ChristoPaganity: 

Suggestions on Reconciling Differences

and Finding Common Ground

between Christianity and Paganism

handshake
Presented by
Cernowain Greenman
at
Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day 2004

Christian vs. Pagan

One life  
vs.
Reincarnation
Sex is bad
vs.
Sex is good
Creation is to be subdued
vs.
Care for the earth
Other religions are demonic
vs.
There are many valid paths
Only humans have a "soul"
vs.
All living things have spirit in them
The devil tempts people to sin
vs.
Our desires and actions are our own
God is up above
vs.
Goddess & God are here
and present in all things
Prayer is dependent on God's will
vs.
Spells are self-empowered by our will
God is male, there is none beside him
vs.
Goddess who is female
with a male consort God
The church is the body of Christ
vs.
Earth is body of Goddess
Jesus is the only way to God
vs.
Many paths to God
The Bible as God's revealed truth
vs.
Nature as our primary source of
spiritual wisdom
Converting others is of primary importance
vs.
Not seeking converts, letting people
find their own path
Only Christians are the true children
of God
vs.
All people-- and all creatures--
are children of the Goddess and the God
Men are in God's image, so women are to be subservient to men
vs.

Goddess & God are equals who share power, so should women and men.
Heaven or hell
vs.
The Summerland

****INTRODUCTION****

    Christians and Pagans are notoriously a bad mix.  For most of its history, Christianity has campaigned against Paganism's beliefs and practices, calling them immoral, evil and devil-inspired.  From this ideology, witch hunts have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands or more.

On the other hand, when Christianity first emerged, Pagan emperors were baffled by their lack of patriotic duty as Christians refused to honor the leader's genius.  Ten of Rome's emperors persecuted Christians to some degree, and Christians have not forgotten it.

    In the present day, as the majority of Christians in America have adopted conservative theology, tolerance of alternative spiritual paths by Christians has declined.  At the same time, Paganism has grown dramatically. But as Christians are in the majority and Pagans are a small minority, conflicts between people of these two paths continues and seems to have increased.

    But I have a hope that these two opposing sides may be able to embrace the peace and harmony that lies at the heart of both paths, and learn how to reconcile and live together with mutual appreciation and tolerance.  In many ways, we are not as different as we have been led to believe.   At the same time, we can respect the differences and distinctions each has.

    And, though many believe that no one can embrace both Christian and Pagan beliefs at the same time, I affirm that it is possible. The truth is that Christianity and Paganism have been mixed from the beginning and throughout the last two millennia. So it is not only possible to mix the two, but– I would say– it is almost impossible not to! Click here to see a list of ChristoPagan websites of people whose spirituality combine these two paths.

    But some differences are not so easy to reconcile. Therefore, I want to give some suggestions for resolving 16 of the most challenging Christian and Pagan differences, and hopefully, open up a path for dialog between these two spiritual paths on these important issues.




1. ONE LIFE
vs.
REINCARNATION.
    
Christian:
 "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." Hebrews 9:27

Pagan:
"Listen people, the universe is alive, and I will always be flowing in and out of form, dying and being reborn, forever"  (Starhawk, et al, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying p144-145);
Pagan:
"There are three great events in life... Love, Death and Resurrection in a new body; and Magick controls them all. For to fulfill love you must return again at the same time and place as the loved one, and you must remember and love them again.  But to be reborn you must die, and be ready for a new body; and to die you must be born" --Gerald Gardner in Meaning of Witchcraft (1959); quoted in Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland (1986).  
    
     a. Many Christians reject reincarnation and believe in only "One Life" and then heaven (or "the other place"). But what they have in common with Pagans is that they also look to Nature to understand the afterlife.  While Pagans see the cycle of Nature as reincarnation, Christians look at the same thing and see resurrection– the caterpillar to the butterfly, the acorn to the oak. (Cf. 1 Cor 15:37-42 . And, in a sense, resurrection is a form of re-incarnation that happens once, since the soul from the old body is put into a new body– except that the new body is spiritual and not natural.  
    There is some common ground here, since Christians and Pagans are both looking to Nature to understand what the afterlife may be about.

    b. A number of Christians actually believe in Reincarnation. Amazingly, a 1990 Gallup poll found that 25% of Catholics in the United States believe in reincarnation. Supporting this view is a passage from the Catholic Scriptures, Wisdom of Solomon 8:19-20, which says, "I was given a sound body to live in because I was already good".  

