The Relevancy of Reconstructionism

The only time anyone’s admitted they were a Christian before was when they were busy telling me why they’re better than me.
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Randy K. Milholland, Something Positive Comic, 10-19-06

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
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Voltaire (1694 – 1778)

God made so many different kinds of people.  Why would he allow only one way to serve him?  ~Martin Buber

There are three religious truths:  1) Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.  2) Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith.  3) Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or at Hooters.  ~Author Unknown

This is actually a blog-response to Treegod’s well-formed thoughts on his blog: http://thegroveofquotes.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/continuity-in-history-and-spirituality/

I encourage any readers to check out this posting as it brings forth some fascinating subjects and presents the other side of my argument as presented in Why is this Relevant? Since I trust that people will link to Treegod’s blog and read his thoughts, I won’t spend too much time prefacing, but get right down to the meat of the debate.

 

There is a misconception, I believe, amongst many in Paganism. This misconception is that, because Christianity has been ruling for a short fifteen-hundred years that this means that it is undefeatable and that culture would not exist as we know it if we were to cast off Christian ideology and forge a new path. If this were the case then the vast cilizations of India and Japan should have already ceased to exist. These are polytheistic cultures that still follow their ancient traditions while being pragmatic enough to accept the changing world and change with it. It is foolishness and ideological arrogance to believe that simply because Christianity has been the sustaining “bread-and-butter” of the West for less than two-thousand years that it is necessary to our society’s equilibrium. European culture had great successes for five thousand years before the upstart religion from Judea ever began. Some anthropologists trace primal Paganism back 10,000 years, and there is burgeoning evidence that even the Neanderthal peoples of thirty-thousand years ago had an animistic, polytheistic spirituality!

So why should Christianity’s fifteen-hundred years of domination be of any concern in a possible time-frame of 30,000 years? I don’t believe that it should. However, I digress.

 

My main purpose is not to wipe out Christianity, or even dominate it as they dominated my spiritual and ethnic ancestors. My goal in this incarnation is to simply take back some ground from them. To encourage a climate of diversity and equality within the greater society, where we Pagans are not subject to the constant barrage of Christian bias.

What I am championing is an internal battle to be waged within each and every one of us. To cease to validate Christianity within ourselves and to cleave to the ancient principles that guided our great peoples for millenia before the arrival of the Church. I believe it is self-defeating for a Pagan to try to squeeze in his or her newfound faith into an outdated philosophical construct such as Christianity.

I myself, when I discovered my true faith and began worshipping the Old Gods, found that I had much guilt and fear left over from my 18 years of being an Evangelical Christian. Doubts and paranoia about Hellfire and eternal damnation seethed within my mind. My parents hounded after me to return to the fold, and old friends from the Church harrassed me; adding to my misery. Then, while in meditation with my Patron Deity, Woden, I came to an epiphany: I had sworn myself to Christ in ritual, I would divorce myself from him in a similar fashion. The ritual worked beautifully and I have never doubted my direction since.

From that point on my faith in the Old Gods and my Ancestors grew and strengthened and my understanding of the nature of polytheism grew as well. Far from being a contentious system that supports rival gangs or tribes warring with each other for resources, Polytheistic Reconstruction encourages more respect for other peoples and other ways of life.

As a true polytheist, I believe that all Gods exist, and that they are all important to their people, thus their people take on a greater importance to a true polytheist, for they are the lifeblood of their Divinities.

I think that the point of view that some put forth, one of universalism and unity of faith is frightening in the extreme. As a lover of diversity, I stand against all forms of conformism and I believe Pagans should be the loudest voices against conformity, especially against Christian conformity. Christianity and Paganism have two vastly differing views of the world. Christians believe that all have sinned and fallen short. They believe that unless we subscribe some sort of Mystery Religion that we will all burn in Perdition. Pagans, both ancient and neo believe that humanity is neither perfectly good nor inherently wicked. Paganism believes that we are our ancestors, and that our antecedents were the very Gods we love and honor, thus we are the literal descendants of Gods. Christianity believes that the Earth is just a thing, an innert conglomeration of resources to be multiplied upon and dominated for our own material gains. Paganism believes that the Earth is a Goddess, or at the very least, a consortium of local Land Goddesses, and it should be respected as such. 

