Response to Sam Webster, 2

There are some good points in Sam’s position. Christians have privilege in our society. Contrary to the rantings of Pat Robertson and Friends, Christians in the United States rarely have to worry about losing or missing out on employment because of their religion. Christian children in the US don’t generally have to worry about systematic bullying at school for their beliefs. Christians in the US generally don’t have to worry about being targets of religiously motivated violence in their own homes. Western Christians never have to worry that the majority of people aren’t going to recognize their holidays; in jobs that grant this kind of benefit they get their most important holidays off work or at least paid overtime . Except perhaps in the cases of individual small businesses, or in particular communities, this is not true for any other religion in the US. Occasionally members of non-Christian religions are able to negotiate time off for their own religious celebrations (schools, to my knowledge, must grant excused time off to students for religious holidays), but those legal protections have no effect on the social stigma of a.) belonging to a minority religion and b.) taking a second (maybe paid) day off that other employees or students don’t get. You already got time off around Easter because everybody got Easter; you want Ostara, too?

I can understand how those of us who do deal with and fear these kinds of discrimination could feel bitter at someone who seems to be playing both sides. However, the idea that a Christo-Pagan is going to face less social stigma is fairly ridiculous after a moment’s thought. In most Christian or mainstream circles, people are going to hear “Pagan,” and the “Christo-” part isn’t going to make a bit of difference. Yes, they can just leave the “Pagan” part out and pass, but technically so can I. The fact that they’d only be closeting half of their spiritual identity instead of all of it isn’t really salient. Anyway, for him to suggest that Christo-Pagans only identify as such in order to claim or avoid giving up their privilege suggests a cynical distrust in a person’s stated beliefs, which is generally a big no-no in Pagan culture (or should be).

I’m also completely on board with his side-eye at “the ‘he’s a good guy’ thesis” of Jesus. In case you didn’t know, my field is early Christianity/New Testament in general and Christian narrative in particular. And I’m here to tell you that the idea that Jesus was just a cool dude who cruised around Galilee saying everyone should be nice to each other isn’t borne out by the text. And to say that the authors of the text got it wrong and corrupted who Jesus really was expresses a confidence in one’s historical Jesus theory that almost never comes from any kind of research into historical Jesus theories or methodology. It’s the same kind of context-ignorant cherry-picking committed by the worst bigots on the far Religious Right, and just because it comes up with something infinitely better than that bigotry doesn’t mean it should be tolerated. If I end up agreeing with Sam and saying that Pagans shouldn’t revere Christ, it might be because on an academic level I don’t think you can separate the historical Jesus from the Jesuses of the text.

That leads to another issue, though. Paganism is not, generally, a text-based religion. We’re experiential religions, invoking religions, and how I experience the gods I invoke is never going to completely match the experience of someone else. My experience of Jesus and his father is painful. I grew up in what I recognize now would have been called an emotionally abusive relationship if either of them had been a human being, and they walked out on me some time before I gave up on them (to answer what I know will be a critique of that statement, the first part could very well have been a product of the church and not the god, but the second was not). But that’s not everyone’s experience with those deities, and my experience doesn’t trump theirs for them any more than theirs trumps mine for me. If someone invokes Jesus and experiences him as something other than he is portrayed in the earliest texts that describe him, I don’t have spiritual ground to argue with them.

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One Response to Response to Sam Webster, 2

  1. Thank you for bringing all of this up, because this is the stuff that I go around and around about on this and other related issues. Good post(s)!

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