Monday, August 16, 2010

Learning from Pagans

I'd never heard of Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits until I heard his obituary on NPR last week. He was the founder of Ar nDraiocht Fein, a Druid Fellowship.

I was raised in a Christian home, and I'm still an active member of a Christian denomination, but I've been accused of having pagan tendencies. Hiking, and running--heck, just about any strenuous physical activity--transport me not to a state of praising Jesus (though I'm not averse to it) but to one of reverent awe.

It turns out we all have something to learn from Isaac Bonewits. He developed a framework to gauge whether religious groups like his own were edging toward cultism. He called it the "Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame." Simple as ABCDEF. It measures a religious organization's level of internal and external control, wisdom/knowledge claimed and credited to, and dogma, among other things. My favorite is of Grimness, or in Bonewits' words, "The amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines or its leader." People who take themselves too seriously are funny, yet frightening.

Take The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida and its plans for the 9/11 anniversary.

Will the center:

a. plan a day of prayer in remembrance of those who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania

b. host an interfaith dialog between Muslim, Christian and other religious leaders

c. burn as many Korans as it can

Ding, ding, ding, if you guessed 'c'! Hard to believe a church that calls itself Christian would host a Koran roast, but there it is. Now which religion is it that we're supposed to be tolerant of?

Terry Jones, the church's pastor and his so-called "congregation" are registering high marks on Bonewits' Grimness measure. Ain't nothing funny about hate.

If Dove World Outreach Center and Ar nDraiocht Fein were the only places of worship left on the planet, one guess which one I'd attend.

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