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Author Topic: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?  (Read 1463 times)

Beloved

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Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« on: June 05, 2019, 01:49:04 pm »
Hi all! I don't post often, but I check in almost daily to learn from you all.

For those of you who still identify as Christians (or ChristoPagans) but have obvious pagan leanings, either in practice or in belief, what is it that keeps you tied to the Christian faith?

This is something I am wrestling with personally and I'm curious to hear from others.

Klaw

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2019, 02:05:01 pm »
Hi all! I don't post often, but I check in almost daily to learn from you all.

I am no longer Christian, but the ones I have known who are the most understanding, supportive and curious are Catholic. They remain Catholic, but I think the inclusion of Mary and saints into their worship makes them more open minded. There are also those that don't consider Catholics Christian.

As for myself, it took several years to undo the programming from my childhood. It's hard to just drop it all, even when you no longer believe, when you have 11 years of memorization drills.

Beloved

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2019, 02:14:39 pm »
I am no longer Christian, but the ones I have known who are the most understanding, supportive and curious are Catholic. They remain Catholic, but I think the inclusion of Mary and saints into their worship makes them more open minded. There are also those that don't consider Catholics Christian.

As for myself, it took several years to undo the programming from my childhood. It's hard to just drop it all, even when you no longer believe, when you have 11 years of memorization drills.

I have had similar experiences with Catholics. I really enjoy the Catholic church and sometimes wish I could join. I cannot get past the dogma though.

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2019, 03:28:25 pm »
Hi all! I don't post often, but I check in almost daily to learn from you all.

For those of you who still identify as Christians (or ChristoPagans) but have obvious pagan leanings, either in practice or in belief, what is it that keeps you tied to the Christian faith?

This is something I am wrestling with personally and I'm curious to hear from others.

Well, this post is probably relevant to me, but it's complicated.  Due to my work schedule I find that I am not able to get to the eucharist (mass) very often, and I have been slowly drifting away from Christianity as my own eclectic path becomes more developed, specific, and expanded.  I do not miss the church or Christianity nearly as much as I would have in the past, and although I still value the community the Episcopal Church has provided me, I have been able to retain that connection with my friends outside of going to church.

As far as my theology goes, I have never been a Christian in my life if we are going to define that term by Nicene orthodoxy.  My faith of origin was a non-trinitarian sect that nevertheless identifies as Christian, but does not qualify by most definitions of the term "Christian."

If I remain with the church it would be because I have made community connections, not because of theology, but like I said, I am finding the church less and less necessary to maintain those community ties.

When I was more committed to the church exclusively and had not developed my own unique path into a coherent system as it is today, I chose the Episcopal Church because of its theological freedoms and liturgical structure.  I did have neo-pagan leanings and involvements even then, but I felt free to embrace a heretical theology in the Episcopal Church, and my theology has always been so.

Due to a liberal theological influence in the church -- this may change in the future according to some reports, though I remain uncertain -- it is fairly easy to embrace unorthodox positions in the Episcopal Church.  There have been unorthodox bishops like Spong, and I would argue the former presiding bishop Schori was also unorthodox.  Marcus Borg was a respected Episcopal theologian, and his positions I would argue are unorthodox.  The Episcopal Church has been very tolerant of such bishops, theologians, and laity.

My own parish is conservative, but Anglicanism is often very tolerant even in its conservative expressions: there have long been heretical members of my parish who are open about their theological positions and alternative interpretations of select doctrines such as the resurrection or virgin birth, and none of us are forbidden the sacraments.  In fact, we even congregate in our own meetings to discuss our ideas, and these meetings are under the authority of the priest and has his blessing as well as the blessing of our bishop, the official teacher of the faith.

I was drawn to the beauty of the liturgy and the ritual of this community, I made friends there, and there was space made to accept me with my theological positions and all their quirks, so there you have it, the reasons I chose this community.  One must remember that Anglicanism was a via media between Calvin and Luther which shifted with the Oxford Movement I would argue to a via media between Protestant and Catholic positions.  And as time has moved on that via media has become a basic principle of tolerance, and that principle has been expanded to include even greater theological diversity since at least the 70s.

I will not necessarily leave this religion since I feel I am always welcome there and I have cultural ties, but I am drifting as my own path has developed to stand on its own as its own coherent system.  When my rituals first evolved they were quite undeveloped and were merely an add on to my Christian practices, but now they represent their own set of assumptions encoded in various practices that can stand on their own apart from any religion, and the assumptions I am making are very different from Christianity.

