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Jesus is alright with me (in defense of Teo Bishop)

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I had really planned to write this week about a completely different topic.  I have done my best to avoid the Teo Bishop rants on the web, and honestly I glaze over any time I try to read one.  Ultimately, I find that I can’t leave the situation without comment, despite my deepest desires to do so.

Like so many other American Pagans, I came to Paganism after being raised in the Christian church.  Like so many other American Pagans, after I found Paganism I went through a bout of Christian bashing.  It’s silly and immature, but seems to be a common response for those who convert.  Trust me, after 2 years in Baptist school, I had plenty of anger and resentment towards Christianity.  It took about a decade for that to really calm down in my soul.  When the “smoke cleared”, I discovered that I never had any problems with Jesus at all – it’s those who claim to be his followers that were at the heart of the issue for me.  I personally think that the Sermon on the Mount is a beautiful guide to life and wish that more people would follow it.  I also think it is critical to separate “Jesus” from “the church” – Christians are not Christ or I wouldn’t have written this.

 

I'm not a Pantheist - I have been a polytheist since I was a teenager and have been an animist since birth - but isn’t a core concept of Pantheism that “there are many paths to the truth”?  I really never belonged in the Christian Church, despite many attempts to behave according to those norms.  I am so firmly a Pagan that I can’t imagine ever changing paths – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  Perhaps Teo Bishop’s announcement (which has been widely misquoted and misinterpreted) that he feels a calling towards a Christian path was a horrible shock to some who haven’t been part of this Community for decades.  Although you might not want to hear it, this happens a lot.  Just as Paganism is rapidly growing, we also lose people on a steady basis.  It appears that we are gaining far more than losing right now, but a Pagan path isn’t for everyone.  Often times, the Pagan Community offers a place for people to heal and recover from terrible experiences with other religions.  Many times people stay in our Community until they heal, then they move on.  There’s nothing wrong with that and it is, I think, a great credit to us that people come to us for spiritual healing.

My own Guardian mentor left his Pagan path and joined the Episcopalian Church some years ago.  While he would certainly chuckle to hear me call him “mentor”, the fact is that he took my inborn Guardian nature and showed me how to employ that to satisfy my own needs and help our Community at the same time.  I was sad when he left his Pagan path, but I accept that he had gained what he needed from that path and his spiritual development required him to move on to other things.

For all of those currently screaming about Teo’s statements that he felt pulled to work for Christ and that he was questioning the value of Paganism/Druidism in his life, I have to ask some questions.  Have you stayed on the same spiritual path for your entire life?  Do you not acknowledge that spirituality is a journey and journeys require that you move – not stay in the same place?  Why does it upset you so much that someone suggested that he (and perhaps others) need to re-examine the place of Paganism in his life?

Personally, I think it is not only a good idea to question your choices and beliefs (including your spiritual beliefs) but absolutely mandatory.  Failing to periodically review your choices, path, and goals makes you a slave to the person you were when you made those earlier choices or, worse yet, a slave to the people who told you to take that path..  People grow and develop as they learn and are exposed to new ideas and new energies.  While I am only pantheistic at the most macro scale imaginable, I am certainly a polytheist.  Does that mean that I can’t accept that someone else would find spiritual fulfillment and peace with Christianity?  Of course not.  I have tons of Christian friends and family.  I also don’t expect anyone I know to stay on one particular path to please me.  It’s ultimately none of my business.

I can’t claim that I’ve read every word that Teo has written since making his announcement.  I think that everyone agrees that the timing couldn’t have been much worse, but anyone who has ever had a spiritual calling can tell you that we don’t get to control when or why it happens.  I have read a fair amount of what Teo had to say.  I have also learned that he is getting mounds of emails that make me ashamed to be associated with the label “Pagan” (not really, but for a moment anyway).  People are outraged that 1) Teo would even consider leaving the Pagan path, 2) That he has suggested that a Pagan path may not have value to him anymore and that he was thinking about the value of Paganism for him personally, and 3) that he has been “disrespectful of Paganism”.

Wow.

I’m sorry, but I just didn’t get those things out of what he wrote – or at least those things he suggested were options he was considering and decisions he has to make.  I think he’s been very candid that he isn’t sure of what this calling means, its implications for his future, or exactly how he will respond.  He has suggested that he might return to the Christian Church, but he has also suggested that perhaps this will lead him down a brand new path he can’t foresee or take him down a path to ChristoPaganism or elsewhere.  I haven’t heard him condemn Paganism nor threaten to burn or hang any witches or do or say anything that would harm our Community.  Teo doesn’t know the implications for the future so how can any of us??

