Teo Bishop: A Gift To Pagans From The New Apostolic Reformation

I heard today that the Emperor of Japan had sex with the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu.

Crazy, right? How did this not make the news sooner?

Apparently, the coital union has led to all sorts of trouble for the Japanese economy, not to mention the creation of a general, “atmosphere ruled by the powers of darkness.”

Ouch.

And…confusing.

Sun Goddesses typically are associated with the Sun, and the Sun gives off light. But somehow this goddess actually is responsible for darkness

I’m sorry. This isn’t lining up right in the pagan part of my brain.

Oh, yes! That’s right. I forgot that the darkness spread by this particular Sun Goddess (and, probably all the other one’s, too) comes from Satan.

Check. Got it. Satan.

Take A Breath of Fresh Air

This real-world, modern mythology was offered up by C. Peter Wagner, the head honcho of the New Apostolic Reformation, a small but increasingly influential Christian sect, in an interview he gave on the NPR program, Fresh Air. As always, Jason at the Wild Hunt was ahead of the curve on this subject, and has written extensively about the movement’s history and development on his blog (I encourage you to pay his site a visit and read through the past posts on “Dominionism”).

What I want to contribute to this conversation is something I haven’t seen elsewhere in the Pagan blogosphere. I’ve read a lot about how frustrated we all are with Dominionism, and how threatened we all feel by the New Apostolic Reformation’s movement in political and social circles. I’ve watched as many of us organized to counter “maleficent” prayer events with coordinated, magickal workings, and I’ve been amazed at how willingly we consent to this kind of “spiritual warfare.” But I haven’t heard anyone speaking to what we Pagans and Polytheists have in common with members of the New Apostolic Reformation.

I’d like to suggest that Pagans and Polytheists pay attention to Mr. Wagner and his fellow “apostles” not because they are a threat to our well being (although they, and their political counterparts, may be), but rather because they are opening a door for conversation with the greater public about the existence of multiple, distinct, conscious, spiritual beings.

Wagner truly believes that the Japanese Sun Goddess exists. And he truly believes that she got freaky with the Emperor. His cosmological paradigm allows for the existence of deities other than the Abrahamic God. Given, he characterizes them as “demons,” and he attributes their work in the world to Satan, which doesn’t sit well with Pagans and Polytheists. We typically frown upon recontextualizing one deity through another’s pantheon. That’s just rude.

But, he believes in their existence. He believes that they are beings who literally interact with humanity.

Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is – do we?

Creating A Space For Dialogue

At my blog, Bishop In The Grove, I often explore the subject of interfaith dialogue between Christians and Pagans. It’s a topic of great interest to me. As some commenters on my blog have pointed out, it’s unlikely that Pagans will have what we consider to be respectful religious dialogue with people like Mr. Wagner, who view our Gods and Goddesses as “demons,” and who actively seek to convert non-Christians.

I’ll concede to that.

But Mr. Wagner has inadvertently made a case for polytheism, albeit a distorted one. There’s a chance here for Pagans and Polytheists to slip into the conversation and offer a different perspective. That is, if we actually believe that our Gods and Goddesses are real.

If we don’t, there’s little reason to be troubled my Mr. Wagner’s theology. If our Gods are but aspects of our own psyche, what harm does it do for them to be characterized as real, sentient demons by representatives of a small, Christian sect? We can easily look at their assertion and label it fantasy, or delusion.

But the point here is that Mr. Wagner is not talking about Gods and Goddesses as metaphor or archetype. He believes they’re real beings.

Now if we, too, believe that our Gods are moving and living in the world, inextricably woven into the fabric of our Earthly experiences, and that they are interacting with their devotees and affecting reality on a daily basis, then we have a responsibility to address the misinformation that Mr. Wagner is spreading. We also have to accept that Mr. Wagner, and others who believe what he believes about the spiritual world, are not outright “crazy” for what they believe. They’re just misinformed.

Preach, Pagans. Preach.

We don’t evangelize — it’s not our thing — and I’m not suggesting we start. I am, however, hoping that we might see in this whole situation with Mr. Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation the chance to have our own witness of the spirit be heard. We can testify as good as any Christian about how the Divine moves through our lives, and we must do so with the unshakable conviction that our Pagan or Polytheist testimony is valid and worthy of being recognized.

When what we hold sacred is mischaracterized, we are being given a gift; an opportunity to spread our own good news about the mystical, magical, God and Goddess-filled world in which we live.

Don’t pass up on that opportunity.

Teo Bishop blogs over at Bishop In The Grove here at Patheos.

  • David Kees

    Excellent!  I’ve been actively seeking ways to act affirmatively in response to actions by the NAR and groups affiliated with them.  This point of view, one I’d not personally fully realized, is an excellent thing to keep in mind.  I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes when you point out that the 10 Commandments include evidence that the ancient Jews were henotheistic (i.e., adhering to one specific god out of several) and this is an interesting and more modern counterpart to that same thing.  Thank you!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thank you for the comment, David. I’m glad that these ideas seem useful to you.
       
      I could benefit from more study into henotheism. I think many polytheists may actually lean more in this direction. Any recommended reading?

      • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

        Unfortunately, nothing specific.  I first learned about it in a Roman History course during my undergrad, actually, since a lot of the Roman cults venerated a specific member of the pantheon above (or to the exclusion) of others.  Interestingly, I usually find more information regarding henotheistic practices in history texts rather the spiritual or religious ones.  Most of the latter simply gloss over the elevation of a specific deity above the others in a pantheon and simply rely on the existence of that pantheon and point to polytheism.  

        As you say, though, I suspect that many of us are more henotheistic than we would expect.  

        EDIT: Whoops! Logged in as a different account on this computer. But this David Kees is still the same as the other one.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          Got it — you’re many people, but the same person. :)

          I appreciate the clarification, and I find it fascinating that there is little mention of this in spiritual or religious texts. This seems like a very relevant topic for modern Pagans.

    • Jack Heron

      You’re potentially right, David, but there are also problems with advancing the henotheism of the Decalogue as an approach to polytheism. While the early Hebrews (exactly how early is a matter for debate) were indeed henotheistic and while there was a certain amount of back-and-forwarding on the issue through the history of Israel, by the time of Jesus the Jews had settled very much into the total monotheism known today. The problem, therefore, is that henotheism is often presented as an intermediate step between polytheism and monotheism – the Israelites were ‘slowly coming to realise the oneness of God’. There’s a risk of the old evolutionary argument that says polytheism is a primitive and outdated idea that necessarily develops into henotheism and hence monotheism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

        I agree with everything you said.  

        Not that my agreement matters that much, but this is the Internet and I get to share my thoughts with all of you whether you want it or not.  :)

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

        Jack – can you conceive of henotheism as being a little more stationary? Must it always be a transition between monotheism and polytheism?

        • Jack Heron

          You mistake my point – I can conceive of it being stationary, but the example David gives of the henotheism of the early Hebrews is open to pigeonholing as a simple transition because of what came after. It’s therefore not necessarily a great example with which to introduce people to stationary henotheism and polytheism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

            Forgive my ignorance, and thank you for clarifying. Is there a good example of “stationary henotheism,” in your opinion?

          • Jack Heron

            Non-monistic approaches to Hinduism, perhaps?

          • Jack Heron

            Non-monistic approaches to Hinduism, perhaps?

          • Anonymous

            I think most dedicated — as in dedicant — polytheists have to be henotheists of one sort or another.

            When you have one coven dedicated to Artemis, and another to Demeter, they don’t usually point fingers at each other and say, “Our goddess is real, but yours is imaginary.” They both acknowledge both Artemis and Demeter, but it’s a bit difficult to dedicate yourself to multiple deities. I don’t see how you could be a dedicated polytheist and not be a henotheist.

            Consider the myth of the founding of Athens, and the contest between Poseidon and Athena to become its patron deity. Just because Athena won the contest and became the patroness of Athens and the city was dedicated to her worship didn’t mean Poseidon wasn’t a force to be reckoned with.

            A casual or undedicated polytheist in a pagan culture (or subculture) could perhaps avoid henotheism. That might characterize the general neo-Pagan “masses” out there.