The list of differences could go on forever, so the above is just the tip of the iceberg. If we stop trying to force pieces together that have no relation we will begin to see the vast conflicts in these two religious traditions.

In my opinion, a Pagan that continues to validate Christianity – to feel thankful to it for recording our past in the written word, or to thank it for civilizing the warring tribes of the world – is no better than an African American circa 1950’s America that averted his eyes in the presence of Whites and held a self-denigrating opinion that the White-man had civilized him. We applaud the African Americans for standing up for equality and not validating White Supremism, and rightly so! Should we not take a note from those brave revolutionaries that refused to sit in the back of the bus, or to be cowed by the barking of the White Man’s police dogs? We no more owe thanks to Christianity than African Americans owe thanks to the slave-traders. Neither was beneficial for those oppressed, and neither should be validated.

If one finds a deep sympathy for the teachings of Christ, but dislikes the cultural amorphousness of American Christianity, then perhaps they should seek out a culturally relevant sect, such as Irish Catholicism, Christian Judaism, Russian Orthodoxy, Greek Orthodoxy etc..  These sects however, are not Reconstructionism, nor are they Paganism. They are mystical versions of the commercialized Western Church, that is all, and that is all they should remain. A mystic, seer, or sorcerer who follows the teachings of Christ is no more a Pagan than a Honda is a Ford. Both will get you from point A to point B, but one is more reliable and gentler on the Earth than the other.

 

 

 

 

Bjorn Odinsson Thompson

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12 Responses to “The Relevancy of Reconstructionism”

  1. This is a bit long for a “comment” don’t you think 😉
    I find the different of Christian experience we’ve had in each of our lives an interesting contrast. I grew up with a liberal Christianity for a little over the first decade of my life. And it wasn’t just a set of beliefs I had, it was a part of my human development that helped shaped my character into what it is today. I may have dropped the beliefs but it left me with an optimistic attitude to life, the seed of spiritual exploration, a sense of humanity as a diverse whole rather than fragmented. Even a love of nature, for me God loved his Creation, but also I was exposed to nature in a very positive way by my nature-loving parents.
    When I got to my experimental NeoPagan phase I did have doubts and guilt but that wasn’t because I’d been threatened with hellfire or anything. My mum (who’s a Christian) never threatened me with hellfire. She rejected her stifling Roman Catholic upbringing to embrace a more liberal Protestant faith in Christ (though unaffiliated with any church) so she can at least respect my choice of spirituality. It’s called Free Will and because its a God-given freedom, it is sacred. That’s another thing I’ve learnt from my own Christian upbringing, that choice is up to the individual, no matter what Church or family may say.
    In fact I think it was the attitude of my dad (who’s a Spiritualist Medium) that rubbed off on me. His experience was like yours in a way. He told me once that his mum dragged him along to the cinema to protest The Exorcist when it came out! The only mention of hellfire in my house was from my dad…
    Christianity gave me optimism in life, and the basic foundation for my conscience, but it could only take me so far on my life journey. The Spiritualist interval in my teens (more imagination than spiritual quest) opened my mind to beyond just a biblical view of the world but it could only take me so far on my life journey. Paganism was the start of a more proactive spiritual life but certainly not the end, showing me I had more than just a Christian heritage, that Nature is sacred and spiritual and that imagination and magic are essential to the human experience. But, once again, it could only take me so far on my life journey.
    As the Buddha said the Dharma is like a boat to get you to the other side of a river, not something that should define the life journey. And cultures, religions and traditions are there to serve humanity, and life in general, and are only “sacred” as long as that is what they do. And sometimes they have fulfilled their purpose and we have to leave them behind to seek the next stretch of the journey, collectively and as individuals. For me I see this in the Gaian worldview that transcends and contains humanity and all of its cultures, religions and traditions. No matter how we evolve, it has always been with and will always be with the living Earth.

