It is easier to talk faith with a pagan than with the average postmodern American neighbor with a grill, two cars, and a low-interest mortgage. Many Americans hesitate to talk about religion, but pagans understand there is a spiritual world and seek to engage with it. So pagans talk about faith.
The Peyote cult is pagan, engaging the spiritual world through hallucinogenic experiences brought on by ingesting peyote cactus. In the practice, dark spirits show practitioners visions through rocks glowing bright as TV screens, bring Peyote practitioners high above the earth to see people and things they could not see before, and bring others to the Peyote practitioner for advice and understanding. The practitioner then speaks deeply into those people’s lives and is highly respected in the community.
Jon is a Peyote practitioner. That is why he is respected among his people as a spiritual person. Neighbors come to Jon for direction, advice, and prayer.
But Jon has been afflicted with a heart condition requiring a transplant, and for that condition he spent a long season in a Presbyterian hospital. There the Holy Spirit brought Christian chaplains, doctors, and nurses into Jon’s life, speaking wisdom, giving him understanding, and praying for him.
The Holy Spirit helped Jon, a pagan practitioner of the Peyote cult, to see the spirituality of the Christian church.
The Holy Spirit introduced Jon to me, Pastor Evelyn Bennally of Sanostee Christian Reformed Church, and allowed him to recognize Sanostee CRC as a spiritually alive place. Jon began to engage me in regular spiritual conversation.
“Pastor, tell me about prayer.” When Jon’s neighbors come to him for prayer, Jon practices what I explain. He learns how to pray.
“Pastor, was it really God who cared for me through this heart transplant?” Jon listens as I tell him about God, and he learns how to better care for those who come to him.
“Pastor, is it OK for a Native American to take the white man’s healing and be part of this white man’s religion?” I tell him about the Holy Spirit, the good Spirit, the one who loves and cares deeply for children of God. Jon nods his head.
I tell him about God the Father, who created Jon and who knows Jon by name, and about Jesus Christ, God’s son who heals and saves. Again Jon nods his head.
I tell him, “Jon, you nod your head, but Romans 10 tells us to put faith into words and we will be saved.” Jon smiles, perhaps not yet willing to put into words what his heart may be telling him. But still he nods his head.
Jon recently returned to the hospital with complications, and his prognosis is unclear. In his need, he does not call his old friends, nor traditional family members, nor the Peyote medicine man. Jon calls me, asking me to visit him in the hospital. And in that hospital I ask him, “Jon, may I pray for you?” Jon nods his head, and I pray that Jesus would heal him.
“Jon, do you know that it is Jesus who can heal you?” Jon nods his head.
“Jon, do you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” Jon nods his head.
Then Jon, a community-respected practitioner of the pagan Peyote cult, turns to me and says, “Pastor, when you are here, I feel that Jesus is here too.” With that Jon begins—just begins—to put some kind of faith into words as he is wheeled away to surgery.