Even if Teo chose to completely turn away from Paganism, how does that harm me or mine?  How many Pagans are there who daily bash Christians?  Would one of them, more or less, make much of a difference to the Community as a whole?  I don’t think so, so even if Teo turned his back on our Community it means nothing to the rest of us except sadness that he is gone.  Don’t forget all of the work he has already done that will remain a part of our Community forever.

I also think there is a much bigger issue at stake that people are generally overlooking.  Teo acknowledges he isn’t sure where he is heading but has not ruled out remaining part of the Pagan Community or integrating into it in a whole new way.  If Pagans feel the need or desire to bash Teo for his announcement (keep in mind that spiritual callings are not something that we choose) then those same folks might be ensuring that he will leave our Community for good.  Why stay in a place where people have tried so hard to make you unwelcome?  If you are a supporter of Paganism and would like Teo to remain a part of that, then you need to back off and give the man some room and some time to think.  He needs space to listen to this new calling and folks screaming in his ear will prevent that.

I have always pitied and attempted to support the Christian Pagans in our Community since they tend to be picked on from both sides.  Having Jesus in your practice is no stranger than incorporating any other god or goddess.  Perhaps Teo can find a new voice for that idea and this is part of his calling, I can’t say.  I can go on and on about this topic, but I will wrap it up now with one simple request.

If you are upset at Teo, please go back and read his formal announcement about this situation.  When you read it, replace the word “Jesus” with the word “Horus” and see if you are equally offended.  If this were a Christian questioning his faith and considering moving to a Pagan path what would your reaction be?

Teo, from me to you, I wish you nothing but the very best on whatever path you choose (or are assigned to, lol).  You have brought a lot of joy and positive energy into the Pagan Community and no matter what the future holds, many of us are grateful for what you have already given.  To me, a cornerstone of Paganism is tolerance.  If we can’t accept spiritual growth or change in a leader who has given so much of himself to the Community, then I question how “spiritual” this issue is versus how “cultural” or “political” it might be.  Be well on your path Teo, no matter what it holds.  We will be here for you if you feel the need to depart and later return.  Whether you leave the Pagan Community or not, you are always welcome in my circle.  I think our Community could use a little more “Sermon on the Mount” and a little less obsession with “burning times” anyway – maybe Teo’s change can help with that.  Putting on my flame-proof suit now...

 

Pax,

 

Carl

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Carl Neal has walked a Pagan path for 30 years. He is a self-avowed incense fanatic and has published 2 books through Llewellyn Worldwide on the topic. For many years (and even occasionally these days) he was a vendor of altar tools and supplies which led him to write The Magick Toolbox for Red Wheel/Weiser. Carl has been a dedicated “Solitary By Choice” for more than 20 years but remains an advocate of Pagan Unity. He has been deeply involved in Pagan Community building for a considerable amount of his time on this path and remains dedicated to this ideal today. In addition to writing books, blogs, and articles, Carl teaches workshops on a variety of topics up and down the Pacific Coast and is the producer of the “Magick Moment” Public Access television series in Oregon (also available streaming on You Tube). He hopes to empower his fellow Solitary Pagans to live the fullest magickal lives they can. www.PaganTV.org www.youtube.com/user/PentOclockNews

Comments

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    My sentiments echo yours, but yours are better written, so I'm just going to point to this post from here on in.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    Amen, Bro. As Terence says, your points are very well made. As a recent convert to Paganism myself, I was really bummed to read that my priestess idol Marion Zimmer Bradley went back to the Episcopal Church at the end of her life - until, as you say, I realized that the choices she made on her journey were nobody's business but her own.

    I also agree that Christians are not Christ. Recent posts from members of the Reclaiming Community reveal that many former Christians are members, and that they still respect and revere the things he taught and stood up for. As do I. Thank you for this intelligent and open-minded post.

  • Amarfa
    Amarfa Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    I respectfully disagree. Jesus Christ was a figure who walked around telling others how to live their lives. No matter which way you slice it, promising someone that they'll get to heaven if they do what you say (which is the point of the "eye of the needle" story) is blackmail. It was medieval humans who turned that on its head to say" you'll go to hell if you don't do what Jesus says". My two cents.