    c. Historically, a good number of early Christians believed in reincarnation. The early Church Father, Origen, also believed in reincarnation, saying that "The soul has neither beginning nor end… [it] comes into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of their previous lives." (Origen, De Principiis).
    Other early Christians who believed in Reincarnation were the Gnostic Christians. In the gnostic Apocalypse of Paul , the apostle observes a heavenly vision where a "soul that had been cast down went to a body which had been prepared for it."
    Other early Christian writings that profess reincarnation: Gospel of Thomas 84 -- "Jesus says: Now, when you see your appearance, you rejoice. But when you see your images which came into being before you, which do not die and do not show themselves, how will you be able to bear such greatness?"
    Also see: Apocryphon of John 14:20  
    And see: Gospel of Philip 73:1-4

    "Christian Gnostics held the view that if spiritual resurrection was not attained in one lifetime, then the soul would be subjected to as many reincarnations as it takes until spiritual rebirth is attained" says Reincarnation and the Early Christians by Kevin Williams. Gnostic Christians understood salvation by Jesus as a release from the cycle of reincarnation so a soul could dwell in heaven eternally.

    d. I find it interesting that some believe Jesus of Nazareth was himself a reincarnation. According to Edgar Cayce the following are past incarnations of Jesus Christ: Amilius in Atlantis; Toth in Egypt; Adam; Melchizedek priest of Salem; Joseph; Joshua Son of Nun; Job; David; Zen, the father of Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism.
    For further info see, " Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianity " (Summit University Press) by Elizabeth Clare Prophet.

    e.  No one knows precisely what the afterlife will be like.  "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, what God has prepared for those who love him".  (1 Cor 2:9; cf Isaiah 64:4).

       
Common Ground
Both Pagans and Christians look to Nature to try to understand the afterlife.  Both can also agree that the afterlife is a mystery, and know one knows for certain what it shall bring.  This is truly the common ground all humans stand upon.  


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2. SEX IS BAD
vs.
SEX IS GOOD

 
Christian:
 "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen" (Eph 5:3-5).


Pagan:
"All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals" (based on the Charge of the Goddess).


    Christian and Pagan views of sexuality are polar opposites-- at least that is what we are led to believe.

    a. It is a long part of the Christian tradition that says "Sex is bad". The apostle Paul swore that "it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." 1 Cor 7:1 (I guess he never tried it). He also said, "For I know that in me, that is, in my FLESH, dwelleth no good thing" Romans 7:18 KJV. Flesh, or the body, was understood to be evil in itself.
    St. Augustine went as far as to say that sex in marriage was wrong unless it is for procreation-- "Chastity in the married state is God's gift" ( On Marriage and Concupiscence Book 1, Chap 3). Sex has had to struggle to find a positive place in most of Christianity. But before we judge Christians as sexophobic, we must remember that celibacy is not only a Christian virtue-- chastity can be found in ancient Paganism as well, such as the followers of Attis or Vestus.

    b. Often, Christians and Pagans tend to be judgmental towards each other on this issue.  In other words, each may feel ok about their own sexual mores but look down on those who differ from them. In my opinion, the problem isn't "sex is bad" vs. "sex is good", but the root of the issue is that it is easy to justify one's own sexual boundaries but judge and condemn those of others. This wasn't something the Jesus did (cf John 8 ) .  Homosexuality or sexual exploration or polyamory are just as controversial in both religions.  But I do not believe Jesus ever condemned anyone for their sexual lifestyle.

    c. I believe a better view is that "Sex is a gift from the Divine that is to be enjoyed". This view is compatible with both Pagan and Christian beliefs– when we look to The Song of Solomon, an erotic poem in the Bible, which celebrates sexuality without condemnation:

    "Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the henna bushes...there I will give you my love." (SS 7:11-12); "How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your two breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies" (SS 4:1,5); "I am a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon. Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits" (SS 4:15-16); "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste" (SS 2:3). "Take me away with you-let us hurry! Let him bring me into his bed chambers (SS 1:4).

    Starting from this common positive viewpoint of sexuality, Christians and Pagans can affirm that sex is for pleasure, and that pleasure is good, and therefore can be free of judgmental attitudes toward sexual expression as we choose our own boundaries and accept the different boundaries of others.

    d. We need to live responsibly, and this applies to our sexual expressions.  The Charge of the Goddess clearly states that "all acts of  LOVE and pleasure are my rituals".   A sexual act that is not loving, that takes advantage of another person, or is disrespectful or non-consensual is not an act of love.  Rape, molestation, harassment, etc., are not actions that are loving.


       
Common Ground
Sex is a Divine gift, one that is good and pleasurable. Non-consensual and abusive sexual acts are not acceptable.


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3. CREATION IS TO BE SUBDUED
vs.
CARE FOR THE EARTH

 
Christian:
"God... said to them... "fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Gen 1:28.

