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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Redux: Christians & Pagan Tolerance

This is a page from the third version of Technopagan Yearnings. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at www.neowayland.com/C550866538/E20100211053004

My comments on a list I belong to

More later I promise. But I wanted to make sure this one got archived.

Once again, this is my side of the email conversation because I do not have permission from the others involved to post their comments.

Febuary 10, 2010 17:03
There's a pretty good bit in The Autobiography of Malcolm X that is even better in Malcolm X, the Spike Lee film based on the autobiography.  Although it's not very politically correct to say, Malcolm X was just a big a bigot as those he opposed.  What's more, he was an Angry Man with A Cause who was justified in his anger towards "the white man."  It was that justification and a healthy dose of guilt that gave Malcolm's words their power.  Now the conventional thing would have been to pause the story in the film just before Malcolm X went to Mecca, and then maybe show the assassination.  But Spike Lee made the choice that moved it from a great film to a masterpiece.  There was one scene and it's the keystone moment of the entire film where Malcolm talks about the other pilgrims that he met on his way.  Here were all these people with all these skin colors and all these ethic backgrounds joined in one purpose.  And maybe skin color wasn't quite the dividing line that he thought it would be.  Compared to the rest of the story, that was an amazing revelation.  No, it isn't as far along the path to tolerance that we may have like.  But it's a huge turnaround.  What gives that moment it's energy and impact is not that Malcolm is doing "the right thing," but that for the very first time in his life, Malcolm stopped following the Story that someone else gave him and started his own Journey.

Malcolm X had every right to be furious.  He embraced an angry monotheism to escape the place where American society stuffed him.  But in turn, that monotheism was a gate to a much greater path.  That's a path I believe he never would have found had he not made his own choices and struggled on.

Christianity, the Nation of Islam, atheism, Paganism, these are labels.  Now people may use those labels as justifications for their actions, but it is not the label that is responsible.  As a Pagan I'm not responsible for the actions of every Pagan out there.  I'm responsible for my actions.  Since I believe strongly that the measure of a man is in the lives he touches, I'll even accept some of the responsibility for the actions of the people I know and love.  But someone I've never met?  I can't be responsible for them, no matter what the label they choose.  The label isn't responsible, the individuals are. 

Nature abhors a vacuum and there is nothing that is irredeemably "evil."  

You speak of 1700 years, but Christianity today is not the same thing it was then.  I'm pretty sure I heard about at least one Reformation somewhere in there *grins*

More to the point though, even the mostly religious plurality that Americans enjoy today had it's origins with Christians violently disagreeing over which was the "true" church for century after century.  When it came down to it, self-interest ruled.  No one wanted to give way to a church they didn't belong to, and the separation of church and state was the only answer.

Compare that to what happened to the early Christians.  They refused to put the state gods before their own, and were convicted of treason.  Granted, many willingly chose martyrdom.  But it was politics, not religion.  At least by our standards today.

If Julian had been a secret Christian instead of a secret Pagan, there's no doubt in my mind that Julian the Apostate would have been Saint Julian the Great.  The principles he chose to shape his life were admirable, it's just that the Christians who wrote the histories didn't like his faith.  But as much as I admire Julian, by today's standards he is not all that different from the barbarians.  Julian was a product of his time.  Unless they were noble (and sometimes even then), women weren't all that important except for sex and child rearing.  Torture and slavery were accepted and widely practiced.  Public toilets often were the gutter, assuming there was a street to have a gutter.  Personal property meant that you had the force of arms to back up your claims.  Might made right.

I still admire and revere Julian for choosing his true faith.  But I am not going to condemn you because Julian did not conform to a modern notion of morality.

"Sins of the fathers" is a Christian concept I believe has no place here (see my earlier post where I talked about the Practical Grudge Limit).  I won't condemn the church down the street because of something that happened hundreds of years ago on another continent.

Tell me what they did yesterday, not fifty years before I was born.

Posted: Thu - February 11, 2010 at 05:30 AM

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