  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    I respect your point of view and I can understand that logic, but I don't agree. Not to turn this into a discussion of Christianity but I think that yours is only one of many different interpretations of Jesus. While you may well be correct, it is equally possible that radically different perspectives are true instead. To me, that is part of the spiritual journey. It seems to me that it is far more important to consider what we learn and take away from our spirituality than to focus too heavily on how my perspectives differ from someone else's.

    I am limited - I can only truly see things from my own perspectives. When I leave space for the possibility that things can look totally different from other perspectives, I leave space for those with whom I disagree. Perhaps the ultimate joke from the universe will be that we are all correct in our conflicting perspectives, lol. Truly, I see your point, I just think there are nearly infinite perspectives when it comes to any philosophy, spirituality, or viewing historic or apocryphal figures. I will not say that all perspectives are equally valid, but I do feel the need to be open to the possibility that others can find growth and learning in places where I cannot. Not to mention * gasp - dare I say it? * I might be wrong! Interesting comment though - thank you for speaking up.

  • Bruce Burrill
    Bruce Burrill Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    In regard to Teo Bishop’s “Disruptive and Inconvenient Realization,” and Carl Neal’s “in defence of Teo Bishop” the issue here is not so much Mr Bishop’s spiritual journey of being called by Jesus and the God of the Book. That is not necessarily unexpected, given his self-stated blogged history. Spiritual journeys – that, is, as one lives one’s life as a spiritual being – can sometimes be wildly unpredictable, sometime moving in unexpected and not always wanted directions. For the individual it is always a matter of how one chooses to relate to the ever changing realities that sometimes inconveniently disrupt one’s life. The question of whether a particular aspect of one’s journey is a toddle down the garden path or a transformative encounter with the divine is not always clear, and if it seems clear, time may render of very different verdict. We human beings are capable of remarkable self-deception accompanied by remarkable self-assurance of one’s correctness.

    How it will play itself out for Mr Bishop, we shall see, but as he chooses to talk about his journey publicly, he opens this up to comment, both supportive and critical. Both seem to have their place.

    The issue is, as I see it, is not so much the content of Mr Bishop’s journey; rather, the question is how such an unseasoned individual gained such influence and regard within the Pagan community in a rather short period of time.

    He is certainly an articulate, charming writer who obviously jumped (almost) whole hog into an exploration of the Pagan path, and in doing so made a noticeable splash. He has been quite willing to talk about his explorations in a rather personal way. This certainly put him out there as he bumped up against things that were not quite to his liking or not quite giving him the answers that are satisfactory to him. Such writings made for interesting and at times thought provoking reading.

    Interestingly, in his ongoing story as he tells it, his inability to be able to commit whole heartedly to the ADF was most remarkably followed by his wanting to establish in response the Solitary Druid Fellowship. See: http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/the-truth/ The lack of humility in his accounting of this episode and in what he is proposing is telling, and it raises so many questions.

    And his accounting of his Disruptive and Inconvenient Realizations is also not without its problems, as has been insightfully pointed out here:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ainellewellyn/2013/11/witty-title-about-the-latest-mess/#disqus_thread

    Mr Bishop has repeatedly, in detail, put himself out there, put his various thoughts and his likes and dislikes and experiences out there, which opens up what he has to say for discussion. There is no reason that his latest Disruptive and Inconvenient Realizations – that he has put out there -- should not be equally open for discussion. It is part of the very process that Mr Bishop himself has set in motion over the last few years of his blogging. He is the one who, by his own effort, has been building – to use his words -- “a name and reputation as a writer and thinker in the Pagan community.” It warrants discussion. Simply, if one does not want public discussion of one’s thoughts and activities, do not put them out into the public in that way.
    Of course, we should be respectful of Mr Bishop and his journey in our discussions what has been unfolding.

    But what really warrants discussions is how an unseasoned, but charismatic writer has gained such attention within the Pagan community.

    Ó Dóniall

  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    I absolutely agree that this is a topic open for discussion. In fact, that is likely going to be the benefit of this situation for the Pagan Community. I do not, and would not, question anyone's right to disagree with, debate, or discuss the wide array of issues connected to this situation. What I object to is the childish rants, name-calling, and even (according to The Wild Hunt) threats. Really??