 
Pagan:
"The Earth is our Mother, we will take care of Her" --Native American-style Pagan chant
Pagan:
"The Earth is a single living being, whose rocks, plants, animals, air, oceans and oozing mantle are all interdependent systems in a giant biological superorganism" CAW's version of The Gaia Principle .
    

    a. One Christian view of "subduing the Earth" is that the Earth is simply a resource to make money from.  The Christian Right and right-wing economists have promoted this agenda of domination and conquering of the planet--- which has caused much destruction, endangering people and animals. I think, some followers of Christ share our Pagan love for the Earth, and would reject this interpretation.

    b. Many Christians see the Earth is a wonderful and special creation by the Divine. St Francis, who valued all living creatures, who said: "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, You will have men who will deal likewise With their fellow man."  (In other words, don't trust anyone who isn't nice to animals.)
    And the Christian woman mystic Hildegard of Bingen: "All living creatures are, so to speak, sparks from the radiation of God's brilliance, and these sparks emerge from God like the rays of the sun. But if God did not give off those sparks, how would the divine glory become fully visible? . . . For there is no creature without some kind of radiance - whether it be greenness, seeds, buds, or another kind of beauty ." [ HoB Vision 4.11 ]
    c. Some Christians and Pagans can embrace a common Spiritual Ecology: As Chief Seattle said, "The Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth".  Another Native American saying goes like this: "The frog does not drink up the water in the pod it lives in." Here is where Pagans and sensitive Christians can agree.

       
Common Ground
We all live on the same world, the same planet, called Earth.  If we destroy Earth, we will ultimately destroy ourselves.



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4. OTHER RELIGIONS ARE DEMONIC
vs.
MANY VALID PATHS

 
Christian: "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons" 1 Cor 10:20.  (See also Rev 9:20)

 
Pagan:
 Pagan: "No one religion is right for everyone." (Scott Cunningham, Truth about Witchcraft , chapter 7).
 
    a. First of all, the NIV has a mistranslation of 1 Cor 10:20, where the Greek word (daimoniois) does not mean "evil spirits" or "demons" but refers to "lesser gods"-- who are not necessarily bad or evil. It is inaccurate and morally wrong to quote this verse in order to demonize the Pagan gods.
    b. Christians can broaden the definition of the word "God" to include the Divine Feminine-- God as "female" or God as "both God & Goddess".
    c. Or, the Divine "One" can be seen as a pantheon. The Trinity is One = three and three = one God. Ie, multiple persons in One godhead. Also, we can look to Cabbala (Kabbalah) and witness to 10 Spheres of the One God.
    Most people today will acknowledge that there is truth is other religions. That is why some ChristoPagans are combining the two (see list of ChristoPagan links).
    Paul as much as did this at Areopagus, when he quoted the pagan Aratus and declared: "We are his Offspring" and then went on to quote the pagan poet Epimenides, saying, "For in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Paul did not call these pagan poets demon-inspired.... but called them "prophets"! ( Titus 1:12 ).

    The truth be told, there is good-- and evil-- in all religious traditions, including Christianity (eg, Crusades, Inquisition, etc.) and in Paganism (eg, Roman persecution of Christians).  When we as Pagans condemn the "Burning Times", let us remember that Christians had their "burning times" too, from the hands of Pagans.  No religion is totally innocent.
    f. Christians and Pagans, when it comes to others religions, may appeal to tolerance based upon Jesus' golden rule:  "Do unto others as you would have others do to you" ( Matt 7:12 Luke 6:31 ).  And as the Wiccans say, "If it harms none, do as you will."  If you want others to respect your religion, you must show respect toward theirs.

       
Common Ground
The Divne One may be perfect, but we are not. Religions may be divinely-inspired, and yet since they are human productions, no religion can be perfect. History is full of examples of evil done in the name of religion. Let us look to a future where we no longer think we must kill or harm each other just because we believe differently.



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5. ONLY HUMANS HAVE A "SOUL"
vs.
ALL LIVING THINGS HAVE SPIRIT IN THEM

 
Christian: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them... the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
Genesis 1:27;  2:7 NIV.

Pagan:
"Every animal has a powerful spirit" Ted Andrews in Animal Speak , Ch 2.


    a. The main Christian argument against animals "having souls" has to do with their limited cognitive ability.  Since animals cannot understand the gospel of Jesus, they cannot be "saved", thus they do not have souls that need saved.  Also, they lack the divine breath breathed into the first Man by God in Genesis, and, therefore, are not in the "image of God" as humanity is.
    b.  These Christians have not read their Bibles, or at least not in Hebrew.  Genesis says that not only Humanity has a soul, but so does "...every animal of the Earth... in which there is a living soul." Gen 1:30. The Hebrew word used for "soul" here is " nephesh ", the same Hebrew word found in the Genesis stories of the creation of human beings (Gen 2:7).  See also Gen 1:20, 21, 24– which also point out that animals do have nephesh /soul.

    c. Anyone who has loved a pet knows the emotional and devotional capacity of animals. "If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans"says author James Herriot in Dog Stories . The stamp of Divinity is the capacity to love, not intelligence.  If we were to equate "the soul" with intelligence, there may be fewer human beings without souls than we care to admit.  See the Darwin Awards . Let Christians join with Pagans in recognizing the many souls with whom we human beings share this planet.
       