            I tend to fall in that camp, myself. I’m not bound to any one god or goddess, and there are many things in my personality and personal history that make any such binding or dedication unlikely. 

    • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

      The early Hebrews may well have been henotheistic at some point in the history – however, there is excellent evidence (including the Old Testament itself) that they were out-and-out polytheists from their very origins, and that polytheism continued right up until the immediate post-exilic period (mid 400s BCE) when the Yahwist sect took control.

      Most Biblical scholars now acknowledge that the account of the Exodus and the giving of the Ten Commandments was a 5th century BCE literary fabrication by a person or persons within the Yahwist sect – which began in the 9th century BCE as a minority movement when a prophet, Elijah, incited a mob to murder priests of Baal.

      We know that the two main gods of the ancient Israelites were El and Yahweh, that they were worshiped in the same temple without any apparent friction, and that the two figures were eventually conflated. There are also a number of findings of objects with inscriptions referring to ‘Yahweh and his Asherah’ – Asherah being the most widely worshiped goddess among the Israelites. For further reading I suggest books by archaeologist William G Dever.

      The idea that the ancient Israelites received a monotheistic revelation early in their history is the product of historical revisionism. The kind of revisionism that the NAR and other evangelical movements espouse in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  • David Kees

    Excellent!  I’ve been actively seeking ways to act affirmatively in response to actions by the NAR and groups affiliated with them.  This point of view, one I’d not personally fully realized, is an excellent thing to keep in mind.  I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes when you point out that the 10 Commandments include evidence that the ancient Jews were henotheistic (i.e., adhering to one specific god out of several) and this is an interesting and more modern counterpart to that same thing.  Thank you!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thank you for the comment, David. I’m glad that these ideas seem useful to you.
       
      I could benefit from more study into henotheism. I think many polytheists may actually lean more in this direction. Any recommended reading?

      • fffh_moderator

        Unfortunately, nothing specific.  I first learned about it in a Roman History course during my undergrad, actually, since a lot of the Roman cults venerated a specific member of the pantheon above (or to the exclusion) of others.  Interestingly, I usually find more information regarding henotheistic practices in history texts rather the spiritual or religious ones.  Most of the latter simply gloss over the elevation of a specific deity above the others in a pantheon and simply rely on the existence of that pantheon and point to polytheism.  

        As you say, though, I suspect that many of us are more henotheistic than we would expect.  

        EDIT: Whoops! Logged in as a different account on this computer. But this David Kees is still the same as the other one.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          Got it — you’re many people, but the same person. :)

          I appreciate the clarification, and I find it fascinating that there is little mention of this in spiritual or religious texts. This seems like a very relevant topic for modern Pagans.

    • Jack Heron

      You’re potentially right, David, but there are also problems with advancing the henotheism of the Decalogue as an approach to polytheism. While the early Hebrews (exactly how early is a matter for debate) were indeed henotheistic and while there was a certain amount of back-and-forwarding on the issue through the history of Israel, by the time of Jesus the Jews had settled very much into the total monotheism known today. The problem, therefore, is that henotheism is often presented as an intermediate step between polytheism and monotheism – the Israelites were ‘slowly coming to realise the oneness of God’. There’s a risk of the old evolutionary argument that says polytheism is a primitive and outdated idea that necessarily develops into henotheism and hence monotheism.

      • fffh_moderator

        I agree with everything you said.  

        Not that my agreement matters that much, but this is the Internet and I get to share my thoughts with all of you whether you want it or not.  :)

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

        Jack – can you conceive of henotheism as being a little more stationary? Must it always be a transition between monotheism and polytheism?

        • Jack Heron

          You mistake my point – I can conceive of it being stationary, but the example David gives of the henotheism of the early Hebrews is open to pigeonholing as a simple transition because of what came after. It’s therefore not necessarily a great example with which to introduce people to stationary henotheism and polytheism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

            Forgive my ignorance, and thank you for clarifying. Is there a good example of “stationary henotheism,” in your opinion?

          • Jack Heron

            Non-monistic approaches to Hinduism, perhaps?

          • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

            I think most dedicated — as in dedicant — polytheists have to be henotheists of one sort or another.

            When you have one coven dedicated to Artemis, and another to Demeter, they don’t usually point fingers at each other and say, “Our goddess is real, but yours is imaginary.” They both acknowledge both Artemis and Demeter, but it’s a bit difficult to dedicate yourself to multiple deities. I don’t see how you could be a dedicated polytheist and not be a henotheist.

            Consider the myth of the founding of Athens, and the contest between Poseidon and Athena to become its patron deity. Just because Athena won the contest and became the patroness of Athens and the city was dedicated to her worship didn’t mean Poseidon wasn’t a force to be reckoned with.

            A casual or undedicated polytheist in a pagan culture (or subculture) could perhaps avoid henotheism. That might characterize the general neo-Pagan “masses” out there.

            I tend to fall in that camp, myself. I’m not bound to any one god or goddess, and there are many things in my personality and personal history that make any such binding or dedication unlikely. 

    • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

      The early Hebrews may well have been henotheistic at some point in the history – however, there is excellent evidence (including the Old Testament itself) that they were out-and-out polytheists from their very origins, and that polytheism continued right up until the immediate post-exilic period (mid 400s BCE) when the Yahwist sect took control.

      Most Biblical scholars now acknowledge that the account of the Exodus and the giving of the Ten Commandments was a 5th century BCE literary fabrication by a person or persons within the Yahwist sect – which began in the 9th century BCE as a minority movement when a prophet, Elijah, incited a mob to murder priests of Baal.

      We know that the two main gods of the ancient Israelites were El and Yahweh, that they were worshiped in the same temple without any apparent friction, and that the two figures were eventually conflated. There are also a number of findings of objects with inscriptions referring to ‘Yahweh and his Asherah’ – Asherah being the most widely worshiped goddess among the Israelites. For further reading I suggest books by archaeologist William G Dever.

      The idea that the ancient Israelites received a monotheistic revelation early in their history is the product of historical revisionism. The kind of revisionism that the NAR and other evangelical movements espouse in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

    I heard the Fresh Air interview as well, and while I do see your point, I worry that beginning our discussions of how we view the gods by invoking Wagner and the NAR is only going to make us look as crazy as they do.  >8)

    I do give him full credit for appearing on a secular media program to present his views, though, instead of sticking to friendly media territory.  Kudos for that.

    I’ll be posting my own thoughts on this in my Grove’s blog in a few days.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Looking forward to your post, Rob, and thank you for commenting here.

      I see your point. From a PR perspective, it would make sense not to be defined through the lens of another group, especially one that is currently subject of cultural criticism. Perhaps it isn’t the best way to start the conversation, but it’s certainly a talking point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

    I heard the Fresh Air interview as well, and while I do see your point, I worry that beginning our discussions of how we view the gods by invoking Wagner and the NAR is only going to make us look as crazy as they do.  >8)

    I do give him full credit for appearing on a secular media program to present his views, though, instead of sticking to friendly media territory.  Kudos for that.

    I’ll be posting my own thoughts on this in my Grove’s blog in a few days.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Looking forward to your post, Rob, and thank you for commenting here.

      I see your point. From a PR perspective, it would make sense not to be defined through the lens of another group, especially one that is currently subject of cultural criticism. Perhaps it isn’t the best way to start the conversation, but it’s certainly a talking point.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Please do not say that “all” Pagans are cowering in fear over the “threat” of dominionism, and that “all” of us are frustrated by the NAR’s viewpoints.  I’m not.  Took a quick poll of 20 or so conservative Pagan family and friends, and they’re not, either.

    The NAR hasn’t done anything at all to impede our progress, repeal our rights, or well, anything other than pray into the wind.  Day four of the NAR’s famed DC-40, and what’s happened?  Violence?  Witch burnings?  Massive curses?  Destruction of Columbia statues?  No, a bunch of people standing around outdoors praying.  Useless as any other placard-waving protest to everyone but the food vendors.  An annoyance only to the police officers directing traffic. 

