ECUMENISM

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 | Uncategorized

For some reason, Church Times recently gave column space to a pagan:

In a world where differences between religious groups are often stressed, too few of us realise how many similarities there are between Christian beliefs and Paganism.

Such as?

Though many of us are aware of the pagan roots of some Christian tradi­tions, such as the Yule log and holly

Granted, this is not a particularly bright pagan as you will soon see.  The Yule log and holly are “Christian traditions?”  Really.  Those must be traditions in Christian churches that celebrate Christmas Eucharist with fruitcake and egg nog.

there are deeper rooted similarities than these Christmas trimmings. History has too many examples of conflicts over real or imagined reli­gious differences; so a greater under­standing of each other’s religion might bring a heightened sympathy between us.

No.  No it will not.  Because it’s impossible to have “heightened sympathy” for a religion and its adherents when you think that religion is ridiculous and stupid.

The Neo-Pagan religions have many names, including Paganism, Asatru, Wicca, Witchcraft, and Druid­ism. While Paganism stresses a bond with nature and an acknow­ledgement of the natural cycle of life in the world, there is no one tenet of faith that all followers acknowledge as central to their religion.

Which was probably invented in the last 50 years or so, give or take, by some liberal intellectual nerd desperate for poontang.  Of course, that’s just a theory.

Paganism celebrates the cycle of the year, and there is no central reli­gious text; so it would have been accessible to peasants who could not read. Its emphasis on the changes that ordinary people could see around them in the trees and earth would have made sense to them.

Remember, folks, that an apology for paganism appears in a Christian journal.  A Christian journal.  That is all.

Modern-day Paganism is described by the Pagan Federation as “a spirit­ual way of life which has its roots in the ancient nature religions of the world. . . We celebrate the sanctity of Nature, revering the Divine in all things; the vast, unknowable spirit that runs through the universe, both seen and unseen.”

Going to get to what we have in common any time soon?  Like how there’s only one God and stuff?

Paganism usually includes many deities. Often, however, Pagans see the different deities they worship as part of a greater whole, much as Hindus do. This does not necessarily make Pagans who believe in the One Divine monotheistic: the Pagan Foundation suggests that this belief makes followers “henotheists — believers in a supreme divine principle, rather than monotheists, believers in one true deity beside which all other deities are false”.

Apparently not.  So you guys are Episcopalians then?

Some of the links between Chris­tianity and Paganism are well docu­mented. Christmas takes place in midwinter partly because similar Pagan festivals were celebrated around that time. Indeed, Christmas as a holiday was banned by the Puri­tans in the 17th century for being too Pagan in tone.

Actually, the Puritans banned Christmas because they kept getting altar rails and elaborate vestments and prayer books and and stained-glass windows and ties and fruitcakes and cheap bottles of crappy egg nog and socks and Christmas sweaters and whatnot as Christmas presents every year. 

So they eventually got hacked off and banned the whole shooting match.  A lot of people don’t know that.

The festival celebrated by many modern Pagans in winter is Yule, which recognises the winter solstice, the darkest point in the year. At Yule, according to Pagan tradition, the sun is reborn. It is easy to see the link between the birth of the Sun God and the birth of the Son of God.

If you majored in or teach Women’s Studies, perhaps.  And you know that whole Trinity thing them Christians got going there?

Many branches of Paganism refer to the threefold Goddess — Maiden, Mother, and Crone — which has obvious parallels with the Holy Trinity. It is probable, however, that this Neo-Pagan idea was adapted from Christianity. The first definite reference to the triple Goddess as Maiden, Mother, and Crone is in Gerald Gardner’s seminal work Witchcraft Today (Rider, 1956). Al­though Gardner maintained that he was describing an ancient tradition, it almost certainly did not pre-date Christianity in that form.

Unless it actually did.

Yet the threefold Goddess herself has a long history. There are images of a triple goddess figure in shrines in Çatal Hüyük in Turkey, which existed about 7500 BC/BCE to 5700 BC/BCE. There is also a trinity of Goddesses — huge figures hewn out of rock — found in a cave, which date from even earlier.

You Catholics and Orthodox aren’t going to like this next part.

Some Pagans see a strong link between the more ritualistic worship of Christians — for example, lighting candles, burning incense, making the sign of the cross on oneself, asking saints for intercession with God — and the way in which Pagans often per­form rituals.

Told you.  Bag.  Of.  Effing.  Hammers.  Since I represent the Puritan end of things around here, would you mind if I take a crack at this one?  Thanks, I really appreciate it.  And I’ll do my best.

