Pagans and Jesus

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 24, 2012 — 165 Comments

I’m in the process of reading two very different books about modern Pagans, and how they encounter Jesus, the central (and salvic) figure in Christian religion. The nature of the dialog found in these works point to the centrality and cultural power Christianity possesses, despite claims that this dominant monotheism is endangered in any meaningful way. Perhaps there are works underway about how Christians encounter Dionysis, or how best to explain Hekate to Jesus-followers, and I just haven’t heard about them yet? In any case, I think both tomes are revealing and worth examination for anyone interested in how Pagans exist and adapt into a religious world where Jesus is ever-present, and how more sensitive and thoughtful missional Christians consider modern Pagan religions.

The first book is “Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths” by Paul Louis Metzger, Professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture at Multnomah University. Readers of my blog may find that name familiar because he co-wrote a guest post here, repudiating a harmful article conflating modern Paganism with witchcraft killings, and aruging that “Christians must learn to show respect for other belief and praxis systems by substantiating our claims and criticisms and arguing for the cogency of our own convictions on level ground also occupied by others.” This is essentially, what “Connecting Christ” does, it discusses Christianity’s relationship to other faiths on “level ground.”

“This book promotes evangelism and dialogue, not one to the exclusion of the other. And as such it also promotes the need for thoughtful, sensitive communication during a time when our nation is reeling from the onslaught of the culture wars. The problem has not been our God or the Bible, but our approach to God and the Bible. As a result of our inauthentic witness, our God has looked all too common rather than as the uncommon God revealed as Jesus Christ. In light of this spiritual and biblical gut check, our witness in the twenty-first century will likely look very different.”

Make no mistake, this is a book where all faiths are ultimately found lacking or incomplete in comparison to Christianity, but Metzger at least engages with what he sees as  positive manifestations of each religion he looks at, and argues that Christians should repent for the sins of the Church. Further, he actually lets representatives from each faith tradition he writes about get the last word. So Unitarian Universalist minister Marilyn Sewell responds on behalf of her church, Prema Raghunath speaks for Hinduism, and Gus diZerega gives a Pagan perspective.

“As we respect and honor Christians who grow from their encounters with their sacred literature and their God, so we request a similar respect in our religions with our text and our Gods.”

“Connecting Christ” is convinced that Christ is the way, but it advocates a far more humble method of spreading the gospel message, one in stark contrast to the ugly smears and triumphal gloating we see from most missionary efforts. The next book begins with a quotation from diZerega, but it’s a very different work, one written by a former Anglican clergyman turned Christian-Druid. “Jesus Through Pagan Eyes: Bridging Neopagan Perspectives with a Progressive Vision of Christ” by Reverend Mark Townsend flips the script to explore how Pagans encounter, work with, think about, honor, and grapple with the figure of Jesus in their lives.

“Reverend Mark Townsend’s remarkable book is truly unlike any other, a thoughtful and deeply moving collection of more than two dozen stories, essays, and interviews about Jesus from today’s most respected Wiccan and Druidic leaders. Contributors such as Maxine Sanders, Christopher Penczak, Janet Farrar, Diana Paxson, Philip Carr-Gomm, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, and Raven Grimassi explore the historical figure of Jesus in relation to witchcraft, the tarot, goddess worship, and shamanism—while illustrating how this god of the Christian church blesses and inspires many who cannot or will not be part of his “official” family.”

If “Connecting Christ” is important for how it tries to change the way Christians encounter non-Christian faiths in a pluralistic world, “Jesus through Pagan Eyes” may actually be more vital for Christians who seek to understand how our diverse community views their savior. For any orthodox Christian this work will be full of heresies, but it is also paints a portrait of why Christians find it so difficult to “reach” us. Simply put, we encounter Jesus in sometimes radically different ways than they do.

“I see him as a teacher, prophet, miracle worker, and valid deity of the Christian pantheon. Who am I to deny the Christ’s validity?  Although, having known many magicians, Jesus strikes me as far more secure in his being than those magicians.”

The above quote is from Alexandrian Elder Maxine Sanders, who, I feel, encapsulates an important point about both of these books. Townsend asks Sanders what she feels Christians can learn from Pagans, and she replies, “unless they want to, nothing.” I see in these books, an opportunity and a challenge. If Christians want to understand us, and to understand how we view Christians, they have to truly want it first. So many books, with an occasional exception, are essentially lectures by Christians to other Christians about what they believe our religions are about. It’s clear they went in to whatever research or interviews they did wearing blinders, and never took them off. I sense in Metzger a willingness to seriously consider the worldview of other faiths instead of simply knocking down a straw man, and with the release of Townsend’s book, we have a extended meditation from Pagans on the very figure “Connecting Christ” wants us to experience.

I think the two books being released so close together is a kind of kismet, and those invested in a conversation between Pagans and Christians should pick up both and read them together. For my part, I’m trying to arrange a podcast interview with Townsend and Metzger to discuss Jesus, Pagans, and Christianity, and what the path forward from here may be. For the foreseeable future Pagans live in a world dominated by Jesus, while Christians have to increasingly deal with rising religious minorities no longer content to stay on the sidelines, who demand the rights of a pluralistic society. How we converse and understand one another will be vital, and I’m optimistic at the potential dialog created by these two books.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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

    And they have kindle editions.  Sweet!

    Edit: a kindle edition of Jesus through Pagan Eyes is apparently available June 1 but that’s pretty much available now!

  • http://www.lippsisters.com/ Deborah Lipp

    Honestly, I spent my entire Jewish childhood and teen life being marginalized and ignored and treated as non-existent or quaintly other by the  Christian majority, and I have spent my entire Pagan adult life being marginalized and ignoreD and treated as fictional or malevolently or bemusingly other by the Christian majority. I am frickin’ TIRED of what Christians think of me. Who cares?

    Yes, they run North America. Got it. They’ve convinced me. When do they SHUT UP?

    I don’t care about Jesus and never have. I am so very, very tired of Christians thinking that if they said the right thing to me I’d leave Paganism and “go back” to Christianity. I would NEVER be a Christian. Never. If I left Paganism, going back would not include Jesus.

    • RivaWitch

      Yeah, What she said!

  • Michael Dolan

    Things I’d like Christians to understand:

    1) You are not the only game in town.  There are billions of people in the world who have the same degree of faith in their own religions which you do.  Many of these religions are older than yours, some are younger.  Some are larger, and some are smaller.  Pretty much all of them have ancient holy texts, prophets, and professed infallible truths.  You are not, as Palahniuk said, a unique snowflake.

    2) I’m not ignorant of your faith.  In fact, most of the Pagans I know, including myself, have a much more solid grasp of it than many of you seem to.  My understanding of the Bible includes a basic familiarity with the Talmud, Qabbalah, Gnostic writings, and historical context which most of you seem to ignore completely.

    3) Just because I believe that your god exists, that doesn’t mean I believe everything he says about himself, or everything his followers say about him.  How to put this?  Gods are seldom known for their humility.  If I had a dollar for every god who has claimed to have created the world singlehandedly, I’d be able to BUY it.  Your god formed an exclusive relationship with the Jews, and became THEIR only god- not THE only god.  See #2, and #1.  Yes, I believe your god is real- No, I do not believe he is unique, omnipotent, or better than my own.

    4) Here’s the big one, and I know that it won’t make sense to most Christians.  I find several of the central, immutable concepts of your religion to be grossly incompatible with any type of ethical ideal.  The idea that I would allow another person to be punished on my behalf, or that I should be grateful to benefit from an injustice- Is almost as offensive as the idea that I should be eternally tortured for the actions of a distant ancestor.  The idea that a father would deliberately keep his children forever inferior and subservient, existing only to shower him with unconditional love, is the morality of serial killers, pedophiles, and monomaniacal dictators.

    5) As difficult as the previous point may make it to believe, I DO respect many of the tenets of your religion.  I also respect and admire the long and noble history of the Chinese civilization- It doesn’t mean I want to become a communist. 

    6) I would very much like to coexist peacefully, but you make that increasingly difficult.  Forgetting ancient history like the crusades and witch hunts, it is hard to accept someone who keeps trying to force their sectarian beliefs into politics.  It is very hard to love someone who claims that you are inherently wrong and/or under the control of an infinite evil. It is very hard to treat someone as an equal when they keep insisting that they are superior, and it is even harder to respect their basic human rights when they refuse to acknowledge your own. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=585826544 Adam Birch

       Fair points.  I try to be as positive as I can with Christians, but there are times and situations wherein that credo fails.  The failure is mine, after all, I don’t have to rise to the bait of proselytizers.

      A few of my problems start with their ten commandments, including “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, which does not preclude the existence of other gods, it merely precludes adherents from worshiping them.

      Those commandments are essentially a part of a contract between the Abrahamic god and his people.  Who would agree to any contract without fully scrutinising the wording and considering the possible ramifications?

      In the mean time, my concise view of Christ is this:  History is replete with prophets – hat’s their faith and their prophet, though he did have some good things to say, if you can believe the credibility of those who “recorded” events.  Therein lies further obfuscation. 

      If they’ll leave me be, I can at least return the favour.

    • Mark Townsend

      Fair points indeed and, for these reasons, I sometimes find it near impossible to stay within the Christian framework (or even at the edges of it). 

      However I believe there to be nuggets of pure gold hidden within all religious traditions. And I have discovered some such nuggets within my own path. I have had the benefit of learning much from some of the great mystical and contempaltive teachers within the various traditions (such as Matthew Fox). And, most importantly, I still find the teachings of the man we know as Jesus to be beautiful, inspiring, life affirming and shell shockingly counter cultural. They are, of course, counter to much of the current Church’s culture (and not just to the religio-political culture of his own day) which is why I believe that if any group really needs ‘conversion’ to something better, richer, deeper, safer, more wholesome, it is the very community that claims to follow him. 

       

      • Mark Townsend

        On that note, some of you may find this of interest:

        “Many millions throughout the ages have venerated the name of Jesus, but few have understood him and fewer still have tried to put into practise what he wanted to see done. His words have been twisted and turned to mean everything, anything and nothing. His name has been used and abused to justify crimes, to frighten children and to inspire men and women to heroic foolishness. Jesus has been more frequently honoured and worshipped for what he did not mean than for what he did mean. The supreme irony is that some of the things he opposed most strongly in the world of his time were resurrected, preached and spread more widely throughout the world – in his name.”
        Fr. Albert Nolan (Roman Catholic Dominican Friar) 

      • Michael Dolan

         I agree with you- I DO think there is some wonderful stuff to be found within the Judeo-Christian religious teachings.  The Bible is a long, old, and complex book.  It has great truths, outright lies, universal myth, political, spiritual, and social commentary from a dozen viewpoints, good, bad, and morally grey.

        It’s just that it’s so hard to discuss that with people who immediately adopt a literal, all-or-nothing stance on it.

        • Shakti_Luna

          Well said.

        • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

           Yeah, and the rejection of science and reason (in general) by the major movers and shakers of the faith cannot be dismissed. Not only that, the demonization of people in the LGBT community–and even the proclaiming of such attitudes by political figures on the right– is something that must be answered for.  I won’t even mention the hatred of women (awh, I went ahead and mentioned it anyway). If there’s Christians out there who want to join us in the fight against such stupidity, and wish to help save this planet from it’s path to destruction, I say we should welcome them in the fight. But they have a lot to answer for, and some bones tossed out by some well-meaning Pagan writers just does not do it for me.

          I think that the Christians posting here should first preach to their fellow Christians, and try to get their own house in order (Heh, good luck with that, btw!).

    • Shakti_Luna

      I agree it is hard to coexist with a feeling of superiority from so many Christians. However, I have a very good friend who is Christian and is so accepting of my faith. We have amazing conversations on a spiritual level and they are not in any way judgmental to any party involved. I think it is possible to coexist but perhaps not on a larger scale. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/Zac.Strix.Nebulosa.Kolb Zachary Kolb

      ^^—What he said. 

      I’ll be blunt here, I’m not going to sit here and bitch about Christianity, but I’m not going to ignore the elephant in the room when it comes to coexistence and how pagans on a whole are pretty clear we just want equal rights and respect and to be left alone, and are not here to shit in anybodies wheaties. It’s tiresome to have jesus sold to me, that my faith is lacking because I didn’t have a rabi and carpenter murdered in my name for my imperfections, imposed on the human race for daring to question deity honestly, in my religious paradigm as the only correct and true model. 

      I see books like these, and I appreciate the time and effort evangelicals and progressive christians take to actually see pagan faiths as legitimate faiths to actually discuss, but I’m not so foolish to see acceptance here. I see repackaging of an older ad campaign meant to tell me that Jesus is still the man in my life, not Atum, or Heru, or Sutekh. No matter how genial the message, the message is still the same “You need Jesus” and I’m not the only person who raises an eyebrow and isn’t fooled by the handy disguise. We, and I mean Pagan Religions and the pagan religious community as a whole, don’t need validation by Christianity. We’re not christians, we never will be christians, that we don’t need your savior, and quite frankly you need to come to terms with the simple fact that that is okay. 

      • Shakti_Luna

        Glad you posted our conversation :)

  • Michael Dolan

     I apologize for ranting.

    • Eagle Eye

      No need to apologize. I feel the same way. #4 was brilliant. 

      I’m tired of how Christians present themselves as victims when they have done much to victimize and abuse others. Right now I’m thinking specifically of the Native Americans and their religions, but there are other examples.