    C. Peter is like David Duke or any other extremist on the far right of the Republican party.  He’s entitled, by the First Amendment we all love and honor, to his opinions and beliefs.  Saying that he’s representative of all Conservatives is like saying that Z Budapest represents all Pagans.  Most conservatives have no idea who C. Peter even is.  Most conservatives are too concerned with lowering taxes and limiting welfare, (both of which recently occurred in my state, hurrah) to listen to some preacher blather on about the emperor of Japan having sex with a divine being causing earthquakes. 

    Leave C. Peter to his fairy tales… as I will leave Liberal politicians to their fantasies of a handshake peace with Afghanistan and raising taxes to create more entitlement programs ending poverty.  The latter is much more fear-inducing to me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for your comment, Alice. This is clearly a subject you’re passionate about. Thank you, also, for sharing the information about your conservative Pagan family and friends. I’m glad to know this about them.

      Do you have any thoughts about the similarities in Wagner’s view of Divinity and that of many Pagans and Polytheists (or Henotheists)? My post was less directed at explicit political discourse as it was toward a dialogue around different beliefs or conceptions of Deity. Can you speak at all to that?

      • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

        I’d made a reply earlier but it seems to have been devoured by Discus. 

        It’s likely not a great idea to enter into a dialogue with fundamentalist Christians suggesting these particular commonalities, as they tend to view feminine forms of the Divine with suspicion.  They seem to think that other forms of Deity, or even other entities, as coming from or ruled by their negative image of Satan.  (Including Disney’s Tinkerbell.  Yes.  Really.)  They need that dichotomy of good and evil to feel comfortable.  They also subscribe to that myth about women being sinful.  Hard to accept, but that’s what they wish to believe.

        Instead, if we wish to enter into a discussion with evangelical Christians, we might wish to emphasize that our Deities are like loving parents.  Discuss other things we have in common — a moral compass, a desire to raise young folks safely, a reverence for our beautiful land.  If we do feel that Jesus is really a valid deity, or prophet, we might wish to say that we find his teachings to be beautiful.  We might be reduced to finding common ground in simple issues.  We want to live in safety.  We wish for peace.  We like cake.

        Or we might have to accept that we’re not gonna find any common ground with certain people… and simply accept their right to their beliefs as we would any other person we disagree with: Our Muslim co-worker or our lovable but irrational Aunt who collects postcards as her religion.  They have First Amendment rights too, as do members of the NAR.  When they begin evangelizing or prosthelitizing, and offer to “save” us, we might simply have to say, “Thank you, but no”.  Preaching to them is not gonna accomplish much of anything.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Please do not say that “all” Pagans are cowering in fear over the “threat” of dominionism, and that “all” of us are frustrated by the NAR’s viewpoints.  I’m not.  Took a quick poll of 20 or so conservative Pagan family and friends, and they’re not, either.

    The NAR hasn’t done anything at all to impede our progress, repeal our rights, or well, anything other than pray into the wind.  Day four of the NAR’s famed DC-40, and what’s happened?  Violence?  Witch burnings?  Massive curses?  Destruction of Columbia statues?  No, a bunch of people standing around outdoors praying.  Useless as any other placard-waving protest to everyone but the food vendors.  An annoyance only to the police officers directing traffic. 

    C. Peter is like David Duke or any other extremist on the far right of the Republican party.  He’s entitled, by the First Amendment we all love and honor, to his opinions and beliefs.  Saying that he’s representative of all Conservatives is like saying that Z Budapest represents all Pagans.  Most conservatives have no idea who C. Peter even is.  Most conservatives are too concerned with lowering taxes and limiting welfare, (both of which recently occurred in my state, hurrah) to listen to some preacher blather on about the emperor of Japan having sex with a divine being causing earthquakes. 

    Leave C. Peter to his fairy tales… as I will leave Liberal politicians to their fantasies of a handshake peace with Afghanistan and raising taxes to create more entitlement programs ending poverty.  The latter is much more fear-inducing to me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for your comment, Alice. This is clearly a subject you’re passionate about. Thank you, also, for sharing the information about your conservative Pagan family and friends. I’m glad to know this about them.

      Do you have any thoughts about the similarities in Wagner’s view of Divinity and that of many Pagans and Polytheists (or Henotheists)? My post was less directed at explicit political discourse as it was toward a dialogue around different beliefs or conceptions of Deity. Can you speak at all to that?

      • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

        I’d made a reply earlier but it seems to have been devoured by Discus. 

        It’s likely not a great idea to enter into a dialogue with fundamentalist Christians suggesting these particular commonalities, as they tend to view feminine forms of the Divine with suspicion.  They seem to think that other forms of Deity, or even other entities, as coming from or ruled by their negative image of Satan.  (Including Disney’s Tinkerbell.  Yes.  Really.)  They need that dichotomy of good and evil to feel comfortable.  They also subscribe to that myth about women being sinful.  Hard to accept, but that’s what they wish to believe.

        Instead, if we wish to enter into a discussion with evangelical Christians, we might wish to emphasize that our Deities are like loving parents.  Discuss other things we have in common — a moral compass, a desire to raise young folks safely, a reverence for our beautiful land.  If we do feel that Jesus is really a valid deity, or prophet, we might wish to say that we find his teachings to be beautiful.  We might be reduced to finding common ground in simple issues.  We want to live in safety.  We wish for peace.  We like cake.

        Or we might have to accept that we’re not gonna find any common ground with certain people… and simply accept their right to their beliefs as we would any other person we disagree with: Our Muslim co-worker or our lovable but irrational Aunt who collects postcards as her religion.  They have First Amendment rights too, as do members of the NAR.  When they begin evangelizing or prosthelitizing, and offer to “save” us, we might simply have to say, “Thank you, but no”.  Preaching to them is not gonna accomplish much of anything.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    Excellent point, Teo.  Dialogue with the NAR would not be productive as it would not be respectful.  But while we are not a proselytizing (aggressively recruiting) religion, we should be an evangelizing religion – one that spreads our good news far and wide. 
     
    The idea of polytheism never left Western culture, in part because the stories of the Old Gods remained with us as “mythology” and in part because as John Michael Greer points out in his book “A World Full of Gods”, the world as we actually experience it is better explained by many Gods of limited power than by one all-powerful God.  The concept of polytheism is still there, lying just under the surface of “rational” “Christian” Western society. 
     
    When we testify to our belief in and experience of our Gods and Goddesses, we make it easier for that latent polytheism to rise to the surface.  People who previously though of the Old Gods as statues of stone and figures of myth begin to understand that they are much much more.
     
    That’s when the magic starts.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thank you, John, for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts.

      I like the distinction you make between proselytizing and evangelizing. That’s lost on a lot of people. I also like the emphasis you put on testifying to “our belief in and experience of our Gods and Goddesses.” Ultimately, this is what it’s all about. We needn’t focus solely on the politics of religion, or the religion of politics; our eyes should remain on the mystical connection between the human and the Divine.

      Again, thank you.

      • Bookhousegal

        There’s a lot of reasons we don’t set out to ‘evangelize,’  Teo,  ….in part that’s because to many of us the Gods are real enough not to *need* that, and we can see plainly, especially as regards groups like the NAR and the Christian conversions of Europe and the Americas,  the abuses and distortions that can come of that sort of thing:  not the least of which is confusing ‘prophets’  and ‘religions’  *for* the Gods.  

        A lot of stuff really does fall under the category of ‘If I told you, you’d think you knew.’  …Which is part of why despite our polytheistic and Earth-centered ways becoming a daylight religion or three (or three million)  in daily life, we still retain roots in and elements of *mystery* traditions.  

