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Tony Grist

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On The Feast Of The Conversion Of St. Paul [Jan. 25th, 2009|12:13 pm]
Tony Grist
The visiting priest who has taken the morning service these past two weeks is the non-stipendiary curate at  St Anne's- the church where I used to be vicar. He arrived after my time and doesn't seem to recognise me- though he must have seen my portrait on the vestry wall back home. He keeps talking about St. Annes. It's not quite a case of "of all the gin joints in all the world"- because St. Anne's is only a couple of miles away-  but it does mean I'm continually being brought up against my (in)glorious past. Maybe the Goddess wants it this way.

Ailz finds it perfectly easy to meld her Paganism and her Christianity. As soon as we're settled in our pew she mentally erects a little side altar to the Goddess- and she's happy.  "All Gods are one God and all Goddesses are one Goddess". I believe that too. Gods and Goddesses are just masks for a Divine Reality we're incapable of picturing. Still, there's rather a lot of stuff in the service that isn't to my taste- and especially all that harping on and on about Jesus.  One of the great things about Paganism is you're not always staring at the One Mask. You're allowed to swap them around. It can be Hercules one week, Aphrodite the next.  Jesus is lovely: I just can't be doing with him all the time.

We were celebrating our patronal festival this morning- The Conversion of St. Paul.  I'm not one of those who think Paul was a disaster for Christianity. For one thing Christianity would probably not exist without him. And for another he's not necessarily responsible for the "Pauline" teachings that make modern people want to spit. For example: I Timothy, 2, 12-  "I do not suffer a woman to teach etc..." Did he write that?  Probably not. The Epistles to Timothy and Titus are almost certainly forgeries.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: qos
2009-01-25 02:44 pm (UTC)
I'm enjoying your reflections on all this.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-25 03:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad.
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[User Picture]From: wlotus
2009-01-25 02:51 pm (UTC)
"All Gods are one God and all Goddesses are one Goddess". I believe that too. Gods and Goddesses are just masks for a Divine Reality we're incapable of picturing.

This is the belief that makes the most sense to me in recent years.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-25 03:41 pm (UTC)
Good story.
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[User Picture]From: wlotus
2009-01-25 02:57 pm (UTC)
I believe Paul wrote that, but I also believe that was Paul's opinion, therefore we can ignore it, if that view does not fit our lives.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-25 03:14 pm (UTC)
Well quite. It's an opinion, nothing more- and an outdated opinion at that. Who turned Paul- or any other man or woman- into a source of infallible authority?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-25 03:13 pm (UTC)
No single image of the Divine- whether it's the Venus de Milo or Christ on the cross can express more than a tiny fragment of the Reality that lies behind it.

This stuff is so difficult to talk about. Words fail- quite literally.
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From: sunfell
2009-01-25 02:52 pm (UTC)
I'll admit that my studies of Christianity came to a different conclusion- Paul was a disaster for the faith, as were those who closely followed his teachings like Calvin and Luther. He was a hateful misogynist, fought with Jesus' family over the direction the new faith would take, and made a right nuisance of himself everywhere he went. A lot of this is documented in Acts. It makes the Jews look like the bad guys, but you have to wonder why they tried to kill him twice.

I read an interesting book titled "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus" which goes into depth about Paul and how he pissed off the Jewish establishment of the day. Had Christ's family won out, Christianity would probably been another sub-sect of Judaism and not a distinct faith itself.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-25 03:33 pm (UTC)
I think that's right. The Jerusalem faction- headed by James, the Lord's brother (whoever he was)- seems to have been no more than a tiny, Jewish sect- which left to itself would probably have died out. It was Paul who took the "faith" out into the world- and is therefore to be accounted the true founder of Christianity.

I don't think Paul was a misogynist. One of his authentic teachings states that "in Christ there is... neither male nor female"- and there is evidence he had female co-workers- Prisca for instance. The teachings that have given him a bad name are mostly (if not entirely- it's a long time since I studied this stuff) from corrupt and forged texts like the Epistles to Timothy.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2009-01-25 03:49 pm (UTC)
Your view of Jesus sounds more Unitarian than Episcoplian. Unitarians embrace a much broader view of God than do the more traditional Christian sects and denominations.
I empathize with your discomfort with "all that harping on and on about Jesus". It gives me flashbacks to my days as a young RC sitting in church on a Sunday morning being forced to pray to saints and angels and Mary when all I wanted to do was talk directly to God without all the middlemen.
Like they say, faith is highly personal.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-25 04:48 pm (UTC)
I've sometimes wondered whether I shouldn't try the Unitarians.

My mother's family were Quakers. I feel some affinity with them too.

So many religions, so little time!:)
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2009-01-25 09:22 pm (UTC)
Quakers would work for you, too, from what I know of them.
And oh, boy, would you ever love the Swedenborgian Church on the Hill here in my neighborhood. The pastor there has had Native Americans come in to preach, a Muslim, Buddhists, Wiccans, a Hindu, someone from the Bahai temple, other pagans, RC's, as well as his own pastoral staff who follow the teachings of Immanuel Swedenborg. Although I do not fit into that congregation I have friends who are members - these include, among others, Jews as well as Christians and agnostics. Quite a mixture, with something for everyone. They are a very welcoming congregation, and keep me on their mailing list even though I do not attend their services. They also take groups of senior citizens on day trips (free of charge), and every Sunday after the regular worship service they serve a full course Sunday dinner for the congregation and their friends and families. Like I said, something for everyone.
Oh, yeah, and they dont bother people for money, either -- they own an adjoining high-rise apartment building, whose income supports the church work.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-26 09:24 am (UTC)
Those Swedenborgians sound really groovy.

Swedenborg himself was an amazing guy. I keep meaning to read him- then backing off.

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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2009-01-27 07:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, they are also into seances. I guess that Swedenborg had a thing about what happens to the spirit in between lives (he believed in reincarnation? I'm confused...). Or maybe it was "the spirit in transition".
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-28 09:32 am (UTC)
Swedenborg spoke to angels and went on tours of the heavenly realms and stuff like that. I don't know whether he believed in reincarnation or not.
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[User Picture]From: haikujaguar
2009-01-25 05:20 pm (UTC)
Strangely, it was the population of Heaven with all those saints, with Mary and angels and whatnot, that made Catholicism feel real and comfortable to me. Not particularly because I wanted to go through intercessors to reach God, but because it made things feel homey and crowded. Like a big family, sometimes bickering, often in each other's way, sometimes contradicting, but in the end pulling toward the same end.

And perhaps there is something to the notion of intermediaries, if truly one believes that the Divine is beyond our mortal grasp. Using the example above of the blind men trying to discern the truth of the elephant, I get the sudden image a blind man sitting on a rock, listening to a toga-swaddled saint attempting to explain (in Latin, to one who knows almost nothing of that tongue) what exactly the elephant is.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-26 09:33 am (UTC)
Yesterday we walked round the church identifying all the figures in the stained glass windows. Like you, I find comfort in the Communion of the saints- especially since so many of them are pagan gods and goddesses in disguise.

I believe in intermediaries- in spirit guides and angels and ascended masters. I think it would be a very chilly universe if it was just us and God.
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[User Picture]From: dadi
2009-01-25 04:06 pm (UTC)
I too enjoy the possibility to "breathe" spirituality, wherever it is given freely. I only avoid places where a)Jesus b)the ONLYNESS of one or the other faith is too directly and unavoidably shoved down my throat continuously. Everything else harmonizes perfectly with my universe.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-25 04:52 pm (UTC)
I like the atmosphere of our local church. I don't want a personal relation with Jesus, but I do want to spend time in a place "where prayer has been valid".
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