Sunday, January 03, 2010

Stop whining and get on with it

Cat at Quaker Pagan Reflections has posted an absolutely brilliant rant (well, she says it's a rant, but it's actually very mild-mannered) asking Pagans who have left Christianity behind to stop moaning about it and start exploring their own spirituality, i.e. instead of talking about why they don't like Jesus, they should start talking about why they do like Odin, or Freyja, or Isis, or the Tao. If more than 50% of your blogposts involve moaning about Christianity or Jesus, then please read it.

I couldn't agree more. I shudder at the number of times I have had to sit through interminable rants about how dreadful Christianity is at pub moots, and the number of blogposts I have had to sift through that were whining about how all the ills of the world can be laid at Christianity's door, and how they stole the Pagan festivals, yada, yada, yada.

Yes, Christians can be bigoted bastards. And yes, the Inquisition was bad. But on the plus side of the balance sheet, there's charity and compassion (not uniquely the preserve of Christians, but they do walk their talk in that respect).

It could be because many Pagans have come from a fundamentalist Christian background. I sympathise, because I have been there. But moaning about it incessantly is not the answer. Go and get some really good therapy, deal with it, and move on.

But it's not just Christianity and Jesus that get the blame for all the ills of the world. Oh no - in fact it's monotheism that is the bad guy, according to some. Last year, during Pagan Values Month, there were a number of posts going on about how polytheism was inherently more tolerant than monotheism. I disagree - I have met tolerant monotheists and intolerant polytheists. It's taking things literally that is the source of narrow-mindedness, and fear is the source of bigotry.

Trinitarian theology is mostly exclusivist, because it maintains that Jesus is the only gateway to the Divine Source; but all other forms of monotheism are conducive to the view that polytheism and monotheism are different perspectives on the same reality. But even some Trinitarians see their theology as a metaphor for other theologies.

So, unless you have made some effort to study other religions' theologies in some depth, don't assume that the narrow-minded fundamentalist mindset you were brought up in is typical of the whole of Christian thought. Some of the best minds in Europe were devoted to theological musing for centuries, so it's actually quite subtle.

Unless you are aware that there are several different models of the atonement, plus Christus Victor theology, plus the Arian heresy, and you know what theosis, kenosis, coinherence and perichoresis are, when original sin was invented and by whom, and what the causes and implications of the Filioque controversy were - then don't think you are qualified to hold forth on what's wrong with Christian theology.


Kaylynn said...

I haven't said "Amen" over at Cat's blog post yet, but I'm going to. However, I thought I'd take the opportunity to say "Amen" here as well.

I'm so sick of the anti-Christian everything. It's old. Very old.

In fact I've been exploring Esoteric Christianity blogs lately and, by and large, none of them talk about Esoteric Christianity. They talk about how bad 'exoteric' Christianity is, but offer nothing positive.


Yewtree said...

Hi Kaylynn - well that's kind of ironic!

The best mystical Christian blog is Carl McColman's The Website of Unknowing - open to other spiritualities (including Pagan), and all forms of Christian spirituality, and never whinges about narrow-minded people. Also Jesus in Love is a good blog about LGBT Christianity.

There are some very good Unitarian and UU blogs too. I think it's having something positive to talk about that is the key.

Kaylynn said...

I've been reading Carl's blog for years. He's a good guy. Exploring Our Matrix by James McGrath is another Christian blog you might enjoy - though I wouldn't describe him as mystical. James is a liberal Christian who explores a lot of interesting perspectives.

Jarred said...

Yes! For years, I've been saying that people need to just get on with being Pagan already. I'm glad to see that great people like you and Cat are on the same page. (Or maybe I'm on the same page as you?)

Of course, another thing that I note is that I find it hard to believe that there's nothing of redeeming value that came out of anyone's experiences with fundamentalist Christianity. I know people have had worse experiences than I have, but I can also look at my own experiences -- even the bad ones -- and see how they've shaped me into the person I am today. The experiences may not have been entirely positive, but the person I've become as a result of those experiences has a lot going for him. ;)

Yewtree said...

Yep, I've never seen you discuss your experiences of Christianity in anything other than a positive way. Sure, we've all had negative experiences with Christianity, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and all that.

I suspect you've been on this particular page for about the same length of time as Cat & I. I can remember thinking "Let's forget about Christianity and get on with the Paganism" since about 1991 (pretty much the entire time I have been in contact with Pagans, actually). It's one of the things I like about Unitarians - they don't whine on about Christians. If they do talk about it, it's from an informed perspective, usually.

Yewtree said...

To everyone who posts a comment here: please do go and read Cat's post and comment on that too. Thanks!

Pitch313 said...

These days, I think that monotheism and polytheism do not offer different perspectives on the same reality. Rather, they offer different realities and different ways to approach the divine pervading those realities.

What's more, I'd say that there is monotheism, polytheism focused on a single pantheon, and the sort of polytheism lots of today's Pagans follow--polyteism that assembles meta-pantheons.

Yewtree said...

Fair enough, Pitch - you are one of the people who writes about Paganism on your blog, IIRC.

I was just saying that that is a possible way to approach polytheism for monotheists.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! A window on new worlds!

I like:

"I have met tolerant monotheists and intolerant polytheists."

Yup, I agree. This applies to all labels, methinks.

If it all gets too complicated, consider this quote:

"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."

I am with the Dalai Lama on that.

Yewtree said...

I hadn't heard that Dalai Lama quote, but I like it.