    A huge problem in this country, and certainly in our Community, is the seemingly growing lack of respect, mutual and otherwise (a not-too-surprising outgrowth of the dramatic increase in electronic communication). There is also an aversion to discussion and debate in some corners with name-calling taking its place.

    I can respect anyone's journey if it is sincere. I honestly can see very few reasons for sharing such a journey in public unless your goal is for public discussion. If I gave the impression that I was doing a "leave Brittany Spears alone" song for Teo, then I apologize for the miscommunication. Teo is a big boy and can certainly handle himself. I think that your comments here reflect the kind of respect that I have found utterly lacking in a lot of responses to this situation.

    As to your point about Teo's rise within the Community, I leave that for others but will read with interest. My points here are that: 1) There is nothing inherently wrong with changing spiritual paths - even if the change is major, 2) Nobody's spiritual path should be taken lightly or dismissed easily even (especially) if it makes you uncomfortable, 3) Christian-Pagans are following a perfectly valid path (for them), 4) Name-calling, threats, and tantrums are counter-productive, pointlessly disruptive, and rude, and 5) Jesus is not the Christian Church and as deity personified can be a legitimate part of a Pagan practice as well as a legitimate monotheistic deity.

    Actually, I'm not sure I crammed all of that into the IP, but those were my intentions, lol.

    Respectful debate is never wrong. Respectful disagreements are never wrong.

    Thanks for providing another perspective!

    Pax

  • Amarfa
    Amarfa Tuesday, 19 November 2013

    Indeed. No offense intended or taken. I've only come to this point of view recently. I began to read this book called "Caesar's Messiah," and it opened up a new perspective for me; that the real, biological Christ was originally a militant person that Vespasian, his sons, and the historian Josephus worked together to concoct propaganda about. According to the book, they did this because, even though the Romans had conquered the Hebrews militarily, the Hebrews refused to worship Caesar. It definitely covers the reason why the gospels were written 100-200 years after the death of Jesus, and also explains how Jesus was able to "predict" the coming war with the Romans. I need to actually buy it, I think I'll love it. It also explains why Christian worship services and holidays are so close to Pagan ones. I'm still not sure who really won with the whole propaganda thing-if it's true that Vespasian and company concocted Christianity from shreds of Judaism in order for the Hebrews to worship Caesar without knowing it, that means that the Pope might actually be Caesar and as a Roman pagan I'd have to do what he said, and then my religious beliefs will have definitely done a 360.... :D

  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell Sunday, 24 November 2013

    I wonder at all the personal feeling involved in Teo's decision. How much of it is jealously for his quick rise to popularity in our community. Yes he put his views out here. That however is hardly a crime as many of us do the same thing. He has also told of his doubts and struggles.

    I know I have changed my religion a couple of times. I know exactly the feeling of on one side you can not longer follow a religion and yet feeling a bit of a traitor for leaving. I also know the hard feelings of those that were you co-religionists. So I sent him support just because he had need of it.

    Nor was tis the first time that I have done this. I had a high priest in my traditions who as a Pueblo Indian / Italian suddenly decided it was time to go back to Catholic Church. For the same reason that he needed support not criticism at this point of his search, I sent him a letter of congratulation. I stated that if the Catholic Church were is true path he would be much stronger for having made a choice this time rather that practicing it out of habit, or just because his family was Catholic. As it turned out that was not where he ended up spiritually but instead he finally trained as a medicine person that he has not been for a good many years.

    In both Teo's case, and in the case of the framer high priest, neither has hurt the Pagan community in any way. Now if Teo were to suddenly start claiming that Druids or Pagans were evil and satanic, then we might have good reason to be upset. But there is no sign of this being likely and nor do I consider Episcopalians to be a particular danger form of Christianity.

    Each person has to have the chance to find their own path of spiritually. Some will go through several paths before they find the right one. So will be drawn to right one, the first time and some may never find such a path. I would wish that every person n find the proper path and that no person hang on too long in a path that brings them no peace. But in going back to the Christians Church he has not harmed anyone.

    If you faith depends on the numbers of people in your religion then likely you are not on the right Path yet. I like my path and would most likely stay on it if I were the only one left on it, Unless my path is attacked and someone is trying to forcedly convert me, I have no argument with what path they choose to follow.

    Just my own personal opinion.

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