I just read an article about a fascinating guy, but I’m not going to link to it, seeing how it comes from one of the extremist publications of the religious right. However, the subject of the article (who is blasted therein) seems like a pretty stand up dude. His name is Phil Wyman and he’s a pastor in Salem, Mass who was expelled from a Pentecostal denomination for building a ministry with the expressed goal to “make friends with witches and atheists.”
Here’s what Pastor Phil has to say for himself:
“We did something few other Christians in the world were doing… We loved the witches and they loved us back.”
He doesn’t try to convert Wiccans to Christianity because:
“Theology doesn’t work like that. I don’t think I have the capability of converting anyone… I don’t look at the Christian salvation thing as a sales pitch. That’s God’s job. I talk about practical things. Why can’t I just have a regular relationship and talk about the Red Sox?”
Also, he sets up confessional booths on Halloween, but with a twist:
“We didn’t have them confess to us, but rather, we confessed the sins of the Church and apologized for hideous things that had happened, not only down through history but in recent times… That was evidence that we cared.”
Like Pastor Phil, I am one who has repeatedly found himself in committed professional and personal relationships with atheists and pagans. I have worked hard to win their respect as a Christian who will listen to reason with compassion. The resulting friendships have been some of the longest and richest of my life. I have tried to be more Christ-like than Christian and often discovered Christ in them, even though our ideological boundaries don’t line up like one would expect.
In the Bible, Jesus often called his friends and followers to travel beyond the pale of established religion and morality. He ate with tax collectors and sinners, he touched the untouchable, he traveled through enemy Samaritan territory and gratefully received their hospitality, and he found more faith in one (pagan) Roman centurion than he had seen in all of Israel.
Jesus was never one to circle his theological wagons. He never deemed orthodoxy worthy of defense. He taught that love is the greatest commandment and the quality of one’s religion equals the quality of one’s relationships.