One of the pitfalls of blogging is you tend to hear from your critics far more often than your fans. So it really made my day when I received a note from a 70-year-old retired pastor who told me my writing was helping him to build a bridge of understanding between his faith and Paganism. On those days when I wake up and wonder if it’s really worth it to crank out another post, notes like his lift me up and inspire me. I’m not going to mention his name, but this post is for you, friend.
I didn’t leave Christianity because I had issues with religion. I think a good many do. They don’t want a spiritual authority, or a code of conduct, or expectations of behavior, or a spiritual community that is involved in their life. They want what I once described to my cousin as “spiritual anarchy” and that is ok. I’m becoming aware that I don’t have much useful to say to those folks, and planning ways to correct that here on the Pagan portal.
I consider myself a religious person. I have a religious outlook. My struggle with Christianity was with it’s doctrine, with it’s content, not with it’s form. I spent years in the struggle of conversion, moving from one worldview to another. Today I’ve reached a point where I can’t think as a Christian anymore. Christianity has become foreign to my soul, and because of that, it’s become novel. When I venture into the other faith portals on Patheos I find myself just as fascinated by the Christian writers as by the Muslim, Jewish and Hindu writers. They have become exotic and unusual. They are separate from me, and that distance between us has given me a fresh perspective on Christianity.
You see, if I view them as yet another Pagan religion, a cultus, a sect, they make a lot more sense than if I view them as the monotheistic Other. The Christian concept of the Devil isn’t so bizarre when I compare it to some Hellenics refusing to say the names of Persephone or Hades, in a speak of the devil sort of taboo. Some people have similar views of Eris, Loki, Baba Yaga, the Wendigo and the Morrigan. There are energies we may not want in our lives, impurities or pollutants that may hinder us, or energetic forces, such as the Greek miasma, which may attach themselves to us and our loved ones.
The “foreignness” of Christianity also pushes me to examine my own Paganism more closely. I spent three hours on a plane with an Evangelical friend. During our long conversation, which likely annoyed the crap out of everyone around us, we discussed the meaning of life and the origin of the universe. These are questions he is profoundly interested in, yet I find them irrelevant. Life exists because it is good, and better than the alternative. The universe came out of chaos and void, evolved to it’s current state, and may return to chaos and void at the last. Why are the questions that concern him of no importance to me? And vice-versa?
Looking at Christianity from afar, they seem to be moving in two very different directions. Some of them seem to be digging deeper into their faith tradition, clinging to the customs, language and attitudes that seem anachronistic. Others seem to be paring down what Christianity means to a very general, broad, inclusive and modern faith. One side of the division seems to be becoming more religious, while the others become less religious and more broadly spiritual.
There are days when I look at this perceived schism in modern Christianity and wonder if it could be said this schism is present in modern Paganism? Are the more tribal types of Paganism moving towards becoming more religious, while the majority of Pagans are moving away from religion towards a broader spirituality? If this is so, do Heathens, Hellenics and Trad Craft have more in common with conservative Catholics and Evangelicals than with the progressive Christian movement underway among mainstream Protestants?
If you take away the One True Way perspective, are Christians just as prevalent, weird and comprehensible as Mithraics? Are there more chances to build bridges than we are aware of? Are we blinded by the blood-soaked rhetoric of small Christian sects, or are we forever destined to be separate and opposed?