Now I've always found ways to work with the basic doctrines of Christianity in some sense, especially when I was more committed to the church, even if I had to reinterpret the doctrine or take it as representing a basic value that Christians hold that I could agree with, but this was not systematic.  That's all well and fine as far as it goes, and for the reasons I've mentioned I felt comfortable taking this approach without feeling like I had to be dishonest with the community.

But as my own eclectic religious system has become more developed I've found that I have less interest in having to wrestle with and reinterpret a theology that is making assumptions that are very foreign to my mode of thinking.  I've noticed that when I engage in my own rites I'm engaging with what I believe and value in a much more direct way, whereas when I engage with Christianity I have to work through the layers and only engage with what I'm really believing and valuing in an indirect way.

I still have to do the work of interpretation and engaging with symbols in my eclectic path that are not always literal expressions -- we are dealing with very symbolic religion here and mysteries -- but it's still more directly tied to my own assumptions, if that makes sense, than Christianity ever will be.  All of that said, I may be editing my religious descriptions on the forum soon to more accurately reflect the direction I'm going in today.  In the other online religious communities I'm a part of I haven't even felt the need to mention my Episcopal ties.

So even though I'm going in a different direction, that does hopefully give you some idea of why I felt the need to retain a Christian connection.  I should also state that within my eclectic system I am still committed to the Christ and various other members of the Christian "pantheon," along with spirits I work with that are not a part of any accepted lore.

But I do not describe myself as a Christo-pagan.  I describe myself as Christo-Eclectic.  The latter term may not be the best, either, but it's what I'm working with right now.  There are some reasons for this.  When I come across the term Christo-pagan I sometimes see it used in the sense that a person is both a Christian and a pagan, and while I can definitely envision a Christian having pagan leanings, I'm not convinced a person could be both a Christian and a pagan.  What would that mean?

Sometimes the term Christo-pagan is used in the sense that there is a blending of neo-pagan and Christian elements, but the path is not itself a Christian path because of that blending and different set of assumptions underlying it.  I can accept this definition of Christo-pagan, but I still don't use the term because it is not always used in this sense.

When I say that I am a Christo-Eclectic I mean that I have a personal focus on and devotion to the Christ (as I understand that concept), but within an eclectic context.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Klaw

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2019, 04:32:51 pm »
But I do not describe myself as a Christo-pagan.  I describe myself as Christo-Eclectic.  The latter term may not be the best, either, but it's what I'm working with right now.  There are some reasons for this.  When I come across the term Christo-pagan I sometimes see it used in the sense that a person is both a Christian and a pagan, and while I can definitely envision a Christian having pagan leanings, I'm not convinced a person could be both a Christian and a pagan.  What would that mean?

EclecticWheel what are your thoughts about Christian Mysticism?

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2019, 04:59:29 pm »

But as my own eclectic religious system has become more developed I've found that I have less interest in having to wrestle with and reinterpret a theology that is making assumptions that are very foreign to my mode of thinking.  I've noticed that when I engage in my own rites I'm engaging with what I believe and value in a much more direct way, whereas when I engage with Christianity I have to work through the layers and only engage with what I'm really believing and valuing in an indirect way.


When I say that I am a Christo-Eclectic I mean that I have a personal focus on and devotion to the Christ (as I understand that concept), but within an eclectic context.

I can relate to what you said about engaging with what you believe/value directly whereas with Christianity you have to work through layers. That describes my current experience as well. If I can pick your brain for a bit, how do you maintain a devotion to Christ (as you understand that concept) while not believing the basic assumptions of Christianity?


EclecticWheel

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2019, 05:30:36 pm »
EclecticWheel what are your thoughts about Christian Mysticism?

There are different varieties of Christian mysticism, so a Quaker's mysticism is going to be quite different from that of a Catholic, for example.  But I generally have respect for Christian mysticism, and some of my friends have described me as a mystic.  I'd feel too presumptuous to go about calling myself one, but my liturgical writings do emphasize unity with God, a unity that is already present but that we may live into more fully in an experiential sense.

I am fond of the Catholic Madame Guyon, who was tortured as a heretic, and also Julian of Norwich.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

EclecticWheel

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2019, 05:51:56 pm »
I can relate to what you said about engaging with what you believe/value directly whereas with Christianity you have to work through layers. That describes my current experience as well. If I can pick your brain for a bit, how do you maintain a devotion to Christ (as you understand that concept) while not believing the basic assumptions of Christianity?

This is a good question and one I've had to struggle with, but I've come to peace with my conclusion.  I do look to ancient and non-Abrahamic religions for guidance as well early Christian practices including that of heretics.  The matter is that Jesus and/or the Christ (some differentiate the two) has existed in different theological contexts from ancient times.

