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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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In Game of Thrones we’re shown a world of medieval technology, accoutrement, and honorifics, but without chivalry (some lame pretense is made here and there, but it plays no part even in the life of the nobility, and the tale is told solely through their eyes) because there is no Christ to inspire it and no Church to encourage it. The denizens of the land claim a belief, of whatever sort, in “the gods,” who are never specified, whose mythology is never told, and of whom worship seems virtually nonexistent. The latter is the one significant breach with real-world paganism, which always involved true belief and often extravagant liturgics. There is also (as there was with Rome) a most implausible dearth of numinous awe for the natural world. One may have to pledge one’s son in marriage to the daughter of the castle-holder controlling a vital river crossing in order to get one’s army across, but of the necessity of offering a she-goat or woodcock to the river god himself in order to be granted safe passage there is nary a trace.
This is a significant oversight and makes the world a more modern one that the filmmakers should be comfortable with. Nevertheless, we are presented a generally accurate (for Hollywood) portrayal of what theologian David Bentley Hart calls the “glorious sadness” of ancient paganism in which life was short, or at least wildly precarious, and relatively meaningless while it lasted, and death both all too common and all too horrid to contemplate. Pleasures were to be grasped in whatever form they may be readily at hand, and whether they involved cruelty or kindness was a matter of relative taste. Joy may flit briefly by, but only in such a manner and measure as to enhance the agony of its loss and the poignancy of its ephemerality.
Read it all.
…[Idolatry] has not disappeared; far from it. If there is no need to withdraw the word “God” from idolatrous confusion there is a need to give the word "God" meaning, by denunciation, challenge, and accusation against the veiled, hidden, and secret gods, who besiege and seduce all the more effectively because they do not openly declare themselves as gods.--Jacques Ellul, The New Demons (New York: Seabury Press, 1975 E.T. of the 1973 French original), pp. 227-228 (my emphasis)
It is clear that the task facing Christians and the church differs entirely according to whether we think of ourselves as being in a secularised, social, lay, and grown-up world which is ready to hear a demythologised, rationalised, explicated, and humanised gospel - the world and the gospel being in full and spontaneous harmony because both want to be religionless - or whether we think of ourselves as being in a world inhabited by hidden gods, a world haunted by myths and dreams, throbbing with irrational impulses, swaying from mystique to mystique, a world to which the Christian revelation has once again to play the role of liberator and destroyer of the sacred obsessions in order to liberate man and bring him, not to the self his demons are making him want to be, but to the self his Father wills him to be.'
[Yet] at the mention of a struggle of faith against the modern idols, which are the real ones, I immediately hear indignant protests...
There’s no Sunday school, and meetings are regularly held at Denny’s restaurants, but for members — and the federal government — Sacred Spiral is very much a church, albeit a Pagan church....
In the years since abandoning the title of coven, [Rosemary] Szymanski, founder and president, has worked with her fellow witches to organize openly and spread knowledge about Paganism.
“Covens are much more secretive,” Szymanski, a witch for 17 years, said. “So in 2007, I banned the coven and created the church.”
Read it all.
Over the last hundred years or so, however,...[the] hopeful vision [that secularism promises a neutral public and peaceful space] has not materialized. Rather than seeing greater harmony in secular societies, we have witnessed more community breakdown. We also notice that the greatest losses of life in the twentieth century (Mao Tse-tung: 70 million deaths; Stalin: 20-40 million deaths; Hitler: 11-12 million deaths; Pol Pot: 1-2 million deaths…) have been inspired by secular ideologies, not religious ones. The atrocities that human beings commit against each other continue apace, and secularism is at a loss to know what to say about them. “It is the work of a few rogues” sounds less plausible every time we hear it. The incoherence of secularism also means that it cannot withstand determined pressure groups or totalitarian ideologies.
I believe secularism in the West is really a combination of Christianity and paganism, with the proportions shifting over the years from the former to the latter. Secularism does not supply values of its own but borrows them from Christianity (human rights, care for minorities, freedom of speech, toleration of differences, etc.) or paganism (fascination with astrology and ever more extreme forms of entertainment, lower views of marriage, higher views of other relationships, openness to abortion/infanticide, euthanasia, etc.). Credit is rarely given to these sources, and it is only as the proportion of paganism has increased that the true nature of secularism is becoming more apparent.