Common Ground
Whether we can agree or not on the status of animals vs. humans, we can agree that all life is sacred and is to respected and honored.


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6. THE DEVIL TEMPTS PEOPLE TO SIN
vs.
DESIRES AND ACTIONS ARE OUR OWN.

    
Christian: "He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan" Mk 1:13.

Pagan:
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law"  – Thelema

    Who is the "Devil"?  Is he the ultimate power and person of Evil in the universe, with power almost equal to but only second to God?  Many Christians seem to have this view of "Satan", despite the fact that the Bible does not teach this.  It certainly makes for a better story, but in the context of the whole Bible, the Devil is not that powerful or all-encompassing of evil.  This is closer to the teaching of Zoroastarians than Christians.

    a. Biblically, the Devil may be viewed as a "Trickster" instead of  the personification of evil.  This view of Satan is found in Job 1:6 , where he is called one of the "sons of God" in the Hebrew (NIV renders it "angels") where the trickster serves a purpose in the divine plan.  Satan simply means "accuser", as one who fills the role of a prosecuting attourney.
    Divinely-directed tricksters in the Bible include: Jacob ( Gen 30:40 - 31:15 ); Rebecca ( Gen 27:5-17 ); the Egyptian midwives (Ex 1); Miriam ( Ex. 2:1-10 ); Tamar ( Gen 38:1-26 ); Rahab ( Josh 2 ), Ruth and Naomi ( Ruth 3 ), Satan ( Job 1:6- 2:10 ), and others.
    In the book Transformations of the Trickster Helen Lock explains that it is "the Trickster who pushes the limits of the unorthodox in order to transform reality".
   Also see "A Call to Subversion" article by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.
    The Trickster is not fun to have around very often, but he or she is truly a most valuable teacher-- if we learn from the tricks that are pulled on us.    

    b. Transferance of guilt is a common activity of human beings. But there is an alternative to projecting feelings of desire and temptation on the devil, saying "the devil made me do it".  In the Wisdom tradition of Jewish teaching, James the apostle reveals another approach:  "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed" ( James 1:14 ).  We can own our personal desires and feelings without blaming it on someone else. The truth is, the only person we "trick" into temptation is ourselves by not acknowledging and owning our desires.
    Also, desire is not bad in itself, it's a good thing.  What makes it ethical or unethical is how you choose to act upon it. Desire is actually a divinely given gift.  Our desires are a natural part of who we are as human beings.  If this is true, then channeling desire into magic is appropriate and not contrary to God's will, since it is God's will for us to have desire.  

       
Common Ground
 It is a sign of maturity for one to be responsible for his or her own actions.  Let's not blame anyone but ourselves for what we ultimately choose to do.



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7. GOD IS UP ABOVE
vs.
GODDESS/GOD ARE HERE AND PRESENT IN ALL THINGS

 
Christian: ."Our Father, who art in heaven" Lord's Prayer ( Matt 6:9 ).
 
Pagan:
"Great Goddess who dwells within and all around me" (Phyllis Curott, Witchcrafting , p 118)
Pagan:
"Goddess Within, God Within" A Pagan prayer by Scott Cunningham ( Living Wicca , Ch 8 "Effective Prayer" p55)

    a. Christianity emphasizes the Divine above us, ie, "Transcendence", in part to support the hierarchical rule of the Church.  But there is some truth to Divine transcendence, just as the Sky stretches above and circles over our heads, as the Ocean waters extend beyond our imagination, as the majesty of the Mountain makes a lasting impression on us.
    b. Paganism emphasizes the Divine presence within us and within all things, ie, "Immanence".  But so did Jesus, who said "The Kingdom of God is within you" Luke 17:21 .  Paganism goes even further, though, recognizing everyone and all things as Divine, "Thou art Goddess, Thou art God" (Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon (Revised), Ch 3: "The Pagan Worldview", p25).  This view is called Pantheism, similar, but a step, beyond Immanence.
    c. One attempt at a reconciliation of transcendence and immanence is called "Panentheism".  This view, accepted by  Christian theologian Matthew Fox ( Original Blessing ) and also Pagan professor Judith Harlow ( Spiritual Mentoring, A Pagan Guide ), says the Divine is both within all and still is beyond all.  It recognizes that as humans we are not the deathless Gods, and yet Divinity is in all, so all things are divine, and yet Divinity is still in some ways even more.

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Common Ground
The Divine transcends us AND the Divine is all around us. Whether one looks above or within to pray is not important. It is the heart of the person who prays that matters.




