Early on, the majority of those who confessed Jesus to be the Son of God, crucified and risen again, decided that there were no gods, that all the gods of the Pagans were either figments of their imagination or demons from hell, and that anyone was a heretic who acknowledged the existence of governing spirits of nature or other entities of that sort that were neither perfect angels who served before the face of God in Heaven and were His messengers to mankind or demons from hell who were nothing but evil.
This is something I have been wanting to write about for a while, and it is something which I believe has had a profound effect on the traditional imagination of God among the ‘Churches’, either that or it stems from such a profoundly small imagination of God. Why is a God who made the world and everything in it perceived to be in contradiction to a Spirit of Thunder and a Spirit of the North Wind, or a Spirit of Fire and a Spirit of Rain? Why is the belief that Jesus conquered death on behalf of all humankind, and all creation, held to be in contradiction to paying any sort of respect to a Guardian-Spirit of the Forest?
Hold there for a moment, and focus on those words: any sort of respect. Why did the Christian Tradition not treat the matter of the worship of such creatures much as they treated the matter of the respect paid to kings and emperors? “You have been bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your lives. Your life belongs to Jesus, who bought you with His and rose for you. Therefore, do not consider yourselves the property of such spirits. Do not let them lead you astray or into sin or misery with their threats or promises. But that does not mean you have to disrespect or think them inherently evil – or think them evil at all, without cause. That does not mean you have to believe none of them exist. Just as God has the power over the Emperor, who rules and does as he does only because God allows it, so whatever powers of nature exist have their power only because God allows it. It is Jesus whom you must obey and adore above all, and the spirits respect as what they are – not the One who made your souls and all things and who died and rose for you, but inhabitants of the same world as you, though very unlike you, with dominions and interests of their own, which may be as right or as wrong or as neutral as those of another human being.”
The inability to see this was probably originally caused by a situation in which the Christians were pressured, socially or otherwise, to worship real or supposed gods and to yield to said gods something that was not right, whether that be adoration or whether it be black magic. They may have been pressured to offer the Emperor the same inappropriate offerings, but they could see that the Emperor was real and a man, whereas the same could not always be said of the spirits, and when it could be said of the spirits that they could see that they were real, the spirits were often behaving as demons, as far as the people could see. They assumed that spirits were such things that the complexities of the human condition may well be impossible to them. I do not understand this. It seems to me that nature itself suggests that it does not fit into such neat categories as the conception of Angels and Demons, but it may be that the people did not think that far … and who is to blame them? But I think what is to blame is the ensconcing of this point of view as doctrine and dogma, the which if anyone violates that person is a heretic, and the attempt to force it upon all cultures and societies with which the Christian Missionaries came in contact. What is to blame is when Christian Missionaries did not notice which rites of respect to the spirits were not black arts and cruelty, or when the Pagans acknowledged a God who made all and was without the world, and realizing that maybe spirits of nature were not incompatible with this God, or in competition with Him, any more than their own parents were in competition with God by working to provide food for their children, or than they were in competition with God when they did the same.
It is here that I believe this outlook really wrought its damage. As the ‘Churches’ fought to ensure that all respect, worship, or even acknowledgement of potentially-benign-but-not-Angelic spirits, or gods, was considered heresy and blasphemy and in contradiction to belief in the True God, the conception of the Godhood of Jesus was made just such a thing. Jesus was seen as in competition for the thrones of the powers of nature. Even when men offered oaths of fealty to human kings and liege-lords, seeing these kings as ruling by the mandate of God, offering them their lives, their blood, they believed that any respect of the gods of nature was against the will of God. And so they adored not God, but worshiped only a god, for God cannot be threatened by the rule of the Thunder-God over the storm any more than His providence is threatened by a mother nursing her young, nor is Jesus a tribal or national deity of a king or a liege-lord. They worshiped a lowly, territorial, patriotic god, the god of their culture and society, and set this god up as the only one, and they went to foreign lands and peoples to spread the conquest of this rather poor and lowly god, who was so threatened by the domain, by the mere existence of belief that there might be another god.
In the name of “Elevating the Name of God,” or keeping the religion and the worship pure, this Tradition worshiped not a greater god, but a lesser one. They saw him as part of the world, to be threatened by other parts of the world, their own tribal deity, to be swayed by their whims, to be on their side in their wars of conquest.
There are times I do not even want to call Jesus ‘God’ because I would really rather not have this mis-association. I do not think that it is necessary for human beings to believe in, or even acknowledge the possible existence, of deities of nature. I do not think anyone should be shamed, rejected, considered stupid or ignorant, let alone a heretic, for denying their existence. I also do not think that anyone who believes in their existence, or even pays them reasonable respect (by which I mean that some things that have gone as worship are not reasonable human behaviors such as, for example, the sacrifice of children or captives) should be so treated either.
Jesus, Who commanded us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to give to those who ask of us, who advised us that we are blessed when persecuted and reviled for the sake of righteousness and justice, and for the sake of His name, and to be joyful idn such persecution, who died and rose to life on behalf of all humanity and for the sake of all creation, is not in competition for the thrones of Thor or of the Earth Mother. To honor the powers of nature is not to deny His Name. To confess His Name is not to consider the powers of nature to be all either lies or demons of pure evil and reject the paying of any respect to them. To think so is not to grasp the true wonder of Who He is and What He has done.
I adore Him not because I have determined that He is the True God and that the Earth Mother and Odin are false gods. I adore Him because He is true man and He conquered death by death.
Copyright 2021 Raina Nightingale