On Being Open
I’ve been given a great honor in the church that Erin and I attend: I am teaching Sunday School to the elementary children three times a quarter (I’m part of the rotation). My Sunday rotation came up this past Sunday, and it was an interesting experience.
First of all, Unity, the church we attend, calls itself a “practical Christianity” place of worship. They believe that there is one all powerful higher being (whom they call the “Mother-Father God”) and that Jesus is a way-shower, a great teacher, and not necessarily the son of God who died for our sins and salvation. They are welcoming and affirming to all families and all spiritual paths, as they believe that all spiritual paths lead to the same end (a spiritual and divine connection with the Mother-Father God and peace).
Before we started attending there, we made sure to e-mail the minister and ask if we would be welcomed, and he welcomed us with open arms. Since then, Erin and I have taken active roles in the church. She’s volunteering in the back doing technology for the service, and I am volunteering in the Sunday School classrooms. They send the lessons out the Wednesday before service so that we can read over everything and figure out what we want to say.
This lesson was one in a series on healing. How appropriate.
I was actually really nervous about volunteering with the kids because of what it might bring up for me. I think Erin was concerned too because she kept asking if I was okay. I’m exhausted, but okay.
The lesson talked about how the people would bring the sick and dying to Jesus, and how he would lay his hands on them, and they would be healed. It talked about how we have these abilities too if we are in touch with the divine spiritual energy given to us by the Mother-Father God. Jesus acted as a conduit of this divine energy, and how all can be healed by these higher powers, and how we can heal ourselves and others with them as well. We may not be able to lay our hands on a blind man so that he can see again, but we can surely use our hands to help those that need it.
I started the lesson with a simple question: “Can anyone tell me who Jesus is?”
These children were one of two things: Incredibly shy and unsure of themselves OR they legitimately had no idea who Jesus was.
So I continued, “Jesus was a man who lived a long, long time ago. The Bible tells us all about his life and what he did and how he helped people. He had these special abilities, and people from all over the lands would bring their sick and dying to him. He would lay his hand on them, pray, and they would be healed.”
I told the kids all about how they and those around them have the ability to heal others. “Have you ever fallen down and gotten a kiss from your mom or dad and it made everything all better?” Oh yes, everyone has experienced those magical kisses. “Well, you can make others and yourself feel all better too. You just have to make a choice to be happy and help others.”
We then colored a meditation mandala for healing, and I got the chance to really talk to the kids and get to know them. And overall, I had a lot of fun.
The question I’ve been asking myself is: how can I, as a Pagan, teach these young children about Jesus, a prominent individual in Christianity? There’s been a lot of talking in the blogosphere over time about “Can you be a Christian and a Pagan?” The answers are, like always, mixed. I do not, at all, consider myself to be a Christian. I recognize Jesus and the Christian God as deities, but not as the deities that I worship. I view Jesus as I view all deities that aren’t part of my direct line to the divine: as great teachers.
On the one hand, some people might say that I shouldn’t be attending a Christian church because it “gives aid to the enemy, to a deity who would rather see me dead.” And this opinion makes a lot of sense if we’re talking about traditional Christianity. I don’t think you can be a traditional Christian and Pagan at the same time, as “witchcraft” is seen as evil and worshiping any other Gods is frowned upon.
But Christianity is evolving, and the “New Thought” revival that is happening is bringing with it a lot of new ways of thinking, such as Unity Thought and Creation Spirituality. These traditions blend other faiths into their Christianity and make it more accessible to others. They’re bringing the love of that God first.
However, with the split that’s happening with this New Thought revival, I’m starting to wonder if the Christian God isn’t becoming more of two separate deities rather than just the one.
This higher power… This Netjer… This Mother-Father God… Is completely and totally beyond our human comprehension. I always like to tell people to think of the most vast thing they can think of and think of something even greater. If your brain doesn’t trip out, push past that. And keep pushing until your brain literally can’t handle it anymore. The higher power… that connects everything known in the universe and beyond… is past that.
Think about it: if you were a higher power that connected everything in the universe to everything else, you would need to be greater than everything. You would HAVE to be beyond comprehension. All of these faces or names that we give to this higher power are just our human ways of understanding a deity that we can’t understand. A lot people, atheists especially, will be the first to tell you that God is man-made, and I will respond to that accusation with this: Yes and No.
These higher powers as we know them are “man-made” if you look at it from a purely human perspective, but if we add into the idea that this higher power literally touches and is a part of and connects every tiny particle in the entire universe, then nothing is really “man-made,” including these names that we give to the divine. They are our way of finding understanding for a being and a power that we can’t understand and probably will never be able to understand.
This is why I say that the Christian God is splitting. On the one hand, we have the God of the literal Bible: the one who calls for people to kill their children as an act of faith. The one who sent his only son to the Earth to minister, heal, and eventually die. The one who cursed all of humanity with sin because two people broke the rules… the God of the Fall and Redemption and fear and control. And on the other hand, we have the God of the metaphorical Bible. The God of creation, of love, and of peace. The God that sent Jesus as a child of his to minister, heal, and show the way that all people should treat others and behave. The God that doesn’t frown against the sinner or the heathen for they do or do not do.
The more and more that I hear about Christianity, the more and more that I keep seeing it polarize. So my question is, if people say you can’t be a Christian and a Pagan, which version of Christianity are we talking about? Because while I understand and even agree that the traditional version of Christianity is not welcoming to Pagans, the more New Thought version of Christianity isn’t as black and white. I really think the Christian God is being split into two different deities by His followers. It’s really fascinating to watch this happen.
So when I teach these kids about Jesus, I’m not worshiping another deity or betraying my Gods and my faith. I’m teaching these kids about a radical man who loved all people and wanted everyone to do the same.