Saints are actual people who used to live on the Earth and now live in and enjoy the eternal Presence of the living God.  Pagan deities don’t exist and never have. 

So I don’t know, maybe I’m being dogmatic here, but I have to think that maybe there’s the TINIEST DIFFERENCE between asking a saint to put in a good word for you upstairs and praying to a figment of someone’s imagination for health, wealth or poontang.

The practice of directing rituals to “appropriate” deities is similar to asking saints for intercession — the Protestant Re­former Erasmus made this very point, suggesting that instead of praying to a god of healing, Christians now prayed to the patron saint of healing.

The Protestant Reformer Erasmus.  No further questions, Your Honor.

Equally, the lighting of a candle and directing of thoughts to one person or issue is used as a basic form of magick by many Pagans.

Right.  They light candles, we light candles.  They pray, we pray.  They pray using words, we pray using words.  Christianity and paganism are exactly the same.

There is a misconception that “magick” implies an intention of compelling a Deity to do one’s bidding, but it is considered by Pagans to be more about “opening the world to possibilities”. This may be done through chanting, drum­ming, lighting candles, dancing, and singing — perhaps not so different from many church services.

Our pagan has inadvertently stumbled into an actual point; broken clocks and all that.  If you don’t really believe in God at all but want, for whatever reason, to be considered “spiritual” than thinking that you can “open the world to possibilities” through “chanting, drum­ming, lighting candles, dancing, and singing” makes perfect sense.

And perhaps our pagan is right; perhaps paganism is really “not so different from many church services.”  Not from those of the Episcopal Organization anyway.

Because when words like “Jesus” and “God” have become nothing more than professional jargon and when you’ve put your “theology” entirely in the service of the world, all you can give people is a floor show that will hopefully convince them that they’ve just been through actual Christian worship.

41 Comments to ECUMENISM

Don Janousek
June 16, 2010

Shazzamm! I never saw all these links between Christianity and paganism before. What enlightenment!

Christ was crucified on a Cross – MADE OF WOOD. Wine used in the Divine Liturgy is made from grapes grown IN THE EARTH! Baptism uses H20, AN EARTHLY LIQUID. And Pascha in the Spring celebrates the Resurrection of Christ AND the birth of the Easter Bunny, one of Ba’al’s earthly creatures, not to mention the Nativity in December – the births of Christ and Santa Claus and, apparently, yule logs – all at the same time! How cool is that?

Why, they’re almost the same religion, give or take a few minor beliefs.

And,of course, the Holy Trinity – three hypostatic Persons, three goddesses – all a matter of mere semantics, ain’t it? Far out, dude!

Henceforth, I shall be known on this site as Don-MoonPhase-Starlight.

Excuse me while I go sacrifice a goat – Feast of SS. Peter and Paul comin’ up, doncha know.

The Pilgrim
June 16, 2010

“Since I represent the Puritan end of things around here, would you mind if I take a crack at this one? Thanks, I really appreciate it. And I’ll do my best.”

You did fine; better than I would have. With more civility as well.

Dale Matson
June 16, 2010

The difference between magical thinking and mystical thinking is the difference between pathology and spirituality. Prayer is not thought broadcasting either.

FW Ken
June 16, 2010

I’m not really offended by the comparison to Catholic rituals, because humans do have a need for routine, ritual behavior, whether it’s specifically religious, or social (for real ritual, go to a high school football game).

The inner meanings, as noted above, are the difference between magic and true mysticism. The latter pulls you out of yourself; the former is just another control mechanism for the narcissist. Of course, some (most!)Christians indulge in magical thinking from time to time, and pagans undoubtedly reach beyond themselves from time to time. But the former is a corruption, and the latter is a bit of God’s grace slipping through.

FW Ken
June 16, 2010

Meant to say:

The article itself being in a purportedly Christian publication may be a function of the myth that religious differences lead to religious strife, and hence we must find all points of common interest to minimize said strife. In fact, people of different religions can get along quite well as long as the tolerance is mutual. When one religious group does something aggressive – like, say, flying airplanes into tall buildings – other groups do have a tendency to react. But on a day-to-day basis, we treat each other civilly. I would go a little further and say that what “religious conflicts” are generally political and cultural, with religion as a sideline. However, by focusing on the incidental role of religion, the media can advance it’s own secular religion.

But maybe I’m just being paranoid. :-)

Michael D
June 16, 2010

My first response was: well now Penelope can go back to her Form 4 teacher, hold up the Church Times, and say, “You see, Miss Swindon, I should have got more than B+ on this essay!”

