Tips for Talking to Pagans


So this has been going around the religious blogosphere today, and I thought I would contribute my two cents–as much as I hate to follow trends, I feel the need to weigh in on this topic.

It starts here, with a post by Matt Stone on Glocal Christianity.  Then hop over to Wild Hunt for a very brief link to the same article, which is how I found out about it.  Then pretty much go to almost any other pagan blog for various opinions on the topic, and definitely read the comments in the original article.

Before I get started, let me say this: I am glad that at least there are people who are open to the idea of talking to pagans.  It’s far better than trying to persecute or otherwise terrorize people simply for being different.  I am glad that some of the suggestions in the post are actually good ones: don’t jump to conclusions; do some research on your own assumptions to find out what’s real and what’s misconception; don’t expect the Bible to be revered by people who are not Christian; etc.  My favorite quote from this post is ultimately a positive step in the right direction: “And consider, even when you consider them [pagans] unbalanced, who created the imbalance that necessitated this counterbalance? Yes, us! So maybe we can learn a thing or two from them here.”  I like that quite a bit.

Now for the things I don’t like . . .

My contribution to this discussion: The whole point of these “tips for talking to pagans” is for conversion.  Did anyone ever stop to think that perhaps we don’t want to be converted?  Does anyone stop to think that maybe it’s kind of offensive for a person of one faith to automatically assume that a person of another faith is going to be interested in anything that person would have to say.

Would you like to talk to me to ask questions about paganism and/or my personal opinions on religion for learning or friendly debate purposes?  I’m happy to oblige.  I like a friendly debate, especially when the other person is able to speak knowledgeably about the subject or admit their own ignorance if they don’t know.  Would you like to talk to me to ask how my day is, or ask me something about school, etc.?  Great.  Again, happy to do so.

But if you want to talk to me and learn these tips on how to talk to a pagan for the purpose of trying to be sneaky in expressing your doubts about my faith, please don’t even open your mouth.  Walk away.  I was a Christian.  I know what it’s about.  It didn’t work for me.  I have now found something that does work, and I’m happy.  I’m quite sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other pagans who can say something similar.

I know it’s in the scripture for some religions to proselytize.  But come on, pagans are humans too (in case you didn’t know that already).  We can tell when you’re listening because you’re genuinely interested in what we have to say, and when you’re listening in order to debate our faith and try to show yours as the better one.  We can tell when someone is BSing us for their own reasons or gain.

Not to mention all the stereotypes in the slideshow. . . really, we aren’t all like that.  I’m an average person and an average pagan.  My family doesn’t know I’m not Christian.  Which I guess means I look like your everyday average Christian most days.

“Your story is what makes the good news real, plausible, and hopefully even attractive.”  Yeahh . . . not so much.  I’m glad you’ve found God and all, and I’m glad that your path works for you.  That’s great.  Really, it is.  But my acknowledgment of that does not mean I want to hear all about your personal relationship with God, or why Christianity is so awesome, or why the “good news” is good news.  Your personal story is no more moving to me than a recitation of the Bible.  It’s actually probably more off-putting, because then it’s obvious that your whole “relationship-building” with me has been an excuse for you to spout this story about the wonders of Jesus and how God has made your life wonderful.  Again, I’m glad that you love life and have a religion that works for you.  But that doesn’t mean I automatically welcome a story about it.

And my biggest issue with this kind of post: it sort of makes pagans sound like some kind of alien creature that needs to be approached with a 10-foot pole in case we decide to bite.  As Hecate points out briefly in her own rant on the subject (and hers is far more snarky and enjoyable than mine), this article puts us firmly in the Other category, the Unknown category, the Not Human category.  Saying lovely words like “pagans are people just like us” does not in fact make the subject more human, it does exactly the opposite.  If someone needs to be reminded of another person’s humanity, then the subject was not considered human in the first place.  Plain and simple.  And I can’t say I particularly enjoy being called a non-human.

OK, before this builds any more steam and I work myself into a truly angry frenzy, we’re going to let this issue go and I will let you all read the articles for yourselves and form your own opinions–if I haven’t influenced you too much first!

Why, yes, I do like being lumped into a stereotype, thanks ever so much!

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2 responses to “Tips for Talking to Pagans

  1. First, where is the picture he has there of the ladies in white robes doing the “Hail Hitler” gesture from?

    The fact he seems to believe that Christians need to be taught to talk to us is what I find insulting. I realize that it is evangelizing that he is talking about, but he couches it in terms of conversation which always pissed me off. Why do we need to be treated differently than anyone else? Why can’t you talk to us like another person? And how condescending does “That’s curious, because I love those things too, as a Christian.” sound?

    Also, why are we unbalanced? Because we like our environment and think women are equal? Powers forbid that we think a lady has some rites and we like the idea of breathing.

    Overall, if it wasn’t for the evangelical bent and desire to bring us to christ, I would love the encouragement to talk. I think the discomfort and derision often felt by either side for the other is detrimental to both. A strong conversation geared towards understanding and acceptance would go a long way.

  2. Pingback: opium of the masses « Haight68Ashbury

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