Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Jesus

“No, no…pleases don’t fall asleep! I’d like to have this conversation.” He said, as I was typing in my bed. I was tempted to nap right then, but I did want to write. I turned on my Hated Bands playlist and invited Him to have a seat.

He laughed. “It’s easy for people to hate what they don’t understand, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “Definitely. Or to think someone is evil because they like something you don’t.”

He gave me that look.

“Okay, Okay! Guilty. But, seriously, how can people like Trump and say they believe in You? How can they say they believe in You, when they are generally being discriminatory, racist, white supremacist, homophobic, transphobic and more? I mean, people really believe that they need to take up weapons to fight these things in Your name!”

He grinned, but His eyes were sad.

“My words have become Rome. They are not what I taught then, but I can’t help what My words and My actions became. Humanity has used what I’ve taught for their own ends. There is only so much I can do as an Ancestor and Deity. You all have to own your own mistakes and find the compassion to forgive them…eventually. Humans are good at torturing themselves and hurting themselves. You should know that by now.”

I nodded. “Yes, we tend to do ourselves in quite handily.”

We sat in silence for a bit.

“There is hope, though.” he said.

“Is there?”

“Oh yes! It’s in your art and film. There are stories of humanity’s great awakening by more than one author. There is, somewhere in the human psyche, a need to believe that some day we’ll move past our hatred and violence, or at least make it so that the violence and oppression are unacceptable and that learning, art, music, compassion, love are normal instead of the exception.”

I nodded. Yes, we have a lot of that, and a lot of the art I consume is of that. “But we’re far from that place,” I said.

“Yes, that’s true. It’s like any wound: you have to go through a lot of pain and discomfort until it goes away. The unfortunate thing is that you were born in the middle of the pain, so it seems like things will never get better.”

“Really? You mean it will get better?”

He smiled sadly. “Eventually.”

That didn’t really inspire hope, but I have always had at least a little in my heart.

“That’s the spirit!” He said, as he stood up to leave. “I have hope that you will continue to spread the teachings of love and hope. It doesn’t even have to be in My name. I’ll tell you a secret: My hope was always to make people see others as human beings, to see themselves in others. It was never any more than that, really. The religion isn’t important, but that is.”

He left the room while “Sympathy for the Devil” was playing…

Samhain Thoughts: A Conversation with Ereshkigal

“You humans are very strange creatures,” She said as She sat down.

I took a sip of my cocoa. “I can’t argue with You about that. We tend to do a lot of weird stuff to each other and to our planet. We are stubborn, willful, quick to anger, but then we can be full of compassion, joy, and happiness.”

“Well, yes, that’s very true.” She paused. “But your species doesn’t learn very well from it’s past, does it?”

“No, unfortunately.”

“You all come through My realm, one way or another, and yet you never seem to listen to the Ancestors that came before you. They leave you books and pictures and art and music, and still there are those who willfully ignore or deny the atrocities done. They deny the signs of those who would only seek power for their own ends and feed on the hatred of others. They would willingly ignore the human race’s ability to change and adapt based on perceived notions of a lack of perfection in word and deed.”

I grimaced behind another sip of cocoa. I was rather glad that this conversation was in my head rather than physically real. Then again, I suppose if Ereshkigal became visible in the coffee shop, it would make things rather interesting.

She raised Her eyebrow at me.

I quickly answered:

“Some believe that it is only through perfection that we can change society. Others believe that we can only get to You and the other Gods through perfection. They believe that if we make mistakes somehow we’re not good enough. And, I think, sometimes some of us will shame and degrade others for mistakes long after the mistake was made and learned from.”

“What do you believe?”

“Well, I believe…I….” I stumbled.

“Do you not have an opinion?”

“I do…it’s just that…well…it’s not very popular…”

She raised her eyebrow at me again. “Priest.” She reminded me.

I took a deep breath. Right.

“I believe that demanding perfection from each other actually does more harm than good. If we don’t take the time to explain to someone who makes a mistake out of ignorance what they’ve done wrong, there’s no room for change. If we just tell someone they’re a horrible person and that they should just sit down and shut up, then all that does is build resentment.”

“And what of those who do it out of malice?”

“Well,” I said, “sit down and shut up can be a bit more effective then. I think there are some people I won’t be able to change.”

She laughed. “No, you can’t change everyone. You can’t change anyone unless they see the need to change.”

“But what about people’s anger?” I said, frustrated. “How can I acknowledge someone’s very real feelings around their oppression, but call them out on their lack of compassion towards those who want to learn and grow? I mean, I get that people get sick of educating people. I get tired of it, too. Sometimes it’s just easier to back away and just leave it alone!”

The Queen of the Underworld looked at me for a moment with sad eyes, then stood up to walk around the room. She stood behind the Latinx couple with a baby.

