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Turning Our Backs on Jesus: A Humble Request

Warning: You are entering a rant. Brace yourself.

This one is directed at the Pagans among us. Can we talk? Because I would like to humbly propose we make 2010 the year we leave Jesus out of it.

Now, I'm not addressing myself to those of us who have an ongoing relationship of some sort with Mary's baby boy. I'm not disparaging (or praising, so purists please don't get your knickers in a twist here) those who consider themselves Christo-Pagans, Judeo-Pagans, Jew-Witches, or Witches for Jesus. Nor am I talking to those who have had a past relationship with Jesus who are still sifting through what that means to you personally, as you explore a Pagan religion; nor to those who have been Pagan who find yourselves drawn, for whatever reason, into relationship with Christ. I am not, in fact, addressing myself to hyphenated Pagans of any kind in this post.

Nope, I'm talking to those of you who espouse a Jesus-free Paganism, whether Wiccan, Khemetic, Asatru, or Hellenic. Whether Druid or Recon, New Ager or shaman, I have a request to you:

If Jesus is not part of your religion, if you don't have a relationship with him you are interested in pursuing or exploring, can you please, please, please shut up about him already?

I find it valuable and interesting to read about personal spiritual encounters of any kind--Christian or Pagan, or any of the other various flavors in which we experience the presence of Spirit, and find ourselves in living relationship with it. You will have my complete and undivided attention for every post in which you explain to me why you love Odin, Fortuna, Bast or the Tao. I will thrill to the description of your sense of the numinous in your latest blot, procession, circle, or trance journey.

But when you take the time and trouble to write, not of your encounters with the gods, nor even of your personal journey from Christianity to Paganism (for I note that most of the offenders on this one are ex- but not post-Christian) to give me news bulletins about how uniquely terrible the religion of Christianity is, perhaps I may be excused for wondering how much room you have in your spiritual life for your own gods, if you must spend so very much of your time howling at the gods of others?

Please--and not just for Christ's sake, but for the sake of every Pagan and Pagan deity out there we purport to worship--can we just give Jesus a miss this year?

Let's make 2010 the year when Pagans turn our backs on Jesus.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.


Magaly Guerrero said…
I'm feeling a bit confused. I'm very eclectic in my beliefs and I really like Jesus's teachings, in fact I believe that we (Pagans, Christians...) could get along famously if we pay attention to what Jesus said and not what his followers have concluded he meant.

I want to honor your request, but I honestly don't understand what you mean. Um... I just went back and read your post again, and I'm feeling even more foolish lol. I get it. I NOW know who this post is directed to.

I do hope many honor your request. I also think he should be left alone already, as well as many other deities who are not guilty of the foolishness of their followers.

Thanks for re-reading, Magaly; I'm very glad you get it.

Truth to tell, I'm willing to bet that very few of the Pagans I'm ranting about here bother to read my blog at all--I'm far too "tolerant" of Christianity and Christian ideas. (I'm even willing to entertain ideas that I count as one, or that one day I will do so,if prompted by spirit.)

It's the folks who are so determined to see all consideration of any aspect of Christianity as toxic, and yet who seem unable to go a week without referring to it, who have annoyed me into making this post.

As I take it you saw--and I hope others will, too!
Yewtree said…
I get it :)

So mote it be

And while we're at it, can I put in a plea for people not to rant about monotheism and why that is the source of all bigotry - because actually it's taking things literally that is the source of narrow-mindedness, and fear is the source of bigotry. There are plenty of open-minded monotheists, and plenty of narrow-minded polytheists, who can be cited as evidence of this view.
Diandra said…
Since most Pagans honor all kinds of Gods, be they new or old, Chinese or Germanic or from somebody's imagination (like Eostre, who developed a life of her own nevertheless), I think they should not have too big a problem with the big monotheistic religions and their Gods, prophets and whatsoever. Yes, I was raised Christian, and I left to become a witch and I don't miss it much. And if I rant, I may rant about church and church politics, but I often have to explain that although I don't follow the Christian (or Muslim, or... ) God, I still believe in them. (Which came to me as a surprise, when I first realized it. *lol*) Nothing wrong with them, and nothing wrong with Jesus, either.
Anne Johnson said…
I have tried to become less strident in my views toward my post-religion. My only continuing quarrel is with missionaries who try to drive people away from their native deities. Certainly Christianity is not alone in this practice.

