Why You Can't Worship Jesus Christ and Be Pagan
It's time to take this apart and get clear.
I made this title statement in my first post, and it caused a fair bit of commotion. Some said oppositionally that they can do whatever they please. Some objected that the worship of Jesus Christ is acceptable so long as one is not a creedal Christian: the "he's a good guy" thesis. In other words, the God is all right but the religion and its humans are not. Some even see no conflict between Christianity and Paganism. I was moved by the intensity of some of the positions held in the comments, but after contemplation I return to my own view, one held by many Pagans today and communicated to me both in the comments and privately. While I can't speak for others, I can tell you my reasoning about why you can't worship Jesus Christ and be Pagan.
I focus on worship in this discussion because worship is the living act of religion. Belief is just thinking about religion, and in healthy persons it changes with their development. Only in Christianity is belief central. (Islam, for example, may be creedal, but it is not belief-based; it is submission-based. Perhaps there are other religions that make belief central, but in my view it would do them no credit.) If you are focused on what you believe, not what you do, you are thinking like a Christian. 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. Mostly you need to invoke and get to know your Gods. Then you will know, and not need to believe.
Before addressing this defining issue of contemporary Paganism, I had to take a step back to clarify the nature of Pagan authority in my last post. Recently, I also discussed the technical nature of worship. I recommend reading these essays first so that the following will be comprehensible.
Also, I have a very distinct definition of Paganism that I have covered elsewhere and which gives context to my view. In short, the term "Pagan" only applies to that complex of religions that develop starting with the Renaissance and eventually call themselves Pagan. It does not apply to the ancients, or to cultures outside the European, Mediterranean, and Mesopotamian region. Neither the ancient pre-Christian religions nor those foreign to the aforesaid region call themselves "pagan," and while they have much in common, they are each distinct and should be referred to by their proper names. Contemporary Paganism is derived from the occult revival that began with the Florentine Renaissance and is a uniquely modern phenomenon. We are a very different people from the ancients and do not share their worldview even as we reconstruct their religions.
But mostly, readers will have to be serious about what they are doing religiously for this essay to be relevant. Paganism and Christianity are real things with real, established characteristics. To adhere to either of them requires certain commitments, without which you do not belong to either of them. So, if you are serious, come think this through with me.
Sam Webster is a Mage, Mason, Sorcerer, Seminarian, and Pagan Priest, restoring the way of the Gods.
Webster's column, "Pagan Restoration," is published the 3rd Wednesday every month on the Pagan Channel. It is now being offered in a new format! Don't forget to update your RSS links and e-mail subscriptions.