“Their daughter will get bullied and they will not be able to find an apartment because of their skin color and speech.”

She moved to stand next to the white man at his computer. “He doesn’t know his privilege, but he makes donations to charities every year because he can take it off his taxes.”

She moves to the white man and Asian looking man talking. “They are friends and meet here often. They both have conflicts of faith.”

Then she stood next to a teenage girl. “She knows that the world is wrong right now, and yet she will be a beacon of hope and change as she gets older.”

She wanders around standing near people and showing me their pasts and futures. Their humanity, their oppressions, their privileges, their struggles.

“They will all learn what they need to learn in this life. You are one teacher in a sea of teachers that they will come across. You don’t necessarily need to acknowledge their oppressions, but you need to absolutely acknowledge their humanity.”

I nodded.

“Remember what the Morrigan told you: you cannot save them all. And sometimes Death, in Spirit or in Fact, is a mercy, not a punishment.”

I nodded again. She sat down again.

I tried to think of something else to say, but my words were failing me.

She touched my face. “Don’t worry, my love, when they come to me, they will finally learn. It is not your place to demand perfection, but is is your place to try and emulate that which you hold dear. You will fail sometimes, but if you can tell me that you did the best you could when you arrive at My Gates, then I would be satisfied.”

I nodded.

“Yes,” She said as She got up to walk away, “You humans are very odd creatures.”

Last Week of Lent: Social Justice Work Comes At A Cost (Paganism, Christianity, and Me)

I want to be able to say something profound here about my working, but I just can’t. At least, not in any way that’ll make sense to people other than myself. Most of what I’ve learned this week is that I shouldn’t read any social media until after I’ve done my morning prayers, had breakfast, and done my writing for the day. I’m writing about social justice, and reading other people’s social justice stuff, or about the election, before I get into my own work makes things difficult. My wife says “Social justice work comes at a cost.” and that’s quite true.

In my meditations, Jesus keeps telling me that even He had to go find solitude while do His public work. Gethsemane, the desert, and many other times He would go alone somewhere to pray. I think that’s one of the biggest lessons from Him: that quiet prayer time isn’t a bad thing to schedule into the day. Or, rather, schedule my day around the prayer time. Public work is hard, especially when you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall.

Speaking of that, one thing this week I commented on (yes, yes, I shouldn’t have bothered, but I was feeling ornery), was a post on Patheos where Gwion Raven was ranting about his identity as a pagan. Mostly about what it is, what it isn’t, and what he didn’t like about Christianity. This isn’t anything new, really, and when I challenged him on his wording, there was a “oh, well, I didn’t mean it that way” kind of response.

Gwion made it pretty clear that he wants anarchy for paganism. But here’s the thing: that’s fine for your tradition. That’s what works for you. You don’t want institutions or churches? Ok, then don’t build any. No one’s forcing you to build any or go to any. Just like no one’s forcing you to accept Christian lore or ritual in your practices.

My problem isn’t really with any of that. My problem is with the unspoken assumption that multi-faith pagans, especially those who are Christo-pagan, are somehow less than “real” pagans. I get it. I get that you don’t want to look like Christians, act like Christians, or have anything to do with Christian ritual. (Although I think that’s tough to do, given that any Gardnerian based tradition, which is the model for most witchcraft in the US and parts of Europe, has Judeo-Christian roots. I’d say that it’s a bit too late to be complaining about that. Doubly so if you’re in a Golden Dawn tradition. But I digress.) Again, that’s fine…for you.

But don’t insinuate that Christo-pagans are “fence sitters,” or delusional, or are only Christo-pagans because they don’t want to be “fully pagan.” While being neopagan and Christian is somewhat relatively new, traditions that combine magick and Christianity are not. And, really, many of those are seriously bad-ass magickal traditions in their own right. I wouldn’t want to tell a practitioner of one those traditions that they are somehow “doing it wrong.” Never mind the Euro-centrism of denying mystical Christian traditions.

Again we have a case of someone saying “All pagans should do X.” or “A proper/real pagan is…” I know the pagan community is full of humans doing stupid human tricks, but for once, I’d really be happy if people would really take a good look at and think about what they’re saying.

These lines are familiar aren’t they? Here, let me spell it out for you: “All Christians should do X.” and “A proper/real Christian is….”

Or what about: “You aren’t really bisexual, you’re either gay or your straight.”

Or: “It’s just a phase. You’ll get over it eventually.”

*sigh*

Yeah, we’ve been down this path before. Many people became pagans to run away from this type of thinking, and yet, here we are. Saying the same things that we came to paganism to avoid.

Why people don’t seem to see that they are guilty of this, no matter what progressive community they’re in (since this happens in any movement), while they loudly proclaim that they aren’t being exclusionary, boggles the mind. It’s as if the people they are railing against are the “them” and not really humans!

Oh, wait…