Christianity Through the Eyes of a Pagan by Daniel Staver Jr

Christianity Through the Eyes of a Pagan by Daniel Staver JrToday I seen an assignment to write about Pagan views on Christianity., I have decided to give my opinion about my views on Christianity. I would like to clarify what religious back ground I come from, I am Wiccan technically I am Shaman. I chose this religious path because it is more open and I believe I can help people with herbal healing. So technically I am a shaman healer, I heal with plants, oils, massage, incense, and music. All of this can help some one feel better, repels negativity and makes me feel good when they are feeling better about things. My opinion on Christianity is that they need to loosen up some. We are not Satan worshipers, satanic worship is the opposite of Christianity, it has very little to do with pagan beliefs. For one thing Wiccans do not believe in Satan or hell. I think Christians need to think before they point fingers how many people have died in the name of Jesus and god ? I believe humans make mistakes and it only takes one wrong thing done by a leader to have a lot of things go the wrong way. The crusades is one thing I think should have never happened but it did and I believe a lot of people would change the way things went back then but it is to late. Personally I think Christians need to relax more be open minder and not condemn every one to hell because they don’t believe the exact same way you do. When I was younger I was forced to go to church, catholic and Lutheran schools. The only church I went to that didn’t remind me of a funeral was southern baptist. They know how to have a good time and still worship. If your happy to be alive and that god gave you this chance on his greatest creation then don’t mourn when your at church. Don’t sing the same crap hymnals that all the songs in it seem like a funeral march sing with emotion and enthusiasm. I think your gonna be surprised when you die and god ask you why did you mourn every time you went to church? What will you say? I just believe that Christians need to be more open to new things and not condemn before they know some one personally.
/Life Beyond Christianity /I remember the first time I openly mouthed what any Christian would declare as heresy. I was having a conversation with my sister-in-law, a somewhat fundamentalist Christian of Calvinist stock, about my changing attitudes towards traditional Christianity. She sensed I was challenging the basic premise that all Christians must accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior so when she openly asked, “Did I not still believe Jesus died for our sins and that we need to acknowledge this to be saved?” , without hardly a hesitation I said “No!”. She gasped and I must admit it kind of took me by surprise having finely confessed what I felt in my heart was true.

This was not an instantaneous transformation. Just a few years prior to this I was an active member of my Methodist congregation, having confessed my salvation before them and serving as a Chairman for several committees, including the Xmas toy store we put together every year for the local poor. I had also started the first jail ministry with this church and pursued it alone about half of the time for the 2 years it existed. I was an avowed “born-again” Christian based on an “awakening” I had in my early twenties. As it turned out, it was my intense interest in the Christian faith that ultimately led me to challenge its basic tenets and later disassociate myself with the dogma first and ultimately the Church itself.

My early religious life was uneventful as it is with most kids and young adults. We are what we are because we are raised that way. I was a Catholic by birth but never imbued with the doctrinal views of the Church. My parents were believers but for the most part went through the motions of their faith for the sake of four kids. When they eventually divorced there was no real reason for me to pursue something that had no depth of meaning to me. It would be later in life, after getting out of the military and going back to school that I regained a sense of my faith.

My “rebirth” was not a traditional one. Through the literature of Emerson and Thoreau I gained an insight of the divine that had never been presented to me before. I found no need to associate my spiritual awakening with a crucified Jesus nor did I feel compelled to re-start a church-going routine. However, my spiritual experience at this time, over a period of several weeks, gave me a sense that there was a greater power out there and I allowed myself to be guided with this feeling and re-connect with the human race in a manner that was different than I had been familiar with. Love was at the core of my transition and I felt a new sense of empowerment to engage any and all with their materialistic concepts of life, be they religious traditionalists or not. Shades of Paul’s road trip to Damascus.

Without going into a lot of detail, my faith came full circle and after getting married I thought it might be time to rejoin the Church and try to find common ground with traditional people of faith. I hunted for a church that seemed to identify with my more non-conventional theology. I thought I found it within the Unity Church but became disappointed when I sensed the pastor was too much into himself. I went the other extreme and joined a southern Baptist affiliation where I went through the physical baptizing in the water tank behind the alter. But the rigid premises of the Baptist belief system were just simply unacceptable. I finally settled for what I thought was a middle ground and joined an evangelical Methodist congregation in the early eighties. It was after all the higher calling within that motivated me, not some institutional association.

At first things went well, I liked the pastor and my wife, children and I became close friends with his family. There was an identifiable message in his sermons that encouraged me to become more active in church politics. It was through these associations that I discovered that there was still something lacking that I felt was intended to connect all human beings, be they believers or not. I dug deeper through readings on historical Christianity and Christian scholars. C.W. Lewis was instrumental in creating stronger ties to Church orthodoxy and it was partly this connection I felt with Lewis that made it tougher later to separate myself from the traditions of Christianity

My readings led me more and more away from Christian apologists like Lewis, Phillip Yancy and Tony Campolo, and more toward secular historical authors. I was a social science enthusiast and true, dedicated historians were mentors to me. A lot of these historians were and are Christians but their writings are detached from their faith and were merely examining the biblical record against archaeological and historical documentation. You are left to make judgments of your own from their findings.

