Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Jesus Rede?: In Which a Pagan Considers the Seeming Impossibility of Christo-Paganism

Quite frequently, I stumble onto a topic that fascinates me, and then I devote inordinate amounts of time and energy pulling it apart. This is how the entire Quiverfull honors thesis occurred. Last night I watched The 19th Wife, a murder mystery about fundamentalist Mormons in polygamist marriages, and it sparked the long ignored desire to learn more about Mormonism in general. I already have the list of books ready. By the same token, a search for a long-forgotten novel about witches in a swamp randomly pulled up a list of books about, of all things, Christian Paganism. After posting a short status on it on Facebook, there ensued a civilized discussion about and wondering over the topic. Of course, someone interjected that they believe that the amalgamation is a natural progression for someone raised in a Christian background, then stated the use of statues of the Virgin Mary in some Pagan ritual. *sigh*

Okay, I have a small Mary on my altar. While I spent my youth among the pews of various Protestants, I was never really Catholic, but I recognize that Mary is truly an altered version of the Goddesses of old. She was the Christian face of Isis and Cerridwen and so many others, and this is why she sits among Kwan Yin and Ganesha and my dragons on the polished wood. Not because she represents some connection with a faith that I have long abandoned. When I stepped away from Christianity, I stepped away. Now maybe that was my own particular experience. Maybe no other ex-Christians/current Pagans had this experience, but I know this isn't true. I've met too many who went through the exact same thing. In addition to all this, I for one have quite a large amount of respect for most of the teachings of the man who was Jesus. I think he did exist, but that he was simply a brilliant philosopher much like the Buddha or many other before and since. I don't worship him on my particular altar, but I see how some Pagans could include him in their own worship--at least the teachings of love, not the idea of him as the son of the Christian God.

Having said all that, here's what I really think: there is no way to truly mesh Paganism in any form with Christianity. The Christian religion, at its heart, is based around the notion that God required a bloody human sacrifice in order to redeem humankind of its sins. This is antithetical to everything I've ever learned about Paganism in general. Our Goddesses and Gods do not require, do not ask for blood on their altars, and we do not need to go crawling on our knees for forgiveness for "sins." Whatever we do, we do. I have gone to the Goddess and God to ask for help in overcoming the faults that caused me to make some error, but never for forgiveness. That is something I must give to myself. In any case, my point is how is it possible to wed a religion drenched from its very beginning in blood to one opposed to such things. Yes, I plan on delving into the books written by those in the various Christo-Pagan traditions in order to see what they say about their own faith, but I am at a complete loss to even begin to fathom how they convince themselves this works.

If there are any Christo-Pagans/Trinitarians/etc. reading, please feel free to contact me with your own explanations. I am truly interested, despite my utter lack of faith in the possibility.

P.S. For those who call themselves "Christian Witches," how exactly do you gloss over the injunction of "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."?


Anna Schubarth said...

First: Book about witches in a swamp: Dark Waters. I have it. Wanna borrow?

Second: Glossing over not suffering a witch to live is easy once you define "witch" in this case as something other than the "witch" one is. For instance: well, that really meant a purple polka-dotted penguin, and that's not what -I- am, so it's okay.

My maternal grandmother was a witch. Her grandmother was a witch. Yet neither my mother, nor her grandmother were witches. They were Catholic. My grandmother lived as a Catholic, and spoke to her daughters and sons and mother in terms of Catholicism. But she spoke to me, her granddaughter, in quite different terms. Essentially it was hiding ones true faith within the trappings of an "accepted" faith. As I decipher what was handed down from her, it becomes clear to me that this was a very deliberate move to prevent persecution. Not quite the same as being a Christian Pagan, but perhaps closer than might be comfortable. When images were needed, the Christian icons were readily available. And those rhythmic chants... perfect for gathering and channeling energy.

I guess it's a matter of perspective... and how things vary greatly depending upon point of view.

obsessive compulsive dawn said...

While I see your point, Anna, I have to say that I think we're talking about two completely separate things. Your foremothers concealed their witchy leanings within a Christian framework and likely would never have spoke of themselves as witches or Pagan. However, these people are very openly and clearly trying to marry the two traditions. They want to call themselves both, and I'm just not sure that's possible. They speak of "Trinitarian Paganism" and plant feet in both faiths equally, or so they claim. They specifically label themselves Christian Witches, and these are the ones that confuse me most.

M said...

One, I would like to point out that I mentioned my statue of the Virgin Mary as a symbolic garden ornament, not as anything used in a ritual. In fact, I haven't performed any sort of ritual in a long time.

However, that does not mean that I would be opposed to or find startling the use of the Virgin Mary in a ritual.

In my opinion, any religions can be combined together to create a spirituality, because at their core they are all essentially the same thing. Religions are like self-help manuals for the universe. & yes, sometimes these self-help manuals become outdated.

There are many similarities in Christian thought and Pagan thought. So much of this argument comes down to what one's definition of Pagan is, and what one's definition of Christian is. For example, one can both follow the teachings of Jesus, as well as worship in a Pre-Christian manner. One can also equate Pagan deities and aspects of Christianity as different names for the same thing. It all depends how you look at it.

Also, I'd like to point out that there were many pagan cultures in which animal sacrifice was totally acceptable, back in the day. Also, in some pagan cultures, yes, even human sacrifice was not unheard of. However, Neopaginism does not support such kinds of sacrifice (which I totally agree with). Though, even today, many Pagans will participate in non-violent blood sacrifices (menstrual blood, pricking their own finger, etc...). Not to mention, of course, that many Pagans will sacrifice food, incense, etc... to the deities.

Also, this of course brings up the question of what would you consider Voodoo? Paganism? Christianity? Something else?