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