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Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Friends the Pagans (Part One)




"I want to start a group," I told my friend, Suzette, one day. "A group for people who want to talk about God or gods, and spiritual-not-religious stuff." I told her I was tired of the Christian bubble, and Jesus never lived this way. He was out and about and liked all kinds of people. People like Suzette. Not just churchy people like me.


I wanted to find out if people who are very different from each other could be very much "in like" with each other anyway, not just in spite of, but perhaps...was there a possibility...that we could come to adore each other simply because? That we could discover something in each other we need? Could we actually... learn from one another?

With Suzette's encouragement, Dave and I started the group. We met in a downtown cafe and hit the ground running with wide-open stories shared by all. There were tears as spiritual journeys were laid out on the table, one by one. That first night I knew all over again what had caused me to want to do this in the first place: We all are spiritual. And we want more of the Spirit, however we define it.

More than one year later, we are still meeting together on a regular basis. Last night we had a potluck dinner at my house, and took a two-mile country walk, resting for a while in a hay field under summer solstice stars.We're quite the mix...

Pete calls himself a witch and is married to a man.
Rob makes haunted house calls and hunts down ghosts.
Molly is trying to figure out what she believes.
Theresa grew up in the church and left it by the wayside.
Tom was once a priest and now hates religion.
*Dave and Faith are born again Christians.

I know. Crazy, huh? Actually, it feels like the most normal and natural thing to do. I've been surprised (no I haven't) by the reactions I've gotten from (a few) religious folks:

You're brave!
Does it make you angry, the way they believe? (Um, no--it makes me angry how you look at them.)

Actually, I'm not angry at all. Because the truth is, five years ago I never would have done this either. But God changed-and-is-changing all that.

Do I come to this group with a religious agenda? Do I end each meeting with an altar call and an invitation to say the "sinner's prayer?" No, and that makes some people outside the group upset. (Interestingly enough, I've noticed through the years that many Christians who decry this sort of thing have little to show in the way of "fruit." Some tend to make more enemies than disciples, have a track record of broken relationships, and wonder why many around them are turned off to the gospel.)

And that is why my gay-pagan-wiccan friends need this group, and why I need them. We serve to remind each other that nothing can reach a human heart like love can.

God is love.

If you were to ask the group what I believe, they'd tell you in no uncertain terms what I'm all about. They'd tell you who I believe Jesus is, and that I really, really like Him. A lot.  As in, He's-worth-living-and-dying-for a lot. They'd also tell you that I'm learning about Paganism (I know what Beltane is!), that I like to laugh and eat nonstop (the witch can bake!), and that I love to hear peoples' stories.

But what I hope they'd tell you more than anything else is that they know a little bit more what Jesus is like because of me. That I live the Gospel. I don't know for sure if they'd tell you that. But what I do know is that I want to follow Jesus so closely that they can't help but feel they've been with Him, whether I mention His name or not.

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" Matthew 9:11

Stay tuned for part two, where I'll answer the FAQ's about this group.

*(Most) names have been changed.


















8 comments:

Keith said...

What was Jesus' answer to the question asked in Matthew 9:11? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
He also made more enemies than disciples ("Crucify Him!"), had broken relationships ("From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more") and turned many off ("The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil").

Faith Bogdan said...

All absolutely true, Keith. Thanks for your input. I trust you are filling your table with the people Jesus loves but the church largely shuns, and building relationships with them through mutual trust and respect, sharing the gospel with wisdom, love and as the Spirit leads.

Faith Bogdan said...

Actually, I said "absolutely true," but I want to be careful to point out that it was the religious who crucified Jesus. A very important question to ask is, "Why did He 'make enemies'?" Was it because they rejected the truth, or because He preached at them while neglecting relationship and failing to meet their basic human needs? It's a question we need to ask ourselves. When we're persecuted, is it for "righteousness sake," or for "being right's" sake?

Usarian Skiff said...

I have had similar experiences in recent years. I learned from my marriage to accept people and what they think and feel and value, extending that to work I wound up making some good friends all over the political and religious spectrum. I listened to their beliefs and learned and grew. They in turn listened to my politics and religious beliefs. We, together, discovered, for example, the atheist has faith and experienced a conversion to his faith. We challenged each others politics and both of us evolved in our understand of the other side, even conceding some points. Dogma helps no one. Neither the faithful to grow, nor the "faithless" to convert.

Vie H. said...

Faith, I love your ministry and I'm praying that God continue to use you and Dave in reaching out to these people-people loved of God. People embraced by your love and your love of Jesus. vie

Keith said...

One thing I say and always try to keep in mind is, when we're hated, it better be for His sake and not ours.

Faith Bogdan said...

Thank you, Vie! Well said, Usarian. What I hope readers take away from this is that it is not a post on evangelism or ministry, but on the importance of getting to know the individual, something many Christians miss entirely.

Sojourner said...

Well Faith, if this is a on-line community, then count me in. Also let God do the alter call. We just need to disciple them, if they want to be. That's not hard to tell. :) However, it should be open to all.