        There’s a simple practicality about some of it, too:  if people who have, shall we say,  more vivid contact with our Gods tell *all,* then it actually becomes a lot easier to *fake* such contacts, which makes it a bit harder to both work together and to reality-check our own visions.  (Or take note when someone has an experience and something  not-generally-known is related:  my perspective is of course, very much related to shamanic types of work,  and when it comes to that,  being a by-nature skeptical sort,  it sure meant a lot to find independent precedent and verification *of* some of what I found, either through others or obscure sources.  (The Gods were with me long before I was with Pagan religion:   while it’d have been nice to have been raised Pagan,  I don’t know if I’d have ‘believed’  this stuff if I didn’t find out the ‘hard way.’  :)   )  

        If people start ‘evangelizing’  everything up and down,  it risks turning everything into a matter of ‘belief,’  (And *who* you believe,)  and not experience.  Also it really does seem to occasionally run the risk of causing people to feel less-favored or more out-of-touch than they *are*  if one waxes too ‘enthusiastic’   shall we say.  (Lady saves,  yes indeedy,  but telling the tale of it can sometimes just mean others wonder ‘Well, I’ve been in bad places,  why didn’t *I* rate that kind of attention?’     (Answer:  Probably cause you’re not such a dummy as I can be in certain ways.  :)   One would want to be careful of that turning into basically telling the world ‘Be a dummy and see the Gods:’  much of the point of our faith is *not* needing to be ‘saved’  just for existing.  )

        Certainly,  I don’t think looking at the NAR’s demonizations of all Gods but their God-from-a-book is occasion to start saying,  ‘Does this mean they believe in our Gods more than we do?   Should we be more henotheistic?’   Literalistic?   Evangelizing?    (On the henotheism matter,  I think it’s pretty typical of Pagans to be particularly devoted to some (whether working with them Them through a single pantheon or not)  and respect/observe to a lesser extent any and all others.  Being on the poly-pantheistic spectrum generally involves somewhat more-complex relationships, after all:  Some Gods one feels very close to/favored by,  some are sort of part of the fabric of your life,  not seeming to stand out so much,  some,  perhaps one feels like They’re occasionally tapping you on the shoulder being like,  ‘Remember Me?’  Part of the functional *point* of polytheistic religion is how we relate to different parts of experience, after all, especially over time and through a life.  )

         For us,  it’s about *relationship,* not ‘Which God is biggest and/or best,’  never mind anything like the antics of the NAR show for a real problem:  they may follow a notion of their God that requires *enemies,*   but in the bargain, they live in ‘war’  and a world they see as ‘demon-infested.’   They don’t believe in ‘many Gods,’  they believe in ‘many demons’  and try to put those masks on anyone and everyone else.   While making would-be-Inquisitors of themselves. 

        When Pagans have special devotions to a particular God/dess, even perhaps occasionally dedicate a whole life to that One,   it doesn’t mean that all others are ‘enemies,’ and it sure doesn’t come with an idea or implication that *everyone* should worship only that particular God.   If you *do* have particular special devotions to a given Deity,  that comes with how *They* relate to all others.   Ignore that and you lose even the meaning of your own.

        Especially if there’s an element of the parental about one’s relationship with a Deity, (And there commonly is, in tribes I sort of hail from,  Even if a God/dess isn’t known for parenting:  one might well say,  “He’s one of Athena’s kids, or she’s one of Freya’s:”  it’s especially-important among outcasts,  I suppose. :) ) one can’t, I think, fully follow such devotions without  coming to understand  that it’s a poor parent that jealously tries to keep one solely within their own orbit,  and doesn’t let one out into the world.  

        Loyalties remain,  but relationships change, as do we,  in a life or three: …That’s part of how we grow as beings.  And in some ways, that’s one of the things I think the Gods know better than the average dummy like me.  ;)  

        We’re being impermanent beings, right now:  we tend to long for certainties and (apparently,  many of us,)  ‘eternities,’    …but change is our nature,  not to mention our business of living:  and Lady knows this best of all,  I think.  (I can be a real baby about it, too,  trust me.  :)

        I think, though,  that one might find there’s a big difference between having deeper relationships with certain Gods,   and trying to claim there is or should be only one for everybody, with all others cast as ‘enemies.’ 

        Actually, the NAR’s antics show where that can lead. 

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    Excellent point, Teo.  Dialogue with the NAR would not be productive as it would not be respectful.  But while we are not a proselytizing (aggressively recruiting) religion, we should be an evangelizing religion – one that spreads our good news far and wide. 
     
    The idea of polytheism never left Western culture, in part because the stories of the Old Gods remained with us as “mythology” and in part because as John Michael Greer points out in his book “A World Full of Gods”, the world as we actually experience it is better explained by many Gods of limited power than by one all-powerful God.  The concept of polytheism is still there, lying just under the surface of “rational” “Christian” Western society. 
     
    When we testify to our belief in and experience of our Gods and Goddesses, we make it easier for that latent polytheism to rise to the surface.  People who previously though of the Old Gods as statues of stone and figures of myth begin to understand that they are much much more.
     
    That’s when the magic starts.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thank you, John, for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts.

      I like the distinction you make between proselytizing and evangelizing. That’s lost on a lot of people. I also like the emphasis you put on testifying to “our belief in and experience of our Gods and Goddesses.” Ultimately, this is what it’s all about. We needn’t focus solely on the politics of religion, or the religion of politics; our eyes should remain on the mystical connection between the human and the Divine.

      Again, thank you.

      • Bookhousegal

        There’s a lot of reasons we don’t set out to ‘evangelize,’  Teo,  ….in part that’s because to many of us the Gods are real enough not to *need* that, and we can see plainly, especially as regards groups like the NAR and the Christian conversions of Europe and the Americas,  the abuses and distortions that can come of that sort of thing:  not the least of which is confusing ‘prophets’  and ‘religions’  *for* the Gods.  

        A lot of stuff really does fall under the category of ‘If I told you, you’d think you knew.’  …Which is part of why despite our polytheistic and Earth-centered ways becoming a daylight religion or three (or three million)  in daily life, we still retain roots in and elements of *mystery* traditions.  

        There’s a simple practicality about some of it, too:  if people who have, shall we say,  more vivid contact with our Gods tell *all,* then it actually becomes a lot easier to *fake* such contacts, which makes it a bit harder to both work together and to reality-check our own visions.  (Or take note when someone has an experience and something  not-generally-known is related:  my perspective is of course, very much related to shamanic types of work,  and when it comes to that,  being a by-nature skeptical sort,  it sure meant a lot to find independent precedent and verification *of* some of what I found, either through others or obscure sources.  (The Gods were with me long before I was with Pagan religion:   while it’d have been nice to have been raised Pagan,  I don’t know if I’d have ‘believed’  this stuff if I didn’t find out the ‘hard way.’  :)   )  

        If people start ‘evangelizing’  everything up and down,  it risks turning everything into a matter of ‘belief,’  (And *who* you believe,)  and not experience.  Also it really does seem to occasionally run the risk of causing people to feel less-favored or more out-of-touch than they *are*  if one waxes too ‘enthusiastic’   shall we say.  (Lady saves,  yes indeedy,  but telling the tale of it can sometimes just mean others wonder ‘Well, I’ve been in bad places,  why didn’t *I* rate that kind of attention?’     (Answer:  Probably cause you’re not such a dummy as I can be in certain ways.  :)   One would want to be careful of that turning into basically telling the world ‘Be a dummy and see the Gods:’  much of the point of our faith is *not* needing to be ‘saved’  just for existing.  )

        Certainly,  I don’t think looking at the NAR’s demonizations of all Gods but their God-from-a-book is occasion to start saying,  ‘Does this mean they believe in our Gods more than we do?   Should we be more henotheistic?’   Literalistic?   Evangelizing?    (On the henotheism matter,  I think it’s pretty typical of Pagans to be particularly devoted to some (whether working with them Them through a single pantheon or not)  and respect/observe to a lesser extent any and all others.  Being on the poly-pantheistic spectrum generally involves somewhat more-complex relationships, after all:  Some Gods one feels very close to/favored by,  some are sort of part of the fabric of your life,  not seeming to stand out so much,  some,  perhaps one feels like They’re occasionally tapping you on the shoulder being like,  ‘Remember Me?’  Part of the functional *point* of polytheistic religion is how we relate to different parts of experience, after all, especially over time and through a life.  )

         For us,  it’s about *relationship,* not ‘Which God is biggest and/or best,’  never mind anything like the antics of the NAR show for a real problem:  they may follow a notion of their God that requires *enemies,*   but in the bargain, they live in ‘war’  and a world they see as ‘demon-infested.’   They don’t believe in ‘many Gods,’  they believe in ‘many demons’  and try to put those masks on anyone and everyone else.   While making would-be-Inquisitors of themselves. 

