Exploring Pagans and their relationship with that earthiest of earth symbols, money.

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An open letter to Pope Francis, from a Pagan admirer

To His Holiness Francis, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church,

As major media outlets mark Christmas by reflecting upon your actions since assuming your duties as Pope nearly a year ago.  As a former member of your church, and a present blogger on the role of money in my religious community, I have followed your statements on Christian belief with interest.  Your desire to refocus on Biblical teachings such as caring for the poor has caused many ripples of excitement and interest the world over, and I'm as hopeful as anyone.

I fear, however, that your message of love is falling on some deaf ears in the Pagan community, particularly because you have suggested that failed Christians are Pagan by default.  Respectfully, such a sentiment expresses a level of ignorance about the diverse faiths frequently lumped together in the Pagan label, and ignorance is not something I'm used to associating with your thoughtful, compassionate words.

To be fair, I understand that "pagan," in the parlance of your faith's history, was a word that was used generally to describe those people who do not follow an Abrahamic faith.  It am surprised to learn, however, that such a learned man as yourself is unaware of the many people who self-identify as Pagan, or practice a religion frequently identified as such, including in your native Argentina and Italy, your current home.

Others, more learned than I, are willing and able to engage in interfaith dialogue; I shall not attempt to begin that complex process here.  On the question of money, however, I feel I have something to offer.  While the diversity of thought within Paganism is much broader than even that of Christianity, I wanted to help you understand how some Pagans relate to money.

  • Some Pagans prefer to avoid money when possible, associating it with many of the ills in the world today.
  • There are Pagans who see the world as balanced among the elemental energies of fire, air, water, and earth, with money being considered a representation of the last.
  • Abundance can be considered a blessing, one that should be shared.  Some of us consider giving to the poor to be an offering to our gods, or an expectation laid down by them.
  • Many Pagans supported relief efforts in Haiyan.  There are few specifically Pagan charities, so the money often goes through other channels.

Our specific beliefs about money and charity do not stem from the Bible, but many of us have values similar to some of the ones espoused there.  You were right to call out your followers for ignoring the teachings of your religion, but please do not declare your hypocrites to be our co-religionists.  Most of us came to our path in adulthood, and take our religion of choice very seriously.

I urge you to remember that your audience is larger than your church, and many of us do not appreciate "pagan" being used as an insult for failed Christians.  We are not failed Christians, we are successful Pagans.  While some of us admire what you do with your flock, we would prefer that you do not attempt to foist us on your cast-offs.

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Terence P Ward is a business writer and journalist who blogs under the rather cumbersome moniker of True Pagan Warrior.  He can generally be found at home, tending to his gardens and the many demands of his cats; in the alternative, follow TPW on Facebook

Comments

  • Jamie
    Jamie Saturday, 28 December 2013

    Mr. Ward,

    I was raised as a Protestant in a mostly-Catholic community, and attended a Catholic school for a couple of years. I actually saw (and still see, by the way) many admirable things about the Catholic faith, and briefly considered converting back in the early 90s.

    However, I had too many theological objections. Eventually, other Gods [and Goddesses!] had touched my life in a way that made continued Christian belief impossible. You can only pretend for so long, once you the see the truth for what it is.

    Catholicism kept the mysticism and elaborate ritual which the Reformation mostly burned [in some cases literally] out of Protestantism. The more recent Popes have also been reasoned, consistent critics of the excesses of consumerist materialism and the global war machine. They did this without simply adopting a Neo-Marxist manifesto, like the 1970s mainline Protestantism I was raised with.

    A devout Catholic intellectual can make a case for his/her path, without resorting to circular logic or appeals to biblical authority. I may reject Catholicism, but even now as a Pagan I respect it in a way that, frankly, I can't respect certain other Christian sects.

    I very much doubt the respect is mutual. Such is the way of many One True God followers. I also doubt that the Pontifex Maximus, who holds the same title as the Pagan high priests of ancient Rome (and in many ways became their successor), cares about our opinions...

    but I appreciate your post and agree that your criticism of his words is valid.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Saturday, 28 December 2013

    I think you're probably right about whether the leader of a major Christian sect would give a hoot about my views, but I emailed him the link anyway. If you really believe there are no other gods, the best possible scenario is one of patronizing courtesy to the "primitives" and their religions. If you don't really believe that there's only one god, you're probably not going to admit that out loud if you're Pope!

  • Jamie
    Jamie Sunday, 29 December 2013

    Mr. Ward,

    This is the heart of my argument in favor of secularism. Faith-based privilege encourages, even necessitates, the worst kinds of hypocrisy and deception. Forcing people to pretend that they're really a devout member of whatever religion, under threat of criminal or economic sanction, doesn't create more true believers.

    It just creates people who live double lives, in order that those who belong to the dominant religion can pretend that their beliefs are the only ones which matter.

    If Jupiter Himself appeared to the Pope, and said, "Puny mortal, do you doubt my existence now?", would the Pope admit it? As you say, we both know the answer.

    Likewise, plumbers, electricians, and other tradespeople usually have families to feed. Let's be honest: Their business contacts with local megachurches and associated Evangelical believers may depend upon them appearing to be 'good' Christians. An inconvenient epiphany that there are twenty Gods, or no Gods, would have dire economic consequences if shared with the wrong people.

    How many times have we all heard Evangelical Christians, blissfully unaware of our religious beliefs, say, "I would only allow Christians to do work!" for their home or business? Better yet, "This is a free country. You should be able to fire anyone who isn't Christian."

    Unfortunately for them, like I say, that doesn't create more Christians.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Sunday, 29 December 2013

    I think you're probably right about whether the leader of a major Christian sect would give a hoot about my views, but I emailed him the link anyway. If you really believe there are no other gods, the best possible scenario is one of patronizing courtesy to the "primitives" and their religions. If you don't really believe that there's only one god, you're probably not going to admit that out loud if you're Pope!

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