  2. Yes, my apologies for making it so long. If you want to you can delete it, by all means. I wanted to send it privately but didn’t know how through wordpress.
    No offence taken. I just had to write it to make clear just how different our individual Chrisitian experiences are. I think our views on Christianity are very much experience based, and I think we both benefit from seeing other dimensions and layers to the complex subject that is Christianity. I know I do; in the past I have been a bit innocent and too quick in defending Christianty since I didn’t make the distinction between my Christianity and Christianity as a whole. I can only defend and make clear my own experience.
    Living in Spain I’m getting a different experience. The Roman Catholic Church is make a good business out of psychological dependence telling its followers that they’re guilty and then offering them salvation (it’s like giving them the disease AND the cure) The Inquisition as an institution has gone, but as a psychological force in society, it still exists.
    I feel sorry for Jesus, 2000 years ago he was crucified by Romans, 2000 years later they’re still doing it, and they’re worshipping it! Why can’t they let him resurrect? Oh yeah, because they’ll lose out on their guilt-trip business. Thanks for an interesting dialogue 🙂

  3. Greetings Nakedroadwarrior. I read both posts, that of treegod and your response, and I respect both viewpoints.

    I’ll just add one thought from “the” Charles Guignebert, whose scholarship of Christian history is yet unparalleled.

    He wrote in Ancient Medieval and Modern Christianity (1961), “…Western peoples in the early centuries of the Christian era never really understood the Christian dogmas, nor have they understood them since….The Western peoples have, strictly speaking, never been Christians,” and “Christians in name, but bearing the impress only of the Christian legend and nourished upon formulas passively repeated, these men–the vast majority of professed Christians–remained actually pagans….”

    In my blog I have occasionally written more about this theme, that Westerners still hold dearest their Pagan values, such as ideals of courage, strength, independence, honor and family, all antithetical to Christian teachings. It’s why those of us who find Heathenry identify so readily with the philosophy; it’s in our blood, so to speak. Heathens often speak of the epiphany they experience upon “coming home” to their native ethos. If we’ve been sufficiently enculturated, it’s sometimes difficult to shrug off the cloak of Christianity, but underneath, heart, blood and bone, we’re Heathen.

  4. Treegod wrote, “The Roman Catholic Church is make a good business out of psychological dependence telling its followers that they’re guilty and then offering them salvation (it’s like giving them the disease AND the cure) The Inquisition as an institution has gone, but as a psychological force in society, it still exists.”

    This reminds me of my recent disagreement with John Morehead of Morehead’s Musings (http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/). He interviewed two evangelists, Muck and Adeney, and I commented that their conversion ploy (which they revealed, apparently without any shame) was obnoxious. Muck talked of the “gift” of the gospel he brings, wrapping it, as he says, in the “context of neo-Paganism,” as though by handing us shame and fear wrapped in a pretty, pagan package, we’ll be more accepting, maybe even grateful for it.

    In the past I’ve been open to the goals of “interfaith dialogue,” but I’m inching more and more toward a Heathen Right as I learn that “interfaith dialogue” is only a code word for covert christian operations.

  5. I suppose I don’t believe in “interfaith dialogue,” not for the reason you say, but that I am not a religion, I do not represent it. I am a person, not a religion. I believe in interpersonal dialogue, approaching other people, not by the groups they belong to, or any other sense of identity, but by the person they are.
    In our globalising, multicultural world, you would have thought we’d gotten over this “intergroup” stuff and realised that we’re individuals despite our affiliations. Groupthink doesn’t work any more, time for group consciousness; the collaboration of self-directed individuals. Not “groups,” “religions,” “traditions,” “nationalities,” “tribes” or whatever.

