Thursday, September 29, 2005

On Pagans, Neo-Pagans, and Tree-Huggers
During our recent trip to Lithuania, Sandra and I encountered much that was wonderful. This nation, so long oppressed, is learning how to be free and to take its place among the sovereign nations of the world.

One of the most important freedoms which was restored after Soviet occupation ended was freedom of religion. Sandra and I spoke at a Christian Living Conference in Silute, visited a Bible-based drug and alcohol rehab center in Klaipeda, and visited with Christian families in Kaunas and Druskininkai. I also preached in a small Baptist church in Silute. People are hungry for spiritual growth. They had questions; they wanted more information, knowledge, wisdom, spiritual growth.

One of the downsides of freedom of religion, of course, is that people are free to explore whatever religion they choose. In Lithuania there is now a widespread movement to return to pre-Christian paganism. These neo-pagans seek a return to something called ROMUVA, which they consider to be the Indigenous Lithuanian Religion.

Frankly, I find very little difference between these Lithuanian pagans and their American counterparts in the New Age religious “movement” in the United States. The extreme environmentalism and general anti-Christ attitude of American New Agers is little more than a return to earth worship.

In these two movements, however, I see positive things. Reacting to a time in which they were allowed no religious expression whatever (save that which may have been offered in the occasional “state church”), Lithuanians are now seeking meaning in things of the spirit. Likewise, slowly recovering from an era in which materialism (in the historic, philosophical sense, not in the sense of overspending at Christmas season) has reigned, many Americans are also seeking deeper spiritual meaning for their lives.

Americans will remember the bumper stickers during the 2004 election campaign which proclaimed, “Anybody but Bush.” Likewise many who claim to be seeking after truth and meaning will declare, “any god but God.” As the Apostle Paul explained in Romans, chapter 1, men will suppress the truth they know about God and create their own, false gods, even worshipping themselves rather that the God who created them. While claiming to be open to all spiritual experiences, many men and women are only open to those experiences which “feel good,” or which require nothing of them. After all, Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Who wants to repent when you can have all those groovy beads and smells and incantations?

Some, however, will be confronted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and will be moved in their hearts to accept Him and the salvation which only He can offer.

While not enamored of paganism, whether of the Baltic, Celtic or modern American variety, I do welcome the openness with which many today accept that there is more to life than molecules and proteins and acids. It is up to Christians to speak to their pagan neighbors (and they don’t have to be part of some New Age group to qualify) of the True meaning of life. There is an openness to such things today, why should we let the Devil be the only one speaking to these spiritually needy folk?