8. PRAYER IS DEPENDENT ON GOD'S WILL
vs.
SPELLS ARE SELF-EMPOWERED BY OUR WILL


Christian: "Thy will be done" – Jesus' prayer to God ( Matt 6:10 ; 26:39 ).
 
Pagan:
"As I will so mote it be" -- a common Pagan ritual phrase.
  
    a. Accepting the Divine will does not mean blind obedience.  It actually means accepting things that are beyond our control. As in the Serenity Prayer "God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference" (attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, et al ).

    b. Our wills and our desires are divine gifts.  They drive us forward to accomplish what we are set upon this Earth to do.  Therefore, it is not against the Divine will to empower our own will magickly– but it is the Divine will that we use our will. Our will only contradicts the Divine will when it is something beyond our power to change– and we usually discover this when our spells aren't successful.

    c. A Pagan version of the Serenity Prayer that I like goes like this:

God & Goddess grant me:
The power of water, to accept with ease & grace what I cannot change
The power of fire, for the energy & courage to change the things I can.
The power of Air, for the ability to know the difference.
And the power of Earth, for the strength to continue my path.

(http://open-mind.org/Serenity.htm )
       
Common Ground
There are somethings we can change and somethings we can't. May we work together to work on the things that we can change for the good.  May we find strength from our path of spirituality to accept the things we can't change.


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9. GOD IS MALE, THERE IS NONE BESIDE HIM
vs.
GODDESS IS FEMALE WITH A MALE CONSORT GOD


Christian: "When you pray, say, ‘Our Father...'."   –Jesus ( Matt 6:9 ); 
Christian:
"You shall have no other Gods before/beside me." ( Ex 20:3 ).
 
Pagan:
"Listen to the words of the Great Mother..."   Opening of the "Charge of the Goddess". 
Pagan:
"The Source of All Things, also known as the Great Spirit, is generally personified in Wiccan belief as a Goddess and a God."-- Raven Grimassi ( The Wiccan Mysteries , p 33).

    a. The Divinity of Christianity has a very masculine face. Even though God's image is described as "both male and female" (Gen 1:27), the Bible consistently uses the male pronoun in reference to God.  The lack of feminine imagery for God has left divinity out for half of the human race, disfranchising women and promoting patriarchy in every culture that Christianity dominates.

    b. Many have perceived this great void and have found the Goddess of Paganism to fulfill what has long been missing.  The Goddess has empowered women who were denied the priesthood and church leadership.  Men have rediscovered that there is a Goddess in every woman... and in every man.  The balance is being restored.

    c. Inclusive theologians have adopted the view that the word "God" is inclusive of the Father and the Mother. Both Father and Mother are *within* the One Divinity.

    d. Many images for the Divine have been used in human history, not just Father or Mother.  Even in Christian tradition, God has been addressed by many titles and names: Shepherd (Ps 23), Deliverer, Savior, Holy Spirit, Ruler, our Power (see Gospel of Peter), Rock, Counselor, Fort, etc.  
    Surely all our titles for the Divine are humanly limited and the Divine is greater than any of them and all of them.

       
Common Ground
The Divine can be called upon using many names, titles, appellations.  There is no single ultimate name that can fully describe the Divine.



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10. CHURCH IS BODY OF CHRIST
vs.
EARTH IS BODY OF GODDESS


Christian: "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 1 Cor 12:27 .

Pagan:
"For just as our human body is composed of billions of cells working together as a single living being, so are the billions of life forms on Earth working together as a living super organism." – James Lovelock
Pagan:
"The Goddess is first of all earth, the dark, nurturing mother who brings forth all life" –Starhawk ( The Spiral Dance , ch 5 "The Goddess", p 104);  
Pagan:
"I who am the beauty of the green earth"  --From the Words of the Star Goddess in the "Charge of the Goddess".

    a. Christians see themselves as a living extension of Jesus, as a corporate body filled with the Spirit.  Unfortunately, some also see non-Christians as godless, without Spirit, disconnected from the Divine, even influenced by evil spirits.

    b. Pagans view all people and living beings as children of the Goddess, of Mother Earth.  All people, animals, plants, stones, rivers, etc. are alive with spirit.  (A quick look at Job 12:7-10 affirms that animals and the Earth have a spirit.)

    c. Both ideas are compatible.  Those who act and love as Jesus would are truly living as his body today– not the ones who claim to be Christian and don't.  The world is full of divine Spirit as well, as the divine Spirit is everywhere and nothing could exist outside of Spirit.  To view the world outside of Christianity as void of God would be to deny the omnipresence of the Divine.

    d. Jesus encouraged his followers to see him not only in themselves, but in the faces of the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry.  "What you do to the least of these, you also do to me" (Matt 25:40).  He also warns that if you do not see him in the needy and ignore them, you ignore him as well (Matt 25:45)

       
Common Ground
The Divine works in mysterious ways and often speaks through those we least expect.  May we see ourselves as spiritual people, but may we also see the Divine working in people who are different from us.



