Christopaganism

The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids has just launched its gorgeous new site, and I got some feature-space (see here) for the Missa Druidica. You can also find it on their site by searching the site for ‘Joseph Nemeth’ or ‘Missa Druidica’.

Interestingly, they filed it under “Resources for Exploring Christian Druidry.”

I think I understand the webmaster’s rationale — after all, it is called a “Missa.”

I also suspect that relations between Christianity and Paganism are not quite so strained in the UK, since they don’t have political buffoons (e.g. Newt Gingrich) and right-wing propagandists (e.g. Glenn Beck) using the term Christian as a synonym for Patriotic Right Wing Conservative and the term Pagan as a synonym for Something Horrid (We’re Not Quite Sure What, But It’s Bad).

Still, it shocked me a bit to see the music classified under “Christian Druidy.” I’m still working that one through.

I formally departed the Christian fold in the mid-1990’s and began to identify myself as Pagan. At that time, I thought that I might merely be on an extended walkabout: that I needed to get out and see the world, then perhaps eventually return to the place I’d once called home.

Instead, I changed, and Christianity also changed. Like going back to a high-school reunion and discovering that you no longer have anything in common with your old friends; furthermore, the city has torn down the school you attended and the park you played in as a child to put up a warehouse surrounded by razor wire and vicious dogs.

You’ve changed. They’ve changed. So much so that you may find a hesitation in your voice when people ask you where you’re from. You might even be tempted to make up something, rather than tell them the truth.

You’ve moved on. And yet….

Those early experiences shaped you. Whether you like them or not. Whether you agree with them or not. Whether you claim them or not.

I grew up Christian. I attended church through college and graduate school and while my kids were growing up. I was much more than a Christmas and Easter Christian.

This shaped me. No subsequent disillusionment, no choice, no magical rite can remove that shaping from me. To do so would be to remove decades of memory and experience, hundreds of interpersonal connections, an entire language of symbols. It would necessarily destroy who I am in this life.

So I am actually an expatriate Christian. A Christopagan. Whether I like it or not.

It’s a little more palatable to me when I realize that I certainly cannot be considered a Judeopagan, nor an Islamopagan, nor a Buddhapagan: terms I’ve heard at our summer gatherings for people who have come by way of various other faiths. By the same token, I can’t properly call myself a Paganopagan — that is, a second-generation, family tradition, hereditary, “true” Pagan.

I’m Christopagan. Not by choice, but by circumstance.

However, while I may speak with a Christian immigrant accent for the rest of my life, there are reasons I’m an expatriate. One of those reasons got in my face today.

The February 2012 Rolling Stone magazine ran an article entitled “School of Hate,” about the rash of teen suicides in Michele Bachmann’s home congressional district in Minnesota. We all know some of Ms. Bachmann’s extreme religious views from her presidential campaign. It turns out that it’s something in the water up there: the Evangelicals have been preaching about the sins of homosexuality and waging war on teen-age homosexuals through the school system. They have created an extremely hostile environment for gay students, and this hostility figured strongly in the rash of suicides. Nine of them within two years.

Now anyone who makes a public statement can watch it go astray. Goddess forfend that I should ever say anything that leads to a teen suicide, but it could happen. If it did, my reaction would be utter, bone-chilling horror.

“Oh, my God!” I’d say. “I had no idea. I had no idea. I’m so sorry, so sorry. That’s never what I intended. It’s not what I meant. How can I try to make sure this never, ever happens again?”

I probably would not say another word in public for years.

That’s how I — an expatriate Christian who no longer feels the least bit of interest in God’s Law — would react. I think it’s the only decent, human reaction to causing so much human suffering.

Here’s what Barb Anderson, Evangelical Christian and one of the lead crusaders for the Minnesota Family Council which drafted the gay-hostile policies adopted by the Anoka-Hennepin school district, had to say:

“If gay kids weren’t out of the closet in the first place, then they wouldn’t be bullied.”

 

 

What kind of soul-rot causes a person to make such a statement? What kind of decay of the intellect protects a person from seeing the sanctimonious, self-serving, self-righteous arrogance of such a remark?

To say nothing of the hypocrisy. I seem to remember a few Christian principles like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or even “Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

Bullying a young person to the point of suicide is one hell of an offense. Encouraging bullying throughout an entire school system… Is there any ocean deep enough for that millstone?

Now, what I hear in response from reasonable Christians is, “But WE don’t behave that way! These are right-wing nutcases. They aren’t representative of Christ or of Christianity.”

I do understand that complaint, and I’m sympathetic. I’d hate to be tarred with the stupid and/or immoral things some Pagans may have done, or may someday do. On the other hand, I don’t see this kind of sustained hatred and soul-warped indifference flowing as a steady, fetid wind out of many non-Christian groups.

I don’t see atheists driving children to suicide in the name of Reason or Secular Humanism. I don’t see Pagans doing this in the name of Athena or Brigid. I don’t see Buddhists doing this, though in truth I don’t know very many Buddhists. I’m no longer in touch with the Jewish community, but I’m sure they are at least as outraged by bullying as I am. I can see in my mind’s eye their response to someone saying, “Well, if those Jew kids didn’t wear their little skullcaps in public on their way to church, they wouldn’t be bullied.”

I do, however, see a lot of Christians persecuting “sinners” all over the world. In the US, it’s currently a gay-hunt. In parts of Africa, it’s a witch-hunt. People suffer. People die, brutally. And all the while, the perpetrators salve their guilt with the idea that they’re doing “God’s Work.”

Perhaps it is the salve that covers the stink of the infection and allows it to chew its way into the soul.

Regardless of how this disease progresses, it is not something I can bear to be around, and it infects most branches of most Christian churches in the US. The churches today that aren’t actively hating homosexuals, or struggling over just how human they are (and thus, how fit to serve in various capacities within the church) find themselves all-but-defined by the sanctuary they offer gays against the other Christians.

I think it’s just what happens when you decide you’ve got such a firm handle on the Mind of God that you can write down His thoughts in a book, then read it stupidly.

Years ago, when I was first parting ways with Christianity, I had a meditational conversation with Jesus. We stood only a short distance apart from each other, but a small stream flowed between us: he was on one side, I was on the other. I knew that as we walked downstream, the stream would become a deep river.

“I can’t stay on your side,” I told him. “You, I always liked. But your Dad — that’s a different story. I can’t deal with him.”

He smiled: a sad, worn, weary smile.

“I understand,” he said. “And you know, you’re lucky. He’s MY Dad.”

He wasn’t speaking of the Abba of his sermons. Nor of the Father, Who Art In Heaven. Not even the rotten bastard who left him to die on the cross, the My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

We were both speaking of the monster-god invented centuries later, who demanded at long last the blood-sacrifice that Abraham was spared from making of his son. The creation of cantankerous old men who thought they had such a firm handle on the Mind of God and the Needs of the Empire that they could write it down and fix every word of it for all time, like some exotic species of butterfly pinned to a name card. The God of generations of people hearing and reading those words stupidly.

Jesus is stuck with him, now. It’s actually quite sad.

So no — I don’t think I’m really a Christian Druid, though I do speak Pagan with an immigrant Christian accent. And certainly, the Missa Druidica is not a Christian work.