        When Pagans have special devotions to a particular God/dess, even perhaps occasionally dedicate a whole life to that One,   it doesn’t mean that all others are ‘enemies,’ and it sure doesn’t come with an idea or implication that *everyone* should worship only that particular God.   If you *do* have particular special devotions to a given Deity,  that comes with how *They* relate to all others.   Ignore that and you lose even the meaning of your own.

        Especially if there’s an element of the parental about one’s relationship with a Deity, (And there commonly is, in tribes I sort of hail from,  Even if a God/dess isn’t known for parenting:  one might well say,  “He’s one of Athena’s kids, or she’s one of Freya’s:”  it’s especially-important among outcasts,  I suppose. :) ) one can’t, I think, fully follow such devotions without  coming to understand  that it’s a poor parent that jealously tries to keep one solely within their own orbit,  and doesn’t let one out into the world.  

        Loyalties remain,  but relationships change, as do we,  in a life or three: …That’s part of how we grow as beings.  And in some ways, that’s one of the things I think the Gods know better than the average dummy like me.  ;)  

        We’re being impermanent beings, right now:  we tend to long for certainties and (apparently,  many of us,)  ‘eternities,’    …but change is our nature,  not to mention our business of living:  and Lady knows this best of all,  I think.  (I can be a real baby about it, too,  trust me.  :)

        I think, though,  that one might find there’s a big difference between having deeper relationships with certain Gods,   and trying to claim there is or should be only one for everybody, with all others cast as ‘enemies.’ 

        Actually, the NAR’s antics show where that can lead. 

  • kenneth

    I’m not sure I see how Wagner’s bad theological acid trip can serve as a particularly useful stepping point or how you propose we “witness” as pagans without sinking into evangelism. The Abrahamic faiths have long conceded the existence of other gods, but as you say, they characterize them as demons of one sort or another. No amount of dialogue with them is going to lead anywhere productive. 

    Alternatively, not many mainstream Christians would accept Wagner’s fanciful musings as the basis for discussion of Christian/pagan notions of polytheism. I suppose people who come to know us well can come to appreciate our understanding of the divine as it acts in our own lives.  I think we ought to have a healthy level of concern (not paranoia) about the NAR whether we are polytheists or not, simply because the group has a professed and demonstrated contempt for the ideals of pluralism that make it possible to live and let live in this country. That’s another issue and one that has been pretty well beaten about in other threads. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for the comment, Kenneth. I think it’s interesting that you use the word “sinking” to describe the movement toward evangelism. I’m not a fan of conversion, but I am a fan of sharing one’s personal experiences. Do you see evangelism as being inextricably tied to conversion?

      Also, just for clarification, are you saying that you, yourself, think Wagner’s beliefs are “fanciful,” or are you suggesting that mainstream Christians would think so?

      • kenneth

        I don’t have a very good association with the idea of “evangelization.” Even if we view it as less aggressive than “proselytizing” it still carries the assumption that one has a duty to preach to others in order to “save” them. That concept is alien to paganism as I understand it. I have no concept with the idea of being open to teaching what I know to those with a sincere desire to learn, but I don’t feel anything like the Great Commission to do so. In traditional forms of Wicca and some other paths, it was fairly difficult to find someone to teach you by design. The idea was that only a sincere learner and one who had done some homework would approach the “conversion” process. I think that’s a bit much, but I’m also uncomfortable with swarming out into the world to get others to “make a decision for Pan” or somesuch.

        As to Wagner, I don’t have a problem with polytheism (obviously). I am not well versed in that particular sun goddess, but yes I think blaming a physical union of a goddess and the emperor as the proximate cause of Japan’s trouble is “fanciful” to say the least. I also think most Christians would dismiss the concept if we used it as a lead in by saying “you people clearly believe in multiple gods” and cited Wagner. 

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          I understand how “evangelization” can carry negative connotations, and I appreciate your reservation around using that word. I’m by no means suggesting that Pagans should spread the “good news” (i.e. our experience of the Divine) because the Gods tell us to, or because we’re trying to “make more Pagans.” This is not about salvation, or about recruitment. That’s not what I’m saying.

          I’m not a fan of “you people” statements, in general. Especially in dialogue. They never really go over well.

      • Bookhousegal

        Interestingly,  I’m actually a little fond of the Vangelo,   and particularly things a lot of Pagans  *might* take as ‘Gospel,’  (though, true to from, keeping it short and sweet and negotiable, regarding any temptation to take matters too literally.)    Much is made of the ‘eight words’  of the Rede,   fittingly-so,   I think,   but the Charge of the Goddess is actually one of the most powerful things *about* the revival of the old ways… And what makes them ‘modern,’   contemporary,  applicable,  and also I think a place our Pagan ancestors were coming around to when we were so-rudely interrupted.  

        “Nor do I demand anything of sacrifice, for….”   Instead,  “Let there be…”   

        Sure,  that’s from the start of this revival,  not so much what ‘Pagans’  were about in some dusty historicity,  but especially if you’re expecting some,  you can *take* that for some kind of Gospel and be pretty in step with all that our community’s about in some important ways,   (And I’m not saying,  ‘This means don’t do blot or whatever,’    I mean ”Sacrifice”   in all the ways people even through abstractions try to sacrifice themselves or others these days.’   The Charge is saying Lady ain’t to be *appeased,*  but is rather one who is *pleased* by beauty and strength, power and compassion,  honor and humility, mirth and reverence.  In us.   Among the world so described:   It sure doesn’t even mean ‘Be Wiccan.’   Could be my *real* ‘Book of Shadows’  is this written on a 4×6 card.  :)  

        It’s an exhortation to *live,* though,  to *love* it,   and by that,  perhaps,  restore our relationship to Who’s been with us from the beginning,   not just ‘war,’  or ‘believe’  ‘appease’  or ‘sacrifice,’   …and in some ways, who *cares* where it came from,  or when.  

        Christians in general seem to be willing to sacrifice all joy as well as the planet just to ‘rove they believe’  something.   But we’re Pagans,  …If we want ‘divinely-inspired words’ ….We got em.   Just doesn’t take many,   I think.  Probably the fewer the better on that sort of level.  But I think those few represent a pretty big deal.     Not just a restoration of something old,   but a revival in the now.   I think if there’s a ‘word to spread,’   for we Pagans to do,  it’s something about things we may have already learned,   but not so much accepted. 

        I also don’t think it takes much pushing, that way.  But I think all elaborations aside,  it may represent what’s happening,   been happening.    Since I dedicated myself, we’ve gone from ‘a fringe it possible to hide’  to ‘We’re talking millions, here, more than we could teach if that was how it worked to begin with’   and that didn’t come from ‘proselytizing,’   …it came from where we all come from.

        And if we have anything to ‘evangelize’  about,  I don’t think it’s about, say,   scholarship proving something,  (However much a treasure scholarship is)   or  trying to make more of a ‘prophet’  out of Uncle Jerry or our trad elders than they may have been…

        (Actually,  I think Auntie Doreen spoke what *really* caught on. ) 

        Gerald Gardner might not recognize us today,  and he was neither a charlatan nor dupe nor ‘historical originator’  nor ‘prophet of some word,’    …I like to see him as a dude of his times who kind of crafted a ‘spell’  to bring the people back to the Gods and land and world, and ourselves, …  And it came off.  Like all good spells,  I think,   it came off in better and realer ways than he may have thought possible.  

        (Which isn’t to diss ‘traditionalists,’   but when we argue, we may be missing the context that we’re often arguing from within a paradigm that’s been restored to us anyway,  despite how the terms of others want to put it.  On another level, though:   who cares if he’s some authority:  isn’t it interesting,  what’s happened *anyway?*)  :)    )  

  • kenneth

    I’m not sure I see how Wagner’s bad theological acid trip can serve as a particularly useful stepping point or how you propose we “witness” as pagans without sinking into evangelism. The Abrahamic faiths have long conceded the existence of other gods, but as you say, they characterize them as demons of one sort or another. No amount of dialogue with them is going to lead anywhere productive. 

