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Author Topic: Can a Person, by TC's Definition, Be Pagan and Follow the Teachings of Jesus?  (Read 21575 times)
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« Topic Start: January 13, 2010, 04:00:00 am »

I just read Star's article on "Why We're Touchy About Defining Paganism" and I have a question, being new here and not having had time to read all the thousands of back-posts.

Has there ever been a poster here who is pagan and follows the teachings of Jesus, or is that even possible by the Cauldron's definition?  And did they have a label for themselves?  I understand that a "Christian Pagan" is an oxymoron, but if one believes in Jesus as a teacher and prophet, but not as Christ, then that person isn't Christian.

If you throw out the rest of the bible and just keep the gospels, it seems--to my interpretation--to be a great panentheistic revelation.  But according to most churches, of course, that's heretical.

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« Reply #1: January 13, 2010, 05:30:54 am »

Has there ever been a poster here who is pagan and follows the teachings of Jesus, or is that even possible by the Cauldron's definition?  And did they have a label for themselves?  I understand that a "Christian Pagan" is an oxymoron, but if one believes in Jesus as a teacher and prophet, but not as Christ, then that person isn't Christian.

If a person is following Jesus's teachings in a way that isn't specifically Christian (and, really, there's a lot of good stuff there), then that would not contradict TC's definition.  ::shrug::  Not Jewish, Islamic, or Christian, and self-identifies as Pagan.  Nothing in there about "following some teachings of Christianity, but not actually Christian".  I honestly can't recall whether we've had an actual example of this show up here, but it should be possible in theory.

That said, I would question somewhat the setup there--Jesus as saviour is a pretty central concept in Christianity, and I'm not sure how well it would work out to cherry-pick what parts of the religion one is going to follow.  (This isn't even a question of just focusing on the Gospels, I don't think--John 3:16, for example?  I admit I'm not super-familiar with the Bible anymore, but I would be shocked if the four books focusing on Jesus's life didn't really touch on his role as Messiah.)  But that doesn't mean it's impossible, it just means that it would have to be done very carefully.

Of course, I guess you could do something like I am given to understand Islam does--isn't Jesus considered a prophet, but not divine, there?  But then I'd think the appropriate source material would be Islam (as a religion that already sees him that way) rather than Christianity (as a religion where he's pretty much the saviour).  If that made any sense at all...  It's early.  Cheesy
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« Reply #2: January 13, 2010, 08:05:29 am »

Has there ever been a poster here who is pagan and follows the teachings of Jesus, or is that even possible by the Cauldron's definition? 

I believe that following some of the teachings of Jesus (those that do not have to do with believing in and following him or his father) would be compatible with many Pagan religions.
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« Reply #3: January 13, 2010, 08:40:15 am »

I believe that following some of the teachings of Jesus (those that do not have to do with believing in and following him or his father) would be compatible with many Pagan religions.

Well, the question I pose as a pagan is why couldn't a he/she be a person is a Christian Pagan or Jewish Pagan? Why couldn't they follow and believe in Jesus in a pagan method?

I state my question like that for I feel if a person does such, they take the core values and teachings of said religion and apply it to the Pagan way of life. Pagan is generically just an umbrella that covers a vast amount of religions beneath it. We each have various teachings below it and thus become a... Shamanic Pagan or a Pagan of the Faerie kind of path. It allows us to have what teachings we feel are best and grants us the ability to be at one with a group people who accept all walks of life.

...Damn I've came a long way in my thinking from three years ago.   Cheesy
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« Reply #4: January 13, 2010, 08:53:38 am »

I believe that following some of the teachings of Jesus (those that do not have to do with believing in and following him or his father) would be compatible with many Pagan religions.

I'm with Randall on this-you can believe in whatever you choose to. It doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks-if you want to believe that the nearest Elm tree to you is your Divinity, then all the best to you! Only you can decide what you believe in.
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« Reply #5: January 13, 2010, 08:54:51 am »

Well, the question I pose as a pagan is why couldn't a he/she be a person is a Christian Pagan or Jewish Pagan? Why couldn't they follow and believe in Jesus in a pagan method?

By Pagan standards, it depends on the exact type of pagan but there might not be a contradiction, really.  Christianity and Judaism tend to be a little more insistent upon exclusivity, though.  Thus, if you're doing things in a pagan method, you're probably not really Christian or Jewish, and the label becomes inaccurate.
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« Reply #6: January 13, 2010, 09:03:56 am »

By Pagan standards, it depends on the exact type of pagan but there might not be a contradiction, really.  Christianity and Judaism tend to be a little more insistent upon exclusivity, though.  Thus, if you're doing things in a pagan method, you're probably not really Christian or Jewish, and the label becomes inaccurate.

