As you may have noticed in the past, I’ve never had any qualms visiting churches or attending Christian festivities. I know, these churches haven’t been exactly welcoming to pagans (or other versions of the unsaved “Other”) in the past two millennia, but they’ve also been responsible–albeit unknowingly–for preserving some of our ancestral traditions.
Many of these Christian festivities are a lot of fun, too! I visited our local Catholic church over Easter and I truly enjoyed the experience. I didn’t stay long to hear the priest’s sermon–why would I want to, anyway–but I stayed long enough to witness flocks of people, early in the morning, singing to the Risen Christ and his joyful mother. We call this tradition, Salúbong, literally meaning “the meeting”, and it is beautiful to witness.
The people come to meet their risen lord. Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!
Dawn breaks and the Queen of Heaven, with her mourning veil lifted, comes to meet her son, back from Hades.
Taken from outside our 400-year old cathedral at daybreak on Easter Sunday. The only time churches are full is when there are celebrations like this.
Now, I may not be Christian (anymore), nor have I ever been a big fan of the Church’s hateful doctrines and policies, but I do care for some of their traditions. A lot of people, mostly Protestants, talk about stripping away traditional Christianity of its “pagan” rituals and ceremonies, and establishing a simple church based on radical love and compassion.
Whilst I do consider it a noble cause (especially around the love and compassion part), it isn’t very realistic. One, because most churches have never been crazy over that idea, rituals or no rituals; and two, because rituals are the reason people still come to church.
I’ve never really cared about what the bishops and pastors thought about god or morals, even as a young Christian. I don’t need a church to tell me what’s right from wrong or how to live my life. We’ve tried that for hundreds of years, and it hasn’t worked. All we’ve gotten from it are a bunch of repressed, self-righteous, holier-than-thou nutters who try to run our lives for us.
You know what we need? Rituals. Beautiful ceremonies rich in relevant symbolisms that speak to the soul of a society. That’s why I still come to church, even as a pagan. Maybe even more so as a pagan.
When a pagan meets the gods of his childhood (or his neighbour’s god, or a foreigner’s whole tribe of gods), he doesn’t shun them or turn them away. He welcomes them with open arms as one would do with an honoured guest or an old friend. And then, they have tea together. There’s a reason we call it polytheism, after all: it’s inclusive.
But perhaps the Protestants are right: Orthodoxy and especially Catholicism, with all their saints, idols, and rituals, could very well be pagan. Is that a bad thing? Of course, it isn’t.
Okay, fine, it’s bad if you’re a bible-thumping, evangelical literalist, but if you’re just a regular layperson who’s mainly concerned about your life as it is, those pagan hold-overs and heathen hand-me-downs are exactly what’s keeping your pre-Protestant Christianity from being a stale, boring old relic.
Of course, we shouldn’t stop calling out the Church’s on her outdated values, but I’m all for relishing the common people’s jubilant fiestas, gritty traditions, and awe-inspiring acts of devotion.
Well, that is, when Christians are in their more jovial, inclusive mood.
Fuck them when they’re being self-important, oppressive bastards.
PS: Happy Ishtar-is-not-Easter Week!