    Alternatively, not many mainstream Christians would accept Wagner’s fanciful musings as the basis for discussion of Christian/pagan notions of polytheism. I suppose people who come to know us well can come to appreciate our understanding of the divine as it acts in our own lives.  I think we ought to have a healthy level of concern (not paranoia) about the NAR whether we are polytheists or not, simply because the group has a professed and demonstrated contempt for the ideals of pluralism that make it possible to live and let live in this country. That’s another issue and one that has been pretty well beaten about in other threads. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Thanks for the comment, Kenneth. I think it’s interesting that you use the word “sinking” to describe the movement toward evangelism. I’m not a fan of conversion, but I am a fan of sharing one’s personal experiences. Do you see evangelism as being inextricably tied to conversion?

      Also, just for clarification, are you saying that you, yourself, think Wagner’s beliefs are “fanciful,” or are you suggesting that mainstream Christians would think so?

      • kenneth

        I don’t have a very good association with the idea of “evangelization.” Even if we view it as less aggressive than “proselytizing” it still carries the assumption that one has a duty to preach to others in order to “save” them. That concept is alien to paganism as I understand it. I have no concept with the idea of being open to teaching what I know to those with a sincere desire to learn, but I don’t feel anything like the Great Commission to do so. In traditional forms of Wicca and some other paths, it was fairly difficult to find someone to teach you by design. The idea was that only a sincere learner and one who had done some homework would approach the “conversion” process. I think that’s a bit much, but I’m also uncomfortable with swarming out into the world to get others to “make a decision for Pan” or somesuch.

        As to Wagner, I don’t have a problem with polytheism (obviously). I am not well versed in that particular sun goddess, but yes I think blaming a physical union of a goddess and the emperor as the proximate cause of Japan’s trouble is “fanciful” to say the least. I also think most Christians would dismiss the concept if we used it as a lead in by saying “you people clearly believe in multiple gods” and cited Wagner. 

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          I understand how “evangelization” can carry negative connotations, and I appreciate your reservation around using that word. I’m by no means suggesting that Pagans should spread the “good news” (i.e. our experience of the Divine) because the Gods tell us to, or because we’re trying to “make more Pagans.” This is not about salvation, or about recruitment. That’s not what I’m saying.

          I’m not a fan of “you people” statements, in general. Especially in dialogue. They never really go over well.

      • Bookhousegal

        Interestingly,  I’m actually a little fond of the Vangelo,   and particularly things a lot of Pagans  *might* take as ‘Gospel,’  (though, true to from, keeping it short and sweet and negotiable, regarding any temptation to take matters too literally.)    Much is made of the ‘eight words’  of the Rede,   fittingly-so,   I think,   but the Charge of the Goddess is actually one of the most powerful things *about* the revival of the old ways… And what makes them ‘modern,’   contemporary,  applicable,  and also I think a place our Pagan ancestors were coming around to when we were so-rudely interrupted.  

        “Nor do I demand anything of sacrifice, for….”   Instead,  “Let there be…”   

        Sure,  that’s from the start of this revival,  not so much what ‘Pagans’  were about in some dusty historicity,  but especially if you’re expecting some,  you can *take* that for some kind of Gospel and be pretty in step with all that our community’s about in some important ways,   (And I’m not saying,  ‘This means don’t do blot or whatever,’    I mean ”Sacrifice”   in all the ways people even through abstractions try to sacrifice themselves or others these days.’   The Charge is saying Lady ain’t to be *appeased,*  but is rather one who is *pleased* by beauty and strength, power and compassion,  honor and humility, mirth and reverence.  In us.   Among the world so described:   It sure doesn’t even mean ‘Be Wiccan.’   Could be my *real* ‘Book of Shadows’  is this written on a 4×6 card.  :)  

        It’s an exhortation to *live,* though,  to *love* it,   and by that,  perhaps,  restore our relationship to Who’s been with us from the beginning,   not just ‘war,’  or ‘believe’  ‘appease’  or ‘sacrifice,’   …and in some ways, who *cares* where it came from,  or when.  

        Christians in general seem to be willing to sacrifice all joy as well as the planet just to ‘rove they believe’  something.   But we’re Pagans,  …If we want ‘divinely-inspired words’ ….We got em.   Just doesn’t take many,   I think.  Probably the fewer the better on that sort of level.  But I think those few represent a pretty big deal.     Not just a restoration of something old,   but a revival in the now.   I think if there’s a ‘word to spread,’   for we Pagans to do,  it’s something about things we may have already learned,   but not so much accepted. 

        I also don’t think it takes much pushing, that way.  But I think all elaborations aside,  it may represent what’s happening,   been happening.    Since I dedicated myself, we’ve gone from ‘a fringe it possible to hide’  to ‘We’re talking millions, here, more than we could teach if that was how it worked to begin with’   and that didn’t come from ‘proselytizing,’   …it came from where we all come from.

        And if we have anything to ‘evangelize’  about,  I don’t think it’s about, say,   scholarship proving something,  (However much a treasure scholarship is)   or  trying to make more of a ‘prophet’  out of Uncle Jerry or our trad elders than they may have been…

        (Actually,  I think Auntie Doreen spoke what *really* caught on. ) 

        Gerald Gardner might not recognize us today,  and he was neither a charlatan nor dupe nor ‘historical originator’  nor ‘prophet of some word,’    …I like to see him as a dude of his times who kind of crafted a ‘spell’  to bring the people back to the Gods and land and world, and ourselves, …  And it came off.  Like all good spells,  I think,   it came off in better and realer ways than he may have thought possible.  

        (Which isn’t to diss ‘traditionalists,’   but when we argue, we may be missing the context that we’re often arguing from within a paradigm that’s been restored to us anyway,  despite how the terms of others want to put it.  On another level, though:   who cares if he’s some authority:  isn’t it interesting,  what’s happened *anyway?*)  :)    )  

  • Anonymous

    There is a saying in Spanish “El ladrón juzga por su condición” that translates as “The thief judges by his condition.” That is, to a thief, all people look like thieves.

    One of the centerpieces of Dominionist fantasy is the rise of a world leader who is “worshipped” by the masses, and in the fantasy, it is true worship: altars, bowing down, acting out blind obedience. Most people in the modern world (and probably the ancient world as well) just don’t DO this kind of “worship” — except for the Dominionist Christians, of course. That’s their thing: it’s how they view proper worship of their god. The worship of the Antichrist is not wrong because it’s servile, it’s wrong because it is misdirected. The thief judges by his condition.

    So I’d like to turn this completely on its head. Clear the slate. If you just came down from Outer Polytheistia after a ten-thousand-year leave of absence from the Earth, and you were to look around for evidence of followers of the Demonic Assembly — the Hordes of Satan, which we will posit really exists out there as a sort of astral Al Queda among the various civilizations of the gods — where is the first place you’d look?

    Or in other words, which groups of humans on the earth evince the most explicitly “demonic” behaviors? Mental confusion, anger and rage, division and strife, lying and slander, desire to tear down rather than build up, servility to unseen forces…. 

    El ladrón juzga por su condición.

    I’d love to see a novelistic treatment of the premise, especially if it had a nice twist ending — not an all-out war resulting in defeat of the bad guys, but some kind of more satisfying resolution that is both gentle and life-affirming and brings the “Demonists” home. Too much of our fiction buys into the metaphor of strife and war and defeat of The Enemy, and frankly, until we start telling different stories, we aren’t going to dig out of the hole we’re in.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1397121747 Kim Roberts

      I liked your comment so much that I printed it out. I see a short story based on the comment brewing. Thanks.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

        I want to read it once it’s written, Kim! Thanks for chiming in, and thank you, Themon, for adding such an interesting comment to the thread!

    • Bookhousegal

      In a word,   Bingo. :)  

  • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

    There is a saying in Spanish “El ladrón juzga por su condición” that translates as “The thief judges by his condition.” That is, to a thief, all people look like thieves.