What ever good are labels? Cheesy

I think a person who chooses this type of path (would) generally understand that definition given. He or she (would) likely no longer associate themselves with said-religion. 
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« Reply #7: January 13, 2010, 10:14:57 am »

What ever good are labels? Cheesy

Accurate ones are pretty important for communication.  The person using the label might just know what it means and understand it to mean "pagan who includes some practices from this other religion, but isn't actually claiming to follow said religion or be affiliated with it in any way".  The rest of us don't necessarily look at that label and get that definition.
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« Reply #8: January 13, 2010, 10:23:27 am »

I understand that a "Christian Pagan" is an oxymoron, but if one believes in Jesus as a teacher and prophet, but not as Christ, then that person isn't Christian.

If you throw out the rest of the bible and just keep the gospels, it seems--to my interpretation--to be a great panentheistic revelation.  But according to most churches, of course, that's heretical.

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Two quick references:

http://www.twpt.com/christianpagan.htm
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Fundamentally, the question comes down to:  "Is Christian Paganism an oxymoron?  Or, are the terms to some degree redundant?"

Answering this question revolves around three primary points:  (1) How do we define Christianity?  (2) What do we mean by  Paganism?  and, (3) Does syncretistic behavior weaken one's fundamental beliefs?  This last point is critical because one can argue quite effectively that Paganism and Christianity are two of the world's most syncretistic religious positions.


http://www.ecauldron.net/christianpagandialog.php
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I am a Catholic - by birth, by choice, and by love.

And yet I spend large portions of my time hanging around with Pagan friends - something that often surprises Christians and Pagans both.

Syncretism has been going on since Sumerian times and presumably earlier.  IMO it's natural and healthy.  Whenever someone says "Stop the train, I have all the answers!" I run the other direction.

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« Reply #9: January 13, 2010, 10:28:13 am »

Accurate ones are pretty important for communication.  The person using the label might just know what it means and understand it to mean "pagan who includes some practices from this other religion, but isn't actually claiming to follow said religion or be affiliated with it in any way".  The rest of us don't necessarily look at that label and get that definition.

I agree that labels can be (mostly) helpful in communication. Yes, telling you that I'm an eclectic Pagan doesn't tell you much about my beliefs - but it tells you straight up that I know enough that I identify with a certain group, and know enough to shove 'eclectic' in as a qualifier.

However, if I'm dealing with someone who I don't think is Pagan-friendly... I'm Unitarian Universalist. It's not a lie, because I am. It's just that UUs have a church, and ministers, and if I absolutely need to under the circumstances (I live in the Bible Belt), I can imply that I got to a Christian church.

I feel that in some ways labels can be disruptive, because in my experience there's a tendency to label yourself, not your experiences. For example, I've found the term spiritual atheist to be helpful in the past, and I've definitely got an on-again-off-again flirtation with being atheist Pagan. (It has to do with my macro-view of the universe, which is complicated, so we won't get into that here. Smiley) However, I definitely have experiences with what I'm calling Deity, so should I toss out my atheism? Nope. I just have two main ways of experiencing the world - as atheist, and as hard polytheist - and I'm allowing both to exist at different points in time. I've settled on 'Pagan' for my label, just because it is so ridiculously broad that I don't have to change it every couple of weeks. Smiley

So to answer the original original question: If I can be an atheist Pagan, then others can be Christian/Jewish/whatever Pagans. It's not my place to tell them merging can't occur, or argue that their religious experience aren't valid.
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« Reply #10: January 13, 2010, 10:37:17 am »


Could you clarify why you included this reference in a post about syncretism?  Koi is a Catholic who hangs around with Pagans--who coexists with them and is friendly with them, that is, not who tries to syncretize their beliefs with those of her birth religion.  It's been a while since I've read through the article you're linking to here, but I recall it being very much along the same lines, talking about the importance of understanding and cooperation rather than addressing the feasibility of mixing two very different belief systems.  I'm a little confused about how that relates to the rest of this conversation.  Huh
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« Reply #11: January 13, 2010, 10:54:19 am »

So to answer the original original question: If I can be an atheist Pagan, then others can be Christian/Jewish/whatever Pagans. It's not my place to tell them merging can't occur, or argue that their religious experience aren't valid.

To be clear here:  It isn't my intent to say that merging can't occur, and I certainly am not going to tell anyone that their religious experiences aren't valid.  What I'm trying to say is that a) "Christian Pagan" or "Jewish Pagan" is probably not an accurate way to refer to the result of that merging (it might be more advisable to come up with a new label that doesn't carry the history of "Christian", "Jewish", etc.) and b) as with any syncretism or eclecticism, it would need to be done very carefully in order to come up with something that really held together as a whole as opposed to a bunch of mismatched bits stuck together any which way.

