Walking the Path: My Interfaith Journey

A Pagan seminarian's perspective on faith, theology, and facilitating interfaith dialogue.

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Made in God's Image

My friend and I were having a conversation the other day. I was relating the story of my journey to South Africa and my trip to Robben Island, but more specifically the powerful effect the artwork on the prison walls had on me. This artwork was significant because the prisoners on Robben Island were overwhelmingly African, yet there was a picture of a white Jesus on the walls. My friend couldn't understand why African prisoners would choose to draw a picture of a white Jesus on the wall until I explained to him the historical significance of the missionary movement in Africa and specifically how white privilege played a part in the conversion of slaves to Christianity. 

"That is so sad." He commented, half in shock. And I must agree with him. As a Pagan, I draw strength and comfort from the concept that my deities come in many shapes and sizes. They are not limited by gender or sexual expression, size or natural status. In essence I can find in my deities the diversity of expression that reflects my own humanity and allows me to connect with them on a deeper level. For Christians, this is limited by their monotheistic view of God Himself. Who gets to determine what God looks like? In many cases that question is answered by whoever is in power.

The study of theological anthropology seeks to answer the questions related to the nature of humanity as it relates to God. For Christians, this often goes down the rabbit hole of why we act the way we do, is man inherently good or evil, what is the nature of God, and what is the purpose of man? My fascination with this topic started in seminary when I took a course and has stayed with me as I talk with people of all faith orientations. For Christians, the purpose of their life is given through God’s will made manifest in their creation:

“Human life is a gift of God and not to be taken for granted. We receive our human existence by participating in God’s life-giving Spirit. When many people question today whether humanity has a chance of surviving the environmental crisis, this reference to the gift of character of human life takes on renewed significance. Humanity has no right of its own to survive. Life and the future that is necessary for life to unfold are God’s gifts” (Schwarz, 2013).

If life is ultimately God’s gift to give, and we are made in God’s image, then who is the model that God was using when He created life? This is the reason why we see a Korean Jesus and a Mexican Jesus and Black Jesus and the list goes on and on…

Man ultimately seeks to find himself in the reflection of the Divine source with which he seeks to connect. I would agree with John Greer when he explains the primary difference between the relationship of polytheists with their deities and monotheists with theirs: “For polytheists, gods exist within the natural order, shape its manifestations, and are bound by at least some of its laws: a condition that puts polytheism on intimate terms with the natural environment, and defines a radically different relation between divinity and nature from that of Western monotheisms, whose god is not only outside nature but in important senses opposed to it” (Greer, 2005).

If Pagans understand their deities to be of the natural world, with all the diversity that comes with it, then it makes sense we would see a greater reciprocal relationship. It is easier to connect with a Divine presence that is immanent and a part of us rather than transcendent and separate from. As a Pagan I can appreciate the varied palette that creation has been painted with. As a Pagan who attended a Christian seminary I can also appreciate the mystery and devotion to a God that is so awesome that He would create us in His image…possibly with all of the diversity of humanity in mind. It begs the question of whether the Jesus conundrum is a man-made misconception, and if so how do we go about having that conversation in loving and productive ways?

 

 

 

Schwarz, H. (2013). The Human Being: A Theological Anthropology. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Greer, J. (2005). A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism. Tucson: ADF Publishing.

 

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Denora is currently a full-time wife, mother, and chaplain. She is an eight-year veteran of the United States Air Force, an avid writer and blogger, as well as a fire spinner. She is an active member of Circle Sanctuary's Military Ministries team and the Lady Liberty League Military Affairs Task Force. She is also the Ecumenical Program Director for Oak Spirit Sanctuary of Missouri.

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