      • Yeahwhatever

        #4 is only brilliant, *if* you don’t accept that Jesus is who he says he is.  Once you’ve decided he’s a lying braggart, the *whole* of Christian philosophy falls apart.  If you do believe Jesus and the Father are who they say they are, then #4 falls apart very quickly.  Really, folks, this is old, old, old arguments.  Even Jesus said that the cross would be seen as foolishness and a “stumbling block”.

        Jesus also very clearly delineated that following him meant picking up that cross, not throwing it at other people and complaining when any part of it touches your life.  So, i’d wager most of those abusive “christians” you complain about were NOT following him and will be among those he described when he said many would claim to follow him but he would reject at the judgment because they did not feed the hungry, comfort those in prison and clothe the naked.

        • Michael Dolan

           Firstly, that’s a false choice: Either Jesus *and* God are exactly who “he” claimed to be, or he is flat-out lying.  In context, Jesus said he was the son of God in the “we’re all God’s children” sense, not the “I AM THE ONE AND ONLY” sense.  The “one and only son of God” stuff is second and third party interpretations.  I don’t remember it showing up in the Gnostic testaments. 

          This is one of the fundamental logical fallacies- that a long, convoluted, and frequently repeated story must be ENTIRELY TRUE, or ENTIRELY FALSE.  This is simply not the case.

          Jesus said to feed the poor, heal the sick, love your neighbor, and treat people decently and without prejudice.  This is good advice whether he was the literal Son of God, an enlightened spirit, a con man, or the devil himself.  The “one way to Heaven” concept is SECTARIAN DOCTRINE, and largely based on what OTHER people said ABOUT him.

        • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca/ Makarios

          Interesting study in logical fallacies. Argument from authority, false dichotomy, and  “no true Scotsman.” Anything else you’d care to add?

        • Obsidia

           Actually, Jesus’s statement “I am the way, the truth and the light” is a Sufi statement.  Many Sufis have said it, and the way they understand it is something like the explanation at the following link:

          http://voceadore.bactroid.net/category/sufism/

          I recommend the writings of Neil Douglas-Klotz for more info on this view of Jesus:
          http://www.soundstrue.com/authors/Neil_Douglas-Klotz/

          Jane Roberts’ “Seth” stated that there were 3 people whose legends were mixed together that make the myth of Jesus.  I like to think that one of these was Celtic-minded, and might have even studied with Druids when his uncle took him to Britain on a Tin Trading voyage.

          There are also legends of a teacher by the name of Issa who studied with the Tibetans.

          http://www.steamchip.com/page072.html

          I guess what I find interesting is that the Christians start with Jesus….and by expanding their understanding of Jesus, they can also expand their minds to include the sources of his teachings, whereever they came from……..

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            I have no doubt that Jesus was a Sufi. As was Ayatollah Khomeini and also Hassan al-Banna (the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood).

          • Ywendragoneye

            Just curious as to how Jesus could be a Sufi, when Islam was not established until centuries after his death?

          • Robert Mathiesen

             Peter Kingsley notes in his excellent book on Empedocles and magic (IIRC) that some Sufi schools trace the lineage of their teaching back to Pagan antiquity.

          • Obsidia

             Reply to Ywendragoneye:

            There is disagreement among religious scholars and Sufis themselves about the origins of Sufism. The traditional view is that Sufism is the mystical school of Islam and had its beginnings in the first centuries following the life of the Prophet Mohammed. Indeed, most Sufis in the world today are Muslim and many of them would consider a non-Islamic Sufism impossible.

            There is another view, however, that traces the pre-Islamic roots of Sufism back through the early Christian mystics of Syria and Egypt, to the Essenes, the ancient Pythagorean orders, and the mystery schools of the Egyptians and Zoroastrians, among others. It is these roots that gathered into the trunk known as Islamic Sufism.

            http://www.sufiway.org/history/origins_of_sufism.php

            From my study of Sufism, I believe that it is a thread of a more ancient spiritual fabric than Islam.

          • Ywendragoneye

            In response to Robert & Obsidia – thank you for the references – more info to explore…..

          • Obsidia

            To Ywendragoneye,

            You might also investigate the book “The Sufis” by Idries Shah.  Shah was very much involved in the founding of Wicca with Gerald Gardner, btw.  Also with Robert Graves, writer of “The White Goddess.” 

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

    Thank you for the comments and thoughts about these two books that bring them together in an interesting fashion for our consideration. I share your optimism and hope that the energy and recent experiences continue to unfold in positive ways.

  • Kilmrnock

    Valid point , jason …………i will put both books on my reading list . We may be coming to a post Christian dominated world , but not yet . You are correct in stating we pagans are going to be dealing w/ a Christian majority for quite some time to come .We both , Christians and Pagans , have to do better in how we communicate with each other . Granted is going to require more from the Christians , but is well worth it in the long run. Over time thier numbers will dwindle just as our numbers are growing . They will have to speak with us in a more civil manner . But from my point of view why not start a better dialog now .    Kilm

  • Kilmrnock

    Micheal , tis ok lad ……………we all need to rant from time to time . My freind you made some quite valid points  as did others here .     Kilm

  • Paul Louis Metzger

    Hello Jason,

    Thank you for your balanced handling of my book. I look forward to the
    dialogue/interview with you and Rev. Townsend. I welcome such opportunities to
    cultivate better communication and understanding involving our respective
    communities.

     

    • http://www.facebook.com/zaracon Larry Zaracon Sodders

      cant wait to read your book as well I have read Marks as I am going to be interviewing him for my Radio Show,  would love to interview you also sometime maybe the two of you together that would be an interesting show I Imagine if interested you can always contact me on Facebook

  • Mia

    “while illustrating how this god of the Christian church blesses and inspires many who cannot or will not be part of his “official” family.””

    Yes, like providing plenty of useful phrases to utter when in irritating situations. It’s so much more satisfying to say “JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY!” when someone pulls in front of me on the road than “OSIRIS!” or “HECKATE!”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

       But you have to say it the right way.  It’s “Jeezus ChrAHst Al-MAAH-ty,” ya know, drawing out the ‘e’ and elongating the ‘i’s the way southerners do.  It makes it much more effective ; )

      • Mia

        Oh, I’m up in Chicago, the only Southern accent I can do is the fake Paula Deen kind. For the most part I fail at it, lol.

    • Faoladh

      As someone once said (I believe that it was a Jewish man talking about why he said “Jesus Christ” when irritated), it’s easier to curse using a name for which you have no affinity.

    • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

      I disagree.  My favorite expletive is the alliterative “Holy Herne and Hecate!” or, if I’m in a particularly colorful mood, “Holy Herne and Hecate, Batman!”

      Pagans just need to dig deep, and discover our inner blasphemers.  (Admittedly, blasphemy is more difficult when everything is sacred.  But you gotta be creative in this world…)

      • Mia

        Yea, but then the recipients don’t get offended, they just get confused. That takes the fun out of it.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    I have no interest in this zombie god called Jesus, nor in the creed-making fanatics who follow him, except for how best to undo the damage they have done, or at least to limit their ability to continue to do damage in the future.

    • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

       I always was hoping for a “Constantine has Risen from the Dead” movie where someone pulls the stake out of his heart and he starts killing children and boiling women all in the name of god again.

  • kenneth

    I think these books and this movement within Christianity brings meaningful dialogue a step closer by moving past aggression and ignorance of our religion. That said, non-aggression is not the same thing as respect.  There have been a number of Christian authors in recent years calling for an end to the “Satanic panic” mentality and conveying what we’re about in a (more or less) accurate and nuanced fashion. That’s commendable, on the one hand, until we look at the underlying motive. The end game remains unchanged: to convert us. It’s not really a move to see how we can share the civic space and engage each other as equal but diverse peoples. It’s just really a different marketing strategy: “If we quit yelling at these people, maybe they’ll calm down and finally let us fix them.” 

       The quote above from/about Metzger’s book lays the agenda out plain as day:

     “The problem has not been our God or the Bible, but our approach to God and the Bible…”

    Progressive Christians, for all their progressiveness, can no more accept us for who we are than can Pat Robertson. Where angry evangelicals blame us as pagans for being mentally or spiritually defective or malicious, these “soft” evangelicals figure humility will catch more flies than vinegar. “The problem isn’t pagans, it’s us, for not selling the message correctly and for driving them off.”

      At no point do they even consider the possibility that we’re pagan because we’re supposed to be, or because we made a truly informed choice to be pagan. The core of who and what we are is still defined as “the problem.” Only the proposed causes and solutions are different. So long as that remains the core of Christian understanding of modern paganism, any dialogue between us will, inevitably, run off the cliff. We all may be less angry and less hoarse from yelling when we go over that cliff, but go we will. 

       “The problem” (aka our not being Christian), does not lie with us, and it does not lie with you because we don’t accept the premise that there is any problem to be fixed, or for which to to fix blame.  The problem is NOT your approach to God and the Bible. Ugly ministry and abrasive Christians have done a lot to make Christians secularists or soured them on organized churches, but they didn’t “make” us pagan. Our spiritual journeys made us pagan, or more accurately, helped us come home to our tribes and our deities and our ancestors. Some of your co-religionists may have helped motivate our search on that path, but nobody becomes or stays pagan over a long haul if their only calling is a sour feeling about Christianity (or any other birth religion). 

      The meanness of some of your colleagues has done a lot to complicate relations between us, but it did not make us what we are, and accordingly, efforts to be extra-nice to us will not make us what you wished we were. Obsequious “love” with an agenda will get you no further with us at the end of the day than virulent hate has gotten some of your predecessors. 

     Plain old neighborly civility, with no evangelizing cards up the sleeve, on the other hand, will get you farther than you ever thought possible. Honesty and consistency in word and deed resonate with some very deep and ancient concepts of honor. That sort of behavior carries a lot of water with us, even if we have our own struggles to live up to it among ourselves.  One way or another, you will find that we make unpleasant enemies, and even worse marks for conversion. We do, however, make for pretty good (and interesting) allies. 

    • Nicole Youngman

       You’ve nailed it quite nicely. And, dammit, part of the problem *is* the Bible, which they always seem to think we haven’t read or can’t understand properly unless they explain it to us nice and slow. It’s chock-a-bloc full of some of the nastiest, most virulently hateful stuff you can find anywhere: those people over their worship the wrong god/dess(es)! Go kill them! Enslave them! Take their land! Hey women, stfu, and don’t get yourself raped or we’ll have fun throwing really big rocks at you! Gay folks, really big rocks for you, too! Oh, and by the way, God loves you, but he made you imperfect on purpose so that you could then screw up (by wanting knowledge, no less) and piss him off so that he could then, by some rulebook that’s apparently more powerful than HE is, not forgive you until he created a human sacrifice to “die for your sins” that you then must worship for all time or you get to burn eternally. Nice guy, eh? I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would worship an entity like that…all I can figure is that they think they have no choice, or they identify with that kind of power and want in on it (if you read fundamentalist literature–and I’m using the term loosely–it’s ALL about the importance of authority and obedience).

      I met a guy years ago who said he left his church after he had a kid of his own, and realized that the god he had been taught to worship had the exact personality type of an abusive parent, and he just could NOT see himself EVER treating his own child like that.

    • IronLemur

      Yes. This. Precisely this.

    • Mark Townsend

      Kenneth, you say (about Progressive Christians, of which I am one)  “At no point do they even consider the possibility that we’re pagan because we’re supposed to be, or because we made a truly informed choice to be pagan.”

      Me and all my Prog Xtian friends want Pagans to be Pagan, Hindus to be Hindu, Jews to be Jews etc. I do not advocate the attempted conversion, or ‘winning’ any member of any other faith/religion to Christianity. Far from it in fact. I do not believe that Jesus was a Christian. However I do believe that Christianity (and all religions) can be right for some, just as Wicca, Druidry and Shamanism are most definitely right for some.
       

      • kenneth

        To the extent you and some others really believe that, and demonstrate that belief in interaction, then we have a real basis for dialogue. For what it may be worth, I draw a clear distinction between “Christianity” and especially “Christendom” which I consider to be very sick beasts in the aggregate, and people’s personal Christian paths. If I’m to demand that Christians acknowledge at least the sincerity of my calling to be what I am, I have to grant them, on an individual level, the same courtesy. I have to consider the possibility (indeed probability) that some folks are supposed to be Christian.

         I’ve met some of these folks and they’re usually the Christians nobody hears from, or about. They’re not big on doctrine, or titles or loud apologetics. They’re often the people walking the walk, serving the poor and owning little but the clothes they stand up in, and sometimes in neighborhoods and countries where we wouldn’t ask the Marines to go on a good day. I have to grant them the presumption that they’re “as called” by their own god as I am by mine. 

      • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

        This has also been my experience, among the progressive Christians I spend time with among Quakers.  It has been a pleasant surprise.

        I do wish Pagans could allow Christians to be what they are–the full range of Christian opinions is actually much wider than the Pagan stereotyping of it is.  And just as I’d feel annoyed at any Christian who insisted that they knew what my Paganism was “really” all about, I feel embarrassed by those Pagans who overgeneralize about Christianity.  Even those of us who have been Christian before becoming Pagan have generally only been one or at most two kinds of Christians.

        And as much as the radical religious Right would like to hold the patent on Christianity, they clearly don’t.

        • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

          (As an aside, however: Jesus bores me.  The Tanakh, now… there I can find things that speak to me.  This Jesus guy, though?  Meh.  Those who love him are welcome to him…)

      • Guest

        I’ll accept that Christianity is right for some.   Most American Pagans have friends and family that are Christian – Christianity is the dominant religion.  Many have been raised in said faith, know about it, and wouldn’t mind being able to have taken something of value out of that experience.  But they’ve chosen Paganism. Most Christian people act or say like they’re “sad for them” because they’ve been told that it’s evil to be anything but and that they’re going to suffer.  Pagans get treated as a result with bigotry and insults.
        If you’re a smaller, or minority religion of any stripe you get that crap. Jews, Roman Catholics in a predominantly Evangelical area, etc. all get treated sort of similar to Pagans at times because someone thinks they ARE like Pagans, since they aren’t Pentecostal/Baptist/Protestant/whatever, they must be heretics.
        So why the book? Is it’s real purpose teaching tolerant behavior towards the faiths of others? That’d be nice.

    • Harmonyfb

      “The problem” (aka our not being Christian), does not lie with us, and
      it does not lie with you because we don’t accept the premise that there
      is any problem to be fixed, or for which to to fix blame.  The problem
      is NOT your approach to God and the Bible.

      Exactly. I’ll never forget the acquaintance who – with a completely straight face and in all seriousness – asked me to give her pointers on how her evangelical group should approach Pagans when seeking to convert them. (I swear, I’m not making it up. She actually asked me this. ::shakes head:: I must have gaped at her for fully five minutes.)

      She was actually surprised when I told her that a) It was unethical to try and convert us in the first place, b) that we didn’t NEED conversion, c) that if her god wanted us as worshipers, he was fully capable of getting in touch with us himself, d) that our own gods had managed to speak to us without human agency and thus our faith had nothing to do with Christianity and its followers, and e) it was flatly insulting of them to think that our faith was so shallow that saying the right words would cause us to forsake our gods and conform to her beliefs.

      No, ‘surprised’ isn’t the right word. Maybe ‘astonished’? I wish I had thought to ask her how she thought I should approach Christians to convince them to become Pagans.

      I will admit that since then, I’ve seen a shift in her thinking towards respecting the rights of others to self-determination, so I call that a plus for religious dialogue.

      Dear Christians: I am not a Pagan because your religion had a bad day, and altering your sales pitch is not going to make me Christian. I’m Pagan because Herne visited me in the forest, because Aphrodite and Hermes came to me in dreams and visions and direct manifestations. Because they called to me, and my heart rejoiced. :)

    • Mark Townsend

      [short extract]
      “By tapping into my own personal experiences and by conducting interviews with some of the most recognised names in the Neopagan world, I have uncovered a Jesus who can be a friend to all people without anyone having to join his ‘club’. Therefore Pagans reading these words have no need to suspect an attempt at recapturing them for the Church. I have no desire to proselytize. There are no hidden agendas or ulterior motives. Rather this is a book to enable fully Pagan folk to remain fully Pagan yet re-claim a long lost friend, or perhaps make friends for the first time. Just as other great figures of the past, like Confucius, Buddha, Socrates and Lao Tzu, and modern gurus like Ghandi and The Dali Lama, have soul lessons for us all, so does this wisdom teacher of Galilee. And, like all those other gurus, his lessons do not require conversion in order to be embraced or learned from. Indeed to some his lessons, once understood, are more able to be authentically lived out within the modern Pagan world than Christendom.”

      • Guest

        I heard a Tibetan lama say “Buddhas aren’t jealous”. Which basically is agreeing with this. (The idea that Buddhas are all alike, all sitting and peaceful  and all thinking the same way, doesn’t come from said Buddhism. )

  • Michael Strojan

     I paged through Jesus Through Pagan Eyes last week at my local esoteric book-store and was really impressed. I only really read significant portions from Greer’s essay, but am definitely planning on picking it up. As a Gnostic in an ecclesiastical and sacramentally Christian tradition, I feel that many contemporary Gnostics are often categorized in the same vein as pagans – which, while not accurate, is definitely valid considering how much overlap there was and is in the development of the milieu of the ancient Mediterranean. Perhaps more Christians will seek out to dialogue with contemporary pagans and grow from the influence.

    • Mark Townsend

      Thank you Michael. Nice to hear.

    • Hotstreak12

       have you read the Jesus mysteries.

      • Mark Townsend

        Sure have. I know Tim. He’s a very important writer on this. Though I do take a slightly different line on Jesus myself.

  • IronLemur

    I’m a Druid who’s spent the past three years living in a Christian Intentional Community. After three years, I’m actually *less* convinced that Christians and Pagans can co-exist in any meaningful sense. Among my housemates, and my Christian friends, there is a sense (usually unspoken, sometimes not) that I’m just Doing It Wrong. That even among my open-minded, progressive, accepting Christian friends, my lack of faith in Christ is deeply problematic for them on theological and personal levels. 

    The thing is, within Christian theology, most of the beliefs and practices in Contemporary Paganism are not only different, but adversarial. There’s a lot in Christian belief that is subject to debate, but the one thing that both Old and New Testament were pretty clear about is not worshiping anyone but the God of Abraham. It’s the Second Commandment. Jesus was pretty explicit about that in John 14:6.  And throughout the Bible, Paganism is cited again and again as an metaphor for everything that’s wrong with the world. Yes, a lot of that is geopolitical, and so the criticism against Pagans and Sorcerers is often an attack on Egypt, Babylon, Rome, et al. But more often than not, it boils down to belief. To Christians, their faith represented the single most effective engine for progress in human civilization, and the rise of Contemporary Paganism represents one giant step backward. I’ve learned there really is no arguing with them on that.

    My Christian friends would never beat me over the head with this stuff (well, except one, but I told her very clearly that proselytizing is Off-Limits). But it’s there. It’s always there. And now, after three years, I’m being told that my faith is a problem in the IC I’m living in. And that I should consider “adapting” my faith to fit in with the daily life of prayer in the community (making it very clear that there will be no movement or compromise on their end, at all), and that if I can’t do that then I should probably move out. (Which I’m now planning to do before the end of the year.)

    My point is, as sad as it is to say, I don’t think we’ll ever really come to a meaningful understanding with Christians as a whole, at least in the United States. The theological differences are profound enough that they incite conflict. And I don’t even think that framing conversations in terms of dealing with each other in the context of a civil society will yield fruit, because Christians will always be negotiating from a place of privilege and power (and if for some reason they don’t have that advantage, I’ve noticed they tend to disengage).

    In the socio-political arena, I believe the Pagan Community’s relationship with Christianity will always be tense and adversarial. I think we need to accept that and figure out how we can petition for, and secure, our rights in civil society. To that end I think it would be more fruitful to engage with other minority religions- Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Shinto, even Muslims (if they’ll talk to us)- to find common ground and work to band together to present a clearer picture of Faith Communities in the US outside the Judeo-Christian milieu. With sheer force of numbers afforded by such a federation, we may not make friends, but we certainly won’t be ignored.

    • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

      If it’s an explicitly Christian Intentional Community, is there not an expectation of being, well, Christian? Such a community might not exactly map to a model of a society where Christians expect to live among non-Christians, no? 

      • IronLemur

        At the time I was approached it was open to non-Christians. When I moved in I joined an Atheist, a Quaker, and a UU. Participation in daily prayer for non-Christians was encouraged but not required. Now, our Prior thinks that letting in non-Christians was not such a good idea. As such, he’s making Christian affiliation a pre-req to membership consideration for new applicants, while (gently) encouraging the two remaining non-Christians (the Atheist and myself) that maybe it’s time to move on.

    • Mark Townsend

      I agree with much of what of you say, re. the adversarial beliefs IronLemur, but many Christians have grown beyond the literalism that charicatured so much of the church a couple of decades ago. And many Christians are simply unable to continue holding onto the current ‘orthodoxy.’ Some have found a beautiful balance within Nature-based and Pagan paths. Some have had to revise their own religion’s doctrines severely. Others have left the Church altogether. Here’s a short extract that shows you where I’m coming from with regard to the most commonly (but by no means the ‘only’) interpretations of Christian Doctrine:
      “Its fifteen years since I began my flirtation with the Pagan world, ten since I underwent a Native American style vision quest in the New Mexican desert and three since I became a member of a world-wide Druidic order. I was an Anglican Vicar (parish minister) throughout most of it, but one whose spiritual life was on a slippery slope to disenchantment. I am still a priest but have come to the point where institutional Christianity makes very little sense. The hierarchical structures, heavy dogmatism, obsession with (perceived) sexual morality and general sense of exclusivity have become stumbling blocks on my spiritual path. Doctrines such as original sin, blood atonement and Christ as the one true way leave me cold, whereas walking with Druids and other Neopagans, has injected a dose of pure magic into my life. I have glimpsed the world through a different set of eyes and my whole perspective has been transformed.For the last three years I’ve spoken at various Pagan gatherings, led workshops and quiet days and had the privilege of befriending hundreds of Druids, Wiccans and Heathens. I have never covered up the fact that I am an ordained Christian priest and, rather than being shunned or misunderstood, this has opened up deep and profound conversations. I am amazed by the amount of Pagans I meet who have a genuine respect, even love, for Jesus.”

        

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Mark, the story of your personal path is delightful. Thank you for sharing it.

        Please indulge me in a little mental imagery. You found Pagans who are familiar with Jesus, have made their peace with him and may have even taken up his stated guidelines for the good life. Let’s put those Pagans on the left side of the screen.

        On this blog you have encountered Pagans who are vehemently allergic to any mention of Christianity. They are far from the only ones who exhibit that reaction, and are unlikely to respond to any “Get to know Jesus” program. Let’s put those Pagans on the right side of the screen.

        Now, who’s in the middle? How big a fraction of the Pagan population is genuinely indifferent to Jesus — harbor neither hostility nor curiosity? I propose that those are the real targets of your message, and I suggest that they are a very small percentage of Pagans.

        If you have been following this blog for any length of time you have seen some of the practical issues that confront Pagans: bullied kids, denial of custody, intolerant employers, unequal treatment by local taxing authorities, unequal access to leading prayers before public-body meetings, commercial violation of First Nation sacred lands, police panic at details of Afro-Caribbean worship — the list goes on. Your outreach between two worldviews is welcome and a refreshing break from the usual “dialogue.” Some backing on the practical issues would be wonderful.

        • Mark Townsend

          Thank you Baruch.
          That makes sense.
          To be clear, though, I’ve not written this book as a bridge between Paganism and Christianity. I honestly don’t think there can be such bridges (yet, anyway). Most of the Christian world is simply incompatible with most of the Pagan world. I can stand within both because I see all relgious language and ritual expression as essentially metaphor and myth. But 99.9% of Christians are nowhere near that place.
          No, this book is about taking Jesus OUT of Christianity, so see how much (or how little) of him can be of any sense / use to people of the Pagan paths. And what lead me to write it was coming across countless Druids and Wiccans who, totally satisfied with their 100% Paganism, still entertain an inner fascination with or even with for the man Jesus.
          It’s not a ‘Christo-pagan’ book, but a book about Jesus written from the perspective of about 30 full blown Pagan men and women. And in that sense its unlike any other volume to have been published about this man. Because it does not have an ulterior motive of ‘now let’s save them for Jesus.’ Far from it.
          Thank you for your post. I will think more about your other very valid points.
          Blessings, Mark  

          • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

            “I can stand within both because I see all religious language and ritual expression as essentially metaphor and myth.”

            And this–this makes sense to me.

            It’s not that the gods are metaphor… but our understandings surely are.

          • Mark Townsend

            Yes, and I believe that ALL ‘God-language’ is metaphor. Christian and Pagan.
            Here’s a few Divine metaphors:
            Father
            Mother
            Child
            Judge
            Door
            Vine
            Good Shepherd
            Hand
            Great Mother
            Heart
            Lamp
            etc. etc. etc.  

      • Guest

        I tend to like folks who are filled with Jesus’ spirit, which feels compassionate and warm.  But most Christians seem superstitious of even allowing Jesus to come through/be part of them. They’ve been taught (abused, really) to think that only certain people can be given such gift, especially women, who are taught their role is to be silent, and the “clergy” they trust takes their money and their power. They’re supposed to follow the clergy as wiser people, and clergy are usually too eager to take and abuse their trust, follow them around as the authority on Jesus.
        Just because someone could talk to Jesus doesn’t mean they’re “better” people. Most of the day, most of the time, they’re not even contacted.  Pagans know their deities don’t fill their Priest/esses 90% of the day,  and those who claim differently are generally delusional.  Pagans generally know this. But if you point the same out to Christians, their faith in their Church falls. Their Churches take their money, power, and trust, and oops, then they feel used, and then have doubts.
        The Churches take those and discourage doubting and looking within oneself for guidance, meaning the personal interaction with deity becomes diluted and distant. Jesus’ spirit is not
        encouraged to fill people in their daily life, or even occasionally,
        outside of private spaces, or a church.  Instead of talking about Jesus, have that spirit talk and work through you, and then some people will know him.

  • No Bod E

    I was raised Lutheran.I have read the bible many times and different translations. Every time I read it, I was driven further away from christianity. Most christians I know are pretty good at quoting bible verses. That is what you get taught in Sunday school. Most of them seem to fail when it comes to actually reading and comprehending the “guide book” of the faith they profess to follow. I am glad that I found my Pagan path and will not return to the path that was forced on me from infancy, no matter how they try to explain it to me. The only discussion they seem to feel is proper is the one that”leads us back to the light”. I cannot and will not follow a path that treats me as the cause of all sin or as property to be bartered. I am every bit as much a part of humanity as anyone else, no matter what gender, faith, or any other criteria you choose.