I am gobsmacked (one can be gobsmacked even over here in North America, when speaking of England) that the Church Times would give space for this.

But what really intrigues me is the cartoon. Paying the artist to make a cartoon is a sort of stamp of approval, isn’t it?

And in the cartoon, which one is Rowan Williams? Given that he is a Druid, he could be either cleric in the cartoon, right? Are they poking fun at him, just at this moment when he seems to have found his spine with the White Witch?

getmeowt
June 16, 2010

“Fido” has gone to the dogs….

Robbo
June 16, 2010

Aw, heck. This isn’t really all that far away from the twaddle served up in the sermons and adult fora at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church.

And our pagan is ill-read, too. Robert Graves published his book The White Goddess, which goes into great detail about the history of the triple goddess myth, in the 1940′s.

Floridian
June 16, 2010

I absolutely love it that a Representative in Oklahoma is trying to prevent legal/judicial ‘ecumenism’ – we MUST stand as strongly against allowing barbaric Sharia laws to infect and influence our civilized, humane system of law and government as we do against Mohammedism/Hinduism/Buddhism infecting Christianity.

“Oklahoma Lawmakers Seek Voter Backing to Ban Shariah From Courts June 15, 2010 FOXNews.com

Oklahoma lawmakers are asking voters to weigh in on a proposal that would ban local courts from considering Shariah or other international law in their rulings.

The unusual measure calling for an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution was approved in late May by the state Senate, sending the issue to voters in the fall in the form of a ballot question.

Though the question’s supporters have not pointed to any specific outbreak of Shariah, or Islamic law, being considered in the U.S. judicial system, they describe it as an encroaching threat. State Rep. Rex Duncan, author of the measure, has called the ballot question a “preemptive strike” against Shariah coming to his state.” (Hat tip – Transfigurations)

midwestnorwegian
June 16, 2010

Sent the editor an email. His computer is melting down as you read this…

Christopher Hathaway
June 16, 2010

1. Slices of bread fit perfectly in my toaster.

2. I am frequently placing slices of bread in my mouth.

3. My toaster stays in the kitchen.

4. I regularly am in the kitchen.

5. There is lots of charred crumbs in the bottom of my toaster.

6. I am a carbon based life form.

Ergo: there are lot of similarities between me and a toaster.

Just thought I’d put that out there.

Katherine
June 16, 2010

Chris, good thing you caught the line about the “Protestant Reformer Erasmus” before Dr. William Tighe got here. Her other attempts at history seem just as bad.

I do look at Hinduism as a collection of ancient Aryan (the real ones) folk religion traditions. At least they are actual ancient traditions, not invented ones like the neo-pagans.

Mike
June 16, 2010

Wonderful job, as always, Chris. And I see with amusement that the author runs an “online coven”! Talk about convenient: members don’t even have to see each other “sky clad.” Given what most pagans I’ve come across look like “normal clad,” that’s a major advantage.

barney
June 16, 2010

Poontang? POONTANG? OMG!!! I haven’t heard that word since I was a young pup with 2 stripes on my sleeve.

Floridian
June 16, 2010

Alice Linsley (who resigned from the priesthood) wrote on this topic here.

Check out the other articles she has written on priesthood at her blog, Just Genesis.

There are spiritual as well as traditional reasons women have not been priests. God made male and female with distinct and complementary physiques and purposes.

Floridian
June 16, 2010

There is a link to Just Genesis on the MCJ blogroll.

William Tighe
June 16, 2010

Katherine wrote:

“Chris, good thing you caught the line about the ‘Protestant Reformer Erasmus’ before Dr. William Tighe got here.”

Well, I saw it, but I was too busy writing this:

http://www.theanglocatholic.com/2010/06/the-liturgy-of-st-tikhon-of-moscow/

(which might interest some of the Orthodox or Orthodoxophile readers here) to respond. And besides, I entertain the notion that in some ways Erasmus was Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite “Protestant reformer,” even though he was not a Protestant.

Smurf Breath
June 16, 2010

Which was probably invented in the last 50 years or so, give or take, by some liberal intellectual nerd desperate for poontang. Of course, that’s just a theory.

