Sunday, 4 May 2008

One more reason why I'm a Pagan

It's called substitutionary sacrifice - the idea that Jesus, the pure lamb of God, had to be sacrificed to the implacable Jehovah in order to pay for our sins. It's not something that all Christians subscribe to (it's pretty much a heresy in Orthodoxy), but it is a widespread view among fundamentalists and evangelicals. The kind of chorus song illustrated in the picture expresses the vile substitutionary doctrine.

The idea that Jesus' life, death and resurrection is a mystery that his followers can participate in is a much more humane view (though if this is the case, why did the Church have to stamp out all the other mystery traditions?)

Another possibility (the Unitarian position) is to embrace the ethical precepts of Jesus; this leads one to an appreciation of other similar thinkers (Gandhi etc.) and a rejection of Christian intolerance.

But the twisted substitutionary doctrine leads to a rejection of natural desires and a rejection of the divinely-bestowed fullness of life.

Whereas the Pagan view embraces life, nature, and sexuality and the presence of spirit in all these things, the fundamentalist Christian views them as inhabited by demons - a word which originally meant a spirit of place or a tutelary genius (a daimon in Greek).

The Pagan view celebrates the immanence of spirit in matter, and seeks to encourage matter to become ever more ensouled, ever more aware of itself; to re-enchant matter, as in the old animist worldview of our ancestors. Ironically, I think this was actually Jesus' aim (if we can ever really recover what he thought from beneath the mass of doctrinal statements about him); and this was the source of Gardner's and Sanders' claims that being a witch made you "a better Christian".
In a dream I saw Jesus and My God Pan sitting together in the heart of the forest.
They laughed at each other's speech, with the brook that ran near them, and the laughter of Jesus was the merrier. And they conversed long.
"And now let us play our reeds together."
And they played together.
And their music smote heaven and earth, and a terror struck all living things.
I heard the bellow of beasts and the hunger of the forest. And I heard the cry of lonely men, and the plaint of those who long for what they know not.
I heard the sighing of the maiden for her lover, and the panting of the luckless hunter for his prey.
And then there came peace into their music, and the heavens and the earth sang together.
All this I saw in my dream, and all this I heard.

[Sarkis an old Greek Shepherd, called the madman : Jesus and Pan]
from Jesus the Son of Man by Kahlil Gibran
Io Pan!

1 comment:

Yewtree said...

Penal substitution (also known as vicarious atonement) theology was invented by Anselm of Canterbury in the 9th century. It holds that God is very angry with humanity for its sins, and requires satisfaction (in the form of sending everyone to hell). So, instead, God sent Jesus to earth to die on the cross as a substitute sacrifice. It turns God into a vengeful God. (This is the nastiest form of this theology – others have come up with less unpleasant variations.)

The alternative offered by Eastern Orthodox Christianity is Christus Victor theology. This is the idea that we are all imprisoned by sin, and that death is the ultimate form of that. As Jesus was one with God, he “trampled down death by death” as the Orthodox liturgy says: he literally couldn’t die, because he is God. So he went down into hell where the dead were, and burst their prison asunder and freed them. Thus his death, descent and resurrection are all equally important to Eastern Orthodox Christians.

A third possibility is to regard the whole story as mythology along the lines of other dying-and-resurrecting Middle Eastern vegetation gods (this is my own position). This does not make the story any less valid; it just sets it in the context of other similar mythology and allows us to experience it as the death of the ego and the resurrection of the larger self as we turn towards the Divine in the experience of metanoia. I recommend the excellent book The Man they called the Christ by David Doel, which explores this idea.