There was and is a real debate over whether Jesus pooped or not.  Was he really a human?  Or was he some other type of being?  Was he only a man?  Or was he also God?

Some that we usually refer to as Gnostics did not believe in a fully human or material Jesus.  Some would have denied that he really suffered and died on the cross, and they had a very different view of the Godhead, and Jesus was more of a liberator from the realm of matter.

I am not saying that I endorse these beliefs.  I am very world affirming and matter affirming.  But at least from the second century there were very different interpretations of Jesus from Nicene orthodoxy.  Since I look to other non-Abrahamic religions for inspiration as well, there is also the matter that sometimes gods or other beings are absorbed into new theological contexts with a different take on them from the original system.  This is something I am still learning about, but I know it happens.  Voodoo is an interesting case, but there is the question of whether some of the loa are saints in a different context or just stand ins for other beings.  But who knows for sure?

Also, sometimes gods have been syncretized with other gods, so that gets really interesting.

The Mormon Jesus is not exactly the same as the Nicene one.  He is not consubstantial with the Father.  Nor is the Arian Jesus.  The Jesus that I grew up with in the Oneness sect was proclaimed to be God the Father!  The Unitarians believe him to be merely human and not God in any sense.  The New Agers have various beliefs about Jesus as well.

I had an experience with a being that at least according to my interpretation was Jesus after I departed from the Oneness Pentecostal sect at 14.  I was very upset about losing my faith, and I was sitting in the dark.  I missed Jesus.  And then he came to me.  I didn't see him, but I could feel his presence.  I could sense that he was somehow associated with God or the sacred or something very holy, but that remains ambiguous.

Unlike the Jesus I had been raised with he didn't convey to me that he was God the Father per se, but he was some sort of divine being.  And he let me know that he hadn't forsaken me and that he wasn't so concerned that I had left a particular religion.  I was only a young teenager, but his presence was so palpable and kind that I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face.

I don't usually like to talk about such personal experiences online, but it is relevant here because that experience along with the consideration that Jesus has from ancient times into modern times existed in different theological contexts has led me to believe that I am able to successfully work with him with my own unique set of assumptions and theological beliefs.  This has never seemed to offend him.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Beloved

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2019, 08:19:30 pm »

I don't usually like to talk about such personal experiences online, but it is relevant here because that experience along with the consideration that Jesus has from ancient times into modern times existed in different theological contexts has led me to believe that I am able to successfully work with him with my own unique set of assumptions and theological beliefs.  This has never seemed to offend him.

Thank you for sharing so openly. It seems we have several things in common, including a history with the oneness movement. I appreciate your thoughts!

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2019, 04:32:52 pm »
For those of you who still identify as Christians (or ChristoPagans) but have obvious pagan leanings, either in practice or in belief, what is it that keeps you tied to the Christian faith?

This is something I am wrestling with personally and I'm curious to hear from others.

Honestly, for me, to the extent I'm Christopagan or dwojwierny, it's the other way around: a deep engagement with ancestral practices, historical folk religion, and incarnational theologies brings me to incorporating and engaging with Christian theologies and Christian mysticisms because they are essential to the source context of the material I'm working with.

I can't do the werewolf work without engaging with theologies of the concept of Hell.  I can't approach the Nephilim without Biblical esoterica, and angelology is dominantly Christian in an Anglo-Western cultural context.  The fairy faith is shaped by Christianity, with one of the origins of the Good Neighbors being as fallen angels who fell from heaven but not so far as to hell.  About attending my UU church, I wisecrack that like a good pagan I have returned to the religion of my ancestors - the Puritans.  (UUism is no longer Christian, but it is a direct lineal descendant of Puritanism, and this is the basic fundamental problem with reconstructionist paganism.)  If I explore Slavic primordial dualism, the source texts I can access deal with "God" and "Satan".  If I actually get my act in gear and pay my respects to the lwa I cannot just blow off the fact that Christianized temporal currents shape the form of their ritual year.  If I want to wrestle with concepts of incarnation and divinization and apotheosis, some of the thinkers that I will be wrangling will be Christian, because that is core praxis and augh I need to get my act in gear and read Pelikan.

Christianity qua Christianity never took with me, and I don't have the baggage that a lot of people do about it, or a sense that I have to purify myself from it.  The things that I took from my actual Christian upbringing are the popcultural Christianity elements that are super-easy to repurpose into something else, and I have largely done so.  And a desire for descants in congregational group observance, but as I mentioned to the music director at church last week, maybe that's the ex-Methodist in me.

