Many modern Pagans are mistrustful of Christio-Pagans. It’s understandable – many Pagans started out in Christian backgrounds, and bad experiences there brought them to us. The last thing such a person wants is to find the Church has come after them. Many fear that Christio-Pagans aren’t very Pagan at all, and are coming along to evangelise. This is true of a small minority, but if we held the actions of the few as indicative of the whole, we’d need to make a serious reassessment of ourselves as a community. There is also the issue of not being able to make sense of it – why be a Christio-Pagan? Why not properly commit to being one or the other? That which we do not understand is always unsettling.
I’ve met a fair few Christio-Pagans along the way. Pretty much all of them were raised Christian, and then for some reason or another got into conflict with the Church. Common reasons include being too tolerant and inclusive, being LGBTQ, needing to honour the divine as feminine alongside the overt masculinity of Christianity, and finding Jesus’s values are not upheld by the Church (poverty, tolerance, love thy neighbour etc). Wanting a kinder, more authentic and earth-centric way of being, many start to see the obvious connection between Mary and mother Goddesses. They find out about St. Bridget also being Bridget, as well as about all those other saints who connect to the land and Pagan ways. They start hearing that they didn’t invent midwinter as a festival, they learn about Easter, about sacrifice Gods, they see Odin hanging from the world tree, Osiris dismembered, and they get a perspective. Many draw on what is known of Celtic Christianity. We draw on that, too.
It isn’t long before a person on a Christio-Pagan path has more in common with Pagans than not. On the whole they are tolerant, diverse, and inclusive. They are also people who are being rejected by their Christian communities, for the greater part. They are deemed heretics, and dangerous, and the door to the church is closed to them. What they’ve mostly done is go back to all the good bits in the Bible, all the things Jesus said about love, healing, being nice to each other, and they’re reclaiming that in face of a church that chucks out gay priests. Many are marginalised themselves.
There are two human constructs to consider here. One is the church. Now, most Pagans don’t have a lot of time for The Church as an institution – hierarchy, dogma and hypocrisy being the main reasons. Christio-Pagans tend to have all the same issues. The Church is not a religion, but a human structure built up in response to a religion. Do we think Jesus, if he showed up today, would be in the big, expensive churches with the people who attend in suits to affirm their social connections? Of course not. We’ve all read the stories. He’d be in the food banks and the homeless shelters, the brothels and the drug dens: where he always was in his myths, looking for the people who needed his help. When thinking about Christio-Pagans, it is really important to remember that The Church is a human construct, and they have stepped away from it by walking this path.
The other human construct in the mix is the Pagan community. We usually pride ourselves on tolerance and inclusivity. We’re non-dogmatic, inclusive, we have room for LGBTQ folk, for divorcees and unmarried mothers, for the poor, the un-tame, agnostics, atheists, the misfits and the wanderers. Would it be so very difficult to make room at the table for those who see Jesus as the green man and find the mother Goddess in Mary? Many of them do want to come and sit with us, to listen and share, not to convert. Maybe those people who want to worship the sun as the son, and who are open to hearing about how that connects with Mithras, aren’t at odds with us. Maybe those people who knew Bridget as St. Bridget first, who went to springs made sacred by the Church, who found the land through something more pantheistic, or who love it as the work of their creator God… maybe we do have room for them.
Whatever you do in response to Christio-Pagans, please, don’t fear and resent them because they are different. Don’t feel threatened by their unfamiliarity. Don’t let prejudice and assumption lead you; meet them as individuals. As a community, we’ve fought so long and so hard against that on our own account. Let’s not dish it out to these brave, heretic souls who are trying to walk a path between two worlds.
(And, for the record, I had very little exposure to Christianity as a child, my parents were exploring Paganism. I come to this issue as a Pagan with influences drawn from every religion and philosophy I’ve ever read about, which is to say… rather a lot of them.)