So far as I am aware, the New Testament gives only one certain test of spiritual value, Jesus said, “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20) What are the fruits of valid spiritual practice? Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance…” But the fruits of those who have emphasized the errors of other faiths, when offered the power of state or mob to enforce their beliefs, have been vile, murderous, evil, are as far removed from these fruits of the Spirit in Biblical terms as a person can get. —Gus DiZerega, Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience
Christianity has a rather long, violent and bloody history when it comes to the persecution of those whose beliefs are different from theirs. This persecution was not only directed toward Pagans, it was also directed toward other Christians who did not have the “right view” of the faith as determined by those in power. As a Christian who has always been an out-of-the-box kind of thinker, I’ve been on the receiving end of so-called righteous anger more times than I can remember. Because of this, I feel more of a kinship with Pagan folk who have always welcomed me warmly. I guess people who have been persecuted and discriminated against sense a “comrade in arms” when they meet him or her!
My criteria for judging authentic people of Spirit has always been to look at the fruits of their lives. Are they loving toward all their neighbors, even the ones they don’t particularly like? Does joy radiate from the deepest parts of their being? Do they have a peaceful presence about them and seek to live in harmony with the Eternal, others and nature? I think you get my point.
As I read the gospels, Jesus rarely got angry with the Pagan folks. Instead, most of his anger was directed toward religious leaders who used their faith as a tool to control and exploit others. He even called them “white-washed tombs,” (Mt 23:27) implying that they looked really pretty on the outside but their hearts were filled with all kinds of hidden hatreds and judgmental attitudes.
Unfortunately, the white-washed tombs are the ones grabbing all the headlines these days. Yes, progressive voices of faith like myself are fighting them tooth an nail, but they continue to cause irreparable spiritual damage to those who are the target of their latests political and religious crusades. These people do not represent the spiritual path I practice. It’s gotten so bad that I often refer to myself as a “follower of Jesus” rather than as a Christian so that people don’t associate me with the kind of Christianity they espouse.
Haters are gonna hate. Lovers are gonna love. And it’s not too difficult to discern the difference between these two groups of people! If we are going to survive this era of fervent religiosity in America, the “lovers” are going to have to unite. Christians, Pagans, and others who exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in their lives need to focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us. If we work together, I believe we can be a powerful force of healing, peacemaking, bridge-building and justice for all people in this great nation of ours. Blessed be and Amen!
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