Why (Not) Be a Christian?

Why (Not) Be a Christian?

Why be a Christian (if no one goes to hell)?

That might seem like an odd question for a Pagan Druid to be asking, but it’s the title of a new book by Daniel Meeter that caught my eye.* I like to take up these challenges every now and then, in part because remembering the religious tradition that I came from helps to remind me why I left, and what lessons or insights of value I want to hold onto and carry with me into the future, even if I no longer call myself a Christian. After all, I remember being a Christian. In fact I was, if I may say so, a really fantastic Christian. I Christianed the hell out of that shit. So what happened? It’s a long story (with a few twists and turns). Suffice it to say, I’m in a different place in my life now, and that place gives me a different perspective on the purpose of the spiritual life and the assumptions we bring to it. That’s why I wanted to read Meeter’s book. To stretch my muscles a bit, to remember what it’s like to think about the world differently, and to keep my interfaith work bilingual and useful.

Read More

Deity Dumped

Deity Dumped

“She didn’t say it in so many words, but I got the distinct impression that she thought we should ‘see other people…'” My voice trailed away. Folks sitting nearby in the restaurant who didn’t know we were husband and wife probably thought Jeff was helping me through a break-up with my girlfriend. I found myself sobbing. I felt cut off and vulnerable. Even if I’d wanted to honor her, I didn’t know how. What ritual forms to use, what offerings to make, what actions to take. The strong intuitive connection that I felt pulling me forward didn’t seem to be so tame in any case. She didn’t want scripted prayer or the right kind of incense or historically accurate idols on the altar. She wanted me out in the wilds, she wanted me raw and free and dancing with devotion.

I was going to have to change my life…

Read More

Back to Basics

Back to Basics

So what exactly do I believe? To answer that question, I have to go back to basics. And in going back to basics, I have to face my fear of being forever shrugged off as a newbie fluff bunny who can’t be taken seriously. It’s easy to say, “So what? What do you care if people take you seriously?” But as a member of a scattered, small community, a minority religion in a predominantly Christian culture, it can feel pretty devastating to be shrugged off or shuffled aside even by those you thought would welcome you with open arms. But that’s the risk you have to face if you want to cultivate an open and free relationship with spirit and the sacred world. The world is far stranger and wilder than the books and experts would have you believe.

Read More

Gods and Spirit

Gods and Spirit

That word for god — the breath, the gleaming — the shining days like great columns bearing up the sky, buttresses, rafters. Beams that in their falling, hold.

I say the names of my deities, I feel the drop of each sound into silence. They gather on the long, bent grasses in the meadow and the field, *dewos-, the many that glisten in the coming dark. Amulets of sky, jewels of the daylight, coalescing in the movement of my breath, the lingering touch of the wind. They draw themselves, wavering, into the weight and gravity of form.

I open the door, and the gods enter the dark interior of my being.

Read More

This Is What “Ex-Postmodernism” Looks Like

From “Postmodernism is dead,” in Prospect Magazine: For a while, as communism began to collapse, the supremacy of western capitalism seemed best challenged by deploying the ironic tactics of postmodernism. Over time, though, a new difficulty was created: because postmodernism attacks everything, a mood of confusion and uncertainty began to grow and flourish until, in recent years, it became ubiquitous. A lack of confidence in the tenets, skills and aesthetics of literature permeated the culture and few felt secure or able or skilled enough or politically permitted to distinguish or recognise the schlock from the not. And so, sure enough, in the absence of any aesthetic criteria, it became more and more useful to assess the value of works according to the profits they yielded. Capital, as has been said many times before, accommodates all needs. So, paradoxically, we arrive at a moment where literature itself has become threatened, first by the artistic credo of postmodernism (the death of the author) and second by the unintended result of that credo, the hegemony of the marketplace. What then becomes sought and desired are fictions that resonate with the widest possible public: that is, with as many discourses as possible. This public can then give or withhold approval measured in sales. In other words, increasingly, artistic success has become about nothing except money; and, increasingly, artists have come to judge their own success that way, too. This is the reason today that we feel the genre writer’s cry “I sold millions” so powerfully, even though in truth it can say little about the art form other than “it sold millions.” Changing disciplines, if we take this commoditisation of art to its natural limit, we arrive at Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull, For the Love of God (2007). Commoditisation has here become the only point. The work, such as it is, centres on its cost and value and comprises also (I would say mainly) the media storm surrounding it: the rumours that it was bought for £50m, or that Hirst himself bought it, or that he offset his tax bill by claiming diamonds as tax deductible artistic materials, or that he didn’t buy it at all, or that nobody has bought it… And so postmodernly on. The paradox being this: that by removing all criteria, we are left with nothing but the market. The opposite of what postmodernism originally intended. The whole article is worth a slow and careful reading (which I know is asking a lot for internet surfers these days, but I have to keep hope alive!) — but the excerpt above in particular put me in mind of the trendy “ex-postmodernism” talk that’s been floating around the Pagan online community for the past several months. Anyone else see parallels here? For instance, a parallel with arguments that the word “Pagan” is no longer helpful because it doesn’t attract enough positive attention, while serious explorations of the many diverse archetypes that nurture the Pagan community are shut down and simplified into the single accusation of “fluffy bunny Wicca” (itself assumed to be shallow precisely because it is so popular). Or the eerily eager insistence that social media networking can replace authentic in-person relationship and worship, and that customized spiritual journeys for the individual take precedence over the difficult work of nurturing community and building social infrastructure. This is what “ex-postmodernism” looks like: it’s just postmodernism after all, but postmodernism taken to its extreme, itself turned into the very meta-narrative it originally sought to challenge and overturn, married to consumer capitalism in a way that replaces all conceptions of value, all narratives of meaning, with the overarching meta-narrative of the world as one big popularity contest. Where postmodernism engaged playfully and authentically with irony as a form of resistance and revolution, “ex-postmodernism” reduces irony to mere cynicism, and then claims to do away with cynicism once and for all by replacing it with feel-good, pseudo-optimistic pep talk in a grab for “broader audience appeal.” This kind of cynical, calculated marketing strategy in the name of “doing away with postmodern cynicism” is perhaps the deepest irony of all. Postmodernism may be dead after all. Certainly “ex-postmodernism” is to postmodernism what the single-minded, uncreative zombified living dead are to the beloved dead, those Ancestors whom we carry with us in blood and bone and breath into the waiting future. As Docx points out, a healthy postmodernism in its prime taught us two deeply important and revolutionary things: First, that postmodernism is really an attack not just on the dominant narrative or art forms but rather an attack on the dominant social discourse. All art is philosophy and all...

Read More

Religious Branding

Religious Branding

Are you a good ol’ fashioned, All-American Pepsi kind of girl? Are you a fitness nut, chugging down Aquafina by the gallon, sipping your Ocean Spray grapefruit juice at breakfast, maybe indulging in a Lipton Diet Green Tea for lunch? Do you like the caffeine rush of Mountain Dew or AMP Energy to wake you up in the morning? Or maybe you’re a bit of a hippie, chilling out with a SoBe or a Tazo? And how much does it matter to you that all these drinks are made by the same company?

That’s also the problem with branding. It’s shallow. It’s ephemeral. It’s easy. It obscures not only the deep connections that we actually share with one another, but also the very real and more intricate diversity that is a part of any community no matter how apparently homogenous on the surface.

Read More