Uh, it isn’t a theory. His name is Gerald Gardner. He was a disciple of … wait for it … wait for it … Aleister Crowley. Crowley’s complicated system of ceremonial magick with all its kabbalistic numerology and tarot symbolism and what not, was too complicated for the average tree hugging pagan, so Gardner came up with a dumbed down version that eventually became known as ‘Wicca’.

chris
June 16, 2010

As Chesterton might have remarked, the writer thinks paganism and christianity are very similar, especially paganism.

Pauli
June 16, 2010

Bonus points for using the word poontang. Gutsy.

Fuinseoig
June 16, 2010

I was rolling my eyes fairly hard all through that, but they practically fell out on the floor when I came to the bit about the “Protestant Reformer Erasmus.”

Erasmus the Protestant. The same Erasmus who was the friend of St. Thomas More, the same Erasmus that Luther tried to get to switch but couldn’t, the same Erasmus who argued for reform but remained within the Catholic Church to do so, the Erasmus who angered both sides by not explictly coming down on their side and issuing blanket condemnations of the other, the same Erasmus who defended the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the same Erasmus who died a Catholic and not a Lutheran/Zwinglian/Calvinist. That Erasmus.

Now I know where the Presiding Bishop is getting her church history lessons!

bob
June 16, 2010

More Anglicans will take this clown seriously than anyone in a collar. And why not; when was the last time an Anglican cleric could speak about the Trinity and sound a whole lot better?

Fuinseoig
June 16, 2010

Fascinating article, Dr. Tighe. I pricked up my ears at this part:

“…a critique of the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer of 1892 by a committee appointed by the Russian Orthodox Church’s “Holy Governing Synod” (the body that exercised governing authority over that church during the abeyance of its patriarch ate between 1721 and 1917) in 1904, in response to an inquiry from the then Bishop Tikhon concerning the possibility of authorizing the use of that Prayer Book for any Episcopalian parishes that should “with its minister” leave the Episcopal Church for Orthodoxy.”

That very nearly sounds like a Russian Orthodox version of a Personal Ordinariate à la “Anglicanorum Coetibus”?

So why didn’t we see any protests about the Patriarch parking his tanks on the lawns of Lambeth or Orthodox triumphalism?

;-)

Fuinseoig
June 16, 2010

Inspired by midwestnorwegian, I too sent a short email to the editor picking up the point about Erasmus (I tried very hard to smother my tendency to snark, but I don’t know how successful it was).

Awaiting any response with interest.

:-)

Ed the Roman
June 16, 2010

barney,

Get some Ted Nugent albums.

Michael D,

“I am gobsmacked (one can be gobsmacked even over here in North America, when speaking of England)”

In the South we put it as, “well, smack my gob!”

The Pilgrim
June 16, 2010

Excellentarticle, Dr. Tighe. Thank you for the link to Father Schmemmn’s letter on WO as well. I knew it existed, but had never read it.

And definitely thank you for the wonderful turn of phrase, “…the Gadarene descent of Anglican churches into the abyss of WO and SS…” I will use that as often as I can (with attribution, of course!). It is wonderful.

William Tighe
June 16, 2010

Pilgrim,

Thank you. I fancy that I invented the phrase “Gadarene descent” (originally, as I recall, “Gadarene rush” and later “Gadarene plunge”) myself about 15 years ago, I think when meditating upon the phrase “facilis descensus Averni,” and I have certainly had very good mileage out of it ever since.

PS – I have added a new illustration at the end of my article, “In Town Again?” to complement the other one at its beginning, “The Fond du Lac Circus.”

The Little Myrmidon
June 16, 2010

” This may be done through chanting, drum­ming, lighting candles, dancing, and singing — perhaps not so different from many church services.”

Especially if those “church services” happen to be the consecration of a lesbian bishopess.

Katherine
June 16, 2010

When my parish was still in the ACA, I went to a Synod and asked the Bishop directly what changes would be made to the liturgy in a proposed Roman connection. He, as our bishop, knew very well that we used the 1928, with added introit, gradual, and angus dei. He looked me straight in the eye and promised that there would be no changes of any kind. That is simply not possible, and presumably he knew it.

FW Ken
June 16, 2010

The Anglican Use (RC) parishes in the U.S. use The Book of Divine Worship:

http://www.atonementonline.com/bodw.php

It’s pretty much the ’79 BCP using the Roman canon for the Eucharistic Prayer.

Midwestern Episcopalian
June 16, 2010

The article in Church Times sounds like the conversations at the parish I used to attend…

Jeff
June 16, 2010

Sorry, but “an online coven”? How is that not even more marginal than “Rev. Dr. Poontag pastors an online congregation with members on three continents”? (Which adds up to a few dozen page views per quarter and someone once put $5 in the PayPal tipjar.)

