I’m currently reading Mark Townsend’s fabulous book ‘Jesus through pagan eyes’ (review at TDN and other places to follow soon!). It’s made me pause and re-examine my own beliefs and attitudes about Jesus. Apparently, like a lot of pagans, I don’t have much trouble with Jesus as a figure, but I have a lot of trouble with the things that have been done in his name.
I was Christened – a social event and Grandparent pleaser that I don’t recall. I did go to Sunday school a bit aged 4 – I’d been asking awkward questions about death. They gave me fuzzy felt. I needed philosophy. I wasn’t raised Christian. My first sense of Jesus wasn’t there though, it was at my Church of England Primary school, sat cross-legged in assembly, listening to someone talking about who he was and what he means. I remember thinking how lovely it would be, to be able to believe in a reassuring, kindly protector deity who was going to make it all nice. Even as a child, I found the world a hostile, frequently unforgiving, unmerciful sort of place. If there was a benevolent God, he certainly wasn’t taking care of me.
I have such mixed feelings about deity, not least because I have no capacity for the kind of belief that works without evidence. I feel comfortable with the idea of nature gods because there’s no reason to assume they’d give a toss about me anyway. But the loving, benevolent Jesus figure?
I do see him as the original hippy. I like the idea of Jesus the rebel and Jesus the peacemaker, trying to get people to play nicely, but I’m not sure it fits the evidence. So here’s my take. He’s of the house of David, the royal line. The title ‘king of the Jews’ keeps coming up. He’s got supporters wealthy enough to own a private tomb in a garden. That sounds to me like a political figure, not a religious one. Which makes it easy to see why both the Jewish elite and the Romans would have a problem with him. If anyone could have roused the locals to fight the Romans and overthrow the current leadership, it would have been a man descended from King David. I have no idea where the carpenter story fits in to this. Unless he was a Robin Hood figure, a bringing together of many people, archetypes, lives lived, lives imagined. I do buy into the idea that if he came out of the Jewish tradition, he must have been married. I like that version of Jesus better. A rounded human being, not an impossible god. My Gran always said Jesus was a template for how we should all live, and that we seldom manage to. She’d have loved Mark’s book, and his whole outlook.
One thing I’ve noticed is that pagans, especially at moots, are fascinated by Jesus – the man, the myth, the impact. I’ve probably spent more moot time talking about Christianity than any other single issue. However you might feel about it, this is a path with a lot of power.
I’d love to feel there was some benign figure, willing to listen to my woes, offer guidance, answer prayers. I’m perfectly happy to believe that Jesus, and other kindly deities are there in just that way for other people. There has been nothing of that in my life. Perhaps I’m not open enough. But I’ll stick with the disinterested nature gods, voices of thunder and wind, energies of tides and seasons. I can see them, I have a sense of awe and reverence. And if the sun shines on me sometimes, that’s going to have to be blessing enough.