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Author Topic: Combining Paths  (Read 1631 times)

WaywardOne

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Combining Paths
« on: August 19, 2012, 10:54:19 pm »
I'm not sure if this is the correct forum for this, but I couldn't seem to find a better place. I hope I'm not repeating an already active thread subject.

I am interested in knowing everyone's individual opinion of combining paganism (in any form) and Christianity. An acquaintance of mine told me recently that he has decided he is a "Christo-Pagan." He basically described to me what I would consider to be a very eclectic pagan path, not unlike the spiritual beliefs I had prior to becoming a Christian. However, he says he is a Christian who blends pagan beliefs with his Christian beliefs. He is very adamant that he is a Christian.

I'm a bit confused, I suppose. There are certain religions (spiritual paths, however we want to refer to them) that seem to require a certain, specific set of beliefs and practices in order for one to consider him or herself a follower of that religion. I mean, I wouldn't consider myself a Christian if I saw God in a way the Bible does not describe. This seems to be contradictory. Christianity, according to what I know of the  Bible, isn't exactly open to "eclecticism" the way many other paths are. And look at Catholicism....can you be a true Catholic if you stray from the beliefs and practices of the church?

I guess my question is, do you really feel a person can be both Christian and pagan? I absolutely believe a person can be as eclectic as they choose, pulling from any path and any number of paths they see fit. But are you a Christian if you are choosing to do  this? I get more and more confused the more I try to think about it, haha! I'd love to just hear what anyone might have to say about this.

Gore

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2012, 11:12:20 pm »
Quote from: WaywardOne;69878


I guess my question is, do you really feel a person can be both Christian and pagan? I absolutely believe a person can be as eclectic as they choose, pulling from any path and any number of paths they see fit. But are you a Christian if you are choosing to do this? I get more and more confused the more I try to think about it, haha! I'd love to just hear what anyone might have to say about this.


This is a question of opinions, so I'll give mine :p
I don't think one can be a Christian pagan. Maybe pagan with a "Christy flavor" but a Christian? No. It just seems to go against all that Christians preach about there only being one god and not recognizing deities of other cultures/peoples. I don't think a Christian Pagan would be the right assessment of this persons beliefs.

But in another sense, i can't explain to you what this person has experienced through meditation, life, etc., It isn't my religious choice and truthfully i don't care what others believe in as long as they do the same for me. ;)
Live and let live, in mutual respect that is.

WaywardOne

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2012, 11:18:18 pm »
Quote from: ToddGrove;69881
This is a question of opinions, so I'll give mine :p
I don't think one can be a Christian pagan. Maybe pagan with a "Christy flavor" but a Christian? No. It just seems to go against all that Christians preach about there only being one god and not recognizing deities of other cultures/peoples. I don't think a Christian Pagan would be the right assessment of this persons beliefs.

But in another sense, i can't explain to you what this person has experienced through meditation, life, etc., It isn't my religious choice and truthfully i don't care what others believe in as long as they do the same for me. ;)
Live and let live, in mutual respect that is.


I totally agree with the whole of your reply. And, thank you for your opinion!

Nyktelios

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2012, 11:48:46 pm »
Quote from: WaywardOne;69878
I guess my question is, do you really feel a person can be both Christian and pagan? I absolutely believe a person can be as eclectic as they choose, pulling from any path and any number of paths they see fit. But are you a Christian if you are choosing to do  this? I get more and more confused the more I try to think about it, haha! I'd love to just hear what anyone might have to say about this.


I'm going to say yes. Maybe not if one belongs to one of the more traditional branches of Christianity, but I think a person can be a follower of Jesus while following a pagan path. There is that commandment about having no other gods besides Yahweh, but let's be honest, there are a lot of things in the Bible that Jews and Christians disregard now. Women generally don't get stoned to death if they aren't virgins on their wedding night, and people typically don't follow the prohibitions in Leviticus against shellfish and fabric blends.

The thing about the Bible is that it contradicts itself many times over, so following a Christian tradition has to involve some cherry-picking to a certain extent. Not only that, but I think it's human nature to combine religious ideas, as it has been a common practice for centuries. Abrahamic religions tend to be monolithic, but humans can't help ourselves from taking what we like from religions we come in contact with. Some Hindus started honouring Jesus as one of their many gods when Christianity was introduced to India (much to the horror of Christian missionaries, I'm sure). Local gods in ancient Egypt were equated with the gods of different cities that  the people came in contact with. In ancient Greece, foreign gods were hellenized and incorporated into the pantheon. Religions and cultures have been blending since the beginning of human civilization, so I don't think it's really a big deal.

StudiodeKadent

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2012, 08:57:37 am »
Quote from: WaywardOne;69878

I guess my question is, do you really feel a person can be both Christian and pagan? I absolutely believe a person can be as eclectic as they choose, pulling from any path and any number of paths they see fit. But are you a Christian if you are choosing to do  this? I get more and more confused the more I try to think about it, haha! I'd love to just hear what anyone might have to say about this.


