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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in christianity

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Theosis

Often, to be free means the ability to deal with the realities of one’s own situation so as not to be overcome by them.” -- Howard Thurman

My personal faith journey has been colorful and has included many joyful and sorrowful memories. At one time in my life, in the early 1990s I was System Operator, or SysOp, for a computer BBS (Bulletin Board System) called Theosis. The BBS was sponsored by the Romanian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy nestled in cozy Canton, Ohio, an I had the sublime honor of maintaining and administering the BBS – albeit for only a short time. The story of my brief sojourn into BBS management seems a fitting story to tell for the first entry of this Blog that holds the same name. You must be reading this blog entry and asking yourself, “What does Byzantine Catholicism have to do with ‘Pagan Studies,’ and why call a blog Theosis?” Both of these are very good questions and worthy of an answer.

In Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian theology the concept of Theosis is very important. Theosis is both a process and an end result of spiritual practice. Another term for Theosis is deification or attaining the “likeness of God.” Within Orthodox Christianity the idea of Theosis is the answer to the question, “What’s the purpose of existence?” But concept didn’t take root in the Western half of the Catholic Church or within Protestantism in part because of the influence of “Scholasticism,” or the emphasis on education and learning; however, the mysticism of the Eastern world relied heavily upon the theological concept of Theosis. The idea of becoming in a sense “God.”

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  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to contributing here and being a part of this community.
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Reverend Kling, you have explained and expressed these ideas more clearly than I can ever remember seeing them before. Thank you

I had really planned to write this week about a completely different topic.  I have done my best to avoid the Teo Bishop rants on the web, and honestly I glaze over any time I try to read one.  Ultimately, I find that I can’t leave the situation without comment, despite my deepest desires to do so.

Like so many other American Pagans, I came to Paganism after being raised in the Christian church.  Like so many other American Pagans, after I found Paganism I went through a bout of Christian bashing.  It’s silly and immature, but seems to be a common response for those who convert.  Trust me, after 2 years in Baptist school, I had plenty of anger and resentment towards Christianity.  It took about a decade for that to really calm down in my soul.  When the “smoke cleared”, I discovered that I never had any problems with Jesus at all – it’s those who claim to be his followers that were at the heart of the issue for me.  I personally think that the Sermon on the Mount is a beautiful guide to life and wish that more people would follow it.  I also think it is critical to separate “Jesus” from “the church” – Christians are not Christ or I wouldn’t have written this.

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  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    I wonder at all the personal feeling involved in Teo's decision. How much of it is jealously for his quick rise to popularity in o
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    Indeed. No offense intended or taken. I've only come to this point of view recently. I began to read this book called "Caesar's
  • Bruce Burrill
    Bruce Burrill says #
    In regard to Teo Bishop’s “Disruptive and Inconvenient Realization,” and Carl Neal’s “in defence of Teo Bishop” the issue here is

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
An Open Letter to Teo Bishop

Dear Teo, 

like so many other Pagans I was moved when I read your Disruptive and Inconvenient Realization. As a recent convert from Christianity to Paganism your honest confession stirred up emotions for me. 

Many Pagans are former Christians. Those of us who converted from Christianity generally have Christian friends and family praying that we will "repent" and "come back." We're seen as prodigals on the wrong path who will realize our error and return to the Christian church. Sometimes the pressure is tremendous, especially where family is involved. We find strength in our Pagan community. We sometimes deal with the pressure by feeding our own us-vs-them mentality. We tell each other how much better our new path is and how glad we are to be done with Christianity. And then one of our own leaves our ranks and does exactly what we vowed we'd never do: "coming back" to Christianity. 

You express concern that some will see journey as a betrayal. If Teo Bishop goes back to Jesus, does that mean I will some day return as well? Will I lose my community? Will I lose the freedom I have gained? What if my struggle and all of the work of rebuilding my life after my conversion was for nothing? What if "they" were right and everything I have come to treasure is the lie they keep saying it is?

Those are scary thoughts and most of us are no strangers to doubt and worry. I couldn't help but think some of those thoughts when I first read your blog. I remembered all of the bad times, the oppression, the abuse, and I pictured myself back in the midst of it all. But then I took a step back and disentangled your story from my own. 

Isn't it funny how easily we confuse someone else's journey with the stories woven by our own fears? You are returning to your roots and moving forward on your own path. Sometimes we need to focus on our roots so we can continue to grow. Returning to your roots for the purpose of growth is not going backwards. 

