I have no use for Jesus Christ.
Put aside the history, the conversions, the burning. Let's look at just the theology. Yeah, I agree we should be loving and compassionate. My religion tells me that with no reference to Jesus. And a savior? Who needs a savior? Humans are not sinful at heart. We have a nature that is inherently good: social creatures with a biological mandate to help and befriend each other. So I don't look to the gods to redeem or save me. That makes no sense in my faith.
Jesus made a sacrifice to help others, but I prefer if each and every human being makes their own sacrifice. The ancient heroes show us that when we put virtue ahead of our own well-being—when we are willing to be the ram, not follow one—that is when the great moments of history happen. Heroism bridges the gap between human and divine. Every brave soul who stands up for what's right is a savior unto themselves.
These were my thoughts as I biked into Monmouth, Illinois.
The town is beautiful. It was a pleasant September afternoon. I had been biking since July, following the Mississippi River from her source to her end. And I was tired of sleeping outside.
I had to reach out to my fellow human beings.
It was intimidating. I don't want to put upon anyone. Even just a place in their backyard would be enough; it would still be cold, but I wouldn't have to hide and worry. I saw a woman walking her dog, so I pulled up and said hello.
"You're biking where?"
"Son, you're not staying in anyone's yard. Come with me."
Ten minutes later we were at her friends' house; in thirty minutes, they had let me into their church.
The First United Methodist Church of Monmouth treated me with total hospitality. I was given a soft couch and warm blankets in their library. Free rein to come and go as I pleased. Shown to the kitchen and told to help myself. Not one conversion attempt, not ever.
Often, Pagans and polytheists harbor a haggard sentiment against Christianity. It's not without cause, but is it without a cure? It's fair to distance ourselves from the unhappy sermons of our youth, and righteous to speak against conservative Christianity with its hammer and its snarl.
But the same Pagans who so ardently learn from Buddhism, Hinduism, Vodou, and the Tao shut their ears and cover their eyes at the mention of the Christ.
What creates this one-eyed vision?
I'm not talking about intolerance toward Christians. There are some Pagans who are outright asses to our monotheist brothers, but better activists than me have already covered that topic in detail. Most of us can agree we have no right to mistreat Christians.
But let's go further than that. If a British witch can pray to a Mesopotamian goddess, can she pray to a Judean messiah?
If neo-druids do guided visualizations around seven chakras (that traditionally have no place in anything Celtic), could they work a little bit with the Seven Virtues?
I struggled that night in the church. I felt called to attend their Sunday service in the morning, but I didn't want to participate in a Christian service. I went and sat in their sanctuary by moonlight, talked to my god Lugh, and then, not without irony, spoke to their god too.
The pastor was extremely friendly, and not in a creepy way. He Googled me and knew I wasn't Christian. This was never an issue. He spoke to me as a peer, a friend, and fellow clergy on a legitimate and respectable religious path. I entered their service leery of a conversion attempt or of language I would find objectionable. While it was nothing like an offering ceremony, it was joyful and filled me with hope and respect.
Many of the people I met that morning actively embodied the best part of Christ's teaching. None of them embodied bigotry or intolerance.
More than that, their ceremony crackled with real power.
When I left the church I was full of bua (strength, victory, virtue, spiritual power), just as if I had cast a boat full of offerings in the river to Boann or spent an hour in communion with Lugh. I rode sunwise victory circles around their church and blessed them, taking to the road full of confidence and energy.