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Heavy Metal Torah Exegesis

I am so pleased that Yvonne, my co-writer here at Sermons from the Mound, has been holding down the fort and posting solid content while I’m finishing the last (I hope!) revision of Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake. I also just booked an artist to do the cover, which I hope to be able to share with you when it’s done!

Also of note today: a new blog, Jewcraft. Despite this blog not being about Pagan scholarship or theology, I think many of its potential readers may be reading here.

I know many, many cultural Jews in the Pagan community who are always looking for ways to relate their Paganism to their Jewish heritage. This blog is written by someone writing as both an insider and an outsider, with a Pagan past and a Jewish present. I love it when people do theology in ways that challenge the authorities and normative structures in their communities (and, I have to admit, the calculated use of profanity in theological discourse just tickles me ;> ). Also, I know many of you out there, like me, had a flirtation with Judaism at some point, and many of us still work with kabbalah, so there’s some fun here for our sort as well.

Sadly, there is some problematic anti-Jewish feeling in contemporary Paganism. Jews may be a culturally powerful minority, but the Holocaust happened less than a century ago, and there are currently existing Pagan groups who have anti-Semitism as a significant part of their belief structure (I am thinking here of particular Baltic Pagan and northern European Heathen groups – happily, I believe they in are the minority). Still, I recently heard a major Pagan scholar give a lecture in which he (in the course of two paragraphs) acknowledged the Shekinah, the immanent spirit of the divine in the world in Judaism, and then assigned blame to Judaism for giving the West its transcendent view of deity. If we have to point fingers—which I don’t—I think that Greek Neoplatonism is just as much if not more to blame for this “problem.”

There’s also a tendency in Paganism to dismiss Hashem as “that desert demon.” But all things look simpler from the outside, and this blog looks to present Jewish traditions of conversation with and challenge to the Jewish god. Remember your process theology: deities change, just like the world, just like human beings.

In any case, the alternative understanding of Torah being presented here will give Pagans juicy food for thought when it comes to their perceptions of Jews and their god. Its model of deeply engaging tradition while willing to question normative understandings of it is also something we fruitfully emulate. From the introduction:

I want to talk about the dark side of Judaism as it actually is. I want to talk about Jewish spiritual eroticism, Jewish ecstatic practice, and Jewish folk magic. […]

The dark side of Judaism [...] is a terrifying place where the awesomely powerful Deity who stands toe-to-toe with the Creator of All is you.

 

About Christine Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer is Managing Editor of the Pagan Channel at Patheos.com. Christine holds a PhD in Religious and Theological Studies from Boston University. She has published widely on literature, popular culture, and Paganism and is the author of Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies (Patheos Press, 2012) as well as Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective (Routledge, 2013). Christine is also an instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary, where she served for two years as chair of the Theology and Religious History department.

  • http://www.miraselena.com Heather Greene

    Thanks for this posting. I have personally experienced direct and shocking antisemitism from within the Pagan world. Amazing… but I am proud of my Jewish heritage, no grudges and no guilt.

    Heather

    • http://inhumandecency.org/christine Christine Kraemer

      Glad to hear it!

  • Sunweaver

    Interestingly, our group comes at Jewitchery from the opposite direction that most do. Not a one of us come from a Jewish heritage, but we have adopted rather a lot of Jewish practice after having become Pagans. Melding that with a Hellenic practice is… interesting. I’ll forward this on to my folks!

    • http://inhumandecency.org/christine Christine Kraemer

      That’s fascinating. I think, historically, there was a lot of really interesting back-and-forth influence between Hellenistic and Jewish culture (or maybe it’s more appropriate to say that Jews were a part of Hellenistic culture). I think you and the writer of Jewcraft might be able to have some interesting conversations on that count.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/ Yvonne

    Sounds like a great blog and I will read it with interest.

    I do not like the anti-Jewish rhetoric that some Pagans spout. It is completely inappropriate to blame Judaism for Christian exclusivism, or for the concept of a transcendent deity.

    I have noticed some really interesting developments in earth-based Judaism (such as http://www.telshemesh.org and the Kohenet Institute) so I am sure this will be interesting too.

  • Kilmrnock

    Quess i have been fortunate enough to avoid antisemitism in our local pagan community , but there is a not specific negative Jewish sentiment but a general anti monotheistic sentiment i have seen /felt. This is palitable at times and in many cases with good reason , more aimed at Christianity. My experience leaving the Christian faith of my birth was not traumatic , i bring no real baggage with me . and my coming into paganism after leaving my previous faith was gradual .i actualy left as a teenager , was agnostic/ athiest for almost twenty five years found paganism after a near death experience in my thirties . so i came into paganism w/o alot of old concepts or baggage to overcome , had left all that behind long ago. Was almost a clean slate wasn’t hard to wrap my head around pagan concepts and way of thinking , also had no resentment or hate caused by it .after the afore mentioned life changing experience i craved spiritual connections i had left behind years before . But wasn’t interested in going back to a faith i felt no connection to .after a fair bit of soul searching and a freinds suggestion i found paganism and my place in it . As i also follow a Warriors path such hatred and resentment make no sense to me . Part of a warrior mentality is not to waste time and energy on unproductive , destructive behavior . I also believe most pagans eventualy grow out of such things as they go deeper into their own paths and philosophy of these paths or religions .Atleast on the recon side of things such a philosophy is almost universal for a serious practitioner

    • http://inhumandecency.org/christine Christine Kraemer

      That seems like a very healthy approach.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/panmankey Jason Mankey

    This isn’t meant as a criticism in anyway, but why is Jewitchery scene as more acceptable than Christo-Paganism? I completely understand Judaism being cultural, and not having to practice the religion to be considered Jewish, but Christianity can also be cultural, and there seems to be a lot of resistance to that among some Pagans. My wife grew up Catholic, and her family all remains so, going to Catholic School until college certainly affected her.

    I’m disappointed to here about anti-Semitism in Pagan circles, there are stupid people in every religious grouping.

    • http://inhumandecency.org/christine Christine Kraemer

      > This isn’t meant as a criticism in anyway, but why is Jewitchery scene as more acceptable than Christo-Paganism?

      Probably because Jews are (also) a persecuted minority — and also Judaism is fairly non-creedal. Like most Pagan traditions, it’s much more about practice. (Israel especially is full of observant atheist Jews.) Being “religious” in Judaism means you do the practices, not that you believe in God. (Did I mention I do the books for a synagogue? Yep.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/ Yvonne

    Here’s a thing I wrote about Pagans, Christians, and Christo-Pagans.
    http://stroppyrabbit.blogspot.co.uk/2008/02/pagans-and-christians.html


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