I would heartily applaud Christian missionaries who work among those of no faith, or those of the Christian faith who need help. There are plenty of people like that around. So, if we at "The Gods Are Bored" hear any touching stories of this sort, we'll be sure to pass them along.
Nettle said…
Like you, Cat, I'm interested in other people's experiences, and if some form of Christianity is part of that, that's interesting.

But I deeply and sincerely do not care that the Bible contains contradictions, that bad things have been done in the name of Christianity, or that some modern Christians are raving idiots. I know this, just as I know that any holy book has faults, any powerful group will have evil acts done in its name, and some portion of any population are bound to be raving idiots. These are boring and trivial facts and yet you will see people trotting out variations of them over and over as though they have just come up with something brilliantly original.

Any of you out there who do this? It's been done already, you can stop now. Let's just move on.
Morninghawk said…
I agree with your post fully. If someone left Christianity (or any religion), then leave it. Process what you need to process and move on *toward* a religion you prefer.

I also see many Pagans who spend lots of their time and energy ranting against Christianity. But they don't really look into their new Pagan religion, except in that it is different than Christianity. When you move to a new religion, it is best to focus on that new religion in its own terms, not in the terms of the previous religion.

Thanks for the rant.
kevin roberts said…
But you know, leaving things behind is very hard to do, and your distinction between "ex-Christian" and "post-Christian" is very much to the point, Cat. Your observation about pagans has parallels with atheists.

I have lots of experience discussing Christianity with self-described "atheists," and I remember being surprised at how many "atheists" were unable to leave their old denomination behind, and still accepted its view of Christianity as the only true interpretation. There were Protestant atheists, Pentacostal atheists, Baptist atheists, fundamentalist inerrantist atheists, and so on. They would rant at me about the failures of Christianity, but if I suggested that I agreed with them that their experiences were appalling and their old church was messed up, I was accused of not being a "true Christian" for not being as villainous as their old enemies. They would sometimes even correct me about which translations of the Bible were the only ones that were valid, at the same time asserting that none of them were true. Very strange.

We don't always make much sense in the way we reject parts of ourselves. Personally, I'm delighted when people still have trouble putting Christianity behind them, but I don't push it, you know. Sometimes I don't think much of the Christianity they left behind either.

Anyone who involves her or himself in interfaith activities will soon find that such attitudes have no place in civil discourse among religious peoples.

As Nettle said, "some modern Christians are raving idiots," so are some Pagans - and some of the practitioners of all religions.

I consider myself genuinely both ex- and post-Xtian. I admit to carrying my share of bitterness from my childhood experiences in Methodism and Roman Catholicism. But mostly that stuff never comes up. Once in a while it becomes aroused when some Xtian idiot starts getting on my nerves. This is a rare occurrence.

The clearer I/we become about our Paganism, which for the most part has been an exploration and never dogmatic, the less we fall into an 'us/them' mentality. I guess I'm drifting far from your Jesus rant. Sorry.
@ Kevin: "They would sometimes even correct me about which translations of the Bible were the only ones that were valid, at the same time asserting that none of them were true."

Oh, yeah, brother, do I know where you are coming from!

And outside the Pagan world, the place where I, too, have most often encountered an almost myopic obsession with Christianity and its alleged flaws is among certain atheists. This is something I'm sensitive to, oddly enough, because I am Pagan. It often seems that the militant atheist argument against theism is focused very narrowly on a certain specific brand of literalist Christianity--to the point where alternative viewpoints, like universalism, polytheism, monism, and non-theist animism are not even visible on their radar. As I like to ask, "Why disbelieve in just one god?" And just one narrow vision of that god at that.

There are more possibilities than that, surely.