  • Mark Townsend

    Hi Jason,Thank you so much for taking the time to read Jesus Through Pagan Eyes and to arrange what is likely to be a fascinating discussion with yourself and Dr. Paul Louis Metzger’s very through provoking. I look forward to it. Just one small comment on where I’m coming from myself:I begin my book by stripping Jesus of his Christian clothing. I felt that we needed to start with a naked ‘de-Christed’ Jesus, so we could see him within his own first C. Jewish context. And as a man, not a god. This might seem strange coming from a Christian writer, but even as a preacher I’ve always said that ‘Jesus was not a Christian.’ I’m really not in the business of winning people back to the Church, or of winning them for the first time! There are as many genuine responses to the Divine as there are people on earth. However, throughout human history, certain people have had a major impact within the spiritual / religious adventure; many of whom have (over time) turned into spiritual leaders /mentors, gurus, mystics, saints and saviours. And a great number of them are universally significant. For example many non-Buddhists find the teachings of The Dali Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh. I see Jesus within this tradition. Yes he’s God image of one particular religion, but his teachings go much further. Indeed Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsh and many other modern spiritual teachers draw deeply on the Jesus story.  My idea for this book his thus been to simply ask the question, ‘As a Pagan (and not a Christian) how do you, if at all, relate to Jesus and / or Christ?’ And I’ve been amazed and delighted by the responses.  
    Hi Jason,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read Jesus Through Pagan Eyes and to arrange what is likely to be a fascinating discussion with yourself and Dr. Paul Louis Metzger’s very through provoking. I look forward to it.
    Just one small comment on where I’m coming from myself:
    I begin my book by stripping Jesus of his Christian clothing. I felt that we needed to start with a naked ‘de-Christed’ Jesus, so we could see him within his own first C. Jewish context. And as a man, not a god. This might seem strange coming from a Christian writer, but even as a preacher I’ve always said that ‘Jesus was not a Christian.’
    I’m really not in the business of winning people back to the Church, or of winning them for the first time! There are as many genuine responses to the Divine as there are people on earth. However, throughout human history, certain people have had a major impact within the spiritual / religious adventure; many of whom have (over time) turned into spiritual leaders /mentors, gurus, mystics, saints and saviours. And a great number of them are universally significant. For example many non-Buddhists find the teachings of The Dali Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh. I see Jesus within this tradition. Yes he’s God image of one particular religion, but his teachings go much further. Indeed Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsh and many other modern spiritual teachers draw deeply on the Jesus story.  My idea for this book his thus been to simply ask the question, ‘As a Pagan (and not a Christian) how do you, if at all, relate to Jesus and / or Christ?’ And I’ve been amazed and delighted by the responses.
     

    • Harmonyfb

      I begin my book by stripping Jesus of his Christian clothing.

      Then he’d be Dionysos. Born of a virgin, died and reborn, savior of mankind, etc.

      • Mark Townsend

        I know where you’re coming from and, in a sense, I agree. However I’m not talking about Christ here, but Jesus – i.e. the man. It was the Christ aspect of the story that was enriched and theologized by the weaving in of those beautiful mythologies (of the dying / rising gods etc.) as well as much from the Jewish prohetic tradition (born in Bethlehem etc.). I’m talking about stripping away ALL of the metaphor and myth to see (if at all possible) what this first C rebellious Jewish preacher/healer was about. And (imo) it was most definitely NOT about setting up a new religion called Christianity.  

        • Harmonyfb

          I’m talking about stripping away ALL of the metaphor and myth to see (if
          at all possible) what this first C rebellious Jewish preacher/healer
          was about.

          I started a post about the lack of any primary sources for the existence of Jesus the person, but I thought that would give you the wrong impression.

          The truth is that I don’t care about Jesus – the man, the avatar, whatever. He is irrelevant to my religion and to my life, except in the ways that his worshipers relate to me.

          I’m honestly not trying to offend you, but I want you to understand that for quite a number of Pagans, Jesus is wholly irrelevant, no matter what he was. We’re not interested in relating to him, we don’t think about him, we don’t approach him, all we want is for his followers to stop being jerks and leave us alone.  We have our own Gods and our own religious teachings.

          • Mark Townsend

            Harmonyfb, I fully respect that, and have no interest at all in pushing my book to Pagans who are bored by the theme / title, and yes there are many.
            BUT I do know, from experience, that there are also many who are interested in this project, even if it’s just to see what people think of the guy. After all, just because I’m a Christian, it doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the icons, myths and deites of other faiths. In fact I’m fascintaed by them. Likewise I’m fascinated by important human figures of history; from the likes of the Boudicca to Ghandi (neither of which are of my own faith). I therefore imagine that some pagans (who usually claim to be more open minded and eclectic than the ‘big 3′ etc.)  may also be interested in people, ideas, myths etc. that are not Wiccan, Druidic or Heathen.     

  • Mark Townsend

    Jason,Apologies. My post appears to have gone wrong. Probably the very old computer I’m using. It may need tidying up because the contents have been printed twice and paragraphs enmeshed etc.This was what it was meant to say:
    Hi Jason,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read Jesus Through Pagan Eyes and to arrange what is likely to be a fascinating discussion with yourself and Dr. Paul Louis Metzger’s very through provoking. I look forward to it.
    Just one small comment on where I’m coming from myself:
    I begin my book by stripping Jesus of his Christian clothing. I felt that we needed to start with a naked ‘de-Christed’ Jesus, so we could see him within his own first C. Jewish context. And as a man, not a god. This might seem strange coming from a Christian writer, but even as a preacher I’ve always said that ‘Jesus was not a Christian.’
    I’m really not in the business of winning people back to the Church, or of winning them for the first time! There are as many genuine responses to the Divine as there are people on earth. However, throughout human history, certain people have had a major impact within the spiritual / religious adventure; many of whom have (over time) turned into spiritual leaders /mentors, gurus, mystics, saints and saviours. And a great number of them are universally significant. For example many non-Buddhists find the teachings of The Dali Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh. I see Jesus within this tradition. Yes he’s God image of one particular religion, but his teachings go much further. Indeed Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsh and many other modern spiritual teachers draw deeply on the Jesus story.  My idea for this book his thus been to simply ask the question, ‘As a Pagan (and not a Christian) how do you, if at all, relate to Jesus and / or Christ?’ And I’ve been amazed and delighted by the responses.
     
     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TCCGNY7AD3K4ORTQRKUKPTFPKU Morri

    “In the socio-political arena, I believe the Pagan Community’s
    relationship with Christianity will always be tense and adversarial. I
    think we need to accept that and figure out how we can petition for, and
    secure, our rights in civil society. To that end I think it would be
    more fruitful to engage with other minority religions- Buddhists,
    Hindus, Sikhs, Shinto, even Muslims (if they’ll talk to us)- to find
    common ground and work to band together to present a clearer picture of
    Faith Communities in the US outside the Judeo-Christian milieu. With
    sheer force of numbers afforded by such a federation, we may not make
    friends, but we certainly won’t be ignored.”

    ^ This; seeking community with all others is a great idea.

    I will point out, however, that the Muslims are not going to be any more tolerant than the xians; Judaism, Xianity and Islam (basically the same religion) all have the fatal flaw – “only WE are right.” It is the foundational commonality to all three, and as such, is, by its very nature, the enemy of peace/mutual respect among people of the world.

    The above fatal attitude lies beneath every other prejudice and bigotry in the world; be it racial, cultural, religious or otherwise. It is an inherent human flaw amongst a certain type of human being who is prone to it by their nature. There can never be true accord as the accord itself would create a conflict for them against the major orders of their god.

    Time to move on, group up for civil rights, and stop pretending that mutual respect is ever going to happen, except in small/isolated instances.

    The bottom line for me is, I am not interested in the aggressive ‘Big 3.’ I don’t care about, nor need your ancient Middle Eastern tribal religion/s. They are not relevant to me nor the modern world, imo; & they teach nothing that isn’t taught better elsewhere.

    • Hotstreak12

       So was the ancient world more, or less tolerant before the big 3 came to power?

      • Nick Ritter

        Religiously? Much more tolerant.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

           Just as tolerance remains the rule to this day in all societies not dominated by Christianity or it’s siblings, Islam and Communism.

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

    I seem to be the victim of bad timing in this: my book, Paganism & Christianity was released six months ago, and I would like to think it would have been useful for Jason to have at least mentioned a book that discusses these issues from a wholly pagan point of view – it does seem a little incongruous that we are discussing the works of two Christian authors.

    As I make clear, I feel a deep historical entanglement exists between the followers of Jesus and the followers of the old gods, one which both modern pagans and modern Christians are sometimes loath to admit.

    I also feel that despite the useful dialogues that can occur with progressive Christians such as Mark Townsend (whom I respect for his unfailing warmth and open-mindedness every time we have spoken) that contemporary paganism will never be accepted as an equal by Abrahamic faiths. To do so would require them to shed a number of narratives that underpin their collective identities.

    http://itunes.apple.com/au/book/paganism-christianity-resource/id493205949?mt=11

  • Harmonyfb

    Perhaps there are works underway about how Christians encounter Dionysis, or how best to explain Hekate to Jesus-followers, and I just haven’t heard about them yet?

    THANK YOU. This is exactly how I feel about those titles. Though, you  know…I think Sannion (from http://www.thehouseofvines.wordpress.com) would do a great job writing the former, and I’d read the heck out of the latter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

    The problem as I see it is that the people who need these kinds of books the most will not read them.

    In the religious and political discourse between Pagans and Christians, Pagans are not the problem and neither are most mainline and progressive Christians. Evangelicals are the problem and fundamentalism, by its very definition, is unwavering. Those are the folks that need these books and I don’t expect they’ll be reading them anytime soon.

  • http://twitter.com/RavenWytch RavenWytch

    I have to admit, I find works of this nature to be extremely condescending and, as others have already stated, I think this is merely a reworking of their marketing strategy. I find it interesting that those of the Pagan faith were invited to share how they “grapple with the figure of Jesus in their lives,” as if the Pagan life or perspective revolves around Jesus at all. To me, that is the narcissistic way of saying that even though we’re not followers of Jesus, we somehow obsess over him on a daily basis, and the idea of “explore[ing] the historical figure of Jesus in relation to witchcraft,” is just another back-handed way to absorb Paganism into Christianity again, which is, and always will be, their ultimate goal. Make no mistake about that.

    I think Pagans need to give up on the pipe dream of acceptance by Christianity, because it’s never going to happen. Paganism, by it’s very nature, stands in direct opposition to Christian monotheistic theology, and there is no mixing the two, plain and simple. And quite frankly, it’s getting very tiresome to watch the Pagan community continually bow at the altar of Christianity looking for some sort of validation.

    Why do we care what they think?

    My spiritual path does not require a Christian stamp of approval, and I have no intention of seeking one. I could not care less what they think of me, my spiritual path or Paganism in general.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      … “as others have already stated, I think this is merely a reworking of their marketing strategy …”

      Absolutely. The whole thing reminds me of the way that Republicans are responding to criticisms about their ongoing War on Women. And to steal a line from Rachel Maddow: it’s not a perceptual problem, it’s a policy problem.

    • Mark Townsend

      With the greatest respect RavenWytch, you’ve completely misunderstood what my book is about. I think you might be surprised if you knew who some of the Pagan contributers were. Their essays and interviews are really very profound and inspiring. I fully understand why you (and others) might assume the worst from a Christian author (I sometimes do too, if I’m honest) but I have not written this to push my faith or in any way influence. In fact the reverse is truer – i.e. that I’ve been deeply influenced by a rich and magical tradition. I feel privileged and blessed to have so many Wiccan and Druidic friends whom I can call my spiritual sisters and brothers. I apologise that the subject of my book had offended you so greatly. BB, Mark

      • Mark Townsend

        Here’s just a few of the contributers:

        Emma Restall Orr
        Christopher Penczak
        John Michael Greer
        Diana L. Paxson
        Philip Carr-Gomm
        Maxine Sanders
         Selena Fox
         Raven Digitalis
         Sorita D’Este
         Caitlín Matthews
        Janet Farrar
         Oberon Zell-Ravenheart
        Cassandra Eason
        Raven Grimassi
         

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          I admit to being disappointed at one or two of the names on this list, but it is, sadly, no great accomplishment to pull together a coterie of Big Name Pagans for yet another pointless exercise in pretending that Christianity is something other than what it always has been and always will be.

          • Mark Townsend

            While I fully understand your hostility Apuleius, I can assure you that this book is not about Christianity. Jesus was not a Christian. 
            Mark

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            The Jesus who appeared to the apostles and claimed for himself “all authority in heaven and earth”, and who commanded them to go forth and eradicate all other religions was certainly a Christian.

            And so was the Jesus who appeared to Paul of Tarsus, and who subsequently inspired Paul to attack the Gentiles as devil worshippers and to demand that all Christians utterly renounce any form of Paganism, for “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be
            partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.”

            I am not interested in playing three card monte with the words “Christian” and “Jesus”.

