I did wonder, after yesterday’s encounter, whether I had been too harsh, but I agree with Hamish and Jabba who make in different ways the excellent point that this sort of syncretism insults all the religions from which it plunders.
As some of you know, I have two friends who converted to Islam while at University. They take their religion extremely seriously and when I talk with them, neither they nor I try to pretend that we are sharing the same religion. Indeed, I am not even sure (although I think the Vatican says otherwise) that we really worship the same God. My God is the Triune God revealed to us in Scripture; their God is more akin to the one a non-Christian reading of what we cal the Old Testament will give. Now it may well be that far wiser people can tell us that we are really worshipping the same God, but as we can’t see that, we simply avoid the topic; with four children a piece, we’ve plenty of other things to discuss.
The chaplaincy where yesterday’s talk took place is one shared by all the great faiths represented at the university. But we have had a request (more of a demand really) from the ‘PagSoc’ (Pagan Society) that they should be allocated times and space there. Some of my fellow Christians have bridled at that and want to protest. I am less clear about this.
As fa as I can see, modern paganism is a made up set of beliefs culled from new age philosophy and crossed with old beliefs. But if it is a belief system which some students have, or find useful, then I di not see how we can properly say to the university that those students do not have the right to use its premises. I gather that a couple of years ago the Christian Union had to fight off attempts from the secularists to take the chaplaincy for other uses, which seems to me another reason to extend tolerance in this instance.
The interesting thing about the discussions so far is that those who argue as I am are finding ourselves under fire from both sides. Some of the Pagans want simply to take this as an ‘equality’ issue and insist on their ‘rights’; some of my fellow Christians want to make it an issue of ‘principle’ and refuse to allow ‘such people’ into a sacred space. I ended up speaking to a very sweet young Pagan woman who was upset that we couldn’t understand that they, too, had the concept of ‘sacred space’ and she insisted they would never misuse the space if they were allowed to use it.
I don’t know where this one is going to end. Much as I deplore syncretism, and much as I adore Christ, it seems better in this instance to acknowledge that the university itself is a shared space. If a place of higher learning cannot find its way to an answer to how those of different faiths (and none) live together, then I really will be close to despair.