Just recently, I started getting out and walking through the neighborhood. Around here, that’s not exactly a safe thing to do. Hillsboro, Texas is not exactly a modern town. While there sidewalks on the more traveled parts of town, as well as the newer neighborhoods (such as the street that I live on) – the rest of town is just a series of paved blacktop roads with no sidewalks. To augment my own personal safety, I walk on the side of the road that has me headed into oncoming traffic. That way, when cars come towards me, I can move off the paved road into the (sometimes) mowed yards or fields that border where I am walking. Just to provide a touch more context, much of Hillsboro was wiped clean by a tornado in October of 1974 (Halloween to be exact). Much of the neighborhoods bordering mine consist of beat-up mobile homes, run-down homes, and empty lots. A LOT of empty lots. So my walks can, sometimes, be a touch adventurous with folks zooming these “back streets” at higher than posted speeds. However, there are other “hazards” that come with walking on the surrounding streets of the neighborhood – friendly folks.
I know, I can hear you say it…what makes a friendly person so hazardous? Well, its not their friendliness that is hazardous. Plus, “hazardous” might not be the absolute correct term, but its what I’ve managed to come up with – at this point. Embedded in the ten-mile radius from my house are fourteen Christian churches. Most are small churches. The sole exception is a rather large church that is closer to the nearby interstate than the neighborhoods. That’s the local Baptist church. Many of the closer ones are in run-down buildings that look similar to much of the neighborhood. Here, there are other Christian denominations. Five of them are independent Evangelical types. Those folks are a touch more rabid about their beliefs. They are also the folks I tend to encounter on my walks.
A few weeks back, I went out for a walk on a fairly warm day. I had my staff with me and a bottle of water with me – I’m not particularly stable in my walking, I am still basically recovering from the pneumonia and its side effects from the Iceland trip, though I am far better than I was. I came across an elderly man working on his front yard. Well, he wasn’t that much older than me. Probably in his sixties. We exchanged “hellos” and he stood and walked over to me. He held out his hand and introduced himself. I returned the greeting. Then he started in with asking me if I knew Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. Yeah, here we go again.
We talked for a while, all gathered around my response of: “I’m not a Christian.” After about five minutes, I politely excused myself from the conversation and continued my walk. I’ve not avoided his house over the next few walks I took. We cordially wave and greet one another. Every single time though, he will stand and come towards me. I’ll politely wave him off and cheerfully reply: “Not today, thank you,” as I continue my walk.
So, as I sit here drinking my coffee, listening to some Electric Light Orchestra, I wonder about the entire concept of proselytization. This whole concept of trying to share your beliefs with others, in the hopes of converting them to your way of believing. I get it, sort of. You are happy about what you believe in. You want to share that with someone else. You want other people to experience the same happiness and sense of belonging that you have. All of it makes sense. Particularly, if you believe that you are holding the ONLY truth that is out there – the ONLY peace and happiness that can be had. I also realize that according to the writings that these people base their beliefs on, that I am here to deceive others, just as I have been deceived. So, I understand the perspective, though I complete disagree with it.
Were I just twenty-five years younger, I would have reacted differently. I would have stayed in this man’s front yard and had a full-fledged, loud volume theological argument. All of which, would have resulted in nothing more than damaged feelings on both sides, along with a healthy slice of resentment. Yeah, I might have actually “won” the argument, but what would I have really won? I could have added another battle notch to my staff (which has no such notches in it). So, a few added thoughts. I’m not a theologian. Not even close. I’m just me. A simple Pagan Druid trying to live my life each day. I’m not even attempting to convert a single soul to Paganism. Honestly, if someone is interested in Paganism – they have to make that choice for themselves. I’m not going to push them into it. I’m not going to tell them that Paganism is filled every single night with people sitting around a fire, sharing alcoholic drinks, and slowly finding a partner for the night, somewhere away from the fire. I won’t deny that such things happen – but that’s not the be-all, end-all of Paganism. In fact, it doesn’t ALWAYS happen. Sometimes, its just people taking a quiet walk in the woods together, talking about subjects that interest them. Sometimes, you are just sitting at home watching The Owl House (my current personal flavoring, outside of Gravity Falls) or some other television show or movie. Sometimes, you’re sitting in your backyard alone – gardening or taking a snooze in the warmth of the day. Sometimes, you are sitting in a coffee shop reading a book or people watching. Or you are going to some sports-ball game to watch your kids or grandkids or loved ones play. Living your faith, your beliefs, your Spirituality – all of that is no different than anyone of any other faith. The only difference is our perspective on Spirituality – how we approach our chosen God(s). And honestly, when you pare away all the frivolities and trappings associated with that – there’s a lot more similarities than differences. In arguing over which perspective is more correct, we’re just arguing semantics. We’re essentially arguing over the meaning of these symbolic gestures that we make. Meanings that are individualistic because we are individuals. Not one of us is the same. Our concepts of derived meaning are as individualistic as our choices in coffees, teas, soft drinks, and flavorings.
What would I have won if I had carried that front-yard conversation to its end? A sense of superiority? Would my Gods have given me a prize that I could have carried around with me? Would the wider Pagan community acknowledge me as a “great” word warrior against the “hosts of evil?” Going even deeper, would I really even want accolades like that?
Like I said, I’m not a theologian. I’m not here to fight some religious war. I just want to live my life as I can – without judgment from others, without interference from those that cannot understand that my perspective is just different than theirs. I’m not here to disprove Christians (or any other belief system, for that matter) and what they believe. I’m not here to tell them that they are wrong. I’d rather give them the same courtesy that I want to receive from them. Even when I don’t receive it from them. However, like anyone else, I have my limits…I just haven’t reached them yet. I hope I never will.