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11. JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD
vs.
MANY PATHS TO GOD


Christian: Jesus said: "I am the Way.... no one comes to the Father, but through me." -- John 14:6 .

Pagan:
"Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old called Astarte, Diane, Melusine, Cerridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Brid and by many other names" (Charge of the Goddess).
Pagan:
"Listen to the words of the Great Father, who was of old called Oris, Adonis, Zeus, Thor, Pan, Cerunnos, Herne, Lugh and by many other names" (A Charge of the God).

    a. This is probably the most difficult belief to reconcile, that is, the Christian claim of being the exclusive path to God.  A  couple of verses in the Bible express this clearly, as in John 14.
      But if we look at this verse closely, Christ says he is the only way to "the Father" (John 14:6).  Pagans and Christians  may both recognize that the "Father" is only one aspect of Godhead, of the Trinity.  But since there are other aspects of the Divine, there are alternative ways to, say, the Holy Spirit, another member of the Godhead; and prehaps another path to the Mother; and when we consider the countless names of the Divine, we begin to see that Jesus was not being as exclusive as some Christians would take him to be.
    Jesus *is* indeed the only way--  to the *Christian* God the Father, while other paths to connecting with the Divine in other forms with other names exist.

    b. One other interesting approach that I like, suggested by Gus diZerega, the author of the excellent book Pagans and Christians (p 106) is this: As Jesus was saying that there was only one way to God, he then pointed to himself– not meaning him or "his name" as the only way, but meaning through the heart, the inside. This would agree with another saying of his: "The Kingdom of God is within you" ( Luke 17:21 ).  Since Jesus' disciples were always apt to misunderstand him (see Mark's gospel), this must be a possibility.

    c.In Paul's letters, we are told that salvation comes only by one way-- that is through faith (Eph 2:8,9).  We are not saved by what we do (ie, "works") but by the graciousness of the Divine.  So really, since our choosing of the "correct" name with which to begin or end our prayers is a work of humanity, this cannot be the path of salvation since it is only Divine grace that saves us. So no one should boast of having the "only way" to heaven, since it is the Divine's grace that is "the way". The "Way" does not belong to anyone but God. Also, I am certain that Paul did not list "arrogance" as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), so for anyone to brag that they have all the answers or have the only way, must not really have it.

    d. We are at a crucial time in history when we all need to  recognize that "God" is bigger than any one religion.  All religions are limited to a very small portion of time and space in history.  And none of us have all the answers or the only way, despite the claims of the Fundamentalists.  We need to be humble before the vastness of the Divine and the Universe, and admit our spiritualities are but a part of the great whole-- and instead of attacking one another, there is a lot we can all start learning from one another. Then, I believe, people in this world will begin to grow spiritually.

     
Common Ground
I will strive to learn from others, instead of attacking them for being different in their beliefs.  I will acknowlege that I do not have all the answers, that only the Divine does.  



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12. THE BIBLE AS GOD'S REVEALED TRUTH
vs.
NATURE AS OUR PRIMARY SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL WISDOM.


Christian: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" -- 2 Tim 3:16 KJV
Christian:
"The Word of our God stands forever"  -- Is 40:8

NeoPagan roots:  "I believe in God, only I spell it NATURE" -- Frank Lloyd Wright
 

    a. The version of Christianity called Fundamentalism believes that the Bible to be inerrant (without error) and infallible (not capable of making mistakes or misleading) and that it must be obeyed and not questioned.  It turns a book written by human being into God's very words-- although the contradictions and errors of the Bible has been demonstrated for well over a century (See the Skeptic's Annotated Bible ). We must obviously reject this literalist view, along with its prohibitions against witchcraft, such as "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" ( Ex 22:18 KJV), because this view uses the Bible to promote hate.
    Truth be told, with this kind of Biblical literalism can support just about anything and historically it has: slavery, prejudice, genocide, war, murder, abuse, snake handling, etc.  The danger is that ethical thinking (actually any thinking or objections) is swept aside by quoting a Bible verse.  Those who hate can quote the Bible just as easily as those who love, so turning the words of the Bible into the "words of God" is not a viable option for ethical people.

    b. Many other Christians have adopted other approaches to the Bible, seeing it as an inspirational, but not literal. They see its purpose as encouraging, challenging, and an informative guide to spirituality, rather than an absolute law. They reject passages that reflect prejudices of ancient cultures, just as many Christians today eat pork ( Lev 11:7 ) and work on Saturdays (the Sabbath, Deut 5:14 ), rejecting laws that no longer apply.

    c. Pagans will point out that "book religion" is not such a solid foundation as Fundamentalists would like to think. Anyone who has read the whole Bible knows there are just some parts of it that are not spiritually uplifting or applicable today.
    In addition to the Bible, Pagans remind us we can look to a lot of inspiration that lies outside the Bible-- specifically Nature. "We have available to us not just one book of God, but two: the book of God's word in Scripture... and the book of God's works in nature" (attributed to Galileo).  Why have one or the other, when you can have both?