          • Mark Townsend

            Hey dude,
            In actual fact the Jesus who ‘appeared’ to the apostles, and Paul etc. is part of the ‘Christ’ mythos and, hence a later development.
            Jesus, the possibly illiterate northern Jewish preacher/healer was 100% Jewish and would never have even met notions of ‘Christ.’
            They be two different stories my friend. Oh sure – most certainly entwined, and therein lieth the problem. We (Christans) have re-literalized what is essentially a myth. I’m not your enemy my friend. And I’ m not the enemy of the Church either. I’m  simply putting forward a new spin on a very old story and one which may be illuminating for people in both camps (though clearly, most Christians and Pagans will prefer to ignore it or renonuce it as a pile of sh*t).
            BB,
            Mark      

          • Mark Townsend

            ps. please excuse the ‘dude’ thing. Force of habit I’m afraid. I’m part of that Dudeism group too. In fact there’s an article I did on Jesus (for the Dudeists) which may help to show where I’m coming from in all this stuff. Please have a look if you have a mo: http://dudespaper.com/magic-carpeting-a-dudeist-a-priest-and-a-magician.html/

          • Folcwald

             This whole Christ Mythos vs. “real” Jesus thing seems to consist in nothing other than taking the bits of Jesus as he appeared in the bible that people like and calling them “the real Jesus” and then separating out the parts that one does not like (the intolerant, illiberal,  judgmental, misanthropic, etc. parts) and calling them “the Christ mythos,” and then trying to excise the Christ mythos like a kind of cancer. The problem is, even if this epistemically suspect method were to lead us to an accurate picture of what some guy named Jesus who lived 2000 years ago was really like, pretty much everything that has given him more fame than any other wannabe prophet from the early part of the first millennium is part of what ends up being put into the Christ mythos category. In other words, even if this distinction were real, the Christ mythos cancer has metastasized and if it goes Jesus goes with it. If, as I believe, this distinction is not real but is a kind of defense mechanism used by people who find it hard to believe that the guy they think is their savior was really kind of a jerk who started a religion whose success was the worst catastrophe to befall the West, then I’d rather we just gave up on the whole enterprise anyway.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Folcwald, the Jesus vs Christ division isn’t that simplistically motivated.

            First, you’ll note that in Apuleius’s “Here’s where Jesus was a Christian” list, it’s all apparitions of Jesus to the Apostles or Paul. Look only at what’s attributed to things he said in the flesh, and the picture is different.

            Once we’ve agreed on this difference we can take another step: Look at things attributed to Jesus in the flesh to see which are likely later editing for the purposes of Christianity. Take those away and you’ve got a still more different picture.

            I’m not promoting Jesus. If anything, I’m promoting discernment.

          • Folcwald

             But when you say “which are likely later editing,” the criteria used by different scholars to determine that “likely” differ significantly, and as far as I can tell what motivates these differences is, generally, little other than the preferences of the scholar. Simply put, there is far too little objectively verifiable evidence of what the real Jesus might or might not have believed to really be able to put that together. If there really was a spectacular break between Jesus and what his followers said about him, then the real Jesus is an unknowable thing.

            Also, I find it odd that there is this strange idea that his apostles and followers must have all gotten it wrong. If the only people you can get to follow after you and do things in your name are a bunch of people who are going to get everything wrong, in fact who will do all kinds of things diametrically opposed to everything that you are and believe, then you are an amazing failure as a teacher, aren’t you?

            What makes Jesus important is that he motivated a movement that dominated the Western world and beyond for centuries. You cannot separate him from that. Without that, he is of no importance to anyone. Unfortunately, with that he is the founder of a murderous, misanthropic, world-hating ideology of guilt and spiritual slavery that would be better tossed into the dustbin of history. Trying to clear Jesus of responsibility for what has been done in his name is just bizarre. If he is not responsible for it, then he is just another nutcase wandering around in Palestine making wild-eyed pronouncements – one of many, most of the rest of whom are utterly forgotten although they did nothing any more or less special than Jesus. Then the real mystery is why this strange ideology that his followers believed was attached to his name, and this really would be a spectacular mystery, indeed a real miracle, like a baby growing out of a cactus or a new star arising from my coffee maker.

          • Mark Townsend

            I can see where you’re coming from Folcwald, but no that’s not what I’m doing at all. I do not see the nice bits as the historical Jesus (hell, he said some pretty harsh things too), and the nasty bit as the metaphorical ‘Christ’ (there’ are many treasures ion and amongst the metaphor and myth). Nor do the scholars do this (imo). The fact is that huge amounts of mythic interpretation were added to create the story of Jesus Christ, much of it taking (as far as the four canonical gospels go) up until the late first and early second C CE. My argument is not to eliminate the metaphor / myth but to stop seeing it as literal history, and thus give it back it magic. There are terrifying Greek and Celtic stories that still move and inspire us. The reason they’re not dangerous in the way the Biblical material can be is simple – we know were reading myth.   

          • Nicole Youngman

             Mark, it sounds like your work overlaps with John Shelby Spong’s a lot (_Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism_, _Jesus for the Non-Religious_, etc). I’m with AP when it comes to dealing with those who are trying to convert us (or anyone else), but I think where he and I part ways is that I’m more comfortable cutting truly progressive xians some slack and hoping that Christianity can someday evolve past literalism into something that’s truly comfortable existing in a multicultural world. Having said that, I’m afraid that fundamentalism in some form will always be with us as it tends to be a reaction to rapid social/cultural changes–there was a time when sociologists thought such things were going to die out soon as human populations got increasingly educated and more rational, and hoo boy were they wrong!!

            Do you find the Gnostic Gospels and the like interesting or useful for your work? I came to the conclusion a while back that fundamentalists actually worship the *Bible*, not “God”–otherwise they’d be willing to learn about their god from other sources (including other texts, other religions, the natural world, their own experiences, etc.).

          • Folcwald

            I appreciate the idea of returning the Christ story, which has become pseudo-history, to myth. I am not sure that is possible without completely ripping it from its roots, though. Christianity it seems to me shows its Jewish roots here. Judaism, like Christianity, is based on stories that seem to blur the line between myth and history in a way that most other religions do not, so that events that should happen in illo tempore instead happen in ordinary time, mucking things up. I wonder if you really can de-historicize Jesus and not de-Judaize him at the same time. Fortunately, this is not a problem I really have to worry about, being neither Jewish nor Christian.

            I would like to point out that knowledge that stories are not literally true does not make them somehow harmless. Myths have power, and insofar as they ground and communicate a world-view they can certainly be dangerous. You don’t have to view the story of Adam and Eve’s fall as being literally true to  regard it as containing a fundamental truth about human nature, that ‘truth’ being that human beings are by nature sinners, a view of human nature that I find abhorrent and that as far as I am concerned is responsible for a great deal of pain and guilt in this world. The idea contained in the myth is dangerous no matter how you view the story. Indeed, any myth that is worthwhile it seems to me might be somehow dangerous. I certainly view the myths by which I live my life as dangerous. Indeed, if people took them seriously they might threaten to undermine the entire system of values of the West in kind of an inversion of what Christian myths did all those centuries ago. If that is not dangerous, I don’t know what is.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Folcwald, you needn’t get into the weeds of biblical texture to see that a statement attributed to Jesus might have served the interests of those who came later. And I’ve never had any truck with evidence; I speak only of words attributed to a prophet.

            In the interim between Jesus the man and Christianity the institution was an explosion of daughter churches around the Empire. The intended creation of an overarching authority to keep them all on the same page drew the predictable sort of leaders. It wasn’t his followers who got it wrong, it was the hierarchy.

            Of course it’s perfectly possible for a crowd to get a vision wrong. Most of the crowd know something happened but aren’t sure what they saw. The spiritual leaders interpret it for them. *Their* agenda becomes embedded.

          • Folcwald

             The mere fact that something attributed to Jesus might have served the interests of future Christians is hardly enough to make it certain, or even likely, that he did not say it and thus it is not attributable to “the real Jesus,” just as the fact that something was not useful to future Christians is not certain evidence that he did say it. You only serve to underscore my point, which is that every claim to be able to excise the fake Jesus (the “Christ-mythos”) from the real Jesus is a mirage.

          • Mark Townsend

            Nicole,
            Yes I do gain a lot from reading the scroll we refer to as ‘Gnostic gospels.’ I’ve talked a fair bit about Thomas within the book in fact. I feel that the more we know about the various ways Jesus was viewed by early Christians, the less likely we are to trap him (or Christianity) within a literlistic box. And yes I admire Bp.Jack Spong too. In fact he kindly endorsed my book, which I was thrilled by. He’s always been one of the few reasons why I’ve not jacked the whole thing in with the Church.BB, Mark    Ps. I’m also OBOD :-) 

      • http://twitter.com/RavenWytch RavenWytch

        I am certain that their essays are profound and inspiring. Of that, I have no doubt. And let me be clear: your work doesn’t offend me. Not at all.

        What I find disturbing, however, is the idea that those essays are only profound and inspiring within your Christian context, and as they relate to *your* deity, because that is the pitfall of monotheism, and this idea of “there can be only one.” It is a narcissistic way of thinking, and it’s a roundabout way of saying, “Yeah, we sort of accept your religion or spirituality, but we really only want to hear you talk about it in relation to *our* god. So tell us, as a Pagan, what does Jesus mean to you?”

        Most of us would say, “Nothing. He means nothing.” And, quite frankly, the question is insulting and, as I said before, highly condescending, because it bears with it an insinuated and pernicious attitude of superiority.

        And this whole idea of “Jesus was a magician.” or “Jesus was a witch,” or the attempt to tie Jesus back to witchcraft  — pick your meme, I’ve seen them making the rounds — is just another way to condition Pagans into accepting and assimilating into Christianity in a “witch-washed,” more palatable form.

        I’m sorry, but Paganism and Christianity are diametrically opposed, and you cannot serve two masters.

        I wish I could be one of those “love and light, 24/7″ people, but I’ve witnessed the Christian Trojan horse too many times to be fooled again.

        • Faoladh

          “you cannot serve two masters”

          As a polytheist, this is one of the places I strongly disagree with Christianity. One may absolutely serve two masters. Certainly, there may come a situation in which one must use one’s judgement if the two masters come to disagree, but that’s what judgement is for. Conflicting duty is an old story.

        • Mark Townsend

          RavenWytch,  you wrote this (above):

          {What I find disturbing, however, is the idea that those essays are only profound and inspiring within your Christian context, and as they relate to *your* deity, because that is the pitfall of monotheism, and this idea of “there can be only one.” It is a narcissistic way of thinking, and it’s a roundabout way of saying, “Yeah, we sort of accept your religion or spirituality, but we really only want to hear you talk about it in relation to *our* god. So tell us, as a Pagan, what does Jesus mean to you?”}Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve deliberately taken Jesus completely OUT of the Christian context to ask Pagans what (if anything) they do with him / how they understand him etc. in THEIR context. Some of them like him very much and say why, whereas others have no interest in him. The book is no way a ‘Jesus fan club for Pagans.’ If you were see a few pages of their essays and interviews you’d see how unliek your charicature the book is – honestly. BB, Mark

        • Robert Mathiesen

          Oh piffle, RavenWytch! 

          Get your facts straight, please.

          Also, why waste a second of your time on memes that are making the rounds?  Most memes are parasitic things anyway.

          The best historical scholarship on Jesus as a magician was the work of an atheist, Morton Smith.  I’m not sure what Robert Conner is, but I see no hint that he is a Christian believer in his two more recent books on the subject. 

          More recently, Helen Ingram, who completed a dissertation in the UK under the title _Dragging Down Heaven: Jesus as Magician and Manipulator of Spirits_, has made her scholarship accessible on a web-site of her own.  Ingram does seem to be a Christian, but a very unorthodox one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zaracon Larry Zaracon Sodders

    In preparation for an upcoming interview with Mark Townsend about his new Book, Mark sent me a PDF i have read it and I really like it . 
    Mark is a awesome author and his book in my opinion is ground breaking . 
    Jesus through Pagan Eyes has Mark’s Views , as well as the Views of some of the foremost Pagan authors and Leaders in the community. This is not a attempt to convert anyone back to Christianity or to Draw Christians to Paganism. It is an honest attempt to work through some of the anger and misconceptions that stops so much good communication and interfaith work. I believe this is a good and valuable addition to any Library and IMHO should be a must read.Planning to do an interview with Mark, and maybe a few of his contributors to the book soon will post more information as it becomes available. Zaracon 

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

    Having had the advantage of actually reading Mark Townsend’s book before commenting on it, let me point out that it isn’t Christians talking about paganism, it is pagans talking about Jesus – warts and all.Being a pagan’s pagan without the slightest personal interest in blended spirituality or ecumenism, my meter is fairly well attuned to the condescension often brought to the table by Christian attempting inter-religious dialogue with pagans. Mark’s book scarcely made the needle twitch.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Gavin Andrew: “Mark’s book scarcely made the needle twitch.”

      Well, then I guess those years of training at sleight of hand are paying off for Townsend.

      The problem with Jesus isn’t his “warts”.It is the exclusivist, intolerant core of his teaching, which has led to centuries of violent religious persecution. Any honest student of history recognizes that religious intolerance was virtually unknown prior to the Advent of Jesus, and that it has become a ubiquitous aspect of human societies around the world as a direct result of the activities of those who take their inspiration from the teachings of Jesus.

      One of the central accomplishments of the Enlightenment was the recognition and
      clear articulation of the destructive nature of Christianity. But today
      Townsend is trying to salvage the image of Jesus, and he has adopted the rhetorical strategy, when it suits
      him, of claiming to be willing to throw  Christianity itself under the bus in order to get us to trust
      him. But his experience as a stage magician comes in handy (it turns out to be a clown bus
      made of paper mache and it does no real damage to Christianity). And if you
      look closely you will notice that Townsend himself is still proud to be a
      Christian and even still proud to be a “friend” of the Church of England
      (a form of Christianity which most sensible Englishman abandoned long ago in
      favor of atheism, agnostism, Jedi-ism, etc).