The problem is that "Christian" can refer to a huge different set of religious beliefs, most of which are mutually incompatible with each other. For instance, Unitarians deny the holy trinity and most of them deny Original Sin, yet they are still Christians.

Probably the only thing that all kinds of Christian have in common is the belief that Yeshua Of Nazareth (aka Jesus) was some sort of messenger of the divine, and the greatest example of this. Everything beyond this is hotly debated amongst Christians, so for my own purposes I tend to accept the "Christ as greatest some-sort-of-divine-messenger" principle as the essential characteristic of "Christianity" broadly speaking. Now, when you start getting into the theology, that's when things become even more argumentative, but that's irrelevant to this topic.

So, can a person accept the proposition that "Yeshua Of Nazareth was the greatest divine-messenger-of-some-kind" and still be a Pagan?

Well, Paganism is a pretty broad variety of religions, all of them quite different from each other, and also the majority of them are strongly orthopraxic rather than orthodoxic; i.e. what you believe isn't nearly as relevant as what you do. That, plus there's a lot of emphasis on individuals finding paths that are right for them.

So it seems to me reasonably obvious that Christian-Pagan blends of various kinds are at least theoretically possible. Sure, there might be a lot of theological heterodoxies involved, but I see no reason to say it is impossible.

That said, it is impossible to be both a Roman Catholic and an Aztec Reconstructionist at the same time, but these are narrower concepts than "Christian" and "Pagan."

Maps

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2012, 11:30:28 am »
Quote from: StudiodeKadent;69926
That said, it is impossible to be both a Roman Catholic and an Aztec Reconstructionist at the same time, but these are narrower concepts than "Christian" and "Pagan."


You'd be surprised, actually.

I was reading this thread yesterday and thinking to myself "Latin America, obvs", where syncretism has been more or less prevalent since the missionaries arrived. It's not exactly Roman Catholicism, and it's not exactly "reconstructionism", but in places where the people are predominantly indigenous, the mix of the two is obvious. One need only look at a municipality like Santiago Atitlan to see this sort of thing at work.

One could also consider folk Christianity a form of this idea, and if that's the case, then you've got a world full of "Christo-pagans".

StudiodeKadent

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2012, 03:00:24 pm »
Quote from: Maps;69930
You'd be surprised, actually.

I was reading this thread yesterday and thinking to myself "Latin America, obvs", where syncretism has been more or less prevalent since the missionaries arrived. It's not exactly Roman Catholicism, and it's not exactly "reconstructionism", but in places where the people are predominantly indigenous, the mix of the two is obvious. One need only look at a municipality like Santiago Atitlan to see this sort of thing at work.

One could also consider folk Christianity a form of this idea, and if that's the case, then you've got a world full of "Christo-pagans".


A very good point, and I know that syncretism is a common phenomenon amongst people that have had Christianity forced upon them (i.e. the Vodoun practice of seeing the Catholic saints as representatives of Vodoun spirits, etc).

What I was saying was that one cannot be an (orthodox) Roman Catholic (i.e. swallow all the mandatory doctrine sincerely) and also be an Aztec Reconstructionist; they're mutually exclusive categories. However, belief systems incorporating parts of both are obviously possible and do have strong historical precedent, as you point out.

Maps

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2012, 08:06:55 pm »
Quote from: StudiodeKadent;69953
A very good point, and I know that syncretism is a common phenomenon amongst people that have had Christianity forced upon them (i.e. the Vodoun practice of seeing the Catholic saints as representatives of Vodoun spirits, etc).

What I was saying was that one cannot be an (orthodox) Roman Catholic (i.e. swallow all the mandatory doctrine sincerely) and also be an Aztec Reconstructionist; they're mutually exclusive categories. However, belief systems incorporating parts of both are obviously possible and do have strong historical precedent, as you point out.

 
Right, yeah.

wadjet

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2012, 03:38:37 am »
Quote from: WaywardOne;69878
I guess my question is, do you really feel a person can be both Christian and pagan?


Perhaps he means he uses folk-magic, in the old-fashioned sense. Much of the folk-magic we use in reconstruction is, well, reconstructed to "remove" the Christian parts that were added onto older pagan practices. The Church in general has always frowned on folk-magic, but it's always been common. Voudou and American-Dutch Pow-wow also come to mind.

He might also mean he has great reverence for the earth, thinking that pagan means "earth-based religion".
 
I have the feeling he is using the wrong terminology, and his definition of what is "pagan" isn't what most of us are using.

Yei

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Re: Combining Paths
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2012, 05:43:52 am »
Quote from: WaywardOne;69878
I'm not sure if this is the correct forum for this, but I couldn't seem to find a better place. I hope I'm not repeating an already active thread subject.