But you say you were never fully committed to your path with ADF. It makes me wonder, should we measure commitment by how we follow one particular path? Most Pagans are converts, clearly we were not overly committed to our previous religions. Instead we were committed to our values. Wanting to grow brought us to a different path. Wasn't it our commitment to integrity that gave us the strength to leave our former religion and explore Paganism?

Jason Mankey writes "There’s no betrayal when someone leaves the Pagan fold. We don’t renounce any gods before stepping onto the path and don’t pledge eternal loyalty to any gods when we step on it." Paganism is a pluralistic path. We don't bat an eye when  someone decides to follow a Greek pantheon instead of the Celtic Gods. So why would following Jesus and the Christian God be so different?

Maybe our problem is our narrow understanding of Christianity. The claim to exclusivity, absolute truth, and the condemnation of all other Gods certainly sets Evangelical Christianity at odds with Paganism. But you never signed up for the Christian Right. "I’ve come to recognize, even more so than I already believed, that there are many, many ways for people to live out a meaningful spiritual life." If more people like you join Christian churches, it's a win for us all. 

As a Pagan I value pluralism. I value diversity. I believe that divinity is expressed in many forms and that we all understand Spirit differently. We have hard polytheists, monists, pantheists, syncretists, and atheists in our midst. We have endless debates on who is a "real" Pagan and who isn't, and in the end we still find ourselves under the same umbrella. The Christo-Pagan debate has been getting old for a while now and yet the movement continues to grow. Are we really afraid of Christianity or are we worried about exclusivity? Are we so worried about exclusivity that we exclude Christians from the interfaith table because we fear they might be exclusive? Do we recognize irony when it slaps us in the face? 

Pluralism is one of the values that drew me to Paganism. I love my new path and I cannot see myself ever returning to Christianity. Then again, not too long ago I couldn't see myself ever becoming a Pagan. My commitment first and foremost is to live a life of honesty, integrity, love, compassion, and devotion to Deity. That commitment has taken me from one religion into another and as unlikely as it seems now, it could do that again.

Some have accused you for taking the easy route by returning to a majority religion. In my opinion you have chosen the hard road. Being a progressive Christian in the US is hard. Sure, there's a certain privilege that comes with Christianity, period. But being progressive and Christian means you are at odds with the loudest expression of Christianity and you'll be certain to have your path decried and profaned by others who call themselves Christians. And when non-Christian progressives hear you identify as Christian, you'll get written off as "one of those."

I tried to be a progressive Christian but being shot at from both sides while walking a tightrope was too difficult for me. Being a Pagan is easier; I feel like I fit and am no longer straddling the gap between two chairs. Honestly, I admire those who can walk the path of a progressive Christian. I admire those who have left and return to be met with suspicion by Christians and Pagans alike. And even more so, I admire those who do so publicly. 

I refuse to close with "I wish you well" sentiments because this is not a farewell. Your path might lead you into new communities and you might write on different platforms. But if I were forced to create circles of "us" and "them" I would not base them on religious labels. I would base them on values. And as much as you value integrity, honesty, compassion, and love for Deity, I can't help but think we'll be in the same tribe no matter what religious paths we travel. 
 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    I as a Wiccan and a Pagan see no way that I can follow my path and then condemn anyone for changing their path. After all I certai
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    I've seen a lot of reactions to the negative reactions to Mr Bishop's post . . . but I haven't actually read any negative reaction
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    I have also been encouraged by how many positive reaction there have been.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Pagan in Bible College

Alumni visit their colleges to re-connect with old friends and relive memories of the good old days. Unless, of course, they graduated from Bible College and then left the faith. In that case, visiting the college feels more like being a stranger in a strange land.

Eight years after earning a BA in theology and biblical languages I returned to Multnomah University as a Pagan. After leaving my Christian faith, I lamented that my theological education was a "waste of time". But with my embrace of Paganism my perspective changed. It didn't take long for me to discover that my theological education was an invaluable asset for interfaith dialogue between Christians and Pagans.

So I went to Multnomah University to meet with Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, founder and director of New Wine, New Wineskins, author of Connecting Christ, and a Patheos blogger deeply engaged in interfaith dialogue. I had been following the growing dialogue between Pagans and Christians on Jason Pitzl-Water's blog The Wild Hunt and was excited to meet with Paul. 

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  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    i read your short blog - thank you for sharing it here. i must say i was confused at first when you said; "I miss being a Witch"
  • Suzy Jacobson Cherry
    Suzy Jacobson Cherry says #
    Excellent piece. We end up sharing our experiences because experience is, I think, one of the most defining aspects of our spirit
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    John, thank you for your comment. While there have always been voices calling for a greater emphasis on practice, ritual, and disc

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
In death we meet

I had never been present with anyone dying. It's not that I've been afraid of death, I haven't. But if I had been, I would have lost all fear after Arwen's passage through the veil. 