     
Common Ground
Writings of Scriptures can be a source of inspiration, and Nature can inspire us as well.


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13. CONVERTING OTHERS IS OF PRIMARY IMPORTANCE
vs.
NOT SEEKING CONVERTS, LETTING PEOPLE FIND THEIR OWN PATH


Christian: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them... and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." The Great Commission in Matt 28:19-20 .
 
Neo-Pagan:
It is "a religion without converts." Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon , Ch 3: "The Pagan World View".

    a. Pagans do not go out and seek to convert people to the Pagan path, as some Christians do.  Pagans believe that "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear".  In fact, they usually make it difficult for others to join them, in order to discourage those who are not genuinely drawn to the path.
    Not all Christians work to convert others either.  I have noticed that people who actively proselytize are generally insecure about their own faith, and are seeking affirmation by convincing others to believe the same as they do. Another motive for making converts is that adding new converts ti the fold helps to put more money in the collection plate.
    I say these things because the urge to convert others often expresses itself in unloving ways: badgering, coercing, and all around Bible-thumping.  It is often done mechanically, too, as the would-be evangelizer quotes memorized Bible verses instead of actually responding to questions or objections.

    b. But we may note that the Great Commission of Jesus isn't focused on making converts.  He doesn't say make "converts", but he says make "disciples", a word which means "students". Make students and  "teach" them, he says. If seekers want to learn, teach them.  But don't hassle people on the street, or go door to door selling literature, or sneak tracts into porn magazines.  Invite people to your church if they want to learn your religion, as Jesus asks you to. But let's call a moritorium on all the agressive, pushy and manipulative unloving evangelism.

    c. For those who wish to claim both paths, ChristoPagans, like Pagans, often feel a sense of homecoming when encountering Pagan ways.  But they also still feel at home in the church and still value their own personal conversion to Christianity.  They want to honor both, but do not want to force any path on anyone.

     
Common Ground
Compulsion in gaining converts does not represent any loving religion.  



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14. ONLY CHRISTIANS ARE THE TRUE CHILDREN OF GOD
vs.
ALL PEOPLE-- AND ALL CREATURES-- ARE CHILDREN OF THE GODDESS AND THE GOD.


Christian: "Whoever who has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" ( 1 Jn 5:12 )

Pagan:
"Our Planet - Mother Earth - is a Living Being and all life forms are her offspring."-- The Gaia Hypothesis.

    a. Christians may claim that only they are God's children.  However, several universalist passages in the Bible affirm that all people are "saved": "By the righteousness of one (Jesus), the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" ( Romans 5:18 KJV); "And through him (Jesus) reconciled all unto himself" ( Col 1:20 ); there will be a "restitution of all" ( KJV); "For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men" ( Titus 2:11 NASB).

    b. We can affirm that the Earth is the Mother of all humanity, as one of the Genesis creation stories states that humanity was formed from "the dust of the Earth" ( Gen 2:7 ).  Since God created all life, then all are God's children, not just humanity, and certainly not just Christians.

    c. God's family is a lot wider than we can imagine.  Remember that Jesus said, "I have sheep that are not of this fold" to his fellow Jewish people to explain that their religion ought not believe they only they were God's children ( John 10:16 ).  

     
Common Ground
Let us not assume who is or isn't a "child of God"; but instead let us accept that everyone is, since the Divine loves all.



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15. MEN ARE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, SO WOMEN ARE TO BE SUBSERVIENT TO MEN
 vs.
GODDESS & GOD ARE EQUALS WHO SHARE POWER, SO SHOULD WOMEN AND MEN BE.


Christian: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord ... Wives should submit to their husbands in everything"
-- Ephesians 5:22,24.
 
Pagan:
"...Totally balanced in every respect to each other. The God and the Goddess, the Lord and the Lady. Separate but equal, together they combine into the essence of All" --Silver Ravenwolf, To Ride a Silver Broomstick , p44.

    a. For literalist Christians, since God is male and all are to submit to God, therefore, men are superior to women, and women are to submit to men as they submit to the Lord, that is, in total obedience ( Eph 5:21-33 ).

    b. Pagans may point out that other Biblical passages point to equality for men and women.  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" ( Gal 3:28 ); "Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man" (ie, from the side to be his equal, Gen 2:22 ).

    c. Some forms of Paganism may promote male-female equality, but this is NOT a universal belief in the Neo-Pagan world.  Starhawk notes "Feminist spirituality, Paganism and Witchcraft may overlap but are not identical communities... Pagans, and even Witches may not be feminist" ( The Spiral Dance , 20th anniversary edition, p 17-18).

    d. However, theology always informs and affects practice.  Scott Cunningham states "The Goddess and God are equal" ( , p 11).  Many Wiccans, such as Silver Ravenwolf (see quote above), teach the equality, balance, complimentary nature of the Goddess and God, which translates into human females and males as equals.

    e. Throughout the cultures of the world, including Christian cultures, there are different definitions of "family" and different heirarchies within those families.  One model for family does not fit all the many families of humanity.  

