(RNS) — A Pagan and a pastor stroll right into a church.
It’s now not the setup to a funny story.
It’s simply every other Thursday night time for the Rev. Ethan Stark of Heathens Towards Hate and the Rev. Andy Behrendt of Trinity Lutheran Church.
The 2 priests — Stark, ordained through the world heathen group The Troth, and Behrendt through the mainline Evangelical Lutheran Church in The usa — hosted “A Pagan and a Pastor: A Vital Dialog” Thursday night time (Sept. 30) at Trinity in Waupaca, Wisconsin. The duo replied some continuously requested questions on their faiths and addressed misperceptions every custom has in regards to the different.
It’s a dialog they’re scheduled to copy in October on the Parliament of the International’s Religions, which will likely be held just about for the primary time because it first of all convened on the 1893 International’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
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They hope such conversations will assist inspire figuring out and higher members of the family between Christian and pagan religion traditions.
“The extra we will know about other folks of alternative faiths and even non-faith, the extra we respect about our personal custom,” Behrendt mentioned at Thursday’s match, which was once streamed on Trinity’s YouTube channel.
Behrendt’s trail to his Christian religion was once lovely simple: His dad was once a Lutheran pastor earlier than him, he mentioned. For him, the church was once at all times a spot of affection and acceptance, regardless that he famous that has now not been everybody’s revel in.
Stark was once raised conservative Jewish in Israel however mentioned he discovered as an adolescent he felt extra hooked up to the divine in nature than he did whilst studying from Scripture at his personal bar mitzvah. That finally led him to paganism and heathenry — neither of which, he defined, will have to be seen as derogatory phrases.
“We’re pagan, we’re proud as such, and it’s just a pejorative relying on who makes use of the time period,” Stark mentioned.
The 2 met about 3 years in the past when Stark and his spouse, who’s a Christian, had been making plans an interfaith marriage ceremony and requested Behrendt to co-officiate.
The pastor was once slightly fearful to do it in the beginning.
Behrendt mentioned he didn’t know a lot about paganism. He’d lumped “godless” pagans in with atheists, which he admitted is ironic: Some pagans — like heathens, who honor the gods from pre-Christian Norse and Germanic religions — worship many gods.
Stark mentioned he has encountered concern from Christians earlier than.
He additionally famous it cuts each tactics. He’s encountered “a large number of anti-Christian sentiment in paganism,” he mentioned.
Many of us come to the pagan neighborhood from Christianity as a result of they don’t really feel welcome there, in line with Stark. That comes with LGBTQ other folks and ladies who’re barred from management in lots of conservative Christian traditions, he mentioned. (The ELCA ordains each.)
Behrendt apologized, noting, “Now we have the section about desiring a savior proper as a result of we surely are fallacious and we make a large number of errors. Jesus was once so completely, completely about loving other folks, and if he did get annoyed with any person, it was once nearly solely as a result of they had been a part of the spiritual status quo and on account of their mistreatment of others.”
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For the pastor, it was once glorious getting to grasp any person like Stark — who, it became out, was once on no account threatening — and to raised perceive his ideals, Behrendt mentioned. A few of the ones ideals, like their ideas of divinity, are very other, he added. However they care deeply about various the similar problems, too.
For the pagan, it comes again to an Icelandic announcing: “All energy to all members of the family.”
“We’re all interconnected. We’re inseparable, whether or not we’d love to consider it or now not, and that speaks each to humanity and to nature,” Stark mentioned.
That extends to other folks with differing ideals, too, he mentioned.
“It due to this fact is nearly, like, incumbent upon us to manner others in a greater figuring out that without reference to a distinction of 1 God or many gods, we’re nonetheless — no less than to us theists — youngsters of the divine, be it a unmarried mum or dad or a divine circle of relatives that more or less watches over you,” Stark mentioned.