  6. “or any other sense of [group] identity” I was meant to say 😉

  7. nakedwoadwarrior Says:

    See, I believe you are wrong in this Treegod. Humans are tribal creatures. We are pack animals and only a few movers and shakers have been anywhere near what I would call “indivdualist”. Human beings are evolutionarily programmed to “clique up”. From the time we came down from the trees and began walking upright we knew inour primal brains we were not as fast, strong, or lethally equipped as the predators that sought to hunt us down. Our only strength was our superior brains and our ability to hunt together. United human hunters were able to bring down the great Mammoths and fight off the fearsome cavebears. Alone we are nothing, together we are unstoppable. To laud this sort of suicidal indivdualism is tantamount to biological heresy. There will always be intertribal conflict and interfaith disagreement, for religion is the strongest manifestation of the tribal impulse. Other less constructive emanations of this basic human drive are gangs, subcultures and sports team affiliations. It is hardwired into the human animal and will never go away, unless we cease to be Human.

  8. I see no contradiction between being a social animal or an individual. My life, I feel, is proof of this, at least to me it is.
    Individiualism is what made you become independant from your Christian upbringing and choose a different path. You thought, individually, “I don’t belong to this group” and so chose something that was right for you. A group that was right for you. Individually. If you hadn’t developed some individuality you’d still be a Christian, enslaved to peer pressure forever more.
    It’s individual thinking that has freed me from peer pressure, it is individual thinking that has freed me from soulless materialism, it is individual thinking that has freed me from unconscious thought patterns that would otherwise lead me to live a life in a dead-end job, with dead-end relationships as a robot or zombie.
    It is individual thinking that has led me to search for the right groups for me to be an individual in, and a relationship where neither one nor the other is “in control” but where we are collaborators working together.
    Let’s say your “group” was taken over by an evil dictator who did things with the group that you don’t agree with (anything from invoking Care Bears in ritual space to Holocaust, you choose) would you stand by and let this happen because you value group loyalty above all things, or would you fight against it, ousting the evil dictator or leaving the group to choose/found another, more suitable group?
    The group instinct in humans is a fundamental thing, but the groups humans create are more fluid, more abstract, than that. After all, they are made up of individuals; particles that are always part of a whole, but never completely melted into it in some anonymous mass.
    I think this might be a blog, oh wait, I think it already is… http://thegroveofquotes.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/synergy-of-quotes/

  9. What is “Christianity”? Is it one thing? Is it many things?

    And what do we do when aspects of Christianity are inherently compatible with aspects of our ancient heathen faith? I’ve argued before that Jesus was merely a Jewish reformer of Zoroastrianism, and Zoroastrianism is a direct development of our cousin Indo-European faith of the Heathen Iranians, a faith that is stunningly in accordance with Teutonic heathenism even with the veneer of monotheism that Zoroaster placed over it. Most have yet to realize this because Zoroastrianism has been poorly glossed in the literature, whereas it is a subtle and quite pagan faith. Zoroaster made Ahura Mazda far more important in prominence than he had been before, but this cousin of Varuna was essentially a first amongst equals elevated a little bit higher. He still was accompanied by many of the old gods. Zoroaster’s ethical reform was needed in many ways, and restored a tribal religion that had gotten off course over centuries of warfare and trauma. However, when these reforms affected Judaism, which was ruled by a more zealously monotheistic sect (although the common folk were often quite pagan, as archaeology confirms), they transformed it into something very proto-Christian.

    We must always be careful to remember that arch-heathenism was not anti-Christian. It was its own entity, and by simple probability, and the underlying goodness to be found (amongst other impulses) in humanity, it included many things that Christianity also included. If we attempt to splice out everything which appears to be Christian, we may in fact be splicing out extremely important aspects of our ancestors’ faith.

    This is especially true when it comes to matters of human goodness, brotherhood, and charity, which Christianity has attempted to monopolize, as if these weren’t near-universal tendencies. Christians would be quick to caricature our Gods as “war gods” when in fact they are energies of deity with great subtlety and complexity. Let’s face it : every human group calls upon its conception of divinity when they go to war, and this human, all-too-human trait is no guarantee that the divinity in any way approves of the petty human squabbles! Unless it concerns fundamental archetypal values such as justice, defending the earth, protecting one’s home, etc. If we look at human usage, Jesus far more qualifies as a “war god” than the Gods of our ancestors, because the cross has been pulled out for the front lineup of more wars than our ancestors would ever have had time for. They were too busy enjoying their meadhalls to be constantly at war! Confusing human theologies and divine realities is a mistake often made …