     
Common Ground
Let us respect the differences in cultures of the many people the Divine has created, and the differences in the families of those cultures.  As Americans, let us explore the meaning of equality of all before the Law.  As spiritual people, let us explore the meaning of equality of all before the Divine.


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16. HEAVEN OR HELL
vs.
THE SUMMERLAND



Christian: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16 according to later manuscripts)
Christian:
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."  (Rev 21:8)

 
Pagan:
"There is no hell, we do not die
We are not gone, we are alive
We are just on the other side
We are not dead, we are alive
We do not die, we do not die" --  "We Do Not Die", song by Dream Trybe (formerly, Velvet Hammer)
  

    a. If it weren't for the threat of hell, honesty, I believe there would be a lot fewer Christians in the world. The threat of eternal torment has kept many people in the pews and on "the Lord's side". Its as if God's love just wasn't enough to draw followers– Christian love has to have a threat behind it.  If a husband told his wife, "love me or else I will torture you", we would advise the wife to go to the nearest women's shelter and leave that guy far behind.  But when the Christian God says, "love me or else I will torture you with eternal hell-fire", people seem to accept this as normal and appropriate to what a loving God would be.

    b. Pagans don't believe in any deity that cruel or that heartless.  They look back before Christian theology to a time when people believed that the state after death was certainly mysterious, but not a place of sadistic punishment.  Rather, Pagans believe in what they call the Summerland.  A place where the sun always shines; a place of relaxation and rest; a place to find peace.  The Greeks called this locale the "Elysian Fields".  According to Neo-Pagan tradition, everyone goes there to rest, to take a break from incarnation, and prepare the soul for the next life.

    c. It's not very clear in the Christian Scriptures exactly what people in heaven will be doing throughout eternity.  One hears of harps and angels and worship of God, but besides that, the activity of heaven is unclear.  Paul concedes: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him".  (1 Cor 2:9).  

    d. While Pagans do not believe in the Christian hell, this is not to say that Pagans do not believe in divine justice.  On the contrary, what we do in our lifetime now determines how our next lifetime will be.  If we do not learn a lesson in one lifetime, it will be there for us in the next. Karma sees to it that justice is done.  The Christian idea of people being sent to hell for hundreds of millions of years for things they did during a span of less than a hundred years hardly seems justice at all.  Karma also may possibly explain why bad things happen to people who don't deserve them.

    e. Many Christians today question the idea of "hell" as an eternal place of punishment.  Instead, they view "hell" as a place of purification and refinement that may last only until the soul is purified. Another way to say it is that souls may go through a purgatory (a "purging") rather than torture. Eventually, when a person is purified, heaven's gates will open and invite them in. This alternate view of a purifying hell is closer to the Pagan idea that a soul may need extra lifetimes in order for it to learn the lessons it needs to learn, if hell "is here on earth" as some have asserted.

    f. When I have been told I am going to hell by a Fundamentalist, I have replied in various ways.  The following are only suggestions, and I encourage you to think through your own reasons for believing as you do.

             "I will not believe in a God who is a sadistic tyrant".
            "Is your God so afraid of not being loved that he has to threaten me with hell?"
            "If I were to choose to worship a God because of his threats, I would always be bowing down to the biggest Divine bully that came around."
            "I will not love a God who constantly threatens me. It reminds me of an abusive spouse. I value myself to much to take that kind of abuse."
            "I worship the Goddess because She loves me; I do not worship your God because he terrorizes me with hell."

g. On the other hand, I do not estimate that any Christian who believes in and is afraid of hell is going to be reasoned out of such fear-based belief.  To resist their efforts only creates more anxiety for them. And that usually means that their treatment of you will become even more intolerable.  It's more loving and kind to assure them this way:

        "I know we disagree about this. But fear is not going to persuade me to become a Christian.  
        But I tell you what-- if you will pray for me, I will agree to pray for you, too. Is that ok with you?"

That way, the battleground moves from every time your paths cross and into the prayer closet and you asserted yourself as a caring person.
     
Common Ground
Even when we disagree strongly with one another, we can always pray for each other.



Thalia Clan

Cernowain Greenman is Priest of Iliaster Hearth of Thalia Clan.  
See
www.thaliaclan.org  




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