And in the end, you know, it's not up to me to tell anyone they can't be anything.  If people want to call themselves Christian Pagans, so be it--that's their choice, and clearly they feel it's the most accurate label available to them.  That doesn't mean I have to agree with them that it's the best thing to call themselves, though.

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I feel that in some ways labels can be disruptive, because in my experience there's a tendency to label yourself, not your experiences.

I'm sorry, you've lost me.  Labelling myself, to me, is roughly equivalent to labelling my experiences...  I mean, I am a person who has experienced these things, my life and my self are the sum of my experiences.  To borrow your example (and I hope you understand that I mean to discuss this theoretically and don't mean any of this as a judgement on your personal choice of terms), if I were an atheist and then had what I believed to be an experience with Deity, I would indeed feel I had to discard the atheist label.  At that point, I have experienced Deity, and if I believe that experience was genuine then I am now a person who believes in Deity (because how could the experience be genuine if Deity does not exist in some form).  Thus, experience changes who I am.

Even assuming a separation, I don't understand why labelling yourself rather than your experiences would be a bad thing.  It would seem to me that labels based on who you actually are would be more accurate than labels based on things that have happened to you.

I feel like I'm just missing a lot of what you're saying--is there any way you could maybe try putting it another way, or clarifying based on what I've said here?
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« Reply #12: January 13, 2010, 11:26:03 am »

What ever good are labels? Cheesy

Generally, communication is pretty difficult if you don't use nouns or adjectives.
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« Reply #13: January 13, 2010, 11:31:49 am »

To be clear here:  It isn't my intent to say that merging can't occur, and I certainly am not going to tell anyone that their religious experiences aren't valid.  What I'm trying to say is that a) "Christian Pagan" or "Jewish Pagan" is probably not an accurate way to refer to the result of that merging (it might be more advisable to come up with a new label that doesn't carry the history of "Christian", "Jewish", etc.) and b) as with any syncretism or eclecticism, it would need to be done very carefully in order to come up with something that really held together as a whole as opposed to a bunch of mismatched bits stuck together any which way.

I feel that keeping the term "Christian" in there is important, especially if a person feels that they are still being true to (at least their image of) Christianity. I may be the wrong person to bring this point up as I left Christianity behind, and I don't know the exact reasoning that would lead someone to think of themselves as both Christian and Pagan. I do recognize it would be a difficult balance, and perhaps I should leave this particular part of the discussion to someone who walks that balance. Smiley

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I feel like I'm just missing a lot of what you're saying--is there any way you could maybe try putting it another way, or clarifying based on what I've said here?

Definitely. I'll use my atheist experience as an example.

I believe that there is a huge difference between how I experience the world and what actually exists. I don't know how the truth behind Deity, souls, the meaning of the universe, etc. And I don't particularly care. (If a bush were to explode in front of me and cry out "I AM THE ONE TRUE GOD" I'd probably shrug, go "That's nice," and put the video up on YouTube. Smiley) I don't particularly believe in anything on the macro level, so in that sense I'm atheist, or at least agnostic. There may very well be a cosmic Something out there, but it doesn't bother me.

There are times when I feel, deep down in my bones, that there's nothing out there, that there are no gods or spirits or whathaveyou, and humans are all we've got. And that's okay. I'm not depressed or desperately trying to get back to my Pagan-y viewpoint (at least, not anymore) - I just honestly don't feel a thing.

There are other times when I'm in the middle of ritual, or doing devotion, or something where I just feel like gods are watching and there with me. Honestly, and sincerely, I feel a divine presence, and I don't feel like I'm lying to myself or making it up.

There are times when I feel both of these cocurrently. Smiley Like right now, I'm preparing to burn part of a sandwich for Apollo, because I got the sense that he wanted it. Do I believe in Apollo? Dunno. But I'm going ahead with the sacrifice anyway, because I feel like it, and I don't see why not. I'm still the same person, whether I'm feeling like an atheist, or feeling like a polytheist. My experiences are what are shifting.

Let me try another example too, this one with the labels I've used for my sexual orientation. I've pretty much used asexual as my primary label for a couple years now, and it seems to fit. For the most part, I'm not sexually attracted to anyone. Romantically I've got enough crushes to supply a country with an army, but I don't want to sleep with any of them. However, note the "for the most part." I have exceptions, as I imagine most people do. Sexuality is fluid - I haven't been (mostly) asexual my whole life, and I've accepted the fact that my sexual orientation could definitely shift over time. But I myself am not changing. My experiences (who I like, what I'd like to do with them) are changing.

I hope that clarifies. If it doesn't, please let me know and I'll try again. Smiley
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« Reply #14: January 13, 2010, 11:36:24 am »

Generally, communication is pretty difficult if you don't use nouns or adjectives.

This.
Plus, we label ourselves all the time on a daily base.
We want to let others know who we are, how we think, how we feel.
That's because we're social animals. Wink
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