My current relationship to the church and christo-paganism/eclecticism

I originally wrote this post to reply to the revived thread on Christo-paganism, but after writing it, I felt like it might be too far from the original topic, so I am taking the post to a new thread.  I just wanted to muse on my currently ambiguous relationship to the church.

I am currently working out a via media between my neo-paganism and my Christianity.  I similarly relate to the trinity as the “God of gods,” as some Christopagans do, and I find comfort in the psalms that use this title.  I have had long discussions with a Catholic friend about how to go about reconciling the polytheistic aspects still found in the Hebrew Bible with monotheistic thought and live with a healthy balance there.  For me this is easiest with a Catholic approach, and I use the term “Catholic” broadly to include the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics as well.  Not all Catholics are Roman.

Like any good Anglican, I am going through certain of my prayers and revising them to be susceptible to multiple interpretations, either in a more neo-pagan/pantheist direction or a Christian one.  In this way I am able to accommodate uncertainty and various levels of belief and commitment.  Most of the prayers are already like this.  Anglicanism, particularly Anglo-Catholicism, has deeply influenced my thinking, rituals, and approach to my private spirituality.

The rites are very similar to the structure of the mass in the 1928 (American edition of the) Book of Common Prayer, and with careful work, as I mentioned, I am increasingly able to interpret the prayers on multiple levels so that I am able to gravitate toward the interpretation I need at the time and accommodate my general uncertainties.

I am working out my relationship with the wider Church, to both Anglicanism and Catholicism.  Due to my work schedule I have not been able to make it to the eucharist (mass) in my Anglican parish, although I discovered that a new priest in the Catholic Church has brought back the old rite Latin mass on Saturdays.  This is a near miracle.  I have been yelled at by a priest for even inquiring if he ever offered it.  Many people are hostile toward the old rite or even the new rite celebrated so as to resemble the old one, and even some of the old rite adherents associate it unfairly with their skewed perspectives on various groups of people they don’t like.

I remain canonically Roman Catholic, but I had taken refuge in Anglicanism once again after ill treatment by clergy and liturgies that were literally too painful for me to endure.  Enduring them, I was losing all faith in a numinous dimension to life and the church: there was certainly none of that present in these liturgies, and I entered into despair.  From now on I simply refuse to attend rites like that even if it’s offered on Sunday.  Arguably it is “gravely inconvenient” for me, as one canon puts it, and I am dispensed from the obligation should I wish to take such obligations seriously.

I was formed spiritually in liturgies that lifted me into the numinous.  There is a part of me that is a liturgical traditionalist, and I find the old liturgies much more conducive to my increasingly dual-faith spirituality, much more mysterious, connecting me with people through history.  I’m having to work out my relationship to the church now that the old rite is being offered once again.  But I still have a hard time with the scandals coming out of the wider church, and I will only give money to good causes in the church and never into the offering plate, especially once I read a news report that some of it is likely going to lobbyists that I don’t support, but I don’t feel comfortable going into the details about that on a public forum.

Christians can get hung up on what everyone else is believing, though, so I’m working through that, too.  When it comes down to it, according to one traditionalist perspective, only the anathemas are binding “infallibly,” and even then, there is much that is ambiguous about which councils are truly ecumenical and thus which anathemas truly binding, and if they are, will they always hold that status?  Some councils that were once accepted as ecumenical were later rejected (google “robber council ” or “Second Council of Ephesus”).

Only two councils are accepted by all Catholics and all branches of the Orthodox churches, so that leads to other disputes and further ambiguity as to what is truly binding.  And to violate an anathema, one would have to declare, with commitment and certainty, “I affirm (the condemned proposition) X.”  I don’t because I am perpetually uncertain about such matters and chalk them up to a mystery.  Much theological language, perhaps language in general, is ambiguous anyway.  For example, what does the ascension mean?  What does it mean for a body to enter into heaven, a non-local state rather than a place, according to many theologians?  To affirm such theology is to affirm it ambiguously.

So I measure my beliefs in terms of commitments and actions.  From what I’ve been taught in Anglicanism and Catholicism, doubts are not always contrary to faith, but can coexist with tension.  I don’t particularly like the approach to dogma I have outlined, not even this minimalist perspective, but I suppose I could live with it should I wish to retain my connection to Christianity.  It’s much easier for me to live with than Sola Scriptura or those long Lutheran confessions or the “creeping infallibility” of the neo-conservative faction of the church.

So that’s where I’m at right now regarding these matters.

Message Board: Join in our discussion.