      Townsend is trying to rehabilitate Jesus, and he has convinced some Pagans to
      help him. But we are living at a time when the violent spread of Christianity
      has slowed decisively (after centuries of “good times” due to
      slavery, conquest and colonialism), and when Christianity has gone into a
      precipitous decline in it’s home base (the West).  This is no time for
      Pagans to be lending a hand to “progressive” Christians who are
      desperately trying to whitewash their religion. This is time for us to carry on
      the proud Enlightenment tradition of relentlessly critiquing Christianity and
      working to further reduce its power and influence. It was only due to the
      drastic reduction in Christianity’s stature and power that modern Paganism, as
      we know it, was able to come into existence in the first place.

      • Mark Townsend

        I’m not ‘proud’ to be a Christian (and if I said that, then I used the wrong term). I find it almost impossible to state that I am a Christian sometimes. But yes, I am a Progressive Christian who still admires many teachers of my path, as well as a miriad of teachers from other paths. Official Christianity (in my case the C of E) has not love or trust for me. I lost my job, home, pension, security and a whole lot more when I had to leave it. Yes I still love my ex-Church, but that’s because I see what it could be rather than what it is. Make no mistake, my book is not a Christian book. For most of the (even liberal / mainstream) denominations it will be seen as too much. But I have to do what I’m doing for the same of being authentic and true to who I am and what I believe. I’m sorry that you do not trust my motives. But why would you? You do not know me – apart from what you’ve read. And yes I am a stage magician. Love it, magic (illusions) awaken us to deeper magic. Many of the most ancient magical traditions knew that. So why not. Anyway, I can’t convince you of my motives. I just hope you give the book a chance, if you can borrow one from someone some day. Cheers, Mark   

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          Hi Mark, I did not mean to put words in your mouth as to whether you are proud or not to be a Christian. I can certainly understand why you might not be proud of that, although I do have trouble understanding why you (or anyone) would adhere to a religion that you are not proud to be part of. 

          To be blunt, you seem to be trying to have it both ways. You want to be a Christian but you want to avoid being too closely associated with the vast majority of Christians, or with the overwhelming preponderance of all that has been done by Christians and the Christian religion throughout history.

          Also, I am not really concerned with your motive, at least not in any sense of a secret or hidden motive. You are very open about your view of Jesus, and you are very open about your desire to promote that view. For my part, I disagree with your view of Jesus, and I think that is pretty out in the open, too! I don’t think any other motives are necessary to explain our disagreement.

          And, finally, I am disappointed to see so many Pagans helping you to spread this thoroughly Bowdlerized version Jesus, which, in turn, promotes what I consider to be the very dangerous illusion of a kinder, gentler Christianity.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            No one who does no more than follow this blog will fall for an illusion of a kinder, gentler Christianity.

          • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

             “…although I do have trouble understanding why you (or anyone) would adhere to a religion that you are not proud to be part of”

            Hey, at least give them credit in the self-loathing dept. That’s something the Christians have always excelled at. 

          • Mark Townsend

            Apuleius, with the greatest respect, perhaps it might be a good idea to have a look at the book before you continue painting your own picture of it. It’s not about Christianity or a watered down ‘gentler Christianity,’ or even about a Christian Jesus. It’s quite simply a liberal Christian priest presenting his own ideas on a remarkable Jewish human being, followed by about 30 incredible Pagan pictures of him.
            Mark 

          • Mark Townsend

            ps. Apuleius, you say I seem to want to have it both ways. Sure I do. In fact I want to be free to find enrichment from other paths too – Hindu, Buddhist, Native American etc. Why not? It all contains deep and powerful magic.

            And am I so weird to want it ‘both ways’?  How many Pagans do you know who mixes Gardner’s Wicca (which has a  dose of Christianity in it by the way) with Celtic deities, Eastern mysticism (and god images), Egyptian magic, and don’t forget the Judeo-Christian Angels and Kabbala?  Heck, you may even do a little ‘pick & mix’ yourself? Why not. It’s a post-modern world and is all up for grabs (imo).
                

          • Mark Townsend

            Think of how many modern Pagan Magick books would disappear, were the Kabbala suddenly seen as a no go area of study because it’s comes from a monotheistic tradition.

          • Mark Townsend

            Like it or not, my friend, it’s ALL connected.

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

        As I argue in my own book, Apuleius, it was ‘Christianity’s stature and power’ that made modern paganism virtually inevitable.

        I also happen to think that Progressive Christianity will do more to undermine the influence of mainstream churches and institutions than any critiquing by what is still essentially a fringe religion. Thus I wish more power to Townsend’s elbow.

    • kenneth

      I haven’t yet read either one, but at first glance, it does seem like Townsend’s book and the other are two different creatures. The premise of his book, asking what “we” think of Jesus, apparently both personally and theologically, is a damn interested exercise.  It may well have a deeper evangelical agenda or not. I haven’t read it in detail and never met the author. Metzger’s book, again at a superficial level, does feel more like another training manual for emerging church folks who want to witness to us “where we’re at.” That’s the part that’s problematic for me. They’re calling a ceasefire, as it were, and that’s a critical fist step toward dialogue. However, if the point of the tactic is to talk AT someone (ie with an agenda) and not WITH someone, it will never be dialogue, no matter how civil in tone in happens to be. 

      • Mark Townsend

        Thank you Kenneth,
        You’ve understood my intentions perfectly.
        And there is no “deeper evangelical agenda.” I cannot prove that of course, but those who’ve read it can, and have supported me in that.
        In all honesty I do not believe that Jesus IS the literal bridge between God and humanity. I still admire (even love) the man, for his words are simply breath-taking (imo) but, to me, he died because of his beliefs and teachings and actions, NOT because he was part of a great literal divine rescue mission requiring his blood. I have no intention of converting my beautiful Druid and Wiccan friends. Hell why would I want to do that? Whrn I’m among them I want to dance round fires and blow horns for God/dess sake. AND I want my beautiful Christian friends to remain Christian, though I’d LOVE them to experience just a taste of the liberating magic of a Pagan festival.    

        • Stef

          Thank you very much for the book, Rev. Townsend, and for your courage, your sacrifice, and your obvious love of the Divine and your fellow humans.   You do your Jesus proud, I think.  :-)

          • Mark Townsend

            Thank YOU Stef. Your words are very encouraging and kind. Really appreciate it. Mark :-)

          • Mark Townsend

            Thank YOU Stef.
            Very heart-warming words. And greatkly appreciated :-)

      • http://www.facebook.com/john.w.morehead John W. Morehead

         You can get a feel for the type of dialogue that Paul Metzger and I are interested in by a review of the website for the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy at http://www.fidweb.org. An understanding of our principles and goals for dialogue, coupled with what Paul sets forth in his book, indicates that this is not a tactic, nor do we wish to talk at someone, but to people in relationships and with dialogue as opposed to monologue. Perhaps there is something for us to build on here, and the optimism Jason expresses in his post about Pagan-Christian dialogue may have some basis for support.

        • Nicole Youngman

          >this is not a tactic

          You never did respond to my quotes from your book or AP’s quotes from some of your other writings at another of Jason’s posts that indicate otherwise, however. Have you decided that we have no need of conversion, after all?

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

        I agree kenneth, evangelizing, even in respectful terms, is never going to go well.

        Personally I feel that dialogue between Christians and pagans would be better spent discussing our common enemy – the god Mammon, with his hair slicked back and the new moniker of Free Market Capitalism, denying human being as anything other than consumer, and hell-bent on raping Gaia.

        “Such twistings of the religious impulse rise up before us as the towering new idols fashioned by humans: prosperity-gospels and other golden calves fashioned out of convenience, worshiped accordingly.” (From the final page of my book.)

  • Vivianna

    Jason, thank you for sharing your reading list and for doing this work.  Reading such works can be more challenging  than first imagined, page by page.  I will be looking forward to learning what you find out and even picking up a book or two (of this nature) myself.

    I also appreciate the thoughts and courage displayed by Rev. Townsend to respond to some of the posts here that express deeply held and suspicious view points of the authors of books on Pagans and Jesus and of their motives.  The leeriness and hostility expressed in some of the comments here are well earned and COMPLETELY understandable- imho.  However, I appreciate Rev. Townsend’s understanding of that and still being willing to engage.

    • Mark Townsend

      Thank you Vivianna,As you can iamgine – I get it from the other lot too (i.e. Xtians) :-)It’s fine. I DO understand the reaction. Really.
      Anyway, that was kind of you. And I appreciate it.
      Mark

  • Oceansongs717

    Jesus, peace be upon him, was a miracle and a shaman.   I love him as a Sufi.

    • Mark Townsend

      Beautiful.

  • http://www.elleneverthopman.com/ Ellen Evert Hopman

    I have long been fascinated by the question of why the Druids gradually morphed into Christian clergy. I explored that question in my “Priestess of the Forest” trilogy of novels. I think there must have been common ground between the early Christians and the Pagan Druids or this never would have happened. Eventually Roman, imperial, hierarchical, male-dominated Catholic Christianity took over and some really bad things happened. But the early church had some good ideas (for example women and men lived together in religious communities, there was an effort to be non-violent, etc.). Too bad the teachings of the Rabbi from Bethlehem were distorted and then used to torture and kill in the name of God.

    • Mark Townsend

      All very fair comments Ellen.
      /+

    • kenneth

      I suspect there were several reasons for this. One is that Druids, like most ancient forms of paganism, was already receptive to cross-pollination from other cultures and pantheons. Early missionaries understood this very well, and I suspect they sold their wares not as an operating system replacement but a software upgrade. They also understood the psychology of not pushing too far too fast. They didn’t push the chieftans and whoever to publicly renounce all their old gods and practices, nor to give up their three wives, or whatever the case was. They saved that fight for the subsequent generations. 

      The early Christians were often just a few years or perhaps a generation out of paganism themselves, so they knew the mindset and the lingo and held concepts about Christianity that would have sounded much less foreign to a Druid than a modern evangelical. At first, I’m sure it felt to the Druids like they were assimilating Christianity, not the other way around.  Finally, there were also some very pedestrian sorts of motives. Druids and kings, the ruling classes, were pragmatic guys. They were in many ways no different than today’s politicians or CEOs.  Eventually, Christianity was good for the bottom line. If you wanted to be able to marry into the right clans and get good trade agreements or military alliances, you had to convert, at least outwardly. There is ample evidence that kings were bribed outright to get on board. The Druids themselves also had a quandry. If you’re a Druid during the transition, you also had a tough choice. You’re probably middle aged and have no other job skills other than being a priest. Do you sign on with the new management or tell them to stick it and try to make a go of it in forests or fields? It’s not like you could re-train for IT or something! The new Christian management of course wanted to retain these folks. They were trained to hold entire books of lore in their heads and were consummate ritualists. There were, of course, cases of true conversion, where people simply found Christianity more persuasive than what they had been doing. The whole transition was no doubt more complicated than the “Burning Times” narrative which says all pagans were frog-marched to conversion at swordpoint one day and the evangelical version which said everyone immediately saw Christianity as superior. 

      • http://www.elleneverthopman.com/ Ellen Evert Hopman

        Yes, there is evidence that local kings were bribed into converting. The Druid at their side would have to go along with this as well. The common folk had no idea they had been instantly converted and it took another 1000 years for European Pagans to switch religions (after the groves and trees were cut down, wells renamed for Saints, etc.)  Here is one of my favorite videos of remaining Pagans in Europe – very useful for Wiccans to look at – so different from the tight, formal circles modern Pagans have gotten used to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ_2kpTJvj0&feature=share

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      At least in Britain, the process of Christianization was certainly not that of a gradual “morphing”. It was a running, and often bloody, battle that lasted for centuries, and during which Christianity was knocked back on its heels more than once.

      During the late fourth and early fifth centuries, there is strong evidence of a significant reversal of Christianization among the Britons (see especially Dorothy Watts’ writings on this subject – here’s a good starting place). And then the Saxons came and dealt an even greater blow to Christianity. And then after the Saxons began to be “converted” the Danes came. It is almost as if, even as the human inhabitants of Britain succumbed to Christianity, the very stones and trees called out to the Gods, and these prayers were answered in the form of fresh reinforcements of Heathen warriors who came to defend Britain, at least for yet a while longer, from the clutches of the soul harvesters.

      In my opinion this history of prolonged resistance, in which the old Gods were honored with the blood of those willing to die rather than convert, as well as with the blood of those hell-bent on destroying the Old Religion by any and every means, helps to explain why Britain is today not only probably the least Christian nation in the West, but also one of the major centers of the modern Pagan revival.

    • Henry

      Probably due to the first christians entering into Britian were most likely gnostic christians. One could take the writings of Irenaeus as evidence that the ‘gnostic heresey’ was fairly predominant in Gaul in the early 3rd century, it isn’t a stretch to consider that those teachings would have been carried from there into Britain, well before the codification at Nicea.

      • http://www.elleneverthopman.com/ Ellen Evert Hopman

        Possibly also because the early Celtic church was organized into small “tribes”, men and women living together but under no authoritarian hierarchy (other than a local bishop. “Bishop” was a hereditary title, passed down to sons via married clergy.). They did not recognize a pope, archbishop, etc., until the Roman Catholics took over.

        • http://www.elleneverthopman.com/ Ellen Evert Hopman

          I am speaking of Ireland. The trasition there was peaceful. In France and other areas it was bloody and brutal.

          • Henry

            understand that. it was also getting bloody and brutal for the ‘heretics’ as well, and so Ireland would also become a place of refuge.

