Point of Reference
by Fred Price
In this day of respect for diversity and tolerance of all people and beliefs, we have created fertile ground for the resurgence of paganism; defined as a faith pre-dating Christianity or something other than belief in Christ. The popularity of mediums and fortune tellers and the re-emergence of sorcery, witchcraft and animism, renewed interest in Native American practices, radical environmentalism and the New Age movement, the resurgence of interest in Greek mythology as well as the virtual worship of virility, fertility and sex in our society give ample evidence of paganism on the rise. We have gone from respect of diversity and tolerance of differing ideas to total freedom of expression and the embracing of anything and everything. Stepping over the line separating freedom from license, some now deem aberrant behavior as not only permissible but admirable. In fact, the only belief system it’s o.k. to be intolerant of is Christianity, portrayed as the perpetrator of all that ails mankind, practiced by people of intolerant dispositions and bigoted zeal.
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 with differing points of view. To disagree is not intolerant, nor does urging acceptance of Christian principles necessitate repudiating one’s culture. We can embrace cultural differences while renewing religious ideals. However, being tolerant doesn’t mean we become all-inclusive or all accepting. We must allow for other ideas and beliefs, but we don’t have to believe one is as good as another; as seeking 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 religious 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 usually lose all sense of right and wrong, losing touch with God altogether. The ancients had numerous gods and goddesses. Even when a local god was considered preferable they didn’t want to offend any others, so respect was shown to all; their faith degenerating into superstition. They believed in everything in general, nothing in particular. In essence, they truly believed in nothing.
In reality, paganism survives because not everybody accepts Christ. Rather than becoming fearful and upset, believers need to practice the best responses of the early church. The intermittent rise of paganism forced the early church to rethink who they were, question their own belief system and evaluate their dedication to the one who called them to faith and faithfulness. Forcing them – and us – to collect our thoughts, marshal our 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 the restless seeking of purpose and direction; the desire for a sense of peace expressed by people through the practice of all kinds of “religious” behavior ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Man needs God whether he will admit 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, intolerance 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, not better than anyone else but better than they were before.
A petition authored by the Montgomery-based Pagans In Action: Council for Truth, a worldwide coalition of pagan groups, has accused the church of desecration of sacred sites, forced conversions, propaganda against pagan beliefs and execution of “non-conformists.” They claim to be, “a global spiritual movement that draws its inspiration and traditions from indigenous pre-Christian religions,” and demanded an apology along with Protestant, Jewish and Muslim believers who at times were ostracized and persecuted as well. They may have a point. The church has made mistakes throughout the centuries, especially when it became too closely allied to the governing powers of its day, forgetting that it has been and always will be more effective when it follows the dictates of Christ alone. The admonition to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, giving freely to those who ask, and loving one’s neighbor and enemies quickly come to mind as worthy examples. (Matthew 5:38-49) Those are the conditions and responses that fostered the early church’s explosive growth and influence. By doing so, they are said to have, “turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6 Not by political power or economic influence – as they had none at this point; but with the power of persuasive speech and positive interaction. It is worth remembering that hundreds of years before the Inquisition and the Crusades, when the church had no power but of spirited verbal persuasion, they succeeded in changing the hearts and minds of people on a massive scale. As a result, the governing powers, both religious and political – feared, envied, hated and persecuted them. (First!)
In fact, Christians were forced at times to separate themselves from the surrounding culture to persevere in their new-found faith, believing they had to worship as their conscience dictated rather than as the government, whether of Jerusalem or Rome, demanded; despite public opinion and sometimes dire consequences. The demands of native peoples, pagans, etc. have become exceedingly one-sided as history shows they as well as Muslims killed Christians by the thousands, Jews tried their best to exterminate the movement of Christ in its infancy; while the death and destruction between the two branches of the church – Protestant and Catholic – is appalling. There is plenty of blame to go round, finger-pointing and name calling being counter-productive.
Historically, whenever paganism has risen, the Church has been persecuted; it’s buildings confiscated and destroyed, holy relics and sacramental utensils defiled. Christians have been (and are being) killed or driven underground, losing all their possessions and ability to prosper; many surviving women and children sold into slavery or raised as pagans. Ridiculous untruths and misrepresentations have been told regarding the traditions and practices of the church. 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. Commitment to living up to God’s expectations in all things. Once again, we need to stop reacting to the world and its views and get busy living the active lifestyle of a follower of Christ. The early believers did so and changed the political, scientific, economic and moral face of the world. We can and should do no less.
"Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life" from
Dates are ImportantRead Article »
Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
Receive the newest devotional each week in your inbox by joining the "Point of Reference" subscription list. Enter your email address below, click "Go!" and we will send you a confirmation email. Follow the instructions in the email to confirm your addition to this list.