I am interested in knowing everyone's individual opinion of combining paganism (in any form) and Christianity. An acquaintance of mine told me recently that he has decided he is a "Christo-Pagan." He basically described to me what I would consider to be a very eclectic pagan path, not unlike the spiritual beliefs I had prior to becoming a Christian. However, he says he is a Christian who blends pagan beliefs with his Christian beliefs. He is very adamant that he is a Christian.

I'm a bit confused, I suppose. There are certain religions (spiritual paths, however we want to refer to them) that seem to require a certain, specific set of beliefs and practices in order for one to consider him or herself a follower of that religion. I mean, I wouldn't consider myself a Christian if I saw God in a way the Bible does not describe. This seems to be contradictory. Christianity, according to what I know of the  Bible, isn't exactly open to "eclecticism" the way many other paths are. And look at Catholicism....can you be a true Catholic if you stray from the beliefs and practices of the church?

I guess my question is, do you really feel a person can be both Christian and pagan? I absolutely believe a person can be as eclectic as they choose, pulling from any path and any number of paths they see fit. But are you a Christian if you are choosing to do  this? I get more and more confused the more I try to think about it, haha! I'd love to just hear what anyone might have to say about this.

 
I think that the answer is yes. Religions are comprised of more than one aspect. There is of course belief in divine entities, but there are also value systems and world views that go with them. In many cases these can be blended together quite easily, and there are many examples of this happening, Central America being one of them. Its entirely possible for a Pagan to include Christian values, or acknowledge Christian saints. A soft polytheist may even worship the same god, but under different archetypes for the role that god is playing. The Saint System isn't so different to polytheism in operation, and Christian values are often workable and valuable.

Ultimately it depends on the tradition and on the polytheist in question.

Naomi J

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Combining Paths
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2012, 06:06:51 pm »
Quote from: WaywardOne;69878
I guess my question is, do you really feel a person can be both Christian and pagan? I absolutely believe a person can be as eclectic as they choose, pulling from any path and any number of paths they see fit. But are you a Christian if you are choosing to do  this? I get more and more confused the more I try to think about it, haha! I'd love to just hear what anyone might have to say about this.

OK, before I jump in with a response, I should declare a vested interest. I don't like the term 'Christo-Pagan' much (it seems like a lot of pointless labelling - I've never heard anyone feel the need to call themselves 'Buddhist-Pagans', although I might have missed that). However, I have a chequered religious background that includes many many years of Christian practice, and I'm currently not sure I want to walk away from the religion entirely (although I 'm not practicing it at the moment, beyond honouring Mary).

I get irritated with the way this topic is often approached, for several reasons. A key one is that syncretism, which has been mentioned above, is more respected when it's in the context of African or Latin American traditional religions than when it's more personal. (Technically I think real syncretism has to be a long-term mixing of two established religions, rather than personal eclecticism - but the fact remains that it has been done with Christianity. Not just recently, either - the ancient Celtic church had syncretic elements and pagan influences, for example.)

Another reason I find the concern with Christo-Paganism confusing is that it often comes from a perspective of American/evangelical Christianity. There isn't just one way to be Christian - sociologists of religion increasingly talk
about Christianities, plural, not Christianity, singular. It's probably true that most evangelical/mainstream Christians wouldn't recognise Paganism as compatible with its current belief set. And that is an issue for me. But there are many cultures where Christianity combines with folk magic, or looks vastly different from how we think of it in 'Western' countries. And that's just today. In the past there were many forms of Christianity that looked even more different. Gnosticism, one of my spiritual influences, comes to mind.

The other thing I find confusing about this topic is how often I hear that Paganism can't be compatible with Christianity because the former is polytheistic. Well, here in the UK I know more pantheistic Pagans than polytheistic (although that may be the OBOD circles I move in). I know Christian pantheist Druids and lots of other odd-sounding combinations that actually aren't contradictory, when you think about it. Personally I am a polytheist, which is why I haven't been practising Christianity for a couple of years. But there are Paganisms where it wouldn't be a contradiction in terms.

I suspect that if I were ever to practice Christianity again, it would be as a kind of reconstructionist Celtic Christian. I'm not saying that will be the way forward for me, though. (Jesus and I are currently on a break and seeing other people ;) ) At some point I need to sort it all out, but I'm fairly busy with several Gaelic deities and the beginnings of a Druidic path at the moment. But it is rather funny when your Pagan gods ask you why it's been so long since you last went to church...!

Sorry for going off on a rant. I was hoping to avoid talking about my Christian influences here while I was new - I hate being thought of as 'the confused one' - but hey ho! :)

In short, I hope your friend is happy with his syncretic path, and that he's willing to face the many spiritual and personal challenges that will come with it. It's not an easy road, and I'm not sure I'm strong enough to walk it.
"We're all stories, in the end. Make it a good one, eh?"
- Doctor Who

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