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Paganism, a centuries-old faith, has just been officially established as a religion in England. Dating back to pre-Christian times, followers worship the land, animals, spirits and ancient gods and it's been growing in popularity in recent years.
Its estimated that around 250,000 Brits now claim to be Pagans.
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Watch it all (a UK based report).
A judge has found that a group of self-described witches may have gotten special treatment from the town of Catskill – and not in a good way.
In a strongly-worded decision issued on Tuesday, Judge George J. Pulver, Jr. of the Greene County Supreme County ruled that the town's denial of a property tax exemption for the Maetreum of Cybele smacks of discrimination.
“Consistent with [the Matreum's] claim that it is being discriminated against, respondents' counsel attempts to hold petitioner to a higher standard than other religious organizations,” Pulver wrote in the decision, a copy of which was obtained by the Watershed Post.
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A guide on how to convert witches to Christianity has been published by the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.
The move comes in response to fears that growing numbers of teenagers are being lured into Wicca, occult practices and paganism by the heroic depiction of witches in entertainment including the Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice films, and TV.
The booklet, called Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers, offers parents advice on what to do if one of their children takes an interest in witchcraft.
Read it all and you can read a description of the actual booklet here.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Other Faiths Wicca / paganism * Theology Pastoral Theology
I have really nothing much to say about New Year’s Day. But I thought I might offer a little in the way of New Year’s trivia, just to make my small contribution to the day’s festivities, for those disposed to observe them. And, since it is essentially a rather pagan sort of celebration, I thought I would confine my remarks to things pagan.
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The Rev. William Melnyk, former rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Downingtown, resigned from the church in late 2004 amid investigations that he and his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, wrote two druidic ceremonies as suggestions for women's liturgies. The druids were a Celtic sect that predates Christianity.
At the conclusion of the investigation, Bishop Charles E. Bennison declined to suspend the two priests from the church.
Ruppe-Melnyk still serves as the rector of St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Willistown.
Melnyk said recently that Bishop Bennision agreed to reinstate him if Melnyk could agree to not write or speak about Celtic spirituality. Melnyk said he could not agree to those terms and that it became evident earlier this year that his reinstatement was not going to happen.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Wicca / paganism
Thousands of New Agers and neo-pagans danced and whooped in delight Monday as a bright early morning sun rose above the ancient stone circle Stonehenge, marking the summer solstice.
About 20,000 people crowded the prehistoric site on Salisbury Plain, southern England, to see the sunrise at 4:52 A.M. (1152EST), after an annual all-night party.
The event typically draws thousands of alternative-minded revelers to the monument, as they wait for dawn at the Heel Stone, a pockmarked pillar just outside the circle proper, which aligns with the rising sun.
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In a world where differences between religious groups are often stressed, too few of us realise how many similarities there are between Christian beliefs and Paganism. Though many of us are aware of the pagan roots of some Christian traditions, such as the Yule log and holly, there are deeper rooted similarities than these Christmas trimmings. History has too many examples of conflicts over real or imagined religious differences; so a greater understanding of each other’s religion might bring a heightened sympathy between us.
The Neo-Pagan religions have many names, including Paganism, Asatru, Wicca, Witchcraft, and Druidism. While Paganism stresses a bond with nature and an acknowledgement of the natural cycle of life in the world, there is no one tenet of faith that all followers acknowledge as central to their religion.
The word “pagan” has a long and confused history. In the first centuries Anno Domini (also known as the Common Era), a Pagan was someone who did not believe in the Abrahamic religions. The Latin word “paganus” means countryman, and it is easy to see the link between this and the Pagan religion, which is often de-scribed as being that of country-folk.
Paganism celebrates the cycle of the year, and there is no central religious text; so it would have been accessible to peasants who could not read. Its emphasis on the changes that ordinary people could see around them in the trees and earth would have made sense to them.
Read the whole reflection.
The Air Force Academy has set aside an outdoor worship area for Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and other Earth-centered believers, school officials said Monday.
A double circle of stones atop a hill on the campus near Colorado Springs has been designated for the group, which previously met indoors.
