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Neo-pagans hijacking hospital chaplaincies

St Stephen’s is one of the relatively few “mainline” churches in the area that still maintains an active ministry in the wider Baltimore community. We provide pastoral care at retirement communities, assisted living facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices. We also serve as chaplains for local clubs and organizations, including the Navy League and the St George’s Society.

Our Pastoral Care Team, headed by Happy Riley, our new Director of Pastoral Care, has plenty to keep it busy. After all some 80 percent of Americans not only consider themselves to be religious, the vast bulk of them describe themselves as Christians.

The faith of our (founding) fathers, it turns out is rather more resilient than the prophets of doom predicted. Thus it is decidedly premature for folks to proclaim that we have entered “the Post–Christian Era.”

This news has come as a grave disappointment to the neopagan “New Agers” who hoped to profit from Christianity’s demise. The stubbornness with which even “unchurched” Americans cling to their religious heritage—whether it be Christian, Jewish, or, latterly, Moslem—presents a serious obstacle to neo-pagans’ efforts to promote their beliefs.

After all, folks who think of themselves as Christian, Jewish, or Moslem generally consider the notion of communing with crystals, rocks, earth goddesses, or any other exotic surrogate deity just a little bit weird.

This, however, has not deterred some of the more determined neo-pagans. What they have been unable to achieve openly, they are attempting to accomplish by stealth.

Instead of openly declaring the true pagan nature of their faith, they are posing as Christians in a bid to hijack chaplaincies at unsuspecting institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, the military, and prisons.

It takes a high degree of sensitivity and tolerance to serve as a chaplain is such venues. Chaplains must be prepared to minister to the spiritual needs of people of all faiths, not solely their own. It is a servant ministry, not a proselytizing one.

It is perfectly possible for a Christian chaplain to offer comfort to a Jew, a Moslem, or a Buddhist. But frequently the best comfort a chaplain can offer a patient of a different religious persuasion is to find a minister of their own religion to visit them.

The line peddled by the neo-pagans, however, is that tolerance, sensitivity, and understanding is not enough. Chaplains, they argue, should stand above—or apart from—religion.

Chaplains, they argue, should keep their personal religious beliefs out of it. Rather, they should be required to serve as all-purpose “spiritual counselors” rather than ministers of any particular religion.

Furthermore, they advocate protocols that make it very difficult for lapsed, or non-practicing, Christians to be reconciled with their faiths.

They claim that chaplains should primarily serve people classified as “non-religious,” or “anti-religious.” (“Religious” folks, apparently, are supposed to be served by their own pastors.) The “non-religious” are defined as folks who do not go regularly to church. The “anti-religious” are defined as those who express some anger about the church they used to attend.

According to the neo-pagans, any mention of Christianity to the “non-religious” or “anti-religious” is somehow “unprofessional” or “unethical.” Instead, they should be encouraged to develop “alternative”—for which read “neo–pagan”—forms of spirituality. Prayer wheels, medicine bags, and dream catchers are in, so to speak, while the sacraments of the church are most definitely out.

To describe such ideas as insidious and deceitful is an understatement. Actually, experience shows that many of the people who fall into these “non-religious” or “anti-religious” categories—particularly the Christians—often welcome reconciliation with their faiths.

The fact of the matter is that much of the spiritual comfort a good chaplain offers is not “God talk,” but talk about baseball, football, the movies, or whatever happens to be the patient’s passion. Comfort might come with prayer or communion. But often it is given simply by holding a hand.

Sadly, the neo-pagans’ proselytizing is finding sympathetic ears in a number of major institutions—not only at the universities and major corporations that run many of the nation’s most important hospitals and nursing homes, but at government entities, such as the military and the Veterans’ Administration, too.

The “Neo-pagans”, thus, seem to be succeeding in creating a clear field for the promotion of their own bizarre beliefs, while denying Christians an equal opportunity to do the same.

And the most unspeakable thing about it is that they—and their fellow travelers in academia, the bar, hospital administration and government—are doing so by shamelessly exploiting the vulnerability of people in desperate emotional and spiritual need. GPH✠

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