The Footsteps of a Conversation on Christianity

As I sit here with my headphones on, listening to the jaw-dropping sounds of the late-Gary Moore, my mind wanders back to a few days ago on Facebook. I made a statement about Christianity, and watched the comments roll in – mostly about how the basic concepts of Christianity cannot be removed from the adherents that misinterpret or misuse/abuse those same concepts. So, I thought it might be a good topic to explore from my end.

First, its probably best to put the statement into play….

Its not the tenets of Christianity that is the problem, folks. I’ve never had a problem with Christianity. Its the inappropriate application and misinterpretation of those tenets by the adherents of the Christian faith that is the problem.

Now for a little background on the “why” of the statement. After all I don’t normally make statements like this whatsoever – much less out of the blue, which it seemed to be for some folks. I have Christian friends, just as most Pagans tend to. I hear from Christian friends from time to time about religious issues, and every once in a while we have a good conversation on the topic. We have known one another far too long to go the “conversion” route in a conversation. Its more like a friendlier “Green and Grey” for those familiar with the song by Damh the Bard. Anyways, [R] made the statement that I disliked Christians simply because I was a Pagan. I retorted with the statement that I liked him just fine. His reply was that I disliked the Christian beliefs because of what those beliefs stated.

This brought on a discussion that continued into the basic tenets of Christianity. When we were done discussing the basic aspects, [R] began to see my point. Its not the basic concepts of those teachings I have a problem. Loving and respecting your fellow man is something I would love to see happen more often throughout the world. Caring and helping those less fortunate than yourself (regardless of the reasons that bring them to that point) is another measure that I would love to see happen more often around the world. Being a good steward of the Earth is something that we as Pagans are constantly trying to do. Now, don’t try to get me to quote Bible verses on this stuff – I don’t know the Bible inside out, and don’t really care to. And don’t quote Bible verses at me either. That’s the fastest way to get me to ignore you in a conversation. I’m not interested at all in what the Bible says. I’m far more interested in hearing what you – the individual – has to say. And if you can’t be original without leaning on the Bible, then you – in my opinion – are missing the point of what Free Will allows you to be. And that grows into another area of discussion (look a tangent in Tommy’s writing!  How rare! [/sarcasm]) that leads me away from my point.  Maybe another time for this one.  Maybe.  Back to the point though….

Its not the basic aspects of Christianity that bother me. Not even the one about proselytizing. That’s not even annoying, until the proselytizer starts to get pushier than a used car salesman trying to meet some end of the month quota. And that’s where I begin to have the problems with Christianity. Not with the tenets, not with the basic concepts – its with the people who follow it and take it a step (or a few miles) beyond where it is. Discussing your faith with others is one measure of “spreading the Word” — when you slip into Joey O’Brien mode (Robin Williams’ character in Cadillac Man) trying to schmooze the deal…you’ve essentially twisted what the tenets are into something beyond. When you take scriptures such as “though shalt not suffer a witch to live” and not investigate its original meaning (KJV is not an original writing of the Bible – and if you read enough history, you will find it was rewritten for political purposes, not divine measures). Its the twisting of a spiritual path for political reasoning and power that I have an issue with.

Granted, not everyone is going to find someone like [R] who is willing to discuss matter such as this in a logical or meaningful manner. People like that – even within the Pagan paths – are very hard to find. But when you find people like that – people you make a connection with, hang on tight. Those people are what make a good conversation worth the time.

Do I agree with the tenets of Christianity?  Some of them, yes. I find measures of truth in most Paths I have studied. My path is that of Druidry – with some mixture of Zen, and Native American added to it. But those footsteps are mine, and mine alone. Sometimes, other people walk beside me on that path, sometimes directly behind me, sometimes directly in front of me – but only my footfall can occupy the spaces I am in at any given time. Sometimes, the footsteps near me are those of the Gods, but they tread light enough that I usually don’t know they are there until moments ago. Regardless of who is there – who is near, its inevitable that we will eventually strike up a conversation. I’d honestly rather have a conversation, than a full-fledged debate, or even an argument. Just my preference…hopefully, you weren’t looking for a debate on Christianity, and are delighted to find the traces of a conversation…

My Cloak of Spirituality

A few weeks ago, I ran across someone I had not heard from in well over ten-plus years. She and I conversed over Email a few times, reminiscing over some of the escapades we had as a pair of wide-eyed Pagans in the world. We compared notes on the directions we have taken since that time – she stayed within Wicca for a few more years, became disenchanted with the entire concept, and eventually moved back to her previous Christian roots. I also moved on from Wicca, but never went back to my Catholic roots. Instead i embraced the parts of Paganism that appealed to me – and shed the ones that did not seem beneficial to what I was looking for within myself. Two people who had very similar ideas about what Paganism was, how to embrace it, and how it worked within our lives. Two very different conclusions nearly a decade later. Over the past few days, its lead me to a point of thought about the way we each faced choices in our lives.