I can't pretend that source materials aren't Christian or Christianized and frankly I'm not sure why I would want to; since I don't have baggage regarding Christianity the idea that I'm supposed to avoid being "tied to" it is just puzzling to me.  It's just one of hundreds of examples of someone else's religion, which has some ideas that are good and some ideas that are not.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

MadZealot

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2019, 11:47:06 pm »
Quote from: Beloved link=topic=16787.msg222447#msg222447 date=1559756944t

For those of you who still identify as Christians (or ChristoPagans) but have obvious pagan leanings, either in practice or in belief, what is it that keeps you tied to the Christian faith?


Frankly, I love the mythos. Love and sacrifice. Agape and grace. And, it's a useful metaphor, not only for interpreting the All, but also for learning to relate to fellow 'oominz (and oneself).  It just works for me in a way that other systems don't.

I keep threatening to get Ordained. One of these days I might actually make good on that.

Superman is uncircumcised. Change my mind.

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2019, 05:23:54 pm »
For those of you who still identify as Christians (or ChristoPagans) but have obvious pagan leanings...

I was thinking today that I've actually never met a Christian without Pagan leanings. Certainly, the Catholic Church has made great efforts to assimilate elements of Pagan culture, everything from sacred wells to holidays like Imbolc/St. Brigid's Day.

Once, these Pagan elements served the purpose of winning converts, but today I think they still serve a purpose for many Christians. Christian doctrine is in many ways very narrow and abstract, and its teachings are often difficult if not impossible to apply in daily life. The shortcuts and compromises commonly made by Christians aren't enough: People need connections to their earth and their communities that Christianity doesn't readily supply.

For example, many Christians would swear that the spirits of their departed ancestors are watching over them--an idea that has no foundation in Christian theology but is firmly rooted in Pagan traditions. Many Christians who consider divination Satanic are nevertheless constantly looking out for "signs" to interpret Jehovah's will. And of course there's the old argument about Catholic saint veneration being idol worship, or even necromancy if it involves bone relics...
« Last Edit: June 17, 2019, 09:01:03 pm by SunflowerP »

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2019, 05:58:39 pm »
I was thinking today that I've actually never met a Christian without Pagan leanings.

You have now. I am not Christian now, but was a long time. I was raised strict Missouri Synod Lutheran. I was watched like a hawk. Anything like taking the lord's name in vain or acknowledging a superstition would earn a spanking with a wooden spoon. No saints, no deifying the virgin Mary and we only used the King James version of the bible.

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2019, 06:00:26 pm »
I was thinking today that I've actually never met a Christian without Pagan leanings.

You have a point there. Even my extremely fundamentalist Christian mother often says things that force me to hide a smile because they are quite pagan (and often have been pronounced heretical by the church at some point in history, although she isn't aware of it obviously).

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Re: Christians with Pagan Leanings: Why still Christian?
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2019, 01:43:00 pm »
Hi all! I don't post often, but I check in almost daily to learn from you all.

For those of you who still identify as Christians (or ChristoPagans) but have obvious pagan leanings, either in practice or in belief, what is it that keeps you tied to the Christian faith?

This is something I am wrestling with personally and I'm curious to hear from others.

I am a Cultural Christian, that is I view myself as someone who was formed in Western Civilization and Christianity is a cornerstone of that. I am not a conventional Christian though.

My views are Universalism mixed with Paganism and other elements. I am also a Scientific Pantheist and a Religious Humanist. As a Humanist, I embrace the varieties of Human Culture and the diversity of religions in that culture.

Also, I was raised Catholic. My religious views are syncretic and universal. I view all the different manifestations of God/Goddess as incarnations or personifications of the sacred. God wears many masks and is mysterious.

I engage in what I call Creative Spirituality, which is basically me making up my own personal religious views. I am a polytheist who views Christ as a sort of "first amongst equals" in the god sphere.

More specifically, my main preference when looking at manifestations of the divine is eclectic spirituality. I am a sort of Celtic Pagan Christian. I look at pagan aspects of Christianity (Christ as a living and dying God, flesh of bread, blood of wine). I also try and integrate Christ into the Celtic Pantheon as the White God, a Prince amongst gods and goddesses.

I identify with that period in history when the Celtic Pagans were being converted to Christianity. Rather than give up their Pagan beliefs and embracing an alien religion, they integrated Christ into their existing religion.

So, I am polytheist but also recognize that God and the Goddess wear many different masks. God is essentially mysterious, and Christ is sort of a Prince amongst Gods, first amongst many.

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