Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Storming Heaven

I am not a fan of Christianity. It is a destroyer of cultures, religions, science, philosophy, and anything else that stands in its way of complete domination of the mind-space of everyone it encounters.

I am also not a fan of eclectic Paganism. Taking deities and other beings out of their cultural context can sometimes lead to them becoming gross caricatures or over-simplified reductionist parodies of the historical reality.

That said, I find that I must take issue with Sam Webster’s recent decree that "You Can't Worship Jesus Christ and Be Pagan". Indeed, I would posit that, in the context of an eclectic Paganism that allows for the integration of deities and other beings from widely disparate cultural and historical contexts, forbidding the inclusion of a deity from the Christian pantheon is not only arbitrary, but actually feeds into Christian ideas of uniqueness and implicit privilege.

I have been at Pagan ceremonies where deities as disparate as Freyja, Osiris, and Quan Yin have been invoked. Ritually, none of these were treated in any sort of fashion that a Viking Age Norseman, a New Kingdom Egyptian, or a Yuán Dynasty Chinese would recognize.

Now, in the context of the eclectic-Wiccan-style ritual in which it happened, that was right and proper. I know some eclectic Pagans also mix Buddhism, and a veneration of Buddha, into their practices as well. Why should this somehow stop there? Why is Christianity special?

If one is inclined towards eclecticism, there is no logical reason that it must stop at the shoreline of Christianity. If it is possible to worship Thor in an eclectic Pagan context, totally removed from His historical Norse cultural context, then why is it wrong or impossible to worship Jesus outside of the Christian historical-cultural context?

From the eclectic Pagan point of view, deities are approached individually, rather than as part of a pantheon or as part of a specific historical cultural milieu. Just as it is possible to worship the Roman Goddess Ceres in such a context without endorsing slavery as practiced by the Romans, so too must it be possible to worship Yeshua ben Joseph without endorsing the various theological, historical, or cultural aspects of Christianity.

That’s what eclectic Paganism does. It recontextualizes (or, perhaps, decontextualizes) deities. There is no reason that Christianity should be exempt from that process. In point of fact, those of us who are skeptical of Christianity’s claims of universality should welcome such enterprises. By treating Christianity and its deities (and make no mistake—there are many) as no different than the deities of the Norse, or the Celts, or the Romans, we undermine the inherent Christian claim of superiority through uniqueness.

This idea has broader implications as well. In my own Heathen faith, ancestor worship is a central idea. Would a Sayyid (a descendent of the Muslim prophet Mohammed) who was now an eclectic Pagan not be justified in including his most famous ancestor in his venerations? To cite another example, Satan is, arguably, both a Jewish and a Christian deity. In an eclectic Pagan setting, including Satan would seem to be perfectly justified, assuming there was a role in the particular ritual for which Satan would seem to be well-suited. To do otherwise is to acknowledge the Christian claims about Him; is that what we, as Pagans, do?

Remember, in an eclectic setting, deities are dealt with individually, removed from the religious context that normally surrounds them. The big monotheistic (more or less) religions are no different from any other religion, and thus should not be exempt from the reclaiming of their deities in an eclectic setting. To do anything else is to admit that there is something unique and special about those religions, which feeds into their claims of superiority and being the sole repositories of Truth. To bring them into an eclectic Pagan context is to return those deities to their original state, before the accretion of all that historical and cultural baggage, and serves as a reminder that, while most of us have grown up in a Christian culture, we are not compelled to accept its implicit assumptions.

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