    One of the centerpieces of Dominionist fantasy is the rise of a world leader who is “worshipped” by the masses, and in the fantasy, it is true worship: altars, bowing down, acting out blind obedience. Most people in the modern world (and probably the ancient world as well) just don’t DO this kind of “worship” — except for the Dominionist Christians, of course. That’s their thing: it’s how they view proper worship of their god. The worship of the Antichrist is not wrong because it’s servile, it’s wrong because it is misdirected. The thief judges by his condition.

    So I’d like to turn this completely on its head. Clear the slate. If you just came down from Outer Polytheistia after a ten-thousand-year leave of absence from the Earth, and you were to look around for evidence of followers of the Demonic Assembly — the Hordes of Satan, which we will posit really exists out there as a sort of astral Al Queda among the various civilizations of the gods — where is the first place you’d look?

    Or in other words, which groups of humans on the earth evince the most explicitly “demonic” behaviors? Mental confusion, anger and rage, division and strife, lying and slander, desire to tear down rather than build up, servility to unseen forces…. 

    El ladrón juzga por su condición.

    I’d love to see a novelistic treatment of the premise, especially if it had a nice twist ending — not an all-out war resulting in defeat of the bad guys, but some kind of more satisfying resolution that is both gentle and life-affirming and brings the “Demonists” home. Too much of our fiction buys into the metaphor of strife and war and defeat of The Enemy, and frankly, until we start telling different stories, we aren’t going to dig out of the hole we’re in.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1397121747 Kim Roberts

      I liked your comment so much that I printed it out. I see a short story based on the comment brewing. Thanks.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

        I want to read it once it’s written, Kim! Thanks for chiming in, and thank you, Themon, for adding such an interesting comment to the thread!

    • Bookhousegal

      In a word,   Bingo. :)  

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    I’m more comfortable with language like “this is a teachable moment” than I am with either “proselytizing” or “evangelizing”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      I like that language. I can get with that. Thanks, Ian.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

      Well put, Ian :)

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    I’m more comfortable with language like “this is a teachable moment” than I am with either “proselytizing” or “evangelizing”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      I like that language. I can get with that. Thanks, Ian.

    • fffh_moderator

      Well put, Ian :)

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    Wagner et al are simply expressing the notion of ‘Spiritual Warfare’ which has its basis in Ephesians 6:12 and is a doctrine that lies very close to if not at the heart of the Christian myth-scape.

    In this worldview, humans are merely civilians in the invisible war between angelic and demonic spirits, subject to the influence of both – pagans are seen either as unwitting pawns or as outright collaborators with the latter.

    Given the historical fate of collaborators (real, as in the case of WW2, or imagined, as in the case of the medieval witch-hysteria) it is only prudent that we challenge this world-view and our place within it wherever possible.

    The irony is Wagner et al are attempting to bring magic and a sense of the preternatural back into a world that is largely secularized, devoid of enchantment – which is exactly what contemporary Pagans are doing in our own way also.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Great comment, Gavin. Thank you for joining the conversation.

      I wonder if you can speak at all to how this irony you point out might create conflict in the hearts and minds of Pagans, and how we might address that conflict. Part of my point in writing this post was to draw attention to the possibility that Pagans might have something in common with Wagner, which you’ve so succinctly described as the attempt to, “bring magic and a sense of the preternatural back into a world that is largely secularized, devoid of enchantment.”

      What do we do with that information? How do we reconcile the similarity between us and a person like Mr. Wagner, in your opinion?

      • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

        Hi Teo, I’d say there are a few lessons we can draw from this observation.

        First, we should recognize that in a disenchanted world, the ‘devil-worshipers in our suburbs’ hysteria promoted by fundamentalists is now as damaging to the credibility of Christianity, or more so, as it is to pagans – except to its own rusted-on believers.

        The Catholic Church, for example, has adopted a two-fold narrative: first, to appeal to believers, it has recently placed a much greater emphasis on its rites of exorcism, claiming that the increased popularity of Wicca and other forms of pagan practice is fueling a surge in demand. See interviews with ‘celebrity exorcists’ like Fr Gary Thomas. At the same time, to bolster credibility with the disenchanted, it maintains an official position that Wicca, while well-meaning, endangers the emotional and psychological well-being of young people. See the Jan 2011 publication of “Wicca and Witchcraft – Understanding the Dangers” by the Catholic Truth Society.

        Another lesson to take away is that attacks on contemporary paganism are now as likely to take the form of dismissiveness or mockery as accusations of ill-intent. This will have an effect on the way pagans engage with the media in particular and the broader community more generally.

        I suspect that the key difference between pagans and Christians will always lie in how we conceive of the preternatural – for Christians, this term seems cognate with ‘supernatural’, outside of nature, intervention miraculous, while for pagans it is located and embodied within Nature, grounded despite its essential mysteriousness. The desire for re-enchantment may be held in common, but it does not follow that the results must look anything alike.

        • Jack Heron

          Spot on. Especially that last paragraph.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          Wonderfully put, Gavin.

    • Anonymous

      Interestingly, the dualism of this “invisible war” is a corrupt form of Manichaeism, one of the early heresies denounced by the Catholic Church. Originally from Persia, it was a syncretic religion that incorporated Jesus, as well as other deities. A form of Manichaeism underlay the heresies against which the First Papal Inquisition was directed (e.g. the Albigensians).

      So technically, this isn’t a “Christian” myth-scape at all. It’s a Christian Heresy that’s been adopted by the Wagnerian “Christian” sect. I find that deliciously ironic.

      Incidentally, from my casual reading, Manichaeism isn’t very compatible with neo-Pagan views. The core Manichaeist belief is that the physical world itself is a manifestation of evil, and that good exists only in the spiritual component of what is human. “Redemption” consists of safely separating the spirit from its material prison and returning it to the realms of light — what you might call Heaven. The material world is junk and needs to go away.

      It’s also very dualist, with a Good God and an Evil God who fight the invisible war. Like Yin and Yang, they are pretty much evenly matched. The earth is a battleground because it’s on the border.

      • Jack Heron

        You’re exactly right, Themon. There are also other parallels between the NAR and Manichaean-inspired heresies, such as the emphasis on spiritual leaders who are ‘more pure’ than the rank and file (the Cathars had the ‘Perfects’, the NAR have their ‘Apostles’) and the embrace of gnosis as a guiding force.

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    Wagner et al are simply expressing the notion of ‘Spiritual Warfare’ which has its basis in Ephesians 6:12 and is a doctrine that lies very close to if not at the heart of the Christian myth-scape.

    In this worldview, humans are merely civilians in the invisible war between angelic and demonic spirits, subject to the influence of both – pagans are seen either as unwitting pawns or as outright collaborators with the latter.

    Given the historical fate of collaborators (real, as in the case of WW2, or imagined, as in the case of the medieval witch-hysteria) it is only prudent that we challenge this world-view and our place within it wherever possible.

    The irony is Wagner et al are attempting to bring magic and a sense of the preternatural back into a world that is largely secularized, devoid of enchantment – which is exactly what contemporary Pagans are doing in our own way also.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Great comment, Gavin. Thank you for joining the conversation.

      I wonder if you can speak at all to how this irony you point out might create conflict in the hearts and minds of Pagans, and how we might address that conflict. Part of my point in writing this post was to draw attention to the possibility that Pagans might have something in common with Wagner, which you’ve so succinctly described as the attempt to, “bring magic and a sense of the preternatural back into a world that is largely secularized, devoid of enchantment.”

      What do we do with that information? How do we reconcile the similarity between us and a person like Mr. Wagner, in your opinion?

      • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

        Hi Teo, I’d say there are a few lessons we can draw from this observation.

        First, we should recognize that in a disenchanted world, the ‘devil-worshipers in our suburbs’ hysteria promoted by fundamentalists is now as damaging to the credibility of Christianity, or more so, as it is to pagans – except to its own rusted-on believers.

