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On being Christo-Pagan

Even as a Christian, my beliefs have always been rather on the heretical side. I don’t take the Old Testament as “gospel” truth but a bunch of hazily-connected creation myths (the Tower of Babel for instance turns up with variations in many ancient cultures, as do legends of an ancient flood; the Ark could not possibly have existed however, and the idea you could store 2 of every creature – let alone repopulate the world from such a small gene pool – is completely ludicrous. And there is no historic veracity to the whole story of Hebrew slavery in Egypt or the Red Sea crossing – they simply did not happen; now watch a whole bunch of Biblical commentators try to correct me. Sorry, science & the historical record says you’re all wrong), cobbled together from several different cultures trying to explain their origins, each with their own tribal gods – the stories of which ended up amalgamated into one overall view of God. I believe the Books of the Law were solely that – the Hebrew people desperately trying to formulate laws to keep a unified cultural identity in a land where they were the invading and frequently-outnumbered force. Dietary laws were written because if you tell them that eating pork & shellfish in a hot climate with no refrigeration & poor hygiene will make you sick, people will ignore you. Tell them that God forbids it, and the people will pretty much obey you without question. Homosexual acts mean you’re not busy procreating & making more good little Hebrews to ensure the survival of the Hebrews as a people. Legislating the clothing people wear will ensure that Hebrews have a visual identity that sets them apart from their neighbours. And so forth. Deuteronomy and Leviticus do not apply to us, because we are not Biblical Jews in Palestine trying to survive whilst our neighbours try to exterminate us. There is nothing actually “sinful” or wrong with being gay/lesbian/asexual/genderqueer/transgender; all are equal and equally good and valid as heterosexuality. The books are only relevant to us today as a historical record of how the Hebrews survived.

The Bible is full of contradictions, not least the complete contrast between the God of the Old Testament and that of the New. It is claimed that God cannot be changed or have His mind changed; I say that’s bollocks, because if it were true then quite clearly it can be inferred that the God of the Old Testament & that of the New are quite obviously two different Gods. (And there are several places in the Old Testament where God does change His mind, which rather contradicts that idea.) The God of the Old Testament is one of vengeance & fury, bloodthirsty – a tribal war god if ever there was one. The God of the New Testament is one of healing, justice & love. Either the act of incarnating as a human being in the form of Jesus Christ changed Him and caused Him to change His mind – or it was some other God that became Jesus and walked amongst us.

I’ve never entirely surrendered my Pagan beliefs either. You can’t believe something with heart and soul for several decades then abruptly stop believing in it just like that, and I didn’t. Whilst saying “This is the God I am worshipping now”, that didn’t mean I stopped believing in the other Gods. That’s perfectly fine and possible for Pagans; we’re used to there being multitudes of Gods and following those that resonated closest with our hearts. For me that has usually been Bast, the Egyptian Cat Goddess of healing & guardianship. Cats have always been part of my life; they appear and adopt me and seem drawn to me, and I to them. The Egyptian pantheon has always drawn me, along with the Celtic deities (I grew up in St Albans, formerly Roman Verulamium – famously sacked at least once by the Iceni warrior queen Boudicca – and before that, Verulamion, the Iron Age capital of the Celtic Catavellauni tribe). It’s all derived from my innermost most deeply-held belief that can be summed up as “Faith Lends Substance” (a theme explored by many authors including Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novels, and Neil Gaiman in both his “Sandman” stories and “American Gods”).

I believe that in the beginning, there was an original Divine Creator power that created the whole of existence from Itself, and thus every thing in existence contains a portion of the Divine – and that includes every person alive. If enough people together share a common belief, that belief takes shape and form from their shared consciousness and their personal portions of the Divine joining to take shape. The power of that deity is governed by the number of its followers and the strength of its believers. Humankind did not come from the Gods; the Gods proceeded from Humanity. (Oh, I can tell I’m going to get flamed for this one.) The Hebrew God is one such god. So are the Egyptian deities, the Celtic deities, and every pantheon ever known to humankind. All are avatars or facets of the original Divine; no one god is the whole of the Divine but just one aspect.

And so I can believe, follow and worship the Christian God – but that doesn’t mean I turn my back upon Bast. I was a priest of Bast for over 20 years; I did not stop being Her priest the day I was baptised. And recently certain events have meant that I feel more comforted and embraced by Bast than God.

I’m not walking two paths. I am simply walking a very different path to that of the majority of Christians. Most Pagans will have no problem with it; it’s perfectly natural and makes sense from the Pagan perspective. Not so from the Christian side, sadly. But both are a part of me; they are one within me. I am Christo-Pagan. And I am at peace with that.

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About arkadyrose

Genderqueer artist, singer, musician, writer, tailor, mead-mazer and doll crafter living in Walthamstow, NE London. Periodically develop obsessions with various topics; currently it's Paganini, previously Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great, but also fascinated by Ancient Egypt and Romano-British culture. Christo-Pagan.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “On being Christo-Pagan

  1. Very interesting post =)

    If you are intersted in the history, the Tower of Bable story comes from the story of a ziggurat in Babelon. This was being rebuilt by an Assyrian (I think) king, when there was an earthquake. The king took this as a sign that the gods didn’t want him to finish the tower, and its reconstruction was abbandoned.

    “The power of that deity is governed by the number of its followers and the strength of its believers.” This reminds me so much of how the gods work in the Discworld series, which I found pretty cool =) But then I am a soft polytheist, so I don’t believe in the gods as unique entites in their own right, but as tools for better understanding the Divine.

    Posted by Ginger Drage (@Safarazzz) | Saturday, July 21, 2012, 1:26 pm
    • Yes, I was already aware about the origins of the Tower of Babel; I maintain a keen interest in ancient civilisations; there’s a lot of cultural overlap and similarities in all the Fertile Crescent civilisations and surrounding environs. Interesting comparisons can be drawn between the Assyrian goddess Ishtar and the later Egyptian Isis for example.

      “Faith Lends Substance” is also a theme picked up, played with and often returned to by Neil Gaiman as well, amongst other authors – just look at “American Gods” for example. It’s not a new idea; people have been discovering it for themselves for decades – and probably centuries. I’d came to the realisation myself in my teens whilst a Wiccan – reading Pratchett & Gaiman made me realise I wasn’t alone in this idea. 🙂 I feel multiple deities are our way of coming to terms with a faceless unknowable divine that is so far beyond us and alien to the limited understanding of our minds as we are to ants. (I suspect we matter about as much to said Divine as ants do to us as well. Far more comforting to worship and reverence deities that have an invested interest in our well-being.)

      Posted by arkadyrose | Saturday, July 21, 2012, 3:24 pm
  2. The Church of England, of course, takes a stern line on heresy. The standard punishment is a bishopric.

    Posted by davidgerard | Saturday, July 21, 2012, 3:15 pm
  3. The early church worked hard to fit in with pagan rivals, taking on many of their ways to survive and then dominate. Your outlook is reasonable.

    Posted by Alex Jones | Saturday, July 21, 2012, 7:35 pm
  4. Christo-Pagan is a great term. I’ve often called myself a gnostic pagan, since I also draw inspiration from certain Christian gnostic sects and more esoteric interpretations of Christianity.

    Posted by Savitri Ananda | Saturday, July 21, 2012, 9:28 pm

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