Let’s set aside blasphemy and apostasy for a moment — why do the lib-progs want to keep holding up these groups of less than a dozen (counting imaginary friends) as models for ministry? Imaginary friends are notoriously opposed to tithing, the left’s favorite island of Biblical literalism.

LaVallette
June 16, 2010

“Paganism celebrates the cycle of the year, and there is no central reli­gious text; so it would have been accessible to peasants who could not read. Its emphasis on the changes that ordinary people could see around them in the trees and earth would have made sense to them.”

Well, illiterate peasants in Christianity took their cues from the Christian Calendar using the fixed feast days of Saints and special Celebrations and not at best combined with the natural cycle of nature. They knew Christmas, Epiphany, Candlemass, Annunciation, St. John the Baptist’s Day, the Famous “Crispin Day” from the Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt etc etc etc etc. Incidentally these illiterate peasants looked forward to these feats Days because many of them were Holy Days of Obligation when they were required had to go to Mass and therefore they had a day off work and joined in the secular celebrations and festivities afterwards.

By the way when one takes over someone else’s long established festival and substitute one’s own rather then implying recognition or respect for the old festival, it is actually the opposite: So comments about Christmas is really a celebration of Yule is just so much rubbish, when it is actually a complete takeover and rejection of Yule.

Maureen
June 16, 2010

Yule is a lot like July.

LaVallette
June 17, 2010

BTW: The author if the article is Penelope Fleming-Fido:

Now “Fido” is the classic name for a dog (especially in cartoons): what can I conclude about that? Either this is an attempt at tongue in the cheek attempt at humour humour or this female is already into ………(I am resisting the temptation. I really am!!! but one thought is what Prof.Peter Singer sees no harm in)

Jedinovice
June 17, 2010

>Christ was crucified on a Cross – MADE OF WOOD. Wine used in the Divine Liturgy is made from grapes grown IN THE EARTH! Baptism uses H20, AN EARTHLY LIQUID. And Pascha in the Spring celebrates the Resurrection of Christ AND the birth of the Easter Bunny, one of Ba’al’s earthly creatures, not to mention the Nativity in December – the births of Christ and Santa Claus and, apparently, yule logs – all at the same time! How cool is that?<

Actually, I have genuinely had an major online anti-Catholic tell me personally that us Roaming Calicks were worshipping the Sun god because the communion wafers we used were round – just like the sun.

No really.

Unless, given the appalling state of Catachesis in the Soviet Republic of England, my priest missed that bit out.

FW Ken
June 17, 2010

Jedinovice -

The Host/Sun God connection is an old bit of Jack Chick
business.

http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0071/0071_01.asp

Jedinovice
June 17, 2010

Yeah, I know. The guy’s a hoot.

But I was ‘impressed’ someone actually took that kind of reasoning seriously.

But given how what passes for ‘reasoning’ in the West as a whole these days, why should I be surprised?

Jedinovice
June 17, 2010

Just as an aside, I was once given the book “Come out of her my people” (picture of leather clad bible on the front to boot) by our own loon Isabel Chapman – to show me the errors of my Church.

After I lost my initial copy I had to buy another. It was too funny.

Best bit, in a way; the Pope’s visit to the UK in 1986 to ‘reclaim England for Rome.’

Jack Chick was her major source. It kinda showed.

Hours of fun with my evangelical friends at University.

Fuinseoig
June 17, 2010

Oh, goodness, yes, the Chick tract about the “Death Cookie” which made me blow my stack.

However, when not drawing pictures of a lady receiving the Host actually receiving a devil, the bits about the “IHS” standing for “Isis, Horus and Set” had me rolling on the floor laughing.

Fuinseoig
June 18, 2010

Hey, I got a reply from the Editor of the Church Times about my email!

“Perhaps our subs should have spotted this! Might I have a postal address (we’re still old fashioned on our letters page) so that it can go in the mix for next week’s paper? Thanks.

Paul Handley
Editor

general office: 020 7776 1060; direct line: 020 7776 1061
13-17 Long Lane, London EC1A 9PN
CHURCH TIMES http://www.churchtimes.co.uk; Third Way, a monthly commentary on Christianity and culture subs@thirdway.org.uk; Crucible, the Christian journal of social ethics; Caris, our magazine for girls aged 10-16 http://www.carismag.co.uk

Yeah, I do think the sub-editor or someone should have picked up that little bon-bon, but at least the guy replied to me politely.

:-)

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