We had an incredible opportunity to do some additional nature studies in conjunction with some community service. My two older daughters and I were able to find an opportunity to give back to the local park. There are a few organizations that work side by side to care for the beautiful Bidwell Park in our town. Bidwell Park was owned by General and Annie Bidwell, the founders of our town. When she passed away, she left the park to the city with guidelines for what could and could not be done to the park. Many folks in town have park clean up days when they come down together to collect trash and pull weeds. It’s awesome that this town takes such pride in our park and works together as volunteers to keep it in good condition.
We found that the local high school’s agricultural class grows native plants and when they are ready to be planted the plants are given to a local Pagan group who has a passion for the Earth. They communicate with the city to find out what they can do and where they can garden in the park and the city gives them the guidelines. We had an opportunity to join them this last Sunday afternoon and it was a wonderful experience. As you can imagine it’s not everyday that a person of faith in Christ sets out to work on a project with a Pagan group so I let her know right away that her beliefs don’t offend me nor will I be aggressive with mine. This is their project therefore we were but guests on their day.
She gave a blessing over the day to the Divine then set out to give us the tour of the location in which they had been working the last couple of months. She explained to us which plants were not native and which ones are. The plants that are not native to this area need to be kept under control, because they are aggressive plants that will take over the park completely. She also showed us where they had planted the native plants that the high school had grown. We learned that the native plants can be used as teas for medicinal purposes and even ointments for wounds. It was quite a learning experience and my daughter, Jessica, was thrilled to learn so much.
While we got started trimming up the aggressive plants, I began asking about her faith and her journey to where she is in her spiritual journey. We had a lovely discussion and she had knowledge of the gods that my pagan ancestors believed in. From my own studies as well as with what she explained to me, Pagans have very different views and are quite diverse. She explained that not all Pagans think their gods and goddesses are actual real people, but rather symbols of spirituality for their journey. This is very similar to how Catholics hold the saints in high regard and how Christians model their lives and homes after Martha and Mary. While some Pagans do worship their deities, they do not all view their faith practices the same way. Even Christianity has a lot of diversity with over 30,000 denominations world wide. It wouldn’t be fair to assume all Christians are like the ‘extremist picketing clan‘, so I think we need to extend the same courtesy in not assuming all Pagans are identical either.
One last thing that I would like to add is that many Christians, when given the chance to speak to a public audience, they insist on praying out loud to God in Christ’s name. Yet, many of those same Christians would refuse a Pagan from praying to their deity in a public setting. I’ve been really thinking about this and wondering, what happened to the principle of “reap what you sow”?
Extend courtesy and freedom to others and it will come back to you.
I think the “Christian Right” has been pushing and fighting so hard for their own desires, but they reject others who desire the same for themselves. I am reminded of the command by Jesus, “Love your neighbors as yourselves.” As well as ,”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
My next thought is that I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that says that a Christian is held responsible for praying publicly in front of a group of people not of their own faith. When we attend a local public event, the event is not ours and we need to be respectful of the planners of the event and the event’s guests. We are not there to usurp a religious authority over them.
Many Christians have gone to Native American celebrations and have enjoyed watching them in their beautiful costumes performing their religious dances and ceremonies without hesitation, but they refuse to allow a high school graduate to give thanks to the “Great Spirit” or to their “Goddess”. While all along they want to fight for their own freedom to do so and make everyone else be tolerant of them.
If we apply the principle of sowing and reaping, we would need to extend tolerance before we can expect it in return. And I’m pretty sure God would have us do so in humility, not in arrogance. When we extend tolerance, we are not saying we partake in their beliefs, but that we offer the same freedom we would like for ourselves.
That being said, I thought my Pagan friend’s blessing for the park was quite lovely and while I pray to my own Deity, the blessing she asked for is what I asked for as well. We stood in agreement for the blessing for the park and gave respect to one another’s personal beliefs. When the request is the same, I gladly stand in agreement for the blessing. We had a lovely day gardening in the park together, giving back to this beautiful Earth in honor of the Divine for creating it for us.
Maybe some Christians are simply afraid of that which they do not understand, in which case ‘fear’ is their real enemy. And even if they think people of other faiths are their ‘enemies’ Jesus commands that we love them and bless them. But I don’t view them as enemies. Their main belief is “Harm no one”. They have not sought to harm me, therefore they are not my enemies. They are my “neighbors” who I love.
No matter how you slice it, our command is to love, regardless of whether or not they are enemies or neighbors.
It seems this outing taught us a lot about gardening, local park history, faith, world religions, and Constitutional Freedom (otherwise known as Government class).