And I can't tell you how many Pagans I've had explain to me that Quakers are not really Christians, in any of our branches, we do not generally follow the narrow stereotype of Christianity they believe defines the whole movement.

It's one thing to be told Quakers aren't Christian enough by Christians... but by Pagans? Oh, surely we can draw a line at that!
@ Macha: I'm glad to hear your perspective. Though I haven't nearly your experience with interfaith work, my impression matches yours.

I think I am more annoyed by Pagan bigotry than by Christian bigotry these days because, well, if I have a prophetic mission, it's not to the Christians. It is my own people I'd like to witness to, and my own culture I'd like to change.

So it's my own set of angry writers I'm responding to. Taking potshots at the other guy's demagogues is easy. Spotting our own and maybe talking them down... well, that's less easy.
Anonymous said…
As a potentially hyphenated Pagan on her own continuing (and oft-times personally baffling) quest with Christianity, and who recently had an exchange IRL with a representative of the type of individual to whom I imagine this post is speaking, alls I can say is: Amen. Amen. Amen.
Anonymous said…
I don't think I'm a Jesus or Christian basher and yet I want to argue with your post. First, Christianity is the dominant religion in this country. As such, it has a political reach that in some cases causes oppression. I'm thinking gay marriage and abortion and then stupid stuff like abstinence-only sex education. The complete list is not short. Speaking out against political right-wing Christianity when it is clothed in the robes of self righteousness is entirely fair. Arguably, Jesus has little to do with political Christianity.
Ryan Sutton said…
Oh I so agree with you, and applaud your having the guts to speak up. I'm constantly appalled by the self-professed Pagans who go on and on about how they embraced Paganism because of its open-mindedness, the fact that it doesn't try to say other religions are wrong, its willing acceptance of ALL peoples - yet at the same time - are spending all their time whining and crying about how Christianity isn't those things, showing their true hypocrisy. They brought the very same ideals they hoped to escape from dogmatic Christianity, and are living them in Paganism. People like that, were part of the problem, and need to look more at how THEY act. Operating under a differently named faith does not change the spiritual PRACTICE.
Marya said…
I'm so with you on this -- looking out from Africa
Yewtree said…
@dmiley: Speaking out against specific abuses like opposition to gay marriage is not to deride the whole of Christianity, but only one section of it. I would also hope that people would write about this from an informed perspective (e.g. starting from a specific news article).

That said, should we not also address homophobia within Paganism? (It does exist.)
Jarred said…
Well said, Cat! I've been saying this for a few years, myself.

I also like the following statement from your comment to Macha:

I think I am more annoyed by Pagan bigotry than by Christian bigotry these days because, well, if I have a prophetic mission, it's not to the Christians. It is my own people I'd like to witness to, and my own culture I'd like to change.

That's exactly how I see it. Now that I'm a Pagan, it's my primary duty to address the problems in the Pagan community. I'll leave the problems in the Christian communities to the Christians. Granted, I might discuss them with friends who are Christians, especially if we have a relationship that allows that. But beyond that, oh well.

In response to dmiley, I'll also note that while Christian-rationalized homophobia is a concern to me, that still doesn't make it my job to deconstruct or rant against Christian theology, even the Christian theology that is used to rationalize homophobia. My job is simply to point out the homophobia, negative effects it has on gay people and society at large, and why that's unacceptable. I'll let the Christian theologians worry about the theology itself.
Pitch313 said…
I am a Pagan who is not and has never been a Christian of any sort.

But I've found that it's nearly impossible--in a country dominated by the legion of "Christian" subcultures--to talk about religion and spirituality without getting tangled up in some thread of Christianity.

For instance, I assert that Paganism is different from Christianity. And I follow a practice that keeps it different. Still, I've learned that Christians themselves have undertaken steps to get rid of many of the differences that I pay attention to. So there are, for instance, postmodern Christians who have pretty much tossed notions like "sin" and "salvation" away.

They strike me as quite Pagan, as I embrace it, but they still self-identify as "Christians."

