In this day of overblown respect for diversity and tolerance of all people, cultures and beliefs, we have created fertile ground for the resurgence of paganism; defined as a faith pre-dating Christianity. The popularity of mediums and fortune tellers and the acceptance of Wicca, witchcraft and animism, renewed interest in Native American practices, radical environmentalism, the New Age movement, renewed interest in Greek mythology and theology as well as the virtual worship of virility, fertility and sex in our society give ample evidence of a resurgence of paganism. In his writing – and movies – Dan Brown, among others, has popularized the idea of worshipping the “sacred feminine” and defends other pagan forms of worship while questioning and denigrating all things “Christian.”. (The new definition of tolerance.) The result being that we have now begun stepping over the line separating freedom from license, deeming aberrant behavior as not only permissible but admirable. (See Romans 1:32)

It has become impolitic – impolite – improper to disagree. Well, I disagree with that! We can witness about our faith, proselytize those of other faiths and convince those of no faith while respecting people from other cultures with differing points of view. What we don’t have to do is believe one is as good as another because contrary to popular belief, seeking the truth, taking a firm stand and making a statement of faith is not intolerant.

To believe that everyone is right or at least not wrong, that every religion is merely a different path to the same God is the essence of tolerance today. But is it correct? When we stop seeking truth, accepting the ordinary in place of the extra-ordinary; when we label all things good rather than seeking for better and best – we often reject the ideals of right and wrong, and thus God, altogether. The ancients had numerous gods and goddesses. Even when a local god was considered preferable they didn’t want to offend the others, so respect was shown to all. Any semblance of faith degenerated into superstition. They believed in everything in general, nothing in particular. In essence, they truly believed in nothing. (Which brings to mind the old adage, ‘Those who believe in nothing, will fall for anything.’)

The truth of the matter is that paganism survives today because not everybody accepts Christ. But instead of becoming fearful and stridently defensive, believers need to practice the best responses of the early church. The intermittent rise of paganism forced them to rethink who they were, examining their own belief system and evaluating their dedication to the one who called them to faith and faithfulness. Rather then silencing them, it actually helped them collect their thoughts, marshal their forces and compose a reasoned, understandable defense of faith in God and obedience to his Son.

Man’s need of God has never been more evident, both in his godless behavior and in his restless seeking of purpose and direction, often manifested in the practice of all kinds of “religious” behavior ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Man needs God whether he admits it or not. That “God-space” in his soul will be filled, but with what and with what results? The situation Christians find themselves in today, facing government policies and public attitudes of distrust and dislike are not unlike those the early church found itself confronted with numerous times. Many have preached tolerance – intolerantly. Adversity made them stronger, made them better, made them more vocal, not less. They went from ordinary to extra-ordinary, showing themselves to be different but not personally exclusive, not better than but better than they were before.

Several years ago, a petition authored by the Montgomery-based Pagans In Action: Council for Truth – a worldwide coalition of pagan groups – accused the early church of desecration of sacred sites, forced conversions, propaganda against pagan beliefs and execution of “non-conformists.” Claiming to be a global spiritual movement, they demanded an apology from the Catholic church, cloaking their demands with a mantle of reasonableness by including Protestant, Jewish and Muslim believers persecuted through the ages as well. Sad to say, they have a point. The church – including us Protestants – has made serious mistakes throughout the centuries, especially when it became too closely allied to the governing powers of its day, losing sight of the fact that it has been and always will be more effective when it follows the dictates of Christ above all else. (The admonitions to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give to those who ask – freely, and loving one’s enemies as well as their neighbor quickly come to mind because they represent the responses that fostered the church’s tremendous growth and influence at its inception; allowing it to “turn the world upside down” as a result. See Matthew 5:38-49 & Acts 17:6) Christianity gained prominence not by economic manipulation, military power or political influence, for they had none at this point; but with the power of persuasive speech and positive interaction. As a consequence of their success, the governing powers – both religious and political – feared, envied, hated and persecuted them. (First!)

Historically, whenever paganism has risen, the Church has been persecuted; its buildings confiscated and destroyed, its holy relics and sacramental utensils defiled. Christians have been killed or driven underground, losing all their possessions and means of prospering; many surviving women sold into slavery and their children raised as pagans. Ridiculous untruths have been told regarding the traditions and practices of the church, the very things they now indignantly accuse the church of doing! But the church survived – no –it thrived under persecution by returning to the basics. Love of God and fellow man. Dependence on God for direction and survival. Dedication to living up to God’s expectations in all things. Once again, we need to stop reacting to the world and its views and be busy in the active lifestyle of a follower of Christ, which is the legitimate legacy of our Christian forefathers.