Growing up I sometimes had premonitions and dreamed the future, but as I grew older, I suppressed my intuition. When I chose a pagan path, I figured my prescience would come back and at Samhain it did. During a ritual I slammed with the knowledge that a season of grace was ending and I would be experiencing the death of loved ones during this turn of the wheel.

So it didn't come as a complete shock when my beloved feline companion and familiar Arwen was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In her final weeks we connected more deeply than ever before. Arwen was with me through an abusive marriage, traumatic experiences, she was my constant support in dealing with PTSD, my intervention when I was suicidal, my most faithful comforter. In dreams she represented my soul, my most deeply held hopes and desires. I couldn't imagine living without her. 

And yet I found grace in the midst of this bittersweet journey. I deepened my relationship with the Divine which sustains me and gives me hope. I connected with a community of witches, made new friends, found fantastic new housemates, and saw a compassionate community form around me. All of my circumstances fell into place to give me the most supportive environment I could have asked for. 

In early June Arwen's condition worsened and I knew the time had come. On the day she died, we lay on my bed together and I pet her and hummed to her and held her. She grew weaker and weaker and I laid her on my chest with her tiny head buried into my neck. I felt each of her heartbeats race through my body, we breathed each breath together. She cried out twice and my heart tore. Then she became peaceful and melted into my body. I felt like I was breathing with her, for her. I couldn't tell where her spirit ended and mine began, in those moments we breathed and lived as one. 

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  • Kyndyl
    Kyndyl says #
    thank you for posting this. I just had to make the decision to let my puppy go across the bridge into the summerlands after almost
  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    Hi again a poem not exactly on topic of animal friends - nevertheless;... On The Death Of Friends In Childhood by Donald Justic

Women all over the world are tired of being treated like third class citizens. Even in cultures that traditionally worship the divine feminine, grown women are granted fewer rights than a male infant and are punished with mutilation and death if they display personal initiative or act in accordance with nature. Three world religions blame females personally and vindictively for a mistake supposedly made by the very first woman ever created! By what logic should the ancient misjudgment of Eve be held against our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters today? This is a classic example of masculine propaganda: if we men say that women are inherently flawed, we can blame them for all of our problems. We can even make the outrageous claim that we were made in the image of God—but they were not!    

It is shocking how many women have bought into this mind manipulation, and actually believe that they are inferior. But this is not universally the case; these days many are seeking a different sort of religion that will give them equal, if complementary, status to their brothers.

Mother Nature has blessed us with a beautiful world. Why shouldn't women, who embody the regenerative Life Cycle itself, honor Nature and seek to preserve Her in cooperation with whatever demi-urges may exist as the guardians of trees, mountains and lakes? Early Celtic Christianity saw no contradiction between Nature veneration and the additional worship of Christ - the Son of the Sun. Sadly, the Church of Rome eventually succeeded in imposing its intolerant restrictions over a beautiful system that had been gentle, open-minded and inclusive.  

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  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    hi re: "There is an important difference between the Christian conception of Satan and the Hindu or Buddhist notion of Mara, the
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is so lovely, Gary! Thank you so much for sharing it. Tolkien has long been among my favorite wordsmiths, and now I see that
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I enjoyed the article and agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion, but I don't see where the foolishness comes in. The headline

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Rebelling against Christianity?

I have met several young adults who became witches as an act of rebellion against Christianity. I am not one of them. In fact, I would have become a pagan years earlier if it hadn't met so many pagans who hated Christianity. I have no interest in a religion that exists primarily as a negation of another.

I didn't rebel against Christianity. I discovered paganism as a wholesome religion, on its own terms. The draw to paganism has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I used to interpret it as a calling to bring Christ to the pagans, i.e. the light to the darkness. But looking back now I know that the richness of mythology and the magic of nature has always beckoned to my spirit.

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  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle says #
    sorry about the double post.
  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    hi again Annika you quoted Kahlil. may i share a poem that was a kind of resolution to that "seasonless world" for me?; Love Af
  • terra gazelle
    terra gazelle says #
    I did not make some transition from Christianity to being Wiccan..I was Wiccan, I was just raised as a Christian. I did not carry

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Help! Recently I went into a new age store looking for some supplies for my Wiccan altar, and a woman at the store told me Wicca was dangerous and I should stop practicing it right away. I’m new to Wicca, and this woman really freaked me out and got me worried that I could harm myself or my family. Is Wicca really dangerous?