    The problem with Christianity as I see it personally is that it never went through Customs. It was smuggled in without any attempt to Naturalize it. Of course, the folk did, and Christianity at the level of the folk was at first at least often a paganism with a thin Christian veneer. But where it mattered, in the halls of law, it was never received through a proper Teutonic law procedure. It would have taken a great deal of work to do this, of course, because the Folkmoots would have had to have voted on the Bible, line by line, verse by verse, taking exception to passages that were particularly offensive to native standards, and so forth. This has never really been done, although Thomas Jefferson made a start when he created his own edited version of the Bible in which he deleted anything he found particularly obnoxious ; Jefferson, of course, felt that American values traced back to Anglo-Saxon pagan values and said as much explicitly, arguing that America should not be considered a Christian nation (at least not exclusively).

    • nakedwoadwarrior Says:

      Hey there Siegfried, I think that Christianity should refer to the entire JudeoChristian psycho-spiritual construct. You mention various similarities of belief shared between Heathenism and Christianity. I believe that these similarities are self-evident and we do not need anything of Christianity to illuminate our world-view. Perhaps Heathenism shares an Indo-European root with Christianity. . .but this is far in antiquity.

      I believe this is similar to saying: “We share an evolutionary and genetic root with Chimpanzees, thus we should not rule out cannibalism of younglings in posturing for dominance or communal grooming for lice.” The presence of spiritual or genetic/evolutionary roots does not mean that these are any longer relevant to our current purposes.

      I am aware that the mythological figure of Christ shares many similarities in his mythos with Orsiris, Dionysus and Mithras. But did these similarities happen accidentally – a manifestation of shared Indo-European mythology – or did the early Christians, in a desperate attempt to build a religion around a Hebrew prophet appropriate these mythological ideals in an attempt to be competitive in the cosmopolitan Roman spiritual marketplace where Mystery Cults promising eternal life were a dime a dozen?

      Ultimately I posit that, despite any perceived similarities, ours is a spiritual paradigm unique to the environs and culture of our tribal ancestors, and one that is only made weaker by external influences, not stronger.

      I look forward to your response!

      Frith,
      Bjorn

  10. I don’t think that all external influences weaken the Northern Way, for this is to set boundaries that are theoretical constructs and do not actually show us reality as it is. Our ancestors were out there influencing and being influenced all over the world, learning new things and new ways all the time in far flung lands with many climates, conditions and societies. There is a cultural and spiritual core to Heathenism that is a starting place, but one that should always be tested and tried in the furnace of real-world interaction. Likewise, this spiritual core is only lately being revitalized, and there is much to learn from traditions like Zoroastrianism and Hinduism that show us what an Indo-European religion looks like when a 1000-1700 year gap does not exist. We have the luxury of evaluating both ourselves and these ancient Indo-European traditions without feeling constrained by learned cultural behaviors or what have you, and so precious and hard-won insights into the nature of reality can be explored and tested without some ingrained fear of stepping on Brahmanical toes, or without fear of throwing out the baby with the bathwater if we find some aspects, such as guru cults and the like, to be utterly distasteful to our sensibilities and thus easily rejected.

    • nakedwoadwarrior Says:

      I agree with you in general, Clint, that Heathenism is a strong belief system that should not be threatened by exterior and alien philosophies. However, while our Ancestors’ world view was being influenced by foreigners just as they were influencing those far-flung lands, they were not in peril of losing their essential cultural tradition. I am not threatened by extant beliefs, but I have also been deeply dedicated to history and Lore for six years. I always suggest to anyone seeking advice in the area of Recon from me to study the Lore and only the Lore for at least one to two years before branching out and experimenting. There are many foreign belief systems that share a common Indo-European root with Asatru, and certain American Folk-Magic traditions can meld beautifully with Heathen beliefs so long as certain changes are made to create a more syncretic system. However these blendings should be undertaken later in the studies of a newly re-converted Reconstructionist, as it is essential to Recon to understand and live the ethos of one’s ancestors.

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