when it is time to defend our beliefs, then just like the Native Americans (and many other groups of people, including our own in the past who had to go underground to survive) we will not survive and for the few who do, they too (just as in the past) will have to go in hiding so that our teachings, history, knowledge, faith and everything about us may go on centuries later. Just my thoughts and ramblings on it. It is a very good thing to actually have a panel where every Pagan can go and feel welcomed and discuss their beliefs with others without persecution or judgement. Congrats to all of you who started this and may this be thrice blessed by God and Goddess with the love and light of the Universe. Brightest blessings.

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  • Devlin

    This is a great disscussion However there are two groups I believe Pagans should stay away from
    1. Fundementalist Christians
    2. Theistic Satanists
    These types of People will do nothing but cause trouble for the entire pagan community avoid these people at all cost.

  • http://syncreticmystic.wordpress.com Soli

    LOVE the comment about people getting out of their own hospitality suites. My two biggest reasons for attending are that it gives me time with my spiritual family, friends, and loved ones, and to meet new people and experience new things.


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