Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why I Love Witches, Druids, and other Neo-Pagan Types

I've taken more than a small dose of heat over being friends with Neo-Pagans. Now the small dose of heat I have taken has been nearly enough to start a decent bonfire around a stake, and I am quite glad to living in the 21st century. Nonetheless I thought it might be wise to put out an explanation for why I love Witches.

If you are uninitiated in the manner of Neo-Paganism let me define Neo-Pagan to you. Neo-Pagan tends to be an earthy religion based on ancient pre-Christian cultures. Today's Witches practicing Wicca, or doing Witchcraft on their own (called Solitary), maybe even those who have had it passed down from their parents or grandparents (Family Tradition Witchcraft) are under the Neo-Pagan umbrella. This is also true for the people called Druids of both Celtic, and Nordic persuasion. There are Ceremonial Magicians, practitioners of Strega, Asatru, and many more besides, but these are all categorized as Neo-Pagans. They like magic and often do it. They practice earthy rituals based upon the seasons of the year. They do not identify with the Christian God, except for a couple small groups which call themselves Christian Witches, or Christo-Pagans, and usually neither the Witches nor the Neo-Pagans understand them. Pagans don't believe in the Bible, or even in Satan, so they are not Satanists either.

Neo-Pagans are often tree huggers. They care for the environment more than most of our population, because they revere the earth itself. To many Neo-Pagans the trees, and rocks, the water, and the sky are filled with spirits. The earth itself is sometimes viewed as a goddess, and our careless abuse of the earth is seen as both a destruction of Creation, and an abuse to the holiness of all things.

It may be that the Neo-Pagan understands the Judeo-Christian concept of shepherding the earth better than most Christians do. For this reason I must give them the nod, and admit they are way ahead of the Christian Church on obedience to this biblical command to be shepherds of the earth.

Neo-Pagans are generally peace loving. They despise war, and encourage love and peace. Love and peace are fundamental values of the Christian life, but often we as Christians neglect to see these as powerful responses which have the potential of changing nations, stopping wars, and ending oppression. Could it be that my Neo-Pagan friends have greater faith in the power of love and peace than I do?

Having attended a number of Neo-Pagan gatherings and events, I have discovered that people are accepted almost unconditionally. No one casts the wary eye over the person who looks strange - of course, a number of people look strange at many Pagan gatherings, and the strangeness is celebrated.

Strangeness is often rejected, and most often discouraged in Christian churches. In fact, that which is different is discouraged. Pagan gatherings celebrate that which is unique, and perhaps more closely resembles the heart of the Creator God, Who gave us the strange parade of characters in creation such as the Duckbill Platypus, the Seahorse, and the Ostrich.

I have often wondered if our Christian approach to the world around us blinds our eyes to the myriad miracles which daily dance around us. The Neo-Pagan sees the magic in Creation: in the wind-blown leaf, and the trickling water coming from the hillside. Wind, wood, water, stone, and earth pulse with the heartbeat of magic for many Pagans. Yet few Christians I know revel in the miraculous wonder of nature. Could it be that my Pagan friends have seen the wonders of God more deeply than many of my Christian friends. Could it be that Christians have defined those wonders, but do not experience them, while Pagans have experienced those wonders leaving them undefined?

Because Pagans are green, peace-loving, accepting, and sense the magic of the world around them I can not help but love them. Yet, these are not the real reason I love them. I love them because God loves them, and I see them through the eyes of divine care. My Jesus loves the Witch with a deeper conviction than I can muster, and I merely attempt to follow His footsteps into the heart, and mind of every Witch, Druid, Wiccan, and Pagan I meet.

Of course, people will wonder if I have been influenced by this post-modern Neo-Paganism. I suppose the answer is yes. They have caused me to see that the church has shirked it's responsibilities in the environment, and world peace issues; and that we have lost our ability to be accepting at the cost of our passion to be orthodox in beliefs and practices. They have also taught me to be sensitive to the little miracles in each day.

If this is heretical, I am a heretic. But as to other issues of my faith, I am more fully convinced of the basic tenets of my Christian faith than I was before I met my Neo-Pagan friends, and of course I would enjoy worshiping the Jesus I know together with them, but I am not sure that the traditions of most Christian churches speak to the deepest yearnings of their hearts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jackson Browne and The Rebel Jesus

"Now they call by the Prince of Peace
and they call Him by the Savior
And they pray to Him upon the seas
and in every bold endeavor
and they fill His churches with their pride and gold
as their faith in Him increases
but they've turned the nature that I've worshipped Him
from a temple to a robbers' den
in the words of the Rebel Jesus"

These words come from the song "The Rebel Jesus" by Jackson Browne. It's a Christmas song, but I think that it is now my theme song - at least for this season. Perhaps it will become the new theme song for our church.

Strangely the song ends (or perhaps not so strange at all) with the words, "I bid you pleasure, and I bid you cheer, from a Heathen and Pagan, on the side of the Rebel Jesus."

Could it be that in all our attention to the detail of doctrine, that the church has become like the Pharisees, who did not see God at all? Could it be that there are indeed "Heathen and Pagan[s]" who are more on the side of the Rebel Jesus than we ourselves?

Perhaps the church has lost its edge of rebellion against the Pharisees of our age in order to "fill His churches with their pride and gold." Jesus sided with the oppressed, and rebuked the religious leaders. I wonder if He might do the same today?

I think Jesus might be looking for a few good Rebels.