What does “ecumenism” mean when you don’t “all worship the same god”?
Elizabeth Scalia, a/k/a The Anchoress, a Roman Catholic blogger at Patheos, comments simultaneously on posts by another Patheos Catholic blogger and by Star Foster, who manages the site’s Pagan portal. Both of the latter, in Star’s words, hold that “My faith is not a matter of style. It’s not like shoes or purses. It’s not a matter of deciding if I want tacos or pasta for dinner. It’s not something I can change on a whim.”
Scalia’s verdict: “Ecumenism has not been able to say that [not all religions are the same]; it’s been too busy trying to be all things to all people and placing equal values to things that are not equal in anyone’s mind. It’s been a lie.”
She ends up admiring Star for her honesty, at least. But her commenters, many of them, are not convinced. “I couldn’t call myself a Catholic and not tell you that the practice of Witchcraft is evil,” notes one.
Which is why I sometimes wonder why we — Pagans in particular — bother with ecumenical and interfaith activities.
It’s true that I do often feel that religious professionals have more in common with each other and are more able to relate to one another than their congregants and followers are.
We Pagans do not seek unity with the same fervor that the Christians do (even as they splinter more and more). “Ecumenicism” refers to a promotion of unity, of purpose if not of organization, between different Christian bodies.
“Interfaith” has a somewhat different meaning. At times the two words are used interchangeably, but they should not be. Were it not for the American constitutional tradition of religious freedom (and similar traditions in some other Western nations), I do not think that the Pagans would get a seat at the interfaith luncheon table. (Resolutions passed by the United Nations have no effect that I have ever seen.)
So my title is an editorial rather than a rhetorical question. I have just been going over some material related to the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group in the American Academy of Religion — the 2012 call for papers has not yet been posted but soon will be. I don’t know if that topic would fit the “call” perfectly, but a creative person could make it fit. Or write an article for The Pomegranate.