I've spoken about the Pagan attitude towards Christianity many times; while most of us are pretty cool about the whole issue, there are a few of us who interpret "Pagan" as "anti-Christian," and they can be very harmful to our growing movement. But there's also an exaggerated vision of the Christian Church that affects even those who aren't hostile towards Christians, and that's what I want to talk about now.
The perception of the Christian churches is not surprising, especially when you consider that a large number of us came to Paganism after having left the Christian churches for various reasons, and many more were turned off from ever becoming Christian. In addition, many Christian leaders and organizations have been caught abusing their power and position or turning against the values that they preach, and the media has been very enthusiastic about exposing these people for what they are.
The media has also been diligent in reporting some of the more obnoxious things some Christians do in the name of Christianity, ranging from the Southern Baptist Convention's Articles of Faith (reaffirming that a wife should be "subservient" to her husband) to Oral Roberts' claim that God was going to "call him home" if he couldn't raise millions of dollars (leading most of the world wondering when God got into the Protection Racket).
In reality, most Christians are decent people, and most Christian churches are honest organizations. Even the leaders, by and large, tend to be good people, and many of them have gotten a lot of good done throughout history. Even some of the ones that slip up are good people. Everybody's human, and nobody is perfect, even if they don't admit it themselves.
But the danger of this misconception goes much farther than misjudging Christian leaders and organizations. We've taken this paranoia, and we've imported it into our community. Any leader or organization in our community is automatically under a hundred times more scrutinity than the Christian equivalent, and Pagans are always ready to believe the worst of them. The Religious Right doesn't have to put much energy into tearing us down; we do it ourselves.
Similarly, Pagans are completely averse to the concept of paying for Pagan services. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we are neither cheap nor broke; we spend a small fortune on festivals, books, candles, jewelry, clothing, and assorted kitsch. But when it comes to paying for a Community Organization, we resist... that's too Churchlike, and we don't want churches. The problem is that we do want places to meet in peace. We want recognition, or at least tolerance. We want our community to grow, and we want the same benefits and opportunities that Christians have. But without leaders, organizations, and money, it's not going to happen.
This paranoia and distrust is probably a perfectly normal reaction, and we certainly aren't the first minority to attack its own members. But "perfectly normal" does not automatically equate to "healthy." It's like someone who's been in an abusive relationship... eventually you have to learn to trust again, or you'll die alone.