  • Ywendragoneye

    Regarding “Jesus Through Pagan Eyes”, I for one can say that if it actually is as represented here, then I welcome it as being a long time coming. For many years I was what I term an “angry” Pagan. One who felt the need to rebel against everything to do with Christianity. But now, as I have walked further along the path and am more secure and at peace with my faith, I have found myself less the rebellious anarchist. I do not blame the historical Jesus for the actions of the power hungry who used him for their own ends, just as I do not blame him for child molestation by “priests”. Was he perfect? I think not. Was he the only son of “God”? No, we are all children of the divine. Was he a gifted teacher? Certainly. A miracle worker? Possibly, depends on one’s definition of miracle. Was he brutally murdered unjustly? No doubt. I have no qualms with Jesus the man, or even with early Christians who tried to follow his lead. It is with what the corrupt have done to the faith since that is truly the issue here. It seems to me that Rev. Townsend and others like him (WW Melnyk comes to mind) are at least trying to guide Christianity away from the corporation it has become to what, I like to think was it’s original intent.

    • Mark Townsend

      Thank you Ywendragoneye,

      Here’s something from the introduction that may go some way to proving that it is indeed how it’s being presented above:

      The fact is I still love the founder of what became known as Christianity. I still love his stories, his metaphors and his entrancing character. However I also feel liberated and (strangely) more able to truly get ‘under his human skin’ now that I have had some space from the world of establishment Christianity. And what’s more, my recent encounters have given me a whole new perspective into how he might be better understood. I have come to believe that, for my own pilgrimage, I can remain truer to the original intentions of this Galilean sage’s teachings, if I live within the space between these spiritual traditions, rather than within a purely Christian one. During my research I had the privilege of discussing with and interviewing many respected elders of the Neopagan world. I’ve been astonished by their generosity and willingness to share their own personal stories and theories about Jesus. Part Two is a collection of their breathtaking essays, demonstrating that this god of the Christian Church indeed speaks, blesses and inspires many who could never be part of his official family. Part Three presents the results of the interviews I conducted. Through their words and insights I have discovered that the simple message of the historical Jesus is (ironically) much harder to harmonize with the modern Church world than it is with the modern Pagan world. This is precisely the message that I hope to uncover within the first section of the book and then re-present as the ‘Divine Baby’ who was rather recklessly (yet understandably) chucked out with the dirty bath waters of Christendom.May the journey begin. 
       
       

  • Eran_Rathan

    Meh.

    I can’t say this does anything for me, any more than a book about ‘Muhammed through Pagan Eyes’ would – they aren’t my gods (shrug).  In regards to Jesus, I have to agree with Ghandi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

  • Hotstreak12

    For all this talk about Jesus there is one point that hasn’t been brought up. Did “Jesus” really exist? Was there ever a living breathing human being bearing that name or was he a mash up of different prophets or teachers all over the middle east that had the god man mythos slapped on him later.

    Also there is a dissonance between the historical facts of the big three and near death experiences. The Jewish faith was heavily influenced by the Mesopotamian religions. commandment one was probably written because the Jewish “God” was most likely a Sumerian god who wanted to be the only god the Jews worshiped. Then there are all the contradictions in the bible as well as the fact that it was put together by humans and that there was an astounding amount of literature left out. Which makes me wonder about the number of people who claim to and have gone to heaven met “god” during  NDE. Even more frightening are the much smaller number but still there who claim to have gone to hell and come back, even those who claim to be sceptics. Maybe monotheism just has them completely brainwashed without them knowing it, or since is saw them on television programs maybe they were lying for a paycheck.  I am a recent convert to paganism, but still the concept of these christian NDEs has me confused especially since as far as I know Jews don’t believe in hell (a hold over from there semi-pagan past)

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      It’s no great stretch to assume that an NDE is an overwhelming mystical experience, and the person experiences it in the religious formats s/he was taught, even if s/he walked away from them later.

    • Faoladh

      If you find yourself being swayed by NDE research, you’ll want to look into the actual stuff, not the bits that are cherry-picked for television programs. The data available paint a picture of an enormously complex situation, one that hasn’t been resolved well by anyone as yet. Over on The Daily Grail, there’s been quite a bit of discussion of the subject, for instance here.

    • Robert Mathiesen

      “Jesus” is just the Greek form of the very common Jewish name that is Englished as “Joshua.”  In the pre-Christian Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the book of Joshua is the “Book of Jesus, the Son of Nun”: the same person in either language.  Jews with that name were common then, as they are now; and if they spoke Greek, they called themselves “Jesus” in that language.  No doubt some of these many Jews named Joshua = Jesus might be found in any trade or profession you might mention, including that of carpenter or teacher or scribe.  The real question is whether any of these Jews named Joshua = Jesus were more than the common run of men.  Were any of them, for instance, miracle-workers or magicians?  Were any of them teachers of religious or ethical doctrines outside the pale of mainstream Jewish thought?  Were any of them revolutionaries, opposed to Roman rule?  And so forth for whatever view one might hold of Jesus.  Myself, I favor regarding him as a miracle-worker or magician, as did Morton Smith (see my other comment below).  Your mileage may vary.  The real question, of course, is whether any of these many Jews named Joshua = Jesus could have been some sort of incarnate god or daimon.  Your answer here may well depend not just on whether you are Christian or not, but whether you are a polytheist rather than a monotheist (or a duotheist or a pantheist).

  • Robert Mathiesen

    In this vein, I would like to recommend a somewhat older book very highly.  Thus is Morton Smith’s _Jesus the Magician_ (1978).  You can find reasonably-priced copies on various used-book exchanges such as ABEBooks.

    Smith, who had become a soft atheist by the time he wrote this book, was an absolutely first-rate scholar in a number of areas, including the formation of the Bible, early Christianity and Judaism of the same period, and magic in Late Antiquity.  H. Betz’s famous collection of all the Greek Magical Papyri in English translation owes a good deal to Smith’s work.   

    Smith examined all the evidence we now have that shows what both Pagans and Jews thought of Jesus during the first centuries of the Common Era, as well as the Christian views that eventually came to be seen as incompatible with later Christian orthodoxy.  He found that the non-Christian evidence pretty clearly and consistently represents Jesus as an effective and skillful magician and/or miracle-worker rather like Apollonius of Tyana, and that this is the most archaic layer of Christian tradition about the life and deeds of Jesus as well.  Jesus the revolutionary and Jesus the ethical teacher are layers that developed later.  (The arguments here are quite technical, but Smith presents them as clearly as anyone could for the non-specialist in the detailed historical close reading of the Greek New Testament texts.

    Smith also shows — conclusively, I think — that the very closest parallels to the rite Jesus conducted at his Last Supper are found in the Greek Magical Papyri, not in Jewish practices such as the Passover seder or Chaburoth communal meals.  And finally, he showed that the early persecution of Christians by the Roman empire is best explained by Roman policy and legislation against individual magicians and brotherhoods of magicians, which the early Christians greatly resembled — if indeed they were not actually such a brotherhood.

    Given these conclusions, it follows that Jesus was either a magician or some sort of incarnate god.  Smith, being an atheist, rules out the latter possibility without any real argument.  I, being something of a hard polytheist, would not rule it out so strongly, but I still think Jesus the magician is the best supported view of his life and work.  And obviously Smith’s take on Jesus might be of considerable interest to any current Pagan or Magician.

  • http://www.lilithslantern.com/ SoulFire

    “Progressive Christians, for all their progressiveness,
    can no more accept us for who we are than can Pat Robertson. …”

     

    I must disagree. I guess I am in the minority in that
    neither my tradition, Vicia, nor I are anti-Christian. I have a small group of
    friends (one of whom is an ordained UCC minister) who are progressive
    Christians, and I find them to be insightful, educated, loving, generous, and
    nonjudgmental. They are true Christians, not hypocrites, and several have said
    they’d even be comfortable at a Wiccan Circle, which they view as a
    “mystical” path! (The minister’s daughter is Wiccan.) And they have
    NEVER made any attempt to try to “save” me or put me down for my
    beliefs, nor exorcise gay demons from out of me, etc. :)

     

    I’ll never forget that one my friends, Sister Paula Nielsen
    (an evangelical Pentecostal preacher), once said, “Heaven isn’t just going
    to be filled with fundamentalist Christians! There are some
    evangelical/charismatic GLBT Christians who teach that ‘Jesus is the only way
    to heaven.’ I disagree …,” says Sister Paula. And she
    quotes Bishop Carlton Pearson’s book, entitled “God Is Not a
    Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu …”

     

    Doreen Valiente, the “mother” of Wicca, writes in “An ABC of Witchcraft, Past & Present” (c. 1973):

     

    “Contrary to popular belief, witches’ attitude towards
    Christianity is not particularly hostile. I have heard of one witch who put a
    portrait of Jesus in her private sanctuary because, she said, he was a great
    white witch and knew the secret of the coven of thirteen. However, witches have
    little respect for the doctrine of the churchs, which they regard as man-made
    dogma; and they can scarcely be expected to remember kindly the years of
    Church-directed witch-hunting, torture and death” (15).

     

    (BTW, Robert Mathiesen, loved your comments on the
    topic of Jesus as magician.)

     

    A critic/skeptic may respond, “But that is the MYTHICAL Christ-god, or
    mythical Jesus.” I have always been puzzled by so-called polytheists who
    recognize the existence of countless mythological gods and goddesses and pagan heroes
    and heroines (Cuhulain, etc.)–even FICTIONAL gods (e.g., from Tolkien or
    Lovecraft’s universe)–but do not count Jesus as a god or even a demi-god. Yet
    many Pagans DO revere his mother as Goddess. Why is it easier to believe in or
    worship Isis, Thor, Aphrodite, Apollo, Pan, Zeus, or Jesus’ mother rather than
    Jesus himself? This seems like a glaring contradiction. So you believe in
    this Chthulu (who would rather eat you than further you in the Great Work, as a
    colleague once said), but not in Jesus. OK. To each his/her own I guess.

     

    My Witchcraft teachers revered Jesus (not as THE Sacred
    King, but a sacred king)–even evoked him at spring equinox (and claimed he
    appeared in front of the coven)! What’s a modern educated Pagan to make of that? I was scandalized when I first heard
    them tell of it. But, if one is truly polytheistic, it should come as no
    surprise that some Pagans may revere Jesus along with the other so-called
    mythological gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, etc.

     

    Of course, this is true for Christians as well IMHO: I think
    progressive Christians also have to consider the possibility that there are
    other gods who merit reverence or worship. As Adam Birch astutely pointed out
    earlier, the commandment not to worship other gods “does not preclude the
    existence of other gods, it merely precludes adherents from worshiping
    them.” It also implies that there are other gods to be worshipped.
    Some claim, for example, that Mary absorbed some of the traits of Isis. This
    means that Isis, the Great Mother, is a goddess worth honoring. Just my 2 cents. YMMV.

    • http://www.lilithslantern.com/ SoulFire

       I apologize for the double-spacing. It was not like that when I typed my comment.

    • Robert Mathiesen

       Here is what Gerald Gardner once wrote, which supports (IMHO) what you anad Doreen Valiente wrote:

      “I can see no real reason why one cannot be a good enough though unorthodox Christian and a witch at the same time.  It seems to me easier than being a Christian and a Communist.” (_Witchcraft Today [1954], p. 121)  This is part of a chapter that details at length the sort of horrors that the Church inflicted on suspected witches.

      • http://www.lilithslantern.com/ SoulFire

         Interesting, I hadn’t realized he said that. Though I notice he says “unorthodox” Christian. BTW, in hindsight that there’s another legendary Pagan figure I wish I’d listed: Merlin. You see that one a lot. If I were writing my post today, I’d have said, “Merlin … so-called polytheists will believe in and call on Merlin (or Taliesin) but not Jesus. But some Pagans will revere his mother.” Bit of a contradiction. Merlin has become so trite it’s hard to take seriously when a Wiccan invokes him or calls himself by that name. It’s ridiculous. But apparently it’s more acceptable to believe in the mythical Merlin. The same is true for Christians: It’s easier for them to believe in Jesus than say, Merlin? Why? I think both sides need to realize when they’re being ridiculous and silly.

        • Robert Mathiesen

           Here’s another from Gardner along the same lines:

          “But Gardner never bandies words on matters of theology.  In fact, he goes so far as to say, and to insist, that a person can be a witch and a follower of another religion at the same time.  It is in the dogmatic interpretation of the religion that he differs from doctrinnaire exponents of the various commitments.  The mystical nature of the Wica, he maintains, transcends the superficialities of ordinary religious worship. Traces of this belief, and even categorical affirmation of it, are found in almost every form of experiential mysticism, and need not seem so alarming as the ordinary follower may feel.”

          This is quoted from Gardner’s (auto)biography, _Gerald Gardner: Witch_, ostensibly written by one of his coveners, J. L. Bracelin [1960], p. 206.

          And I’m glad you liked my earlier comments on Jesus as a magician.  Thanks!

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            It is a general feature of polytheistic religions that they do not demand exclusive “membership”. In fact, the very notion that there are “different religions” is alien to the polytheistic mind. Polytheists generally assume that everyone everywhere worships the Gods, and that this is just the natural way of things. And it is equally natural that just as languages, diets, styles of dress, etc, change from place to place (and also over time) so do the ways in which the Gods are honored (and also possibly, but not necessarily, which Gods are honored).

