There are few issues more controversial in Paganism than if and how we should engage in interfaith work. Passionate voices debate the pros and cons. Some are wary, remembering a time when interfaith work, and being publicly Pagan, was far more dangerous than it is today. Others are determined that it is necessary for our survival. I’ve just had a day that has been illuminating, and as I rarely do so, I hope you’ll forgive me for tooting the horn of my own company.
I work here at Patheos, doing both things magically Pagan and mundanely behind the scenes. To get some training on some ineffably geeky stuff I flew out to Denver for a few days. It was a pleasure to meet the folks I’d been working with remotely for months. These are people who are of different religious backgrounds who engage in serious dialogue about things that matter in a civil and friendly manner.
Here I arrive, quite literally an unschooled Pagan, to find myself engaged in constructive and theoretical discussions about depth of religious discourse, presenting unifying or sectarian content, the economics of the sex industry, politics, how to provide meaningful, practical religious resources and how to maintain the balance between the different faith traditions.What our biggest obstacle seems to be is that people aren’t quite certain what to make of us. Patheos is committed to featuring and exploring all forms of religious expression. We are seriously interested in featuring Scientology as much as we are interested in featuring atheism, Evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Heathenry. As a Pagan, I spend a portion of my day interacting with Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic Christians on how to promote their articles, and wondering how to gain attention to the Muslim portal. I do this in goodwill. All of us, despite our religious differences, collaborate on this interfaith work daily out of goodwill.
I firmly believe if Paganism has one single tenet that spans our many religions and traditions, it is tolerance. Here I have seen that taken a step further, into spiritual cooperation and goodwill that isn’t based on conformity but on recognition of the beautiful gifts we all bring to the human expression of the sacred. If this is what interfaith work can be, then I think we should joyfully engage in this work daily. It is good for the soul.