        The Catholic Church, for example, has adopted a two-fold narrative: first, to appeal to believers, it has recently placed a much greater emphasis on its rites of exorcism, claiming that the increased popularity of Wicca and other forms of pagan practice is fueling a surge in demand. See interviews with ‘celebrity exorcists’ like Fr Gary Thomas. At the same time, to bolster credibility with the disenchanted, it maintains an official position that Wicca, while well-meaning, endangers the emotional and psychological well-being of young people. See the Jan 2011 publication of “Wicca and Witchcraft – Understanding the Dangers” by the Catholic Truth Society.

        Another lesson to take away is that attacks on contemporary paganism are now as likely to take the form of dismissiveness or mockery as accusations of ill-intent. This will have an effect on the way pagans engage with the media in particular and the broader community more generally.

        I suspect that the key difference between pagans and Christians will always lie in how we conceive of the preternatural – for Christians, this term seems cognate with ‘supernatural’, outside of nature, intervention miraculous, while for pagans it is located and embodied within Nature, grounded despite its essential mysteriousness. The desire for re-enchantment may be held in common, but it does not follow that the results must look anything alike.

        • Jack Heron

          Spot on. Especially that last paragraph.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

          Wonderfully put, Gavin.

    • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

      Interestingly, the dualism of this “invisible war” is a corrupt form of Manichaeism, one of the early heresies denounced by the Catholic Church. Originally from Persia, it was a syncretic religion that incorporated Jesus, as well as other deities. A form of Manichaeism underlay the heresies against which the First Papal Inquisition was directed (e.g. the Albigensians).

      So technically, this isn’t a “Christian” myth-scape at all. It’s a Christian Heresy that’s been adopted by the Wagnerian “Christian” sect. I find that deliciously ironic.

      Incidentally, from my casual reading, Manichaeism isn’t very compatible with neo-Pagan views. The core Manichaeist belief is that the physical world itself is a manifestation of evil, and that good exists only in the spiritual component of what is human. “Redemption” consists of safely separating the spirit from its material prison and returning it to the realms of light — what you might call Heaven. The material world is junk and needs to go away.

      It’s also very dualist, with a Good God and an Evil God who fight the invisible war. Like Yin and Yang, they are pretty much evenly matched. The earth is a battleground because it’s on the border.

      • Jack Heron

        You’re exactly right, Themon. There are also other parallels between the NAR and Manichaean-inspired heresies, such as the emphasis on spiritual leaders who are ‘more pure’ than the rank and file (the Cathars had the ‘Perfects’, the NAR have their ‘Apostles’) and the embrace of gnosis as a guiding force.

  • kenneth

    Upon more thought (always a risky business), it’s apparent that there IS some loose thread of commonality between pagan understanding of personal god-human understanding and that of at least some obscure corners of Judeo-Christian tradition.  While I still think the Amaratsu-emperor union is, shall we say, an unlikely cause of Tsunamis, pagan theology is shot through with instances of gods uniting with humans and fostering offspring, with all sorts of interesting results.  There are some oblique references to something like that in Genesis and in Numbers. Talk of the “sons of God” joining with human women and producing offspring called the “Nephilim.” They were alluded to as giants or immortals or something along those lines, although the topic is never explored in depth in any standard version of the Old Testament. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem to get much ink from theologians or contemporary Christian authorities either. I’d be curious to know how modern Christians or Jews understand those odd little passages….

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      This is EXACTLY what I’m getting at, Kenneth.

      As interesting as it would be to hear from modern Christians or Jews about the passages you mentioned, I would be even more interested to know how Pagans approach our own stories. Where do we find an appropriate place to transition from metaphoric to literal interpretation of our mythologies. Or, do we ever take that leap?

      Wagner is *very much* in the literalism camp. His world view includes Gods, Goddesses, and a whole host of other spiritual beings — and he isn’t confusing them with metaphor. He understands them to be real.

      So, how do we respond to that? Does that seem crazy to us? And, if so, what does that say about our relationship to our own deities?

  • kenneth

    Upon more thought (always a risky business), it’s apparent that there IS some loose thread of commonality between pagan understanding of personal god-human understanding and that of at least some obscure corners of Judeo-Christian tradition.  While I still think the Amaratsu-emperor union is, shall we say, an unlikely cause of Tsunamis, pagan theology is shot through with instances of gods uniting with humans and fostering offspring, with all sorts of interesting results.  There are some oblique references to something like that in Genesis and in Numbers. Talk of the “sons of God” joining with human women and producing offspring called the “Nephilim.” They were alluded to as giants or immortals or something along those lines, although the topic is never explored in depth in any standard version of the Old Testament. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem to get much ink from theologians or contemporary Christian authorities either. I’d be curious to know how modern Christians or Jews understand those odd little passages….

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      This is EXACTLY what I’m getting at, Kenneth.

      As interesting as it would be to hear from modern Christians or Jews about the passages you mentioned, I would be even more interested to know how Pagans approach our own stories. Where do we find an appropriate place to transition from metaphoric to literal interpretation of our mythologies. Or, do we ever take that leap?

      Wagner is *very much* in the literalism camp. His world view includes Gods, Goddesses, and a whole host of other spiritual beings — and he isn’t confusing them with metaphor. He understands them to be real.

      So, how do we respond to that? Does that seem crazy to us? And, if so, what does that say about our relationship to our own deities?

  • http://twitter.com/ashareem HR Mitchell

    I am reminded at times like this, of Oberon Zell’s essay “We Are The Other People” [http://www.paganlibrary.com/fundies/other_people.php]

     It talks about Genesis 1:27, where the Bible addresses the creation of people, prior to discussing the Garden of Eden. The brochure points out that Yahweh is not mentioned as the creator of these first people, then asserts how, in Genesis 2:7, Yahweh later creates His man and woman and sets them up housekeeping in the Garden of Eden.The booklet posits that we as pagans are descended not from the people of Yahweh, but from the “other” people, created before Adam and Eve, and therefore have no original sin and don’t need to be “saved.” It is an interesting take I had not previously thought of, but it makes perfect sense.It was published in “anti-tract” by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church some years ago, and is likely still available from them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Fascinating, HR! Thanks for sharing that link. It looks like good reading!

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      A while ago, Rev. Don Lewis made a funny parody of a Jack Chick tract called “The Other People”.  It was amusing, but it also had a very valid point, and used Biblical scripture to back it up.

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        That’s the anti-tract that HR Mitchell mentions.  Zell wrote the text and Lewis provided the illustrations.

  • http://twitter.com/ashareem HRM

    I am reminded at times like this, of Oberon Zell’s essay “We Are The Other People” [http://www.paganlibrary.com/fundies/other_people.php]

     It talks about Genesis 1:27, where the Bible addresses the creation of people, prior to discussing the Garden of Eden. The brochure points out that Yahweh is not mentioned as the creator of these first people, then asserts how, in Genesis 2:7, Yahweh later creates His man and woman and sets them up housekeeping in the Garden of Eden.The booklet posits that we as pagans are descended not from the people of Yahweh, but from the “other” people, created before Adam and Eve, and therefore have no original sin and don’t need to be “saved.” It is an interesting take I had not previously thought of, but it makes perfect sense.It was published in “anti-tract” by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church some years ago, and is likely still available from them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      Fascinating, HR! Thanks for sharing that link. It looks like good reading!

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      A while ago, Rev. Don Lewis made a funny parody of a Jack Chick tract called “The Other People”.  It was amusing, but it also had a very valid point, and used Biblical scripture to back it up.

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        That’s the anti-tract that HR Mitchell mentions.  Zell wrote the text and Lewis provided the illustrations.

  • http://godsrbored.blogspot.com anne johnson

     The fact that God’s book says that people shouldn’t have any other god than him makes it clear that there have always been other gods. Some of them have jars of jam that are older than Yahweh.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      And *that* would be some vintage spread.

      Thanks for the comment, Anne.

    • Jack Heron

      Tetrajamaton. I’m sorry.

  • http://godsrbored.blogspot.com anne johnson

     The fact that God’s book says that people shouldn’t have any other god than him makes it clear that there have always been other gods. Some of them have jars of jam that are older than Yahweh.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

      And *that* would be some vintage spread.

      Thanks for the comment, Anne.

    • Jack Heron

      Tetrajamaton. I’m sorry.


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