"Being with nature and connecting with it is kind of the whole point," said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, who sponsors the group and describes himself as a Pagan. "It will dramatically improve that atmosphere, the mindset and the actual connection."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Military / Armed Forces Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Wicca / paganism
The monthly meditation had a playful air about it.
“A crone is an old woman. A crone is a witch. A crone is a wise woman. Which one will you be, my friend? Which one I?”
Wrapped around a rite for “croning”, the meditation embraced a history of mystical women and offered prayers to “Mothering God” and “Eternal Wisdom.” But the article was not in a new age publication or Wiccan blog: it was on the pages of the September newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
Entitled “Crone Power”, the meditation innocuously sat opposite a story about choosing a children’s Bible and next to a column on St. Jerome. The newsletter quickly drew the attention of Anglican bloggers, many of whom found the placement of what appeared to be a Wiccan ritual to be jarring in an official church publication. But intentionally or not, the publication and placement of the rite were reflective of a new reality: one in which practices drawn from or inspired by pagan belief, including witchcraft, are increasingly finding acceptance within the ranks of the Episcopal Church.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Wicca / paganism * Theology
In both guises, as an individual practitioner and a credentialed expert, Mr. [Michael] York embodies the increasing mainstream acceptance of Pagan religion. From academia to the military, in the person of chaplains and professors, through successful litigation and online networking, Paganism has done much in the last generation to overcome its perception as either Satanism or silliness.
“Academically, it’s much more open and accepted and respected,” said Mr. York, 70, who retired five years ago from the faculty of Bath Spa University in England. “And on a more personal level, we don’t proselytize or anything like that, but most of my friends know that I’m Pagan and most of them are not, and we can discuss it. They understand that there is a Pagan spirituality, and the misconceptions about it have diminished.”
Because the federal census does not ask about religious affiliation, and because ridicule or discrimination tended to keep Pagans closeted in the past, statistics on the number of adherents in the United States are imprecise and probably too low. Still, the recent growth is evident in surveys done in 1990 and 2001 by the City University of New York.
Over the course of those 11 years, the survey went from tabulating 8,000 Wiccans nationally — that branch of Paganism was the only one to turn up — to 134,000 Wiccans, 33,000 Druids and 140,000 Pagans.
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Should you find your way up to Salem, Mass., this Halloween season, your chances of encountering a psychic are up — and the odds that that he or she has a felony record are down. That, for those of you who were too drowned in multimedia Harry Potter to notice, is the news from the real town where some estimate every tenth person is a witch.
In June, the Salem town council eased its rules on fortune tellers — or, to be more specific, those locals who are engaged in "the telling of fortunes, forecasting of futures, or reading the past, by means of any occult, psychic power, faculty, force, clairvoyance, cartomancy, psychometry, phrenology, spirits, tea leaves, tarot cards, scrying, coins, sticks, dice, coffee grounds, crystal gazing or other such reading, or through mediumship, seership, prophecy, augury, astrology, palmistry, necromancy, mind-reading, telepathy or other craft, art, science, talisman, charm, potion, magnetism, magnetized article or substance, or by any such similar thing or act."
Salem may have been where witches were once tried and executed by puritans, but — thanks to the magic of branding — it has since become a mecca for witches and others involved in the occult arts, as well as for tourists. Around a hundred thousand tourists descend on the town every Halloween season.
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SOME would call it the Devil's work. Two ancient religions have locked horns in a bizarre "freedom of speech" row that is echoing around the corridors of one of Scotland's oldest academic institutions.
The University of Edinburgh has granted permission to the Pagan Society to hold its annual conference - involving talks on witchcraft, pagan weddings and tribal dancing - on campus next month. Druids, heathens, shamans and witches are expected to attend what is a major event in the pagan calendar.
But the move has enraged the Christian Union, which accuses the university of double standards after banning one of its events on the "dangers" of homosexuality.
Matthew Tindale, an Edinburgh-based Christian Union staff worker, claimed some faiths and beliefs appeared to be more equal than others on campus.
"This seems to be a clear case of discrimination," he said. "It's okay for other religions, such as the pagans, to have their say at the university, but there appears to be a reluctance to allow Christians to do the same. All we are asking for is the tolerance that is afforded to other faiths and organisations."
Read it all.
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