“You have heard the Christians say that only through Jesus Christ can you enter into the Great Realm. So I tell you that Jesus was the spirit of love, and only by love may you enter in.”
I think it is important that Aradia starts with this sentence. It should color everything that follows. Only through love can you enter the Great Realm.... or touch the Divine. This means love and acceptance of self, warts and all as well as love and acceptance of others....warts and all. I have found that first you have to love, accept and be able to laugh at yourself, only then can you truly approach others or any problems with an open mind and a loving heart.
“You have heard the Christians say much concerning the teachings of Jesus, but how many have you seen follow them? So I say to you that Christianity, as Jesus taught it, died with him on the cross. Even his own disciples were more concerned with their self-images and self-importance.”
I was raised Christian. Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. German-Americans. Maybe this means something to you. Maybe it doesn't. Of all the Christian religions, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is the absolute farthest from anything close to paganism. When I was young, which I freely admit was a while ago, these Lutherans considered the Catholic Church's use of saints, pagan. Yep. Really. "There is one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ." Praying to saints may as well have been praying to Diana. I attended Lutheran Grade School with an hour of religion every day. I attended Sunday School. I attended catechism for 2 hours every Saturday for the year before my 14th birthday. I attended a Lutheran High School with an hour of religion every day. I know my bible. I know all the bible stories. I love learning. I liked religion class. I made my teachers and pastors crazy with probing questions that even they knew they weren't able to really answer the way the Church wanted them to answer. The only time I was ever kicked out of class was a religion class where I kept hammering a teacher when he knew that every time I asked him a question he was digging his hole even deeper. And he knew that I knew. I took a course called “The Bible as Literature” in college, figuring it for any easy class with my background, but also hoping for another way to view the "good book". It was an excellent class.
So, with all that, here is what I know. If you really look at ONLY the teachings of Jesus there is very little in conflict with most pagan religions. It is only when the Old Testament and the New Testament teachings of Paul get mixed in that the real problems begin. And the longer there is Christianity the more mixed in and mixed up it all gets then the worse it seems to be able to get. When I first read this section of Aradia’s words, I totally got what Aradia was saying. What I thought was: "You go Aradia". Finally some pagan said what needed to be said about how many Pagans feel regarding the effects of organized Christianity. But now that I am 15 years a strega and have the strength of my own path to lean on, I am willing to say that "Christianity as Jesus taught it, died with him on the cross" is no longer, in my experience, completely accurate. I've known Christians who followed Jesus teachings, who could be open and respectful. Sadly not many, but enough.
“The Christians say that we are evil and dangerous, but who is more so? “
Look at all the harm that the Catholic Church did to indigenous peoples of the New World. Look seriously at the history of the Church Catholic and then Protestants in the Old World. There are many abuses, much which was/is political and power-based in nature and that has absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Look at the damage done because of the insistence, driven by "Christian morals" on abstinence only approach to pregnancy and AIDS prevention. Look at the damage done to women by the Adam and Eve story and the Old Testament teachings that women are evil and how sin came into the world and for which they are destined to suffer. I could go on, but won’t because it still can raise my blood pressure.
“They believe the world will end and teach others concerning this, speaking of destruction which their God will bring. The mind has great power, and many minds of one belief have much power (even to accomplish great destruction). So I say to you that there shall indeed be a time of sorrow.”
Aradia acknowledges the power of "prayer" and common vision. And shows us that it can be dangerous and will lead to problems and that we should acknowledge and respect this and be prepared for this.
“But out of the ashes shall arise the new World of Reason. For the Great Ones shall use this to fulfill the Plan, through the teachings of the Daughter.”
Paganism, Stregheria teaches balance and the wheel always turns. So Aradia indicates that we should have hope. Some might say that she foretells of a backlash against Christianity. Are we finally beginning to see this? I think we should hope for and strive for a better future based on ways different from those we have seen the masses, Christians and others, follow. As Aradia says: "the mind has great power and many minds of one belief have much power". This is true for Pagans as well as for Christians.
“There shall never be peace between our religions, for they ever strive against us. “
Christians are charged with proselytizing. It is their duty to try to convert others to their way, the one true way. This more than any other belief is what will always cause them to "strive against us" and this more that any other Christian idea is what prevents peace. We, as Pagans, must simply understand this, accept this and be true to our own beliefs. I have found that if I go out of my way not to use specific pagan terms, but instead respond truthfully and generically that many times Christians will actually agree with me. Do I believe in the power of prayer (the mind has great power)? You bet. Do I believe in original sin? No, I don't. Having looked down on my newborn daughter it is impossible to believe that she was born sinful and in need of cleansing. The newly born are as close to perfection as physical human beings get. They can talk until they are blue in the face. I let them. But when I comment on how I felt about my newborn, what can they say? Children are born evil!?!! Please. If they insist and get worked up most folks will think them the ones who are a little off. I don't fight back. I just agree to disagree and smile. Do you believe in God? Sure. I don't need to elaborate. They believe in a deity. I believe in deity. Unlike Christians I do not think there is only one way to connect with deity. The key is to avoid giving them any hook, handle or solid footing with which to work on converting you. Find the places you can agree. Especially when you will probably never see them again. If you will see them again, for instance they are family, then it is even more important to find the places you can agree. Once you establish where you are the same... and you are the same in many places if you look at it the right way, then you build a foundation to maybe, one day, have a conversation about the more challenging stuff. Pagans have no need to "convert" anyone to our beliefs. So when Christians push, the key is NOT to push back.
“It is useless to attempt to reason with them, for they have never been know or their ability to reason. They choose to have faith in place of understanding.”
Now either Aradia got a really good dig in here (and I must say 15 years ago this line really made me smile and say "Yes!") or she is trying to get us to see that a Christian's approach to things spiritual is different. As Streghe we believe that "Nature is the Great Teacher". This causes us to be open, to really look at things, to ask questions, to wonder, to seek. This is very different from the Christian approach that you "must have faith" and "believe". These approaches are opposite ends of the spectrum and that is what makes "reasoning" with Christians difficult. These are the same reasons why Christians can find it difficult to find agreement and alignment with science.
“Therefore it is best to avoid them so as not to anger them. For anger always follows lack of understanding. “
For folks raised as Christians who have found Paganism to be their true home, this is really healthy advice. I remember being angry with what I was taught and how it caused me to live my life and how judged and harmed by these approaches I felt I had been. I didn't understand how “they” could be "that way". This made me angry. Because I was angry, and because I knew so much scripture that I could throw back at them, I could very easily make them angry. And to what end? What good would it really do anyone? Avoidance was easier. Avoidance allowed me to grow in my new path and heal from my early indoctrination. Not everyone is in a position to really avoid all Christians. My advice instead is to avoid the confrontation, avoid the topics that will cause the confrontation and focus on finding the places where you can agree whenever possible. Another option when pressed on your feelings or faith is to say thoughtfully, that you've thought about it but you are not sure. Sometimes this is difficult. Especially when you are sure of your beliefs. But remember where we started this post: "only by love".
“Remember also the time of persecution to come and reveal nothing to them that shall harm our people or our ways.”
And the always available option is to say nothing. Don't cop to being pagan with a Christian. What good does it really do for you or for them or for the relationship you may need to have with them? Our ways are different. Period. Look to nature and see all the different things that share the world. Christians and Pagans can as well.
“It is sad that our ways of spirit cannot extend to, nor be shared with the Christians.”
Yes it is sad that our ways of spirit can not be shared openly with Christians. But I have found that we can, for the most part, peacefully coexist. Until the wheel turns.