            This is one (probably the main) reason why no real equivalent to the word “religion”, in the sense we use the word today, existed in ancient Pagan cultures, even though these cultures had highly developed religious vocabularies. Indeed, essentially the entire vocabulary of Christian theology consists of borrowed terms from Greek and Roman Paganism(s). This includes, naturally, the very term theology itself, (although some, such as Ronald Hutton, have moronically claimed that ancient Pagans “had no theology at all“.)

            Classicist James B. Rives disscusses this in his book “Religion in the Roman Empire“, in which he writes: “people thought not so much in terms of ‘different religions’, as we might today, but simply of varying local customs with respect to the Gods.” [p. 6] In fact, he intentionally chose that title, using “religion” in the singular, to emphasize this point.

          • http://www.lilithslantern.com/ SoulFire

             Ooo, very good points. Ty

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Quite right!  This needs to be emphasized over and over in our modern world.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Notice, however, that there is a theological Catch-22 here. The inclusiveness of polytheism cannot be coherently extended to monotheistic religions, because monotheism by definition demands not merely the rejection, but the full-throated condemnation of polytheism.

          • http://www.lilithslantern.com/ SoulFire

             Once again, ty for your very thought-provoking responses.

          • Robert Mathiesen

             You’re very welcome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.mcclellan Roger McClellan

    Please allow me to interject a thought here.   I am no Christo-Pagan.  While I am moderator of a Progressive Christian fellowship; I am no typical Christian, in fact sometimes I can barely get the word “Christian” out of my mouth without serious effort (sort of like the Fonz saying “sorry” in the old Happy Days TV show (for those who remember).  I consider myself a follower of Jesus; one who has tried to chuck the venom associated with some of the words associated with him and the dogmatic expressions of a Church who has often bastardized his teachings.  I confess that I am no Pagan, Druid, Hindu, Muslim, etc.  The good stuff that Jesus taught is hard enough for me to follow and embrace that I cannot personally embrace more than that.  While in that respect I am an avowed follower of Jesus; my path has been informed by the beauty I have found in other traditions. 
    Now let me offer the disclaimer that I consider Mark Townsend a friend and brother.
    And let me say in defense of him and this book that it and his friendship has led me to much contemplation.  I have a tremendous respect for Druids, Pagans and Native traditionalists than I did not have before I came to know Mark and was invited to explore the experiences of these folks sharing their stories.   I am more connected to nature, to the divine feminine, to the wisdom of shamans… I am more connected to peace.  I am more connected to Jesus.  When push comes to shove; the “pagans” contributing to this work taught me about the Jesus I seek to serve; and more importantly; the divine within us all.
    I am a (shudder) Christian pastor.   My job is not to convert.   My job is to help you and encourage you to be the best Pagan, Druid, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, you can be.  You don’t have to “get” understand or love my Jesus.   I just want you to experience the embrace of Divine love in whatever form that takes. 
    THIS ethos, I learned in large part from my Brother, Mark Townsend.

    Blessed be,  (and Blessing be),
    Roger McClellan
    The Progressive Christian Alliance

    • KhalilaRedBird

       Thank you, Roger — and thank you, Mark.  You speak of the Jesus I know and have known since ‘way back.  I am a Witch.  I am a Quaker.  I serve as a chaplain.  I categorize myself as a panentheist mystic.  I define G_d as “That Which Is”.  I was brought up Christian; I am not — that term means too much and would be untrue no matter how applied to me.

      I serve Goddess as I know Her.  My work as a chaplain is to be there with and for others as shelter and helper as they reconnect to their own Sources and paths to the Divine in times of crisis or need.  In my Clinical Pastoral Education residency I was assigned to lead Protestant worship in a psychiatric hospital about one Sunday a month, as well as helping with Mass and with Muslim worship.  I was grumbling to myself one day, walking through the chapel, with its huge cross, and I felt the Lady stop me, take hold of my head, and point it to the cross.  I heard Her remind me that, yes, I am Her priestess and so forth, and right now I was to do so by serving Her Son.  The Sacred King.  The Incarnate — a part of my own understanding of the Trinity of the One: Infinite, Incarnate, and Indwelling — also known to me metaphorically as Lord and Lady.  So.  I learned to preach from the Bible — among many other things.

      It’s a wide, wonderful world.  Thank you for helping it along.
      BB
      RedBird

  • Hotstreak12

    am I wrong in thinking that the only things that are different between the world before it was dominated by Christianity and the current world are the technology, intolerance, and the sexual repression? women have always gotten the short end of the stick throuoght history but it seemed to get even worse under Christianity and the god of Abraham. At least in the pre christian world sex itself wasn’t seen as evil and as bad as things could be for a women she wasn’t stigmatized religiously. We are still just as warlike and brutal to each other, only smart bombs and missles have replaced swords. Football and NASCAR have replaced gladiator matches and chariot races.  Finally the tolerance of the ancient world where all gods were welcomed has been replaced by the bloody intolerance and proseletyzing of Christianity and Islam (I only mention these two because you have to work to convert to Judaism). So are things really better in our modern world under Christian “values” the same, or worse?

  • Shakti_Luna

    I think this is so important because for too long there has been a divide between Pagans and Christians (on both sides) regarding spiritual beliefs. Honestly Christianity in practice is a beautiful thing, one of acceptance, love, and healing.  Just like in any other group, it is easy to judge by a few bad apples (fundamentalists). However, I am really happy to see a universalist approach that not only helps others understand the Christian faith but also the Pagan one.

    Coexisting is possible if everyone involved is respectful. I know in my area of the woods Christianity is the dominant faith and although we have some festivals here and there for Pagans it’s nowhere near as open as areas like Chicago and the like. I try to just live my life each day with respect for others and myself. I hope by living a good example it can show Paganism is also a faith that is full of morals, love, and hope.  

    • Mark Townsend

      “We are basically being compared to Christianity (again) without an acceptance or view that our faith is also valid, important, and meaningful.”

      By whom Shakti? I’m certainly not comparing you to Christianity, or not accepting your faith as equally valid.  I admire the modern Pagan traditions hugely and see them as every bit as valid as any other faith, including Xtianity. I think Xtians could learn masses from Pagan ritual, nature-based beliefs and passion for a fully human life.   

      • Shakti_Luna

        You are one of the few who do not. People like you and my dear Christian friend embody the teachings of Christ by maintaining compassion, acceptance, and love. This is the basis that I admire so greatly in Christianity. There are, unfortunately, individuals who are Christian who get their jollies by attacking others not only of the Pagan faith, but within their own faith as well.  This is certainly not the teaching of Christ. That is why in my comment I also went on to say that I am happy to see a universalist approach in books like these because perhaps it can pave the way for better understanding between faiths, as well as an enrichment to anyone seeking a greater spiritual understanding.

        • Mark Townsend

          I totally agree.
          And it’s what can make my tradition come across as so ugly. However there are a growing number of Christians (thankfully) who do not judge, condemn and dish out hatred to what they don’t understand. And they are not the ‘Progressive / liberal’ Christians. In fact a fair few Liberal Christians can be equally intollarent and self-secure in their ‘rightness.’ I know many Catholic, Evangelical and Other forms of Christian who ooze the warmth and love of the Jesus they believe in.  For me, howver, while I respect their orthodoxy, I have a different way of understanding Jesus and the term Christ.
          Many blessings Shakti, and THANK YOU.
          Mark

          • Mark Townsend

            (error)

            This phrase should have had an extra word in it – see the CAPITALS.

            And they are not JUST the ‘Progressive / liberal’ Christians.

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

    Mark,

    I’d like to share a personal story.

    I was raised nutcase-Fundamentalist, progressed through Evangelicalism, and landed in the Episcopal church for a good while before becoming Pagan. When I first started considering Paganism, a great deal of my personal work was overcoming all the fear I’d been saddled with, and late in that work, I had a brief meditational conversation with Jesus.

    We stood on two sides of a small stream, and I told him, “You, I always liked. But I can’t deal with your Dad.”

    He gave me a sad, knowing, tired smile. “I understand. Good luck. And you know, you’re lucky — he’s MY Dad.”

    In other words, I could walk away. He could not.

    There’s a lot to unpack in this short exchange.

    The point I want to explore here is that Christianity is not Christianity. It’s been around for nearly two thousand years, and in no two generations has it been the same religion. The Evangelicals like to think they have some kind of lock on “original” or “authentic” Christianity, but the simple fact is that they are not equipped to even understand “original” Christianity. Because each of the many Christianities existed in its own cultural matrix, none of which still exist. 

    What we have, instead, are a bunch of (translated) parables, platitudes, and idioms — words — that get filtered through our entirely modern culture, and even our generational prejudices. Our “understanding” of Christianity, of Jesus, and of God is whatever comes out of that process. It inevitably keeps changing. As that happens, the Jesus we are introduced to in each generation keeps changing as well, as does his relationship with Dear Old Dad.

    What we experience now is a lot more benign than, say, what we would have experienced in sixteenth-century Spain: the Empire where the Sun Never Sets, the Rose of Christendom, the Heavenly Kingdom of Iasus Rex and His divinely-appointed representative on the temporal throne, of the Alhambra Declaration and the Spanish Inquisition and the Auto da Fey, of endlessly-flowing gold and slaves from the New World. Jesus was King in those days, and if it was mercy you wanted from Heaven, you prayed to Mary, His Divine Mother. American Evangelicals, had they existed, would have been immediately executed as unrepentant heretics. 

    I see hostility in some of the posts here, and I’m pretty sure it’s hostility that comes from old pain: a lot of Pagans, like me, don’t have much trouble with Jesus, but find his Dad to be a universe-class asshat. This is not theory, it is personal suffering, through their families, their childhoods, their communities, their own struggle with self-understanding. None of it is coming from the “original” Jesus, whoever or whatever he might have been (if, indeed, he wasn’t entirely mythical to begin with.) All of it is coming from the Jesus — and his Dad — that we each personally encountered in our 20th-century, primarily American culture.

    So when you write of Jesus as seen by Pagans, you are talking about an entirely modern Jesus in an entirely modern relationship with an entirely modern God, as seen by entirely modern Pagans. Whatever might have been the case in second-century Rome, or tenth-century Gaul, is irrelevant — I can’t personally even get my head around it. I don’t know nearly enough history to reconstruct how they thought. For instance, they thought the earth was fixed and that the stars wandered the heavens — just try to imagine how much pure magic that injects into one’s worldview! No first-world person thinks that way, now: even the flat-earthers aren’t thinking in an expansively imaginative way about heavenly wanderers, they’re clinging to an archaic and thoroughly discredited worldview out of pure stubbornness.

    The modern Jesus has been shackled to the Old Testament Yahweh since the fourth century, and is now almost as securely shackled to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, and the Westboro Baptist Church. I think that is one of the deep problems associated with discussing Jesus in a modern Pagan environment.

    • KhalilaRedBird

       Thee speaks clearly, brother bard!  Well said. 

  • David

    I can’t wait to read this book, especially as it’s on Kindle, as I definitely want to read it. 

    I’m sure that (American) Pagans do have a problem with Christianity and even Jesus, but, you know what?, grow up and, to all the American Pagans here, I want you to realise something so shocking – the U.S.A. is not the center of the Universe, no matter how much your patriotic ass would love it to be so.  So, you’ve had negative experiences with Christianity or Christians, and somehow that gives you the right to paint all of Christianity or Christians with the same brush?, seriously, grow up, and stop that American Old Western thinking, where the world is nicely “black and white”, with the “good cowboy” and the “bad cowboy” (or, for you, the “good Pagan” and the “bad Christian/Muslim”), you may go on and on about the “evils” that Christians and Muslims have done (forgetting and brushing aside any good, while ignoring any of the horrors of the Pagan world), but, I, as a British Pagan, could just as easily paint you (Americans) as “evil” (I mean, look at Iraq, Afghanistan, illegally detaining people in camp in Cuba, invading countries for BS reasons, backing up oppressive dictators (sounds quite like the Pagan Romans actually!)).

    So, seriously, if yo u have issues with Christianity, do everyone a favour, and go into therapy, and sort out your neuroses, and maybe that might actually improve the Pagan community. 

    Anyway, sorry for the OT comment, but, Mark, I definitely will look forward to reading your book, as I’m sure there are many other Pagans here (who hopefully won’t get drowned out by the neurotic Pagans wanting to vent their frustrations).  

    For those (American) Pagans that take issue with my views, go ahead, rant away and rant some more, it’s what you do best (and, I’ll probably find it hilarious to laugh at your comments).

    • Faoladh

      That’s an interesting assertion. My experience is that the most anti-Christian pagans around, though, are those from Europe. Julius Evola, René Guénon, and the rest of the Traditionalists, for starters. Very nearly the whole heathen music scene in Europe, and so on.

  • Druidwood

    As
    a Pagan of 16 years plus I have to say that I don’t care how
    Christians or anyone else see’s me. Nor do I care how other Pagans (
    if any) see Jesus. Neopagans might see him differently then other
    Pagans only because some of them are Christo/pagans which I think is
    a load of bunk but that’s not the point. I do respect another persons
    right to believe whatever they wish even if I don’t agree with them
    or not. Sadly Christians do not want to understand us why would they
    even care? We’re evil in their eyes and that’s all that really
    matters to them. We’re going to hell for rejecting their God. My best
    friend is a evangelistic Christian he isn’t your typical your going
    to hell Christian either nor does he believe in preaching to those
    who have no interest in listening. That’s the way it should be you
    go your way & I’ll go mine & we’ll all live in peace. Respect
    mine & I’ll respect yours.