Raised Christian – Can You Call Yourself Pagan if You Believe in Jesus?
This is often a problematic question for people interested in learning more about Wicca.
The reason I’m writing to you is that I have a question that’s been bothering me for quite a while (maybe “bothering” isn’t exactly the right word, but…). I’ve never really had anyone to speak with about this, so I’m hoping you might be able to help. First, a little background important to my question…. I was raised Christian — going to Lutheran church-school, belonging to the choir, the whole bit. But even at a young age, I realized that that “organized” religion was two-faced and harsh and constricting and I didn’t believe that *my* God was so narrow and cruel, so I chose to stop attending church and relied on myself to be with God in my own heart and out in nature.
Being of Celtic ancestry, my mother always encouraged my interest in occult and pagan beliefs. Even though she is still a devout church-goer, she never had any difficulty allowing Christian and pagan beliefs to coexist in her heart; I, too, have never had a problem with this. I hold many beliefs that are labeled as pagan and I believe that (as one book title says) All Gods Are Aspects of the Same God. I’ve never seen that “God” is different from Muhammad or Mother Earth or any other god/goddesses. In addition to studying Witta, I’ve recently become very interested in the Christian Goddess, Sophia.
So, my question is this: can I call myself pagan if I believe in Jesus? Feeling so unsure about this has always disturbed me. I know I can “call myself” anything I like — who’s going to stop me, right? But as pagan is defined, am I one? Do I have a right to call myself one? I don’t have any trouble thinking of and calling myself “Christian” even though I believe in spells and the Triple Goddess and divination. But I’m not at all sure whether I can *call* myself pagan. I feel guilty about it somehow. I even feel silly asking someone about it, but as I said, it’s bothered me for quite some time.
I hope you won’t think I’m ridiculous. It’s just that as I get deeper and deeper into the study of Witta and Celtic mythologies, I feel a strong need to come up with an answer on this. I appreciate your time and I hope you don’t mind that I’m asking your advice.
I myself was raised in a Christian background. And organized Christianity borrowed much of its rich heritage to pagan ritual and beliefs. Personally, I was blessed with many open minded and brilliant teachers who gave me tremendous insight into the differences between ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’. And so I would call myself intensely spiritual, but not religious.
Jesus – not a fan of organized religion???
Yes, often organized religion is difficult to contend with as spirituality is a deeply personal issue. Jesus himself said,
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them”
It goes on…
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans (this is a bad translation, the original word probably meant ‘ir-religious’ people), for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
The Lord’s Prayer – Our Father
Jesus goes on to teach the Lord’s Prayer… NOT as a specific example of “exactly what to say,” but as a model for speaking to God from a personal mindset and relationship. And lo and behold – what does everyone do??? We speak “the Lord’s Prayer” IN PUBLIC by rote.
Another important thing to note is how Jesus refers to God as ‘Father’. Prior to Jesus, the Jews referred to God as ‘Lord’ and placed ‘him’ in a position far removed from their everyday lives. It was Jesus’ intent not to further masculinize God, but to bring his follower’s relationship with God home. By referring to God as ‘his Father’, he could show just how accessible and nurturing God can be anytime.
I, too, stopped attending church, because I felt the falseness and ‘rote’ness of weekly services. BUT it is the message NOT the Messenger that is important… There is a lot of rich symbolism to be found in religions, all labels aside. As you said, “I believe that All Gods Are Aspects of the Same God.”
So why worry about putting a label on yourself, pagan or otherwise. Most religions are all seeking the same end – union with the God force. It is the ‘label’ that separates us anyway. I personally refrain from even calling myself a Wiccan, although I do practice the Way, because the label has been so badly misrepresented and could lead to an uncomfortable confrontation with ignorant people.
It’s not that I do not want to stand up for my beliefs, but as long as no one is stopping me from doing what I do, why cause conflict when the matter is really my own personal business? One difference between Christians and Pagans is that paganism (like successful 12 step programs!) is fundamentally based on attraction not compulsion. In other words, paganism is not meant to be forced down another’s throat. It is something one seeks to know more about, not something that is preached or brainwashed into your head.
Believe in Jesus
As far as being a ‘pagan’ and believing in Jesus… Jesus IS a quasi-historical figure, so you better believe in him or you’ll be labeled crazy!
As far as believing he was the Son of God… Well Jesus refers to all of us as sons and daughters of God many times and Paul speaks of our fellowship in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians:
“For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people… I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters…”
Jesus never said anything that contradicts that ways and beliefs of Wicca or Paganism, although some fundamentalists might twist his words to mean otherwise.
So of course your views can peacefully co-exist. And any ‘pagan’ would not be practicing in the spirit of ‘the message’ if they were to not accept you for your beliefs. You may venerate Jesus, Buddha or whoever exhibits a positive role model for you. The one universal law of Wicca is ‘harm none.’ It says nothing about who or what you must believe in. But if it distresses you, why not just call yourself a universal child of God/Goddess? That is the most basic true label we all are.
Look for connections not separations.