Thank you for your response. It’s delightful to read about your personal experiences with all of this. You offer a soothing, yet invigorating perspective.
“What is contradictory for you personally between Christianity and Paganism…theologically, emotionally? Does opening the door to Christianity automatically mean shutting the door to Paganism, and if so, why?
Discussing Christian theology feels, at this point, a kind of misplacement of focus. What seems to be happening to me is an emotional and perhaps even metaphysical pull towards Jesus, God and the Gospel. It’s confusing, because I’m so used to parsing out Christianity intellectually. That’s what I did the first time around. I dug in with my head, first, and then listened to my heart.
But this feels so different. It feels as though the heart is leading, and that the heart is also being led.
I can say that I feel the immediacy of God in a new way now, and I’m using language to describe that feeling of immediacy which feels rather foreign to me. I’m saying things like, “I guess God wasn’t done with me,” or “I’m feeling called back to the Church,” or “But I was already claimed by God.” These are not the kinds of things I ever said before as a Christian. These are, in fact, the kinds of statements that would make me a little squeamish when I heard other people say them. But when I say these things now I feel like I’m speaking about something that is actually happening in my life, rather than some abstract concept or idea. It feels as real and ordinary as if I were to say, “I haven’t showered yet this morning,” or “I need to put some socks on because my feet are cold.”
This doesn’t feel like zealotry, either. I feel no compulsion to start “saving” people. Not. at. all. This immediacy feels incredibly personal, and reminds me in some ways of how I’ve heard hard polytheists speak about their Gods. And they used to wig me out a little, too, when they did that. But I don’t have any beef with them now. I actually feel like I understand them in a better way, because I’m having the sense that God is working in my life somehow just as they understand their Gods to be working in theirs.
And see, this is where it gets challenging to parse things out intellectually. I’m feeling a pull to God, a comfort in the Gospel, a challenge from the example of Jesus (all of this in a very short period of time, mind you), while at the same time feeling a deep understanding and appreciation for my polytheist friends in their experience of deity. Certain Christian doctrine and thought would seem to make that impossible or completely incompatible, but not for me.
When I’ve been in church, wrapped up in the movement of the liturgy, or when I’m considering the conciseness of the Nicene Creed and Christian cosmology (at least, the one that’s painted for me in the Episcopal service), I at once recognize that this is complete and incomplete; it is all of what is necessary to inform and enrich my own human experience, and yet it is not anywhere near complete enough to incapsulate all of what is about humanity, or life on Earth, or the Universe, or God.
To try to illustrate what I mean, I’d like to refer to a post I read on Nadia Bolz-Webber’s blog a couple days ago. The post consists of her a sermon from this last Sunday on the Gospel story in Luke about the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). She illustrates the way in which Jesus flips the whole notion of righteousness on it’s head (which I’m down with). But then at the end of it she concludes the sermon by presenting a somewhat traditional understanding of Jesus as God made flesh/Redeemer/Savior to the sinners. Read it. You’ll see where it happens.
At that point I think: but if Jesus fucks with the paradigm of righteousness, saying that your virtue doesn’t earn you anything in the eyes of God (nor does your humility), isn’t asserting with certainty who Jesus is, or what his role is in relationship to the Human Condition yet another exercise in the righteousness that Jesus was defusing in the parable? Doesn’t defining the mystery destroy it? In the moment that Jesus is presented as the champion of Christianity rather than the One Who Comes to Mindfuck, through Love, the Christian paradigm seems smaller than Jesus, himself. Do you see what I mean?
A part of me would like for all of this to be simple: believe that Jesus is the son of God (or don’t), and believe that that means a very specific thing with very specific consequences and very specific edicts attached to it, and you’ll know how to live your life. But that part of me is minuscule when compared to the sense of God’s immediacy in my life at this moment. And the divine seems to care nothing about what I believe! My ability (or inability) to parse all of this out doesn’t make a difference. I still feel an awareness of God working in my life somehow.
And maybe that’s Grace. Maybe the message isn’t that “It doesn’t matter what you do, Jesus has washed your sin away,” but rather “It doesn’t matter what you do, you are swept up in the current of the Spirit… It is always already working in your life… You do not have to deserve it, or earn it, or justify yourself in the eyes of the divine… you are always already in a state of being loved.”
So I don’t know how to answer your question just yet. I don’t feel like I’m closing the door to Paganism, although I’m sure most Pagans would have a hard time believing that having read what I just wrote. But I feel like my Paganism is informing my reawakening to Christ, just as my time spent in the Church in my early 20’s informed my constant desire to subject all of my experiences in the Pagan community to a close exegesis of their function, meaning and relevance. I was always somewhat of a Christian when I was exploring Paganism, just as I am still somewhat of a Pagan as I respond to what feels like a call to return to the Church.
Sent with love from the inbetween,