Those that opened my eyes were Elaine Pagels, E.P. Saunders and Karen Armstrong. The information contained in their works aptly challenged standard church dogma and removed the sacred aura around central figures within Christianity’s early formative years. The traditions of the church were often exposed as edited concepts of a more full and comprehensive view of Jesus and his messiah-ship. Constantine was shown to be more politically motivated to align with the 4th century Christians than as a matter of religious conversion. Slowly but succinctly historical records that were less willing to beatify the early Christians and their actions revealed a humanity that was flawed and often idealized by the church fathers to enhance and galvanize its new found authority in post-Constantine Europe.

Later readings like M.Scott Pecks “The Road Less traveled” and John Shelby Spong’s “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” gave me courage to move beyond the conventional positions that Christian religious dogma held. The ability to accept that biblical accounts of Jesus’ life were perhaps enhanced by adoring followers took root, especially when it became clear that no existing written record in the bible was documented anywhere near the time Jesus was alive. Further discoveries that western Greek accounts predominated the early church records diminished some authenticity to the bible’s claims of inerrancy. Jewish renderings were few and feebly acknowledged and the record shows that Jesus was but one of many who claimed to be the Messiah over a half-century period. Why his account survived over others raised more questions than it answered.

In the end, my non-traditional awakening back in my college days and the discovery that the sacrosanct church is not so holy after all allowed me to break from the grip the church has on its followers: accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior or go straight to hell. The reason this became easier for me was because for the first time there existed a reasonable doubt in my mind as to the credibility of the Church’s teachings. It was that reasonable doubt that put to rest any notion of inerrancy and infallibility in God’s word, the Bible. This aspect of my slip from Christianity was driven home when secular suspicions about the Bible’s exactitude that go back to Thomas Jefferson’s days were confirmed by an avowed “born-again” fundamentalist, Bart Ehrman, in his revealing book, “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why”.

If the so-called “word of God” was no longer a direct dictation from the almighty and the message was different from source to source, then the possibility arose that man’s perception was more a factor in what Christians accepted as a matter of faith than what we had come to believe. God’s word had been tainted. With this probability now looming in my mind I could no longer defend the faith I was raised in. However, initially at least, this didn’t, in my mind, make me an unbeliever. I still believed there was a force out there that communicated with us and assured us that our value was not based on the ancient notions formed over time by people who still feared for their eternal souls from an idea that never really came from the man who is supposed to be the ground of our being.

The only words attributed to Jesus that could and would be used by later believers to convince us of his Messianic status was in John 3. The Book of John was the newest of the Books in the first four gospels of the NT, a distant cousin to the first three books of the NT and what biblical scholars refer to as the synoptic gospels. Of these first three the Book of Mark is considered to be the oldest text on Jesus’ life written somewhere between 40-60 A.D. The only thing that comes close to what Mark has Jesus saying about his messiah-ship can be found in the parable in Mark 12. A big difference here where one source has Jesus using a parable to make a point and another much later version having Jesus actually telling people by inference that he was the son of God.

Time allows people to embellish those things they place value on. It is perhaps meant to be more a positive effort by those who hold such views than an attempt to deceive anyone. The older the time frame the fewer the documented testimonials and physical evidence to surmise an accurate, more complete picture of people and events. Deciphering by scholars is often a part of any contemporary context we have of those who lived thousands of years ago. The lofty stature of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in elementary grade school books were marginalized later as we became adults and read more revealing accounts of these extraordinary men. Their place in history will always be prominent but only by deliberately ignoring the more human weaknesses about them will they be viewed by some who would raise them to a sainthood level.

People believe what they want to and that is not entirely a bad thing. Finding a foundation by which we can measure our life is essential and healthy. The hopeless live in despair and many who are emotionally and physically abused in their youth need role models to give them the self-esteem required to build a productive life on. The Christian faith has and still serves many in this capacity. But for some of us it is merely a stepping stone to a higher more realistic fulfillment.

Our character depends more upon what we will for ourselves than hoping an unseen God will bless us. There is a spiritual component of who we are as humans but it doesn’t have to be narrowly defined by ancient notions of old men who refused to consider wider possibilities to the meaning of life. We are not locked into a world that insist all we ever need to know has already been ascertained by an institutional hierarchy that for the longest time failed to recognize all people on an equal plane. A faith in things outside our limited human knowledge that threatens us with eternal damnation because we have a hard time accepting certain unrealistic scenarios is more a mechanism for control than it is for personal freedom.

There may be a God out there that loves us and wants us to find him or her in some secretive fashion. Perhaps in doing so we discover who we really are. The case for some super-natural deity who created all things can be rationally debated in light of the fact that pretty much all cultures throughout most of history have shared a similar vision of such a being. This is not conclusive evidence that he or she exists. It may be nothing more than a biological motor response that was conditioned by our clannish nature as humans evolving over tens of thousands of years. But it clearly is a force within us that has yet to be satisfactorily accepted by anyone who has reasonable doubts. To presume as some Christians do that all our knowledge about God has reached a point that needs no further exploration is a position that, had it thoroughly dominated man’s quest for knowledge, would still find civilization in the Iron age.

If I were to re-write that part of John in chapter 3 that posits Jesus as the final solution, I would do it in the way that I now understand it. For God so loved the world that he sent people into the world like Jesus to serve as a light and a guide to lift you up and fulfill the life you have been given. You are a slave to no man and you are above no man. It is love for the life I have given you and the companionship of others that will strengthen you in times of stress. Without love your existence has no meaning. Without sharing you are the lowest of all species. It is through your interconnectedness that true salvation is found.

Disassociating yourself from the institution of Christianity and its dogma is only heresy to those who are confined to that box. It is not an end; it is a continuation for a more deeper and fuller meaning to the age old question of why we are here.