And there you go, saying Quakers aren't Christians, really. Maybe they're not, but lots appear to hold to that identity.

What I'm getting at, I guess, is that in the realm of thinking and disourse (even the blogosphere), Christianity is the cultural backdrop for all of us who chat and blather and rhapsodize and rant and get drenched by that ecstatic inspiration of our meta-pantheons.

Why, just today, over at A Letter From Hardscrabble Creek, there's a lillte mention of "Pagan clergy" and those who look forward to full-time salaried Pagan clergy. Is this an idea that arose from a small circle of skyclad dancers skipping around a fire in a forest? I think not. It's a Christian model. I suspect that we American Pagans have no other.

Besides, I will not give up singing "Plastic Jesus."
kevin roberts said…
Yo Pitch-

I'm a Quaker. I'm a Christian, too. I have no problem with "sin" or "salvation," as they were originally defined within Quakerism, which isn't always how they are defined by non-Quaker Christians. The original message of primitive Quakerism is that 1600 years of Christian church faith and practice got it wrong. It still looks that way to me.

"Joking Jesus" is much better than "Plastic Jesus," by the way:

I'm the queerest young fellow that ever was heard.
My mother's a Jew; my father's a Bird
With Joseph the Joiner I cannot agree
So 'Here's to Disciples and Calvary.'
. . .
Goodbye, now, goodbye, you are sure to be fed
You will come on My Grave when I rise from the Dead
What's bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly
And Olivet's breezy—Goodbye now Goodbye.

Helen/Hawk said…
Sorry you're feeling the feedback from the fact we can't turn around w/out Jesus being shoved up our noses etc.

So he'd kinda hard to ignore.

I know you don't "shove". fairness it shouldn't be done to you. But Jesus-loving folks just won't let us be. So, you're getting that reaction.

And, of course, it isn't really Jesus himself anyway but the Church that's the issue. It's just that for short-hand, folks say "Jesus". (which sure must give him a headache!)

Not that you needed an explanation.........
Sterghe said…
Hear, hear!

Thank you for this post, Cat!
Anonymous said…
I'm in full agreement with you, let's have a Jesus Free Year.

Like Pitch313, I have never been a Christian, nor were my parents. They were Romany and Wiccan.

I don't actually believe that Jesus existed, no more than Robin Hood or Santa Claus. These were characters dreamed up by an oppressed people to give them a "feel good" factor when then were dominated by powerful people.

I do accept the Quaker way of life. They do have the right attitude to life and people, but my gods are in nature and our relationship with the earth.

That was a good post, and I agree with it 100%.

I'm hearing a lot of "I agree, Cat," but I'm not certain that everyone who is agreeing with me is hearing what I'm actually saying.

I would never say that Quakers aren't Christians, for instance! Though some of us, in the liberal branch, are not (yours truly included), the vast majority of the world's Quakers absolutely ARE. What I find difficult is that Pagans, nominally outside of Christianity, sometimes act as the Christian thought-police, and maintain quite stubbornly that Quakers as a group are not Christians... because Quaker Christians don't behave in the ways that Pagans believe all Christians stereotypically do.

There's just something wrong with a self-identified Christian having to prove their Christian identity to a non-Christian!

Yes, there are obnoxious Christians, and as our culture is (again, at least nominally Christian--though I suspect Kevin could tell us several ways it falls short of what he and a good many other Christians term good Christian standards) Christian, those of us who aren't Christian are going to bump up against them.

With the sole exception of bumping back against political activism that is pig-headed and bigotted (whether a product of Christians or anyone else) I don't see a lot to be gained kvetching about that, however.

I regularly encounter obnoxious people in tech support, for instance. But I don't feel the need to make complaining about them the centerpiece of my spiritual writing!

So this post is not a form of Christian-bashing, cleverly disguised. I want us Pagans to focus more on our own religion--not as defined by what we are not, but by what we are.

Take the challenge! Go a year--hell, go a month!--writing about Paganism from a Pagan point of view, everyone. See what we can say about ourselves without needing to use Jesus, or his followers, as a yardstick.

