Saturday, October 30, 2004

Concerning the "Christian" Witch Hunts

Since we set our clocks back tonight, I've got an extra hour, so I need to say something about the dogpile going on in some so-called "Christian" circles regarding two Episcopal priests who it appears attempted to synthesize some Pagan traditions within their Christian tradition.

Is this new? It seems ironic to be talking about this the day before Halloween. Name me a major holiday that does not contain numerous pagan elements. The synthesis has been going on since the beginning; Christianity just baptized a lot of Pagan traditions and claimed them for their own.

The major competitor with early Christianity (once it became legal, and started scrambling to buy real estate and find its place of status in society) was the Pagan traditions. Do you think it's accidental that the devil in early Christian art is depicted as Pan? The dualism that most Christians buy into today is completely foreign to the Old Testament, and most of the New Testament. The dualism is the result of an early attempt to eliminate the competitor. Every opportunity the Christians got they pounded the message; Christianity is good, Paganism is bad.

It didn't stop there. Periodically the Christians would go on frenzied witch hunts. Who were these witches? Usually the wise woman of the village; the one who knew about herbs, child bearing, the cycles of the moon and why the wolves howl at night. These women were a threat to the patriarchal society, and so periodically "Christian" men would pronounce them witches, and they would be murdered. Among Pagans, these are referred to as "the burning times." Maybe someday they will forgive us, but they will never forget. Would you? The current "outrage" is proving that time may have passed, but Christians are still the same; ready to claim anything that is a perceived threat, or they don't understand, as "satanic," and begin gathering wood for a fire.

Answer me honestly; if the rites these two priests developed were originally a Jewish rite, or even a Muslim or Buddhist rite, would everyone be so upset? I don't think so. Christians have a built in bias against anything Pagan. And that is what this latest flap is really all about.

And even us "liberals" are too cowardly to point this out, including myself. My goodness, even Bishop Bennison alludes to the fact that there is something "wrong" with being Pagan!

If we cannot show respect and tolerance for other traditions, we become self-righteous, close minded fanatics, who are part of the problem, and not part of the solution. Most violence in this world is based on religious differences. Shall we contribute to this by claiming our way is the only way, and the rest of you are going to hell? That is what those on the outside hear us saying right now.

If Jesus Christ is the truth, then wherever we find truth, be it a Buddhist or Pagan source, that truth is of Christ. Those who are so quick to condemn other traditions are no different than the Taliban; they are thought police, who teach "right belief" is the only way to be assured of salvation. Tell that to the baby I baptized last week. Tell that to the mentally ill members of my congregation.

Such self-proclaimed gate keepers, as Ted Olsen, the author of that hate dripping diatribe from CT, are perfect examples of why Christianity continues to be less and less of an option for most of the world; who would want to be part of such a self-righteous group of hypocrites? As Gandhi said, "I cannot be a Christian because of the examples of Christianity I have witnessed." Of course, to the gate-keepers, this means nothing, as I'm sure they "believe" Gandhi is in hell.

Personally, liturgically I am a purist; if it isn't from the BCP, I don't want anything to do with it. I am also a Trinitarian; that is my path to God, and I won't compromise it. But we're not talking about my path to God. We're talking about the path chosen by others. And when it comes to talking with the local Rabbi,or the Jehovah's Witness who shows up on my porch, or the Wiccan who lives next door, my response is to meet them where they are in their spiritual life, and not drag them to where I think they should be. I listen to their story, they listen to my story, and we both listen to the places where God's story intersects our stories.

As far as I can see, that is the way Christians offer their witness to the world today. Like it or not, we are no longer the main show; we are just another booth at the fair. A bit more respect, civility, and dare I say humility (not an attribute I'm very good at, I'm afraid) will allow our message to be heard. Forcing it down people's throats, or beating them over the head with the bible, may have been effective in other generations. Today it is not. So bible thumpers; get over yourselves.

Regarding "those awful rites" offered on the Druid site, here's an example;

Let us call for aid and protection to the Guardians of the Four Quarters.

[G] Steps forward to the East, and says

Honored be Raphael of the Air, our Inspiring Guest;
Guardian of the East, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[B] Steps forward to the West, and says,

Honored be Gabriel of the Water, our Empowering Guest;
Guardian of the West, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[G] Moves to the South, and says

Honored be Uriel of the Fire, our Empowering Guest;
Guardian of the South, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[B] Moves to the North, and says

Honored be Michael of the Earth, our Sustaining Guest;
Guardian of the North, draw near, and may our Rite be blessed!

[Both] Stand before the Altar and say

Holy Spirit of Godde, our Life-Giving Guest;
Welcome to our Circle, and may our Rite be blessed!

Centering Meditation

[G] In silence let us honor the Elements of Creation in the Center of our Being.

All sit. Keep silence for a time, meditating on the Five Elements.
After a time, ring once on the Bell.
All stand.
This is a pretty darn Christian rite, if you ask me. The four "corners", directions, are identified. This is the sanctification of space, something I think Christians might do a bit more of; we are rather hung up on the sanctification of time, and tend to ignore this aspect. The corners are called in the name of the four Archangels. We have no problem with the rather theologically questionable idea of "guardian angels," so why would this be objectionable? Someone objects to the primal elements of earth, air, fire and water being named? If so, I'd say that's a personal hang up; that's pretty much a summation of reality, if you ask me. BTW, Matt Fox has been doing this for years. Nothing new here. Next thing I know, someone is going to tell me that using any kind of archetype is "unChristian," and Carl Jung is "of the devil."

The fifth element is the Holy Spirit; someone got a problem with that?

I'm not big on synthesizing traditions personally, but I can recognize that there might be some value in doing it once in awhile. At one of my first burials, at a VA hospital during CPE, I was told as a line of cars pulled up that my congregation would be Jewish! Did I synthesize quickly? You bet I did. The burial was still Christian, but when possible, I used more psalms, etc. To me, the above rite looks like an honest attempt to bridge the gap between two traditions that have had much bad blood between them for 2,000 years. Maybe you disagree with such an attempt. That is certainly your right. But the derogatory and hateful things being said ever since "Brother Ted" opened the floodgates is revealing to the world that we have nothing of value to offer. Will we continue to offer such a poor witness to the healing power of God, and the grace granted to us through our Savior Jesus Christ?

Demi has some good thoughts about this as well.

J.

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