The Noxious Gases of Paganism

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 22, 2007 — 5 Comments

Generally speaking I don’t seek out anti-Pagan rhetoric from conservative Christians. I know it’s out there, and it is easy enough to find if you know where to look, but reporting it does nothing to change their minds or further our causes (which is why I rarely comment on the “news” that emerges from places like WorldNetDaily). But occasionally you come across something that is so explicitly aimed at your community you can’t help but comment. Such is the case with the recently released anthology “Only One Way?: Reaffirming the Exclusive Truth Claims of Christianity”, in which a group of evangelicals compose an apologetic defending Christianity against “postmodern relativism”.

“Each chapter proclaims, defends, and explains the Christian truths that are most directly challenged by postmodern relativism. Our God is the God; Jesus is not merely a savior, but the only Savior; and the truth revealed in the Bible is divine truth. As readers grasp these essential ideas and their implications they will be able to witness powerfully by articulating these claims with clarity, conviction, and love.”

Even still, I hardly keep track of the Christian publishing industry, and I wouldn’t have noticed this title if it weren’t for the fact that they cite one of my favorite books concerning polytheism “The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology” by York University professor Jordan Paper. Paper’s book is referenced in the section “One God” by Peter R. Jones, who is one of the truly rabid anti-Pagan crusaders and who spares no time abandoning reasoned discourse to heap insults on perceptions of the divine outside his rigid boundaries.

“These [pro-polytheistic] trends signify a genuine threat to the world that is presently emerging. These ideas are like noxious gases escaping from the first small crack in the earth’s crust before a major volcano breaks open a massive fault line, and the burning lava consumes all around it. In the appearance of this marginal alternate spirituality we are witnessing the first signs of a major religious revolution that threatens to sweep all before it.”

In addition to comparing the growth of Paganism to a deadly volcano that is spewing poisonous gas, Jones also heaps scorn on Bill Clinton, the UN, ancient Pagan cultures, and the practice of preserving pre-Christian ceremony and culture in our modern era. People like Jones represent the “shadow” side of the Christian call to Witness. A “calling” that won’t rest in combatting anything outside a “Biblical” world lest the (often invoked) days of a Christian minority under a Roman pagan yoke emerge once more.

“We and our children in the planetary empire of the twenty-first century must be ready, like our faithful Christian forebears, to face a new form of that ancient imperial decadence, similarly clothed in enabling power of occultic pagan spirituality.”

One would think Christians like Jones would have bigger worries, but Pagans, Heathens, Witches, and other “heretics” have always been a popular scape-goat for the world’s ills in certain Christian communities. Though some Christians, including author and apologist Anthony Horvath feel that better Paganism than the true horrors of secular atheism.

“As I recall, C.S. Lewis was once asked if he feared that Britain was turning to Paganism and responded “If only she were.” I might say the same about America. You see, ‘pagans’ actually believe in something beyond the materialistic world, but it is philosophical naturalism winning today, not paganism. If paganism were the threat du jour, that would actually be an improvement.”

While it would be nice to see a day when Christians of Jones’ stripe can acknowledge our right to exist and thrive, but I fear the polytheist world view threatens their core belief systems so deeply that we can be nothing other than tools of Satan bent on subjugating the Christian world. When the exclusivity of truth is the cornerstone of your theology, any other claimed truth becomes fair game for demonization and aggressive “mission” efforts to remove the threat. But I suppose it is a step in the right direction that they are reading excellent books on polytheism.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Erik

    Yay for the call-out! I’m a big fan of Paper’s book; in a lot of ways I find it more compelling and useful than York’s “Pagan Theology” (not that York is a bad book, it’s just that he stopped about where I wanted him to start – with the 12-page afterthought “Paganism as Theology” chapter)…

  • Christopher W. Chase

    It isn’t entirely surprising that reactionary Christian apologetics would fail to deal with the eternal fact of religious pluralism, given their spectacular failure to deal with even the basic world of human eroticism. In premillenial myth, the existence of many different approaches to religion and ethics can’t be seen as a natural thing, but rather proof of the corruption and confusion of post-Babel humanity. The United States has always been a religiously diverse place, from the myriad number of Amerindian traditions to the arrival of Muslim slaves in the 1500’s and the first Buddhist temple in 1853. Even Michael Horton, in endorsing this book, noted that “although religious pluralism is often treated as a ‘postmodern’ phenomenon, it has always been the world’s most fundamental challenge to the gospel.” In the light of history, the cries of the “polytheistic armada upon the shores of Christendom” are unintentionally ironic, since the arrival of the Spanish, French, and British upon the shores of North America would seem to have those roles reversed.More thoughful scholars and readers can certainly look elsewhere for serious consideration of interreligious discussion and dialogue. In attacking Jordan Paper (page 45), the author himself appears to bear false witness. While Paper indeed draws on his confessional relationship with polytheism (as confessional Christian theology also does for itself) he conveniently skips over the fact that Paper has previously published well-known rigorous analyses of both Chinese polytheism and Amerindian religiosity. As more and more religious traditions move explicitly into the ‘theological’ realm, we can expect to see more paranoid hyperbole and rhetoric about the threat to the imaginary organic whole of “Christendom,” itself perennially fractured through schisms, reformations, and restorations.

  • C.

    in addition to Paper’s excellent book, one should also look for and read John Michael Greer’s A World Full of Gods. each has a slightly different focus, but each is also an excellent statement for and of polytheism.

  • Randolph

    “In the appearance of this marginal alternate spirituality we are witnessing the first signs of a major religious revolution that threatens to sweep all before it.”<snark>We can but hope…</snark>

  • The Pagan Temple

    Christian leaders such as these see pagans (or any other non-Christia religion) as a threat to their power and control, or in some cases as a threat to their pursuit of power-or at times just as a mere rallying cry in pursuit of power.If there were no religious groups in the US except Christians, they would soon start turning on each other, denomination against denomination. The first one targeted would be Catholics.If they did away with them, it would turn into Baptists against Methodists. It’s a never-ending war, though, because there will never be one religion, for which I am thankful.It’s good that there is more than one way in reality, and the constant squabbling over supremacy is just one of the downsides. Their attitudes toward “rival” religions are not worthy of emulation. If there were nothing but pagans, however, I am reasonably sure it would eventually turn into the same deal-path against path. All it would take is for the establishment of a hierarchy, and a power structure. Again, not a path worthy of emulation.