I have a headache. My sinuses are stuffed, and my nose is running a marathon. Needless to say, this is not a post about Ostara, I have postponed our family celebration until this weekend. But I do know that spring is here–I can tell because my allergies are going crazy and I have the makings of a sinus infection.
And, my brain hurts. The good ole “Paganism is not Christianity”/”You can’t be a Pagan and date Jesus” debate has apparently flared up again, this time over at Patheos.
I have one thing to say.
Okay, I have more than one thing to say…but “REALLY!?!” pretty much starts it off! Beware the med-fueled rant, I feel no pain and my brain is fuzzy enough that I don’t entirely trust my judgement.
The first problem the author has is the idea the treatment of Christianity (and to a lesser degree, Paganism) as one religion (and that is without even considering his seemingly narrow definitions for both). Christianity is a religion with 38,000 traditions within it; it is no more a monolithic religion than Paganism is. The only thing that all Christians have in common is that they do religion with Jesus–not every Christian denomination reads the Bible literally, or believes in the Trinity, or believes in Hell, or believes in eternal damnation, etc. Judging the United Church of Christ on the basis of the beliefs and practices of the Church of Christ, for example, would be like judging Asatru on the basis of the beliefs and practices of someone worshiping the Norse gods in the framework of Wicca (or vice versa).
The second problem is that the author has a problem with presentism as a reasoning for vilifying Christianity. And that would be fair (though inaccurate), if we were looking at Paganisms with the same microscope. But lets play the honesty game here…there was no perfect Pagan society of old. The Greeks (and Romans) were misogynistic jerks, the Celts practiced human sacrifice, and nearly all ancient cultures practiced slavery in some form. And the author’s assessment of contemporary Paganism being borne of the Renaissance rejection of Christianity isn’t much better in terms of historical reality. According to the author’s reasoning, if colonialism, racism, misogynistic, et al., are brought to us exclusively by Christianity (which they aren’t, they already existed and were practiced with enthusiasm) making all 38,000 denominations of Christianity some sort of poisonous faith, then we should be applying that same measure to Pagan faiths of old.
The third problem with this post is related to the previous idea of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”–if God=jerk is a reason to vilify Christianity, then we need to be looking at Pagan gods with the same standards. As I commented on the article, Zeus is a serial rapist…lots of gods are jerks. If God being a asshole invalidates an entire religious tradition, then nearly all religious should be invalid. Further more, the author denigrates all Christian faiths for not being experiential that they are purely based in belief with out the experience of knowing God (and/or Jesus). For sure there Christians and Christian traditions where this is the case…but there are Pagans that don’t know their gods all that well either. And, if we honestly look at Christians practicing within Christian traditions with our bias glasses off, we will find that lots of Christians experience God in the same ways that many Pagans do.
The fourth (and largest) problem with this article is that it seeks to treat someone that includes elements of Christianity into their Paganism and to claim both, as somehow infecting Paganism. I see this same attitude in the “only hard hard polytheists are Pagan” arguement, and quite honestly, I find it quite pathetic. If one’s spirituality is so weak that it is threatened by a smattering of people that choose to believe and practice differently, then one needs to be questioning the strength of their own faith. That is a personal failing. The idea that large groups of people don’t “get” that Christianity and Paganism are not, in fact, two disparate families of faith is pretty dumb. Syncrenism and simultaneous worship of more than one faith, including Christian denominations and Pagan traditions are both a modern and a historical fact, but they are also a modern and a historical minority. Treating them as if they were somehow a corrupting influence of one’s personal dominion seems more trollish than anything else.
Which, I guess is what irks me more than anything else. Look, I’m not here to apologize for some of the heinous things that have been done (and continue to be done) by Christians, or in the name of the Christian god, or as part of the practice of a variety of Christian religions–for the official gloss that various Christian traditions have put on social and political movements for the last 2,000 years (bad or good). I’m also not here to ignore the fact that some individuals, families and denominations do very real damage to people who fall outside of their narrow religious morality and experience. But…alluding to people include Jesus (or other aspects of Christianity) in their Paganism as some sort of Evil Other to be expunged from the One True Paganism smacks of more than a bit of hypocrisy to me. And, in the end (fair or not), I can’t help but write off the entire post, and its author, as the ranting of someone with a Jesus-sized chip on their shoulder…which sucks, because there are valid discussions, constructive criticisms, and expansive conversations that we could be having about Christianity and Paganism, and even about manner in which some people have chosen to combine the two as a personal practice. But not in the hostile environment that has been created on that blog.
Note: There are a plethora of comments, some quite good, and some not so much; but I just had to share my favorite from “Jack”, commenting over a statement the author makes at the every beginning of the post (for those of you that don’t want to be bothered to read the article)…
“If you want to be a better Pagan, stop worrying about what you or anyone else believes, but get to work and practice your variety of Paganism.”
And yet you kept writing.
Edited to add: This post in response, is excellent! And another great response… (both of which are more compelling than my little rant!)