Green Priestcraft: A ChristoPagan Pastoralia

"Pastoralia" is a somewhat archaic term denoting the spiritual, pastoral, and ritual care of a community.  "ChristoPagan" is a somewhat emergent term denoting a blend of Christian and Pagan thealogy, cosmology, and spirituality.  So, put the two together, and you have the hopefully intriguing (and, to some, infuriating) description of my own journey as a greenpriest.  I trust that folks of various and sundry spiritual persuasions will find something here to pique their interest, deepen their practice, and feed their souls.  Hear the Rune of Sophia: "God is Love, and Her body is all creation.  She is a Tree of Life, who gathers Her children in Love."  This is the conviction which guides me.  Blessed be.

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Of Yule Trees and Straw Men

Advent ... Yule ... Midwinter ... Christmas ... whatever we choose to call it, this magical time of the turning year-wheel is essential spiritual fare for those of us living in northern climes.  Of course, it is easy to start mumbling and moaning about the evils of consumer capitalism and the temptations of overconsumption (which is true!), but really, do we need another grinch?  As for me, after a full year of fighting the man, I'm just about ready to kick back and enjoy the blessings of the feast.  Bring on the twinkly lights, the Christmas carols, and a whole army of Santa's elves ... the ice-crystal magic never dies.

From a ChristoPagan perspective, Yuletide is one of the most interesting times of blended spirituality.  Persian druids following a star, talking animals in a midnight manger, and a wild hunt-esque sled bringing presents to children around the globe all blend together with medieval carols, magnificat gospel narratives, and the Wyrd-made-flesh among us.  What's not to like?

But still, bring the cousins together, and it doesn't take long for the arguments to begin.  Christians stole Yule from the Heathens!  No ... the Wiccans reclaimed the greenery from the Victorian Anglicans!  No ... Santa is just Odin in disguise!  And just you wait until Krampus shows up!

I'm a pastor, so I'm used to cantankerous religious squabbles.  Sometimes I'm even mixed up right in the middle of them.  But this is one that seems to me more than a little tiresome ... and it gets so nasty so quickly.  The battle over the Yule tree degenerates into an all-out shouting match between my two favourite families: the Christians and the Pagans.  

But really, folks ... does it have to be that way?  A good, respectful, deep conversation about actual similarities and true differences is a gift that keeps on giving.  But so often, what we fall for is a slugfest between straw men.  As a Christian priest, I'm used to chastising my fellow believers when they make silly comparisons of Wiccans to satanists, and land-spirits to demons.  But I must admit I've been quite surprised at the amount of this sort of ignorance that goes the other way as well.  How many Pagans have gotten angry with me for being a ChristoPagan because they assume that all Christians are fundamentalists and believe every word of the bible to be literally true.  Please!  Most mainline churches (Anglican, Lutheran, United, etc) left that behind decades ago.  We don't have problems with evolution.  We don't think women should be barefoot and pregnant under male headship.  We fight for gay rights, trans rights, Indigenous rights, women's rights, refugees, the environment, and most of the stuff that Pagans do (or should do!)  In other words, to my Pagan comrades: please don't confuse me with a fundamentalist straw man!  That's just so inaccurate, and downright boring.  Read up on some real theology instead, and let's have a fruitful debate!

Or, we can forget the debate and share a horn of mead instead ... Happy Yule and a very Merry Christmas to you all!

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The Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck is an ecumenical priest associated with the United Church of Canada, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He is the author of Christian Animism, and the founder of the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia, an informal online community fostering Christian-Pagan dialogue and spiritual practice.  He lives with his family on an off-the-grid farm community in north-western Saskatchewan (Treaty Six Territory), where he is chaplain to the human and more-than-human wights of the community.  When not writing sermons, chopping wood, or practising magic, Shawn can be counted on to have his nose buried in a book. He can be contacted at greenpriest@hotmail.ca
 
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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 18 December 2017

    I say bring on the Christmas buffet. Rum balls, date bars, egg nog, ham. whatever your local dishes might be. Other people can keep their arguments I say lets eat.

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