Wicca is a life-affirming, celebratory path. Its focus is on understanding our place in the natural world and living better lives by being more in harmony with nature. In my opinion, it’s a path that can help seekers with self-empowerment and self-improvement. Most of the negative ideas about Wicca are born out of fear and lack of understanding, rather than knowledge.

For example, I have heard non-Wiccans say that Wicca is dangerous because it has no moral code. I find this particularly frustrating for two reasons. First, it implies that humans can’t be ethical without a god or a book to tell them how to be good people, which is ridiculous and insulting. Second, we DO have a code, the Wiccan Rede.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Wicca is dangerous to Christians because we are non-Christian. Wiccans don't attend church and obey their ministers or Priests.
  • Joseph Merlin Nichter
    Joseph Merlin Nichter says #
    If we only had a nickle for every time we were told it's bad, we could all retire. Great post.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Post-4_Nativity_2012_sm.jpg

Since we walk two different paths – my husband follows the Norse path, and mine is a mixture of several Latin American paths (mostly Venezuelan Spiritualism and Umbanda) - we celebrate both Yule and Christmas. In the last post, we created a very talismanic Yule Tree; in this post, we'll move into the creation and history of a Nativity Scene.

 Before I go on to the topic of this post, I would like to explain that all Latin American Spirituality is deeply imbued of Catholic iconography, and as it happens with Vodun, most practitioners are both Santeros / Umbandists / Spiritualists AND Catholics at the same time. Although I consider myself a Pagan, and I share the moral values of most Pagans, my holy days often coincide with the holy days of Catholicism, and I work with Saints, Angels and several avatars of the Virgin Mary just as much as I do with Orishas, Exus or our own Guanche* Ancestors.

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Look, we all know that in most Western countries, Christianity is the major religion. This means that for many people in Western countries, 'religion' is synonymous with 'Christianity'. I suspect that in the modern Pagan movement, a lot of anger towards Christianity comes from this blatant disregard of two thirds of the world's religious people. In general, I can deal with the dominant Christian worldview. I may not like it, but I respect it. In my day-to-day dealings with those of the Christian faith, I can usually find the things we have in common within our religions and we make it work. This, however, does not mean that Christianity is the same as Hellenismos, and that a Christian chaplain--by origin a word applied to a representative of the Christian faith, now applied to men and women of other religions or philosophical traditions--could accurately guide me if I should ever end up in a hospital, the military or a prison.

While I'm usually very positive about Canada, I am not so positive today. CBC reports that the federal government is cancelling the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons across the country. This doesn't mean just the 'fringe' faiths like Buddhism and Sikh--the Wiccan chaplain that got hired, got fired right away back in September--but also Judaism, Islam and the First Nation spiritualities. Why? Because Public Safety Minister Vic Toews isn't convinced part-time chaplains from other religions are an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

I would love to go caveman batshit over this, but Hellenismos has this thing about ethics and eloquent speech, so I'm going to try and actually formulate my opinion instead of reducing my power of speech to a Lolcat.

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Crossing the Sacred Threshold: The Gods of Small Things

 

I am a Latin teacher currently (and laboriously) working my way toward a PhD in Classics. I read a lot of Latin texts (in Latin and usually with quite a bit of cussing along the way as I attempt to untangle classical Latin syntax). Fortunately, for the most part, I enjoy this and one of the tangential elements that I find particularly satisfying in my studies is occasionally coming across an interesting reference to ancient Roman [polytheistic] religion along the way.  It happens a lot and for all that I am Heathen, not a practitioner of Religio Romana, I find that every time I read about how a man or woman, raised in Roman culture, steeped in its religion honored his or her Gods, I find my own practices enriched.

When I started in Classics I was told (by a PhD candidate) that no one really understands Roman religion. I admit to being a bit taken aback. It always made perfect sense to me: honor your ancestors, honor the living spirit of your city, its genus loci, maintain the proper household and public rituals, and live in a world where everything has its spirit, everything is alive. It made perfect sense to me and I’ll tell you why: for all of their diversity, polytheistic religions – which are indigenous religions-- seem, in my opinion, to share a common thread, one quite alien to monotheistic thought; that common thread is rooted not just in a polytheistic and by extension pluralistic worldview, but in one that is, to greater or lesser degree, animist.

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  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Anne, I"ll try to write something on that soon.
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    I've been pushing for a re-recognition of the spirits of the land and household for years, now, both in my personal practice and e
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    I'd love to hear more about *how* to connect with the small gods of place; although I'm quite well acquainted with the larger deit

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