Saturday, June 30, 2007

Modern Myths about Christianity Series

A few years ago, I wrote another three-part series of posts in my old blog, Pulse Like Water, addressing some "myths" about Christianity that often circulate among modern Pagans. The posts were in large part provoked by reading a few "beyond-Wicca-101" type books (such as Currat's Wtichcrafting and Sylvan's The Circle Within) which still persisted in making broad statements about what Christianity can and can't be. At the time, I was still very strongly Christian and identifying myself as a member of the Catholic Church (mostly in an attempt to prove that not all Catholics are unthinking, patriarchal, anti-nature, intolerant jerks, and to live the example of Catholic mysticism as an acceptable and legitimate alternative).

The other week, while visiting my parents for my birthday, I had a conversation with my father about the difference between what it means to be a Catholic now, versus what it meant to be Catholic back when he was growing up in the isolated and impoverished back-end of the Pennsylvania coal region. He told me about his education in a Catholic school, where in "religion class" they actually debated difficult philosophical questions about the cold war, communism, violence and tolerance, instead of just preaching anti-gay, anti-abortion rhetoric. He told me that, when he first moved to Lancaster and began traveling often to Philadelphia on business, he was shocked at how conservative Catholics were expected to be. I guess that explains a lot about my own view of Christianity as much more diverse and more complex than most people believe it to be, or have experienced it as in their own lives. That conversation with my dad reminded me of these old posts that I wrote a while back, in which I took on various accusations often leveled at modern Christians and tried to explain how I thought they were inaccurate, misunderstood, or simply open to interpretation even among Christians. I cited a lot from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as one of the few documents that does a fairly good job of outlining just what exactly the current theology and philosophy is behind certain Catholic beliefs and practices.

So I thought I'd post a few links to the three parts, to kind of "clear the air" before I go on to talk about other Christianity-related topics. That way, if at some point, I begin to talk about the feminist or panentheistic or internal consistency aspects of Christianity, I can refer back to these handy essays as examples of what I'm talking about.

Part 1: Something Borrowed, Something Blue

In this post, I address two of the most common "myths" among Pagans about Christianity and its fundamental flaws: that Christianity is inauthentic and inconsistent, and that its most basic teaching is that human beings are utterly cut off from the Divine.

  • Myth # 1: Something Borrowed. Christianity "borrowed" or stole a great deal from the pagan culture it was attempting to replace, and to this day most things of value or benefit within the faith are not Christian, but pagan in nature.

  • Myth # 2: Something Blue. The most tragic aspect of Christianity is that it teaches that God is unreachable and unknowable, wholly absent from the world and from humankind, which is isolated by its sinful nature.

Part 2: No, Faith, No Sin, No Giving In

In this post, I address the way terms like "faith" and "sin" have come to be so narrowly defined by the very people rejecting them, and look at how a broader and mode complex understanding of these words help to shed light on their theological implications for Christian believers.

  • Myth # 3: No Faith. The Christian idea of faith is defined by absence--the absence of proof, the absence of thoughtful analysis, and the absence of any doubt or questioning. Neopagans do not need faith because they experience directly the Presence of the Divine.

  • Myth # 4: No Sin. The concept of "sin" is unhealthy and is just a way of threatening and controlling others. Nature teaches us that there is no such thing as "sin" or "evil."

Part 3: I Can't Even Save Myself : So Save Yourself

In this post, I look at the very complicated idea of what "salvation" means from the Christian perspective--the process by which a person might be "saved" and the idea of "hell" as what they're being saved from--with a focus on the implications for Christian tolerance or intolerance of other religious traditions.

  • Myth # 5: Christianity insists that only Christians can be saved and all other non-Christians are condemned to hell; this means that Christianity is fundamentally an intolerant religion eager to claim the privileges given to them by their Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the one and only legitimate savior of humankind (all others being false gods and demons).

1 comment:

  1. Such deep thoughts! Somehow I think that you are destined to become a theologian or perhaps a professor of comparative religion. I was impressed by last pope's stand against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and I believe that the Catholic Church also has a long-standing policy against capital punishment.