Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reverend Billy Graham Confused About Paganism

I probably would have just ignored this one if it came out of the mouth of a Dominionist, but unfortunately it was written by one of America's foremost Christian ministers, the Reverend Billy Graham, when asked about a group that practices some unspecified form of paganism.

Only God Can Fill Pagans' Emptiness

Here's the troubling quotation:

I have often asked myself why people such as this turn their backs on Christianity and embrace something that is almost the exact opposite.

I would expect Reverend Graham to state that pagans are following a false religion because Jesus teaches that he is the one way to God. Graham is a Southern Baptist and that's his theology. What I find troubling is that he characterizes paganism as "almost the exact opposite" of Christianity. It's a sensational comment that belongs in a tabloid article, not a piece written by a serious clergyman.

"Almost the exact opposite" of Christianity would be something like heavy-metal Satanism, which I have a hard time believing is practiced by anyone as an actual spiritual path. The "almost" leaves some wiggle room, but in fact a number of magicians have commented that paganism as practiced today is almost exactly like liberal Christianity with a different set of deities in place of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Threefold Law and Golden Rule, for example, are remarkably similar concepts.

Both Paganism and Christianity essentially teach that you should treat the people around you well, act with integrity, and make spiritual values a priority in your life. So do most other religions. While there is some disagreement on the exact details of those spiritual values, it seems to me that to characterize paganism as the "almost opposite" of Christianity is to imply that Paganism teaches its adherents to treat people around them poorly and act without integrity.

That's a smear job, not genuine theological criticism, and it's a shame to see it coming from someone who should know better.

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