Her embrace with her Spirituality is far more community focused than my own. When we were discussing the appeal of our own choices for our Paths of Spirituality, she mentioned how much she really appreciated having others around that she could talk to, be with, and receive support from. That’s a very distinct difference from my own approach of being a single individual within a belief system structured for one. While we are both open about our beliefs, her tendency is to wear her beliefs on her sleeve – almost as if she wraps herself in her beliefs like a bright, neon shawl. While I have no need to hide who I am or what I believe – I have no need to wear it openly, brandishing my faith like a descriptive beacon. And yet, as I sit and think about it, this may actually be more a difference of our personal mannerisms than anything else. Perhaps. She made a comment about how she enjoyed witnessing her faith to others, to show them the joy that she received in walking her chosen Path of Spirituality, of being an example of how her Christian faith works for her, and how that same faith could work for others.

It did not take me long to realize, that this was definitely not true of me. And as I sounded out my reasoning in my head, I realized how self-centric it sounded to my own ears. I follow the Path that works for me. I have never claimed that the Path that I follow will have similar effects for others. My daily Spiritual practice is not focused on being example of why anyone should follow Coyote or Crow (the current Gods that manifest themselves in my Life on a regular basis). And as I realized this, I started thinking about how I should do this.

I could spend time blogging more on my personal interactions with Crow and Coyote – and how each manifest themselves into my life. I could spend time talking about how these two Gods are extremely beneficial to me and my own activities within my Spiritual Life…and the manners in which I approach them and vice versa. I could even contrast and compare them against the other Gods that many others seem to uphold.  …and it suddenly dawned me:

Even if I were a Christian, even in the manner that my friend is, my personal practice would still be my own. Each Christian builds a personal connection with God and his son Jesus Christ – and that bond is different for each person. They discuss that bond, as they are elated over the joy they get from such a bond – and make the assumption that everyone else will get the same elation through their own personal bond. But, that bond would be a unique connection – an experience that can be described in terminology that is then processed and equated by the receiver in the conversation and compared to their own experiences as related to those descriptives. Experiences that will be unique and different for each individual person. No offense to any Christian who might be reading this, but this concept that everyone will receive a very similar experience through their unique personal connection with God/Jesus Christ sounds an awful lot like purchasing fast food. The food is made the same way for everyone and the assumption is that everyone will like the food for the same reasons. In other words, the customers’ experiences will all be nearly the same – therefore the service, the food, everything needs to be the same for everyone. There is no accounting for individual differences.

Now, I realize – quite acutely – that I am painting with an overly broad-brush here. What I am describing above is not necessarily true of every single Christian, nor will every Pagan see Spirituality the same way that I am about to describe. But it is what I perceive, and something that I believe to be of merit for discussion – and thus the reason I am writing this blog post.

My personal beliefs – my Pagan Spirituality – is essentially pieces of personal philosophy that I have picked up from various belief systems. Or if you prefer, pieces of gnosis that I have transplanted into my own understanding of my own environment. I know, I hear the spiritual purists saying that this means that I do not have claim to any aspect of those various gnoses (I think this is the correct spelling of the plural) – and I will be honest, I agree. I am no Zen expert, but parts of my Personal Beliefs are pulled from that. I am not Native American Shaman, and yet I have pulled aspects of those beliefs into my own. I am studying on a path of Druidry – but I do not assimilate every single aspect of it into my own practices. I use those things that work for me. Essentially, my Spirituality is a patchwork of things that work for me – perspectives I can comprehend, understand and utilize for my own personal and spiritual growth. In the end, my own spirituality is more closely resembling a patchwork cape of many colors, rather than a pretty, deep purple velvet cloak with pretty gold fringe. The key is that it works for me, allows me to better understand my environment, and realize my position WITHIN that environment. My role is not to dominate my environment, but to become a complementary part of it. And every day, I understand my role just a little better, and sometimes even discover new facets of my role that I did not comprehend before.

My Cold-weather Coat
My Cold-weather Coat

Looking back, my own personal spirituality may not look as pretty as my friend’s. Its a little worn on the edges, and is not a complete, single color. But its a definite part of me, and who I am. Its not always a comfortable fit. Sometimes its too warm for the weather, sometimes its not warm enough. Its not going to get a second glance from a lot of people around me. But I am not wearing my Spirituality for them. If I were, I would have donned my cloak of Spirituality for all the wrong reasons – in my eyes.