As I recall, for most of us at least, he's not a regular feature of our religion.
David--FWIW, I think your point was a good one.

I also think I overlooked it in my post for two very good reasons:

1) I was (admittedly) ranting. So exceptions to my somewhat hyperbolic rule (Pagans ought to shut up about Christianity already) were not foremost in my mind...

2) I am much more interested in reading about religious and spiritual experiences than politics. There are a lot of political blogs written by Pagans; I find them about as dull as political blogs written by non-Pagans. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with a political blog, or with blogging on political subjects, it's just that I, personally, find the topic uninspiring.

And, of course, one of the reasons I love your blog is that you do an exceptionally good job writing about a subject I find as fascinating as it is hard to capture in words: the spiritual experience itself. Which is not to say you aren't entitled to political critiques from time to time, if they are what you feel passionate about writing.

Incidentally, it hasn't escaped me that there's some irony in the fact that one of the liveliest comment threads in a long time is over a rant about, if not Christianity, about rants about Christianity at any rate.

Thereby proving the rule: put three Pagans in a room together, and within fifteen minutes, we'll be talking about...Christianity.

Hystery said…
It is actually my job to criticize Christianity. Really. I do differentiate between intellectual criticism and analysis and emotional attack. I believe that it is important for people to continue to digest, deconstruct, and discuss the religious traditions that affect our lives together as people. Because Neo-Paganism is so deeply influenced by Christian histories, we must continue to engage in discourse on that front. That said, I share Cat's annoyance with those who criticize what they do not begin to understand. I'm weary of blanket statements of condemnation issues as though Christianity could possibly be summed up by one person's limited experience. Christian history is vast and diverse. Every time someone speaks of Christians as a monolithic group, they insult millions of believers, many of of whom are responsible for a number of the best and most ethical thought humanity has produced. No. You can't generalize Christians or Christianity. That's just sloppy methodology. I've heard and read all manner of nonsense about Christianity from Christians and Pagans alike. When one criticizes a religion, philosophy, or powerful concepts of any kind, it is helpful to use one's brain. Research. Study. Check your sources. Don't speak from the gut and don't talk out of your ass.
Br. Pax said…
Very Well Said!!!!
Unknown said…
Growing up LDS and now as a Pagan it has always amazed me how some people define their own spiritual devotion by how vociferously they criticize the religion of others.

Imagine if the only sweet nothings you ever whispered in your lover's ear were how thoroughly and completely unlike your old lover they were. I can bet that ear would not bend to you for long. So it is, I suppose with any deity or deities with whom you have a spiritual intimacy and whose mighty ears you pray always bend to your spiritual sweet nothings.
Elizabeth said…
I get what you're saying. As someone who wasn't raised in any particular religion (and thus found it easy to slide into Paganism when I was a teenager) I have often been bewildered and annoyed by the amount of needless, apropos-of-nothing Christian-bashing that goes on in Pagan circles.

Your distinction between "ex-Christian" and "post-Christian" is one I've not heard before, but which makes total sense...perhaps if more of us understood the distinction there'd be less bashing all around.

As always, an insightful post. Thanks for saying what I believe many of us have been thinking all along.
Sarah said…

I think part of how this happens has to do with mythology. The myth of the fall is an important once in some streams of Paganism too: once, things were good and we all lived in harmony with nature/God/the gods, then something bad happened and it fostered all the bad in the world.

In Christianity, of course, there's that whole thing with the apple. For Pagans, however, I think the evil that is fostered is often named "disconnection" -- from ourselves, our bodies, the planet, the sacred -- and the rise of Christianity is often pointed to as the culprit.

What I'm not clear on is whether we need this myth to understand how things got so messed up and how we can heal them. Are there other stories we could tell instead?
Anonymous said…
I think that Christian-bashing is sometimes part of identity development for new Pagans--a way to conclusively move from "them" to "us". As a post-Christian witch, I honor other deities but don't worship them, and I think Jesus is fine with that. I have been a witch for 23 years and don't spend much time thinking about Christians unless they're explaining why I shouldn't get married.
april said…
Thanks for posting your thoughts. I was raised Christian, my father is still a minister. I can't honestly say that I don't have my knee-jerk reactions when other Gods are mentioned but I can say that I respect and receive conversation from those open enough to understand that we are all, the ones entering into this conversation, seekers of truth and knowledge. I will always honor the thoughts and opinions of those who come to me with a mutual reciprocity and, even if they don't, I try to understand why that is in hopes of having them see that there can be disagreement without separation and hatred. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to see that there are many on all sides of the eternal argument that are dwelling in love to find answers:)
Anonymous said…
When I first became Pagan those around me made it easy (ala encouragement) to bash Christians. It felt good; I felt misunderstood, and having known that my folks were talking to an exorcist for me, I was greatly hurt and angry.

I got over the anger. I realized, after a time, that my bashing their faith diminished the prominence of my own in my life and cast a poor shadow on Paganism. I then concentrated on my own budding beliefs, and have increased in understanding since.

That said, understanding Christianity, examining it and its many, many doctrines with care and debating these can be quite helpful, informative, and connecting. I have read several Bibles over the course of my life, have gotten into the meaty issues of Biblical lore and have done my own share of homework; all I ask is that if you are going to preach the word of God to me, you would do the same courtesy for me.

This courtesy I extend to other Christians doesn't mean I am soft on issues of political import, such as abortion or gay marriage, it means that I value, and work to understand their spiritual experiences and beliefs within their scope of understanding and experience without injecting vitriol and needless pain into the conversation. I can disagree, vehemently, with Christians and Pagans alike, but I can do so in a manner that is civil, even in anger.
kevin roberts said…
sarenth, in my opinion, if someone can't be civil, then they have nothing to say.

Certainly people that can't figure out how to be civil have nothing to say to me. I turn the volume down to zero and go about my business.

Verbal vitriol is a form of aggression and bullying no different from throwing rocks at some other kid in the schoolyard. You don't learn anything or teach anything doing it.

Thanks for the insight.
Anonymous said…
No one faith is the enemy; the enemy is intolerance & prejudice. I'm glad to see more here like me, somewhat spiritually 'no logo'!
Anonymous said…
I'm also rather bored of hearing about him. Christianity has no place in my life, I'm Pagan and devote my time to that which I believe in or other Pagan areas that may broaden my learning and understanding. I left any thoughts of Christianity behind years ago, I studied but was never a Christian.
In my opinion also, yes my opinion so please do not bother flaming me, Christianity cannot be mixed in with Paganism.
Now each to their own, but those of feel they must approach me to draw me into a debate or simply tell me I'm wrong or evil (not here I'm talking in life generally) just leave me I leave you be.
Ashley-Bunny, it has been long enough since I wrote this post that I can't be sure if I expressed myself carelessly, or if you read me without enough care, but I was in no way trying to say that anyone should fail to draw attention to wrongs and harms still being done in the name or Christianity--nor that our personal stories, for those of us who have them, of being shouldered aside or even abused in the name of that religion don't matter or shouldn't be told.

No, the point I was trying to make is that we should have more to say than complaints about Christianity.

I am not a Christian. I have never been one. I do not believe I ever will be. And so, by and large, Christianity is an irrelevancy in my life. I turn to writing from the Pagan community for what is relevant to me: discussions of Pagan life, Pagan experience, Pagan thought. On Pagan subjects.

When I say we should turn our backs on Christianity, I do not mean we should be silent when marginalized. But just as when woman and blacks began to meet and discuss their commonalities beyond their experience of men and whites, I hope that one day Pagans discussing our lives together will find interesting things to say about ourselves, that would continue to hold our attention and spark our energies if the last Christian on the planet were to relocate to Mars, or to convert whole-heartedly to some other creed.

I want a Pagan-centered Paganism; and that, to me, means a Paganism with better things to talk about than Fred Phelps or Medieval witch